Movie Review: Disappearances

I returned to the majestic Brattle Theatre tonight to see the area premiere of Disappearances. Set in Vermont’s Northeast kingdom in 1932, this movie is kind of a mystical magical realism family adventure. In other words, as the credits rolled I said to myself “I don’t get it.”

The story as best I can reckon is about crazy Quebec Bill (Kris Kristofferson) a fun-loving optimist who as a promise to his wife (Heather Rae) has given up a life of whisky smuggling for farming. After he burns his barn down, however, he has to break that promise and head north of the border on a whisky run to make money to pay for hay for the livestock. For this adventure, he takes along his crazy teenage son Wild Bill (Charlie McDermott) for the first time. Wild Bill seems to have some common sense and tries to reign in his crazy father, but on the other hand he keeps seeing his aunt Cordelia (Genevieve Bujold) everywhere he goes even though she’s at home in Vermont. There’s a consistency in that both real Cordelia and visionary Cordelia are equally crazy and serve the purpose of giving Wild Bill contradictory advice and saying mystical things. Also along for the ride are Quebec Bill’s brother-in-law Herny (Gary Farmer) and a guy named Rat (William Sanderson) neither of whom are crazy, they’re just put upon.

Of course things go horribly wrong on the whisky run and they end up on the bad side of the crazy, babbling Quebecois gangster Carcajou (Lothaire Bluteau) who looks like a voyageur crossed with a pirate and a US Civil War soldier. Carcajou is particularly menacing in a manner similar to Jason Voorhees in that he stalks people through the woods even after he’s been killed several times. At least I think he dies. Sometimes Carcajou like Cordelia and Quebec Bill himself just dissapears lending a literalness to the film’s title.

Now this doesn’t mean I didn’t like movie. Sometimes I like to watch something that makes me say “WTF?” The scenery of the film for one thing is drop dead gorgeous, as is the soundtrack. Furthermore, it’s hard not nod appreciatively at the surreality of scenes such as when Quebec Bill and his gang hijack a steam train disguised as Benedictines. So I do reccomend this for anyone looking for something different. Just don’t expect it to make sense.

Other reviews from The Boston Globe, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter (just so you don’t think I’m making this stuff up).

The Inevitable Laws of Bicycle Commuting

While riding my bike the other day it occured to me that certain things happen in my daily treks to-and-fro work that just seem inevitable. I thought it would be fun and perhaps cathartic to make a list.

  • Just as I approach the intersection, the light turns red.
  • The road will be clear until I want to make a left and then suddenly will be clogged with traffic.
  • When waiting for a line of ten cars to pass so I can make a left turn, the driver of car #10 will stop to let me go.
  • When a city bus is stopped in my lane and I try to pass it it will inevitably pull out when I’m right next to it. If I wait for the bus, however, it will sit at the stop for a long time
  • If I think I can outrace the coming storm, I’ll get caught in a downpour a quarter of a mile from work.
  • Taxis will double park in the bike lane
  • Pedestrians who would never step in front of a moving car have no problem jaywalking right in front of me.
  • People say I’m crazy for riding in the cold.
  • People say I’m crazy for riding in Boston.
  • I’ll come up with a brilliant idea while riding but won’t be able to remember it when I can actually write it down.

A lot of these are grumpy and negative so here’s a positive one:

  • When I’m feeling that I just don’t want to get on that bike but force myself to do so I end up having an exhilirating ride that lifts my mood.


Working in a library it’s easy to feel that your job is difficult and start to complain. This is especially true this morning when a card-swipe box went defective causing an ear-splitting ringing sound in the reading room (which library patrons blamed on us naturally). Then I read the following article from the New York Times which Susan sent me and it put things into perspective. At least I don’t work in a library in Baghdad.

Baghdad Day to Day: Librarian’s Journal

Published: February 7, 2007

Saad Eskander’s Web diary details the daily hurdles of keeping Iraq’s central library open, preserving the surviving archives and books and, oh yes, staying alive.

Dr. Saad Eskander’s library diary is available online through the British Library website.