Month: September 2016

Zurich Film Festival

Zurich Film Festival

I’ve had a sharp uptick in my filmgoing lately. From having seen zero films in Zurich ever, I think I’ve managed four in the past few months. Two of those were in the last week and part of Zurich Film Festival.

Zurich Film Festival is in its twelfth year and seems to be a very decent mid-level contender, as international film festivals go. It doesn’t (yet) have the clout of Cannes, Venice or Sundance but it seems to attract some decent celebs, as well as a shedload of sponsorship from some big players. As you’d expect — Zurich is not short of cash.

Anyway, I thought I’d give a couple of mini reviews of the films I saw.



I went to the European premier of Dancer – a Steven Cantor documentary that follows Ballet “bad boy” Sergei Polunin for four years. I am embarrassed to say, Polunin was not much on my radar prior to this, although I do remember reading about the scandal of him running out on the Royal Ballet when I was in London.

I think the best bits of the movie are just watching Polunin dance. He’s incredible. A genius. The Picasso, the Prince and the Pythagoras of ballet.  I’m grand-jeté kicking myself for never seeing him perform in the 7-odd years I lived in London. Damn!

It was also great to hear him talk about the creative process and his struggles with himself as an artist. Something along the lines of “Just because I’m good at dancing, why does that mean I have to do it?” And yet, “The moment when you float in the air at the top of a jump… it’s worth it.” In my own, very watered-down, non-genius way, I sometimes feel the same about writing.

The climax of the film centres on the Take Me To Church video starring Polunin and shot by David LaChapelle, that went viral when it was released in early 2015. Polunin has said he cried for the duration of the 8-hour film shoot and it was going to be his last dance ever, although he’s since changed his mind. It’s a breathtaking piece of work.

It was cool that the film was introduced by the director and Sergei himself, although the ZFF Q&A was a little weak – there’s a better Q&A here for anyone interested.

I’d give the film 3.5 stars (out of 5) and would recommend it to anyone fascinated by the creative process, who likes dance and ballet and/or who thinks 26-year-old male Ukranian ballet dancers are hot (ahem – I may or may not have a major celebrity crush on Sergei right now).

Q&A with Steven Cantor and Sergei Polunin


The second film I saw was German-language sci-fi Stille Reserven (Hidden Depths).

I’m currently researching sci-fi utopias and dystopias so it was very cool to catch the world premiere of this film. It’s an Austrian-made movie starring Lema Lauzemis and Clemens Schick (nah, me neither). Schick was chillingly, thrillingly Crispin Gloverish and Lauzemis had an appealing androgyny. Both great performances. The film was introduced by the director, Valentin Hitz, and had English subtitles (thankfully!).

I loved the premise. There were some really clever ideas for a near-future dystopia and the evils of the insurance business (one of my pet peeves – a horrible industry that relies on fear). In this case, people were being pressured to buy “death insurance” or else risk their bodies’ vital functions being kept alive indefinitely for organ harvesting, surrogate mothering and data storage — a nasty prospect that activists were campaigning against with a Right To Die slogan and attempts to shut down the evil human-factory plant.

Filmed mostly in Austria, I loved the bleak and deserted suburban streets and unused highways. As well as the industrial interiors and grubby, Soviet-looking apartment blocks. It all gave a desolate feel, a spooky emptiness that was nicely explained by the existence of the “Parallel world” that we never saw but that people could escape to if they chose (but possibly never return from?). There was good slumwork and some excellent ‘desperate-and-violent-urchins’ on the sidelines too.

Unfortunately, the plot did a bit of a Girl in the Freezer thing, which was a shame. And suffered from the boggy middle syndrome. Also I felt like the guy shouldn’t have had tattoos, he would have been more human and vulnerable if his skin was “clean”. However, these are minor quibbles in a mostly awesome genre film.

Last but not least, I really got a kick out of the cabaret club scenes. Making a sort-of Weimar Republic seedy jazz club the backdrop to the activists’ activities was a master stroke. And Lauzemis’ rendition of  the song “Tiger” was the high point of the movie for me.

4 stars. 




