Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Friday, March 31, 2006

An open letter to dear Fritz

Please, beloved readers -- all four of you -- don't desert me! I had the epizoodie* AGAIN, and I've been slogging through one of the most discouraging weeks of my professional life, and in four hours will be on a plane bound for San Francisco. The Comrade and I are going to spend a couple of days there and then drive north to see some redwoods and get drunk. (The Comrade, designated driver, worries that he'll be too lit to navigate the winding roads.)

We'll be back next Saturday, and I promise things will get back to normal around here.

Lately we've been watching Seventeen Moments of Spring, a Soviet-era miniseries set in the waning days of WWII and chronicling the adventures of Stirlitz, a Russian spy who poses as a Nazi officer. On the DVD case Stirlitz is billed as "the James Bond of Russia," but this couldn't be further from the truth -- the action, beautifully shot in film-noir black and white, moves at glacial speed (two characters will sit at the table for 60 seconds and just chew), and our hero can outbrood any Bond, even Timothy Dalton at his pissiest. In one scene he sits next to the fire with a cognac, puts some potatoes in to roast, and tearfully sings of how he longs for Mother Volga. I'd never make this up.

This doesn't mean that Seventeen Moments of Spring doesn't fascinate me; it's just that I wish the Comrade would stop quizzing me about it (on Saturday I just wanted to be left alone so I could figure out if the avocadoes were ripe enough for guacamole, and snapped: "You're making this feel like homework!")

Another way in which Stirlitz is the anti-Bond -- he has a wife he loves in Moscow whom he can't see lest it blow his cover. In the series' most erotically charged scene, Stirlitz is having a flashback in which he is about to be dispatched to Spain and the KGB arranges to have Mrs. Stirlitz brought to the German bistro where he goes to smoke and ruminate. Alas, the two cannot exchange embraces: They simply sit at opposite tables and look moony-eyed while the officer who was Mrs. Stirlitz's escort discreetly retires to the bar. My favorite part is that Mrs. Stirlitz is no Ursula Andress (who looks good enough in Dr. No but frankly always strikes me as mentally challenged when I see it) -- she's chubby-cheeked and lush of hip, and has bobbed hair and a sensible little suit. "She looks like you," the Comrade said affectionately. And she does.

*bird flu?


Post a Comment

<< Home