Monday, December 27, 2010

Gypsies were travelling through her little town

As you may know, I don't reply to comments on my blog, simply because I don't have the time. I love comments, I do, because nobody blogs in a vacuum, and enjoy checking out the blogs of people who comment.

When I post though, I don't really think about readers, or rather, I think about the few friends I know read this for sure. Basically, I write this blog mostly for myself and the handful of regular readers I have gained over the three (!) years this adventure has gone on. You see, if I think about it too much I start worrying about whether what I write will interest you, or if someone will be insulted by something, or if I'm making sense to someone who has just wandered over.

In fact, I was rather horrified upon rediscovering the "stats"-button a few weeks ago and realizing that I might have quite a few more readers than I had thought. Yikes. I am going to work my hardest to ignore this knowledge and keep at my erratic post stylings just as before.

The balance between having a blog about what I do and wear (I hate both"style" -and "lifestyle"-blog as terms.) and what I'm listening to, watching, reading, making, thinking, are completely intertwined in my mind.

I've asked you readers before about what you think of certain things, mainly the dreaded "what I did today"-posts (or in my case "what I did not do"-posts), but I have never felt like trying to garner a particular demographic, or gain readers at all for that matter. I you like what I like, then welcome, if not, I'm sure you'll move on, thanks for stopping by.

That having been squared away, I'll tell you that I do love hearing your thoughts and will absolutely take requests, if you would like to read my insights on a particular topic. This post was prompted by one such request received by email from Aysha (Hi girl!). She asked me to recommend some films about gypsies that I liked, and how could I not oblige, these being some of my favorite topics: movies and the Romany.

I've mentioned Latcho Drom before, but I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this film, told entirely through music, really is. The film imagines the travels of gypsies over a vast distance and hundreds of years in time. It offers a wordless insight into to past and present of the Romany, and is also just a sheer visual delight (even when you watch it from an old VHS-tape on a tiny TV/VCR.).

The acclaimed Serbian director Emir Kusturica has explored the gypsy culture throughout his carrier. First of his marvelous story-telling turns about the travellers is The Time of The Gypsies, the tale of a young Romane boy with supposed supernatural powers.

A finely woven story with many vivid characters and a wholly believable world, is hard to come by in film these days, and Kusturica is master at all these aspects of filmmaking.

There is an air of authenticity to his Romany films, a sense that in spite all the seeming caricatures and exaggerations, you get the sense that you are being shown multiple facets of something genuine. His movies to me are like listening to Gogol Bordello, utterly ridiculous and heart-warming at the same time. Often his films are both dark and humorous in turn, though The Time Of The Gypsies is mostly a tale of hardship and woe as the main character Perhan passes from one tragic circumstance to the next. It is also a beautiful film with much power.
For a more uplifting, or rather side-splitting, gypsy experience I recommend Kusturica's Black Cat, White Cat, a hilarious romp of a film that will surely have you in tears. Of joy.
(I love this image.)
A hilarious adventure full of off-beat characters and unexpected twists, Black Cat, White Cat is well worth your cinematic time, whether or not you're into Gypsy movies. Custurica's knack for timing is uncanny and the artistic sensibility of Black Cat, White Cat is sure to tickle the aesthete among you, in spite the fact that it falls more into the raunchy comedy category than anything else. Take that Apatow!
Now, I will admit that my last selection is more fanciful and less gritty than the others, but in my defence I will say that it, like Latcho Drom, is more a family film and thus suited for all you mama's out there, many of whom I know are always on a search for a good movie to share with their wee ones.

A tale of two young Irish Pikeys who are taken on a life-changing journey by a magical horse called Tír Na NÓg (A faeryland in Irish mythology comparable to any mythological nether world, Tír Na NÓg is an Island that appears only under certain conditions. I remember reading about it in The Dark Is Rising cycle when I was but a wee tyke.) (I'm compiling a post, by the way, on my favorite children's fantasy books growing up, how nerdy is that.)
Like so many of the films I love, Into The West works on several levels; it's equal parts fantasy for children and a drama suited for grown-ups. It brings to mind both its screen writer's later work My Left Foot and another cross-over children's movie set in Ireland: The Secret of Roan Inish by my own favorite writer-director-editor-actor-genius John Sayles (I have a post coming up about him too;).