A Day In The Life


And don’t forget the joker! – Lemmy Kilmister


My irritability keeps me alive and kicking…
– Magazine, Song from under the Floorboards


Sometimes when you’re having a bad day, you have a good day. I have often noted that I seem to do better when I have a small inconvenience or minor annoyance to overcome. Case in point – I quite appreciate having a small cold when I’ve got a job interview. It somehow stops me stressing as much. Maybe it makes me live more “in the moment”.

This happened today. I was tired from being up late-ish with my toddler, then I couldn’t sleep because of monkey-mind worrying about money and how to save it, planning a potential trip to Australia, work stuff etcetera. This morning I woke with a scratchy throat after weird dreams.

So you know what? I gave myself permission just get on with it and I was actually really efficient. I dropped the kids at kindergarten and daycare, I went to Migros supermarket to spend obscene amounts of money because it was the Farmmania Jokertag and I wanted to get one for each kid (for the non-Swiss residents: Migros is the national supermarket, which has an annual game of figurines to collect. You get a ‘lucky dip’ packet containing a figurine when you spend a certain amount and on special days they have an extra-special “Joker” figurine that you have to spend even MORe to get. This year the game is farm-themed and today’s Joker was a crappy plastic tractor, but I digress). Anyway, I was home by 9.30am, ready to help Himself start building his website. But he didn’t really need me so I took myself off up to our newly created attic writing space for a couple of hours.

And managed to do some decent plotting, as well as writing a few thousand words on my novel. Oh, did I mention I’m writing a novel? Early days… early days. Mustn’t say too much.

Anyway, then I came back downstairs, paid some bills and we went to lunch. Had a good chat that somewhat allayed my fears about the possibly impending Australia trip (also early days, no more can be said yet!)

Then we went along to the local optician to get my new specs sorted. This is something that’s been hanging over my head for AAAGGEEES. I bought new frames online a while back and since then I have literally stood outside the optician at least three times hesitating… only to decide “nup, can’t face this today” so it was kind of major to cross this threshold. And then, wouldn’tcha know it, the optician RUINED my old glasses. OK so they were on the way out, but she did some funky cleaning thing to the lenses and they’re all peeling and fucked up now! OK so they were already a bit fuzzy, due to being pretty scratched and losing their UV coating or whatever, plus of course I’ve given birth in them – almost twice (I remembered to take them off the second time. Top tip: one does not need to see to give birth!) Anyway, I almost cried when she wrecked them (then did the Swiss thing of saying “it’s not my fault, it’s just something that happened” – yeah but on your watch, lady!). But I managed to turn it around by getting a free express service for the new ones by calling her out. I mean, I didn’t ask her to use her funky cleaning machine on my old faithfuls and they really are wrecked now. Annnyway, so expect a new-look Claire from tomorrow.

Then, because I had to wear my weird “other” glasses (an ill-advised purchase when I was trying to look like Kathleen Robertson in Boss) and I had a story to tell about why I was wearing them, it actually sparked a pretty decent convo in German with the Hort Frau – another win!

Plus, in the midst of all this, I somehow managed to change our internet package to one that’s almost half the price per month (er… let’s hope I don’t experience a crazy slowdown when I go to publish this blog and end up kicking myself). Something that’s been on my to-do list officially for about 2 months. Unofficially for about two years.

Anyway, so the takeaway is – sometimes if you’re feeling a bit crap, it can unexpectedly result in a sweet spot where you give no fucks and just crack on with stuff. I’m sure a psychologist could give a more scientific explanation of this phenomenon, but I’m just chuffed to have kicked some goals today.

And now I’ve written a blog post too. Tchüss !


The black in your blue




Blue mountain water

Black-backed like lead paint or

Ash in the sky

An old school-desk painted over many times

A clean sort of grime

Watercolour liquid, semi-opaque

The silt of millennia

Ancient clues in aqueous solution

We splash like young fools

As the earth revolves

Cradled in the bowl

of a mountain so old

Our tiny joy

A fleck against

All ecstasy and angst.

