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Cave of Forgotten Dreams

It’s the Labour Day weekend and the city is deserted and very quiet – except for King Street West, crowded with uber-trendy people getting ready for the film festival that opens next week. Just came back from seeing an extraordinary documentary at the TIFF cinema there – “the Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” written and directed by Werner Herzog. It’s about the Chauvet cave in southern France, discovered a few decades ago, its walls covered with drawings around 30,000 years old – the oldest cave drawings in the world. And stunning they are, cave bears, cave lions, bison, rhinoceroses, and especially horses, beautifully evoked by our artsy Cro-Magnon ancestors.

These images were especially moving to me because I remember clearly a family visit to the famous cave at Lascaux, the first great public exhibition of prehistoric cave art – I was 4 or 5 in 1955 or 56, when my father made sure we visited as we travelled through southern France. Young as I was, I have never forgotten the thrill. Lascaux was closed to the public a few years later, forever.

The film is a bit irritating, though shot in 3-D, my first experience of such and breathtaking at times. Herzog has layered over a very insistent soundtrack; by the end, I had my hands over my ears. He gets carried away with poetic metaphor and doesn’t explain basics, like the difference between Neanderthal (not artistic) and Cro-Magnon (artistic) man. Still, it’s thrilling to see close-up the brilliance of this artistic work, powerful bulls like Picasso’s, other drawings with the delicate simplicity of Japanese line drawings – they had vision, talent and skill, these artists, drawing right on the walls of their gallery.

An archeologist plays “The Star Spangled Banner” on a 25,000 year old flute made from vulture bone. Surreal. And a scientist says that he thinks calling us “homo sapiens” is wrong – it means “man who knows” and, he says, “We don’t know anything.” He thinks we should be called “homo spiritualis.” Spiritual man. Lots to think about.

The film is over at TIFF – maybe will reappear at a cinema near you. If you want to gain perspective on just how callow our civilization is – highly recommended.

And now, from the sublime to the utterly appalling – even at this quiet time, your faithful reporter is on the case.

A friend gave me the two most recent “People” magazines, and I have, yes, I have read them. Just for research, you understand, so I am in tune with the zeitgeist. I now know just how Angie and Brad manage their large brood, who only, ever, are photographed smiling and happy; they manage because they are the best parents in the world. It’s true. And more power to them.

Further on in the mag, we see the bedrooms of the children of stars, and detailed analyses of their clothing choices. “Best dressed,” the headline blares, and there are six pictures of Halle Berry’s 3-year old Nahla in overalls, boots, “babyGap floral sundress” and face paint. “Accessorize like Nahla!” it says, showing her Snack Bag (“Skip Hop ‘Mouse’ Zoo Lunchie, $14) and her Twinkle Toes sneakers, Sketchers, $45.

Shuddering, I turned the page – and there are the fashion choices of Gwen Stefani’s children Kingston and Zuma, 5 and 3. “Accessorize like Zuma!” And on and on.
Horror. Except that this minute, as I write, my neighbours are out with their 3 year old, and her uncle is saying, “I love your cute shoes. But you’re a big girl now, time for you to wear high heels. Where are your high heels?”
In the next “People”, Kim Kardashian’s wedding. I have no idea who these Kardashians, except that they were invented in the United States specifically to fill pages of a magazine like this, and also thousands of hours of television. Anything to do with real life is strictly accidental.
Still, I confess, I do like to look at pictures of Brad and Angie with their lovely multicoloured family. My ex and I looked a lot like them, relaxed, glamourous, laughing and confident, as we went around the world with our two.
But rather than waste my time with “People,” I prefer to watch a film that takes me back 30,000 years.
Oh, and the New York Times has an editorial about Canada’s refusal to ban the exportation of asbestos, entitled “Boneheaded politicians.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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