It is good to keep in mind when watching these stylized and fictionalized tales of the Romane, that they have traditionally been the underclass of Europe, comparable to indigenous tribes everywhere, in turns reviled, romanticized, exterminated, stolen, orphaned, appropriated and forgotten.

During the Holocaust Hitler murdered hundreds of thousands of Romany. They suffered similar pogroms to those Tsarist Russia levelled against its Jewish population. They have been hounded through the centuries as thieves and cheaters, and continue to be treated poorly in most countries in Europe, whether it be outright through lack of opportunities, neglect, or barely concealed racism.

Only six months ago Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing government removed almost 200 Romanian Romane form France, in spite the fact that as the citizens of a member nation in the EU they are as entitled as anyone else to move freely between nations within the union. I'm embarrassed to say that my own native country hasn't behaved much better with the recent influx of Romanian Romane. (They have been the first people seen begging on the streets of modern Finland, a fact that says something about the country and its well-fare state.)

Finland's native Romane are very distinctive from the main population not only because of their dark hair, eyes and skin (most Finns are relatively fair.), but because of their dress, which involves a dapper look from men and an stunningly glamorous style for women. Most Romane adults "take on the dress" that distinguishes them, but also keeps them somewhat isolated from the drab masses.

Growing up I was sometimes mistaken for a Romane kid even by Romane women, because of my long dark hair, dark brows and light olive skin, though I was rather pale and had light eyes. Because of what a wonderful, open-minded individual that my mother was I never shared the common misconceptions of the Romany and remember admiring the women for their formidable beauty and dress and wishing I could pass for one more often.
For a good reason too. The women's costume, which is specific to the Finnish Romane, is absolutely amazing. The skirt alone can weight as much as 25 pounds and consists of layer upon layer of material. Romane ladies often wear high heels just to keep their hems off the ground. Their blouses are intricately embroidered, or decorated with hand-made laces, a skill that's still passed down the generations. Oftentimes you can see a Romane woman wearing enormous, intricate gold jewellery, a remnant from their travelling days when one carried their earthly possessions on their person.
I feel as though the Romane ladies of my childhood are one of the many strands that comprise my taste in clothing, perhaps even my love of tall-tales, and fiddle music, or my romance with slow travel.
Here I am indulging my follies on Christmas Day, wearing appropriately enough, things gifted by my friend Summer, my mother and the wonderful Nicole. This twirly skirt from her was the corner-stone of this outfit. I love it so.
From Russia With Love
Paisley queen
Moss grows
Mycelium bloom
A rowboat journey and a walk in the woods were certainly some of the best parts of my Christmas, along with plenty of Gogol Bordello, chocolates and books. But more about that tomorrow.
Here's lookin' at you Aysha!


  1. What a great post! I love Gogol Bordello and all things gypsy. Gypsy Caravan: Where the Road Bends is another beautiful gypsy movie/documentary that I would highly recommend. Some of the things you mentioned here are new to me and I can't wait to track them down. Your gypsy skirt is also simply wonderful.

  2. Ohh! Thankyou for all of the reccomendations! I play violin in a gypsy band and am relatively new to the world of the rom! I'd heard of Latcho Drom, but none of the others. So thankyou, I can't wait to watch some films!

    You are just gorgeous, and I love your style.

    Sending love from Australia,

    xx Claire

  3. Ah, I bought Latcho Drom on tape at a garage sale over the summer but haven't yet watched it--thanks for the reminder!

    I love your emsemble, so perfect for a little forest ramble...

    And you totally pegged my vibe on my striped blazer outfit from last week :) I caught Annie Oakley (with Barbara Stanwyck from 1935) on cable and we are finally watching Deadwood, and I think I was influenced.

  4. a beautiful box left my doorstep today, heading north. xo

  5. Wonderful post!
    I haven't seen The Time of the Gypsies for years, and I remember having a dodgy copy of the soundtrack on cassette many years ago. God I loved that tape!
    And you've just reminded me that my younger two have not seen Into The West, so that is now bumped up to the top of our holiday viewing, thank you!

    It looks like you had a wonderful Christmas, and every warm wish for a magical and peaceful New Year.