The black in your blue

I know it’s me too

The picture he gave me

Words that came through

Firefly times

All our past lives

Constantly strive

Never-forever… abides

Oh my narrow-wide mind

an always-restless bride

Reflected in

My blue-black eyes


Honey afternoons


I hate days like today

Just want to get away

Trapped under glass

A bug on its arse

My mind poured like fizzy beer

Over and around life, but nothing’s clear

I’m sure when I awoke

I had purpose, that choked

Crisp autumn afternoon, sunny

Should be sweet like honey

But it’s sticky, holding me back

Feeling flat as a tack

Language as performance

Does Aussie anti-elitism stifle language learning? Discuss... Photo: Iain Scott

Does Aussie anti-elitism stifle language learning? Discuss… Photo: Iain Scott

Autumn has arrived in a shower of rain, the kids are starting a new year of school and krippe in Swiss-German and I’m thinking about language again this week. Himself and I have had the privilege of a private German tutor since the start of the year but she’s due to go on maternity leave so we’re winding that up. Plus Himself is on the job-hunt in earnest now. It feels like a new phase for many things.

Two wise women gave me some interesting insights about language recently. One friend in Australia pointed out the peculiar strain of Aussie anti-elitism that regards the ‘correct’ pronounciation of foreign words as wankery.  Her example was that, to the average Aussie, people who call a croissant a “Cwausson” are wankers. And it’s true. And there’s a part of me that feels that way too. And I didn’t quite realise it. And it’s a block. Not an insurmountable one, but a block nonetheless to mastering and using a foreign language properly. In fact, even when my own dear mother was here earlier in the year, she pointed out that she could hear me labouring away in German in my Aussie accent and she understood why I did it (because it somehow feels more ‘honest’) but she also insisted I needed to “go for it” a lot more with the Deutsch intonation if I want people to, say, understand what I’m saying. She is also right and a part of me feels that way too. (When I tried to explain this to Himself, he looked at me like I was crazy — is it any wonder he’s powering ahead in German so much more confidently than me!)

And just today, I was talking to a local friend about how I often get stupidly nervous speaking to groups — not even “public speaking”, which is a common enough fear — but just introducing myself in a group situation, even. Heart pounding, voice shaking, the works. Even in a small group. Even if we’re speaking English. It’s so embarrassing. (Does this happen to most people?) And my friend said that it was similar to how she often feels having to use German. “Because every time I speak in German in front of people, I’m on stage”. Gosh, how true that is! (It may be worth noting the friend is a professional stage manager). But again, it’s something I’d never articulated in that way. And it’s another mental block in my language-learning journey. (I should also note that I don’t get “stage-fright” every time I speak German anymore, thank goodness — my son’s krippe introduction session today went off almost without a hitch and almost entirely in Deutsch).

Anyway, as well as being one of the standard How’s-your-German-how-are-you-feeling-about-it conversations I have regularly with other expats, my friend and I were also talking about this stuff because I’m increasingly feeling as though I should do some spoken word / poetry slam type performance with my poems. And, while I’m pretty OK with the idea of this — I’m confident in my poems and I feel they’d work well in this environment — I’m deeply worried that my stage fright will fuck it up. What do I need to do? I’ve thought of singing lessons, which might help. But, ultimately, I don’t think there are any quick fixes beyond: practice, practice, practice. And ditto for the Deutsche sprechen, I guess.

Oh well, I hope at least in some small part, being able to recognise and articulate these stumbling blocks is a small step towards overcoming them.

What do you think? Do you need to thesp it up a bit with a new language? When, if ever, does it start to feel normal and not like you’re a putting on a show?

addendum: I  feel like a bit of a dork for posting this stuff about getting nervous/anxious when speaking to people. I’m not a complete social retard and I’m not even that shy in many situations, particularly one-to-one… really, usually, I swear… whatever. 

Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who gives the least fucks of all?




Give No Fucks Woman

Has hair like a gorgon

And cares less


Give No Fucks Woman

Trip-traps over Twitter

Slaying trolls, like a goddess


Give No Fucks Woman

Is strong, brave and a Queen

No, not a Disney princess


Give No Fucks Woman

A post-midnight Cinderella

Gives no fucks for her lost dress


Give No Fucks Woman, hey

I hear what you say

Please don’t repress


But, Give No Fucks Woman

Your words can drip poison

Snow White’s in distress

And though she’s a mess

(You don’t like her best,

barely rates your largesse)

Don’t you give a fuck about this?