  6. i absolutely adore your use of petticoats. (i even included them in a post on my blog, i hope you don't mind.) and slow travel, what a simple luxury.

  7. you need to see Gadjo Dijo. it's by the same guy who did Latcho Drom. you'd love it.

  8. Heh, I've been listening to Gogol Bordello non-stop for days now! It's definitely wonderful. I'm for sure going to be checking out some of these films... there's just something about gypsies.

  9. I thought of you in Helsinki when I went to see Jaakko Laitinen and his band ( Who knows why, I just figured you'd like them. On the basis of your post, I was probably right. :)

  10. Fascinating stuff. Have you seen Carmen? I'm not sure how accurate a portrayal of gypsy life it is, but it's an interesting film.

    Definitely agree with your blog ethos too - your posts are always good and I think that attitude is a useful one for writing in general :)

  11. I need more Gypsy in my life! Always fascinated by this, thanks for the movie post,can't wait to watch!

  12. This is such an epic post and YOU are such an epic friend! Gretel was absolutely over the moon this evening when we returned home from being out all day to find your beautifully wrapped present sitting under the tree waiting for her (Lucas had brought it in).

    She LOVED all her sweet and thoughtful goodies. She tried on the dresses which are a tad big but should fit perfectly this time next year, set up a little tea party with Raggedy Ann and had me read the book to her. She then immediately wanted me to help her recreate the outfit that the Gretel in the book was wearing, of course, haha.

    She's so funny with this character business and she's got quite a few going in rotation now. There's even a "gypsy witch" that she saw in an old 1960 made for TV version of Babes in Toyland played by a grown-up Shirley Temple of all people, complete caricature, of course. Me thinks Into the West is in order, STAT!

    Speaking of which, I will now be heading on over to Netflix with much haste to update my que with these wonderful recommendations. I'm still quite bummed that Latcho Drom is not available through them, hopefully I will fare better with the others.

    Thank you for making my little girl's night, you are the best :)

    Hugs to you and C. and Kissa!

  13. She's a little on the small side, but she'll fit those dresses in no time! Better too big than too small :)

    Btw, remember that amazing wee denim and lace Gunne dress you sent me, I could not squeeze myself into that adorable thing for the life of me, AND BELIEVE ME I TRIED, so heartbreaking, I had to pass it on to my 12-year old neice.

  14. Oh yeah, and can I add that Netflix officially sucks. Oh well, at least they had Into the West. Next up in the que!

  15. Ok, I just had to add one more comment in a row so I could officially look like a crazy repeat commenter person. Good night and much love :)

  16. missa, i LOVE your comments. milla...this POST!!! i have had to come back to it a couple times now to fully soak it in. first your comments about your style of writing here, which i soooo agree with, and then your wonderful recommendations which are now filling a page in my notebooks with little notes and arrows and hearts. and then your gorgeous foresty witchy outfit in that mystical land you've got up there. all this goes straight to my heart. i can't wait to lay my hands (eyes) on some of these films. dusty thrift store vhs bins, here i come. much love to you december gypsy moon woman.

  17. Hey, Siyah Kedi, Beyaz Kedi. The director's Turkish-Emir Kusturica! I've got a copy that was complimentary with a mag that I bought. Perhaps I'll dust if off and watch it :)

    Great post, girl!

  18. how did i miss those beautiful earrings the first time i looked at this post?! probably because the post is an epic that my fatigue induced ADD mind can't focus on with nearly enough attention....tomorrow is another day, and i will try again.

  19. You might like Pavee Lackeen- The Traveller Girl, a more political, gritty look at the life of an irish travelling family, not so romantic as Into the West.

    For fairy-tales try Angela Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber' and the film 'A Company of Wolves'. Angela Carter wrote the screenplay and its directed by Neil Jordan. I adore her writing.

  20. I very much recommend Gadjo dilo, I saw it many years ago and liked it a lot.

  21. I very much recommend Gadjo dilo, I saw it many years ago and liked it a lot.

  22. I recently read "Zoli," Colum McCann's fictionalized recounting of the life of Zoli Novotna, the famous Roma poet and singer, originally from Czechoslovakia, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Isabel Fonseca's "Bury Me Standing" (I got it on the island bookstore!) is also a wonderfully detailed glimpse into gypsy life, history and folklore.