Friday, July 30, 2010

On Comfort

Lace, 2010

Shopgirl. I like this film. It brings me comfort, Mirabelle Buttersfield in particular. Her quiet sadness and ability to carry on feel like an old friend when I am craving something familiar. The actual story leaves me feeling sort of lukewarm, yet I find myself watching this film again, for the third time. Maybe lukewarm is exactly what I want sometimes, and Shopgirl does lukewarm just right. There is something about the pace, mood, and the way it looks on screen, the stripped down beauty of Mirabelle's life. Her apartment is spare, but the vintage items she has collected suit her perfectly, and she has a nice bathtub. The evening gloves counter where she spends her days is surrounded by open space filled with soft light and dotted with objects of sadly dated beauty. She drives a bland little pick-up truck, serves cheap wine past its prime, and does it all with a gentle melancholic grace. She is an artist who follows her instincts and does not apologize for creating just one drawing every six months or so. I love her self-portraiture scenes. The men in her life disappoint, but she is hopeful. She tries to see the best in them. The ending isn't shocking or dramatic. It is calm and true.

What brings you comfort?


  1. Hearing the the clatter of dishes in the morning.... also watching my husband clean. I have no idea why this is comforting to me?
    Yep, I'm a freak.

  2. I like being home, extended on the couch, in the afternoon, with the blinds half-open, reading a book. With no music.

    I spend so much time running around the city that truly doing nothing but reading is amazing.

    I want more of it.

  3. Camilla, Uh oh. Me too. I like to hear the clatter of dishes and watch Chris clean. It just feels nice.

    knowledgeman, You make me smile.

  4. hello there! thanks for visiting my blog :)
    I have never heard of this film, but I will look out for it, sounds good.

    As for comfort, mine is a bit odd. I am comforted by the sound of my son's fender telecaster. It's so familiar, nostalgic and makes me warm and fuzzy inside
    told you it was odd!

  5. i've wanted to watch this since it is based on a steve martin short story but just haven't yet. maybe i will give it a try.

  6. Now I want to watch Shop Girl again. I think I will. You have a wonderful knack for posing the perfect question at the perfect moment. Sometimes I realize I am searching for the answer before I've even framed the question, and the question -- like this one -- can be so simple.

    I like to watch the small birds -- chickadees and titmice -- that flutter down to the bird feeder outside my little studio. A titmouse takes one safflower seed, flies back up to a branch in the bay tree, and tap tap taps it open. Eats. Repeats. Its singular focus, its light touch -- I find these things soothing.

    I also agree, though, about the cleaning. Watching or even hearing Stewart cleaning the house. Knowing we're in this together and I don't have to do it all alone; that is comforting.

  7. everyday things...the footsteps of my husband coming up from the basement,the ceiling fan in the middle of the night...some simple comfort.
    beautiful image.

  8. I remember reading Shop Girl in college. Avoiding a term paper that needed to be written, I think. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm intrigued now.

  9. Putting that on the queue.

    For me, early mornings before anyone else is awake, coffee clutched close with a book or Google Reader.
    (the book can be anything but my dog-eared old copy of The Shell Seekers is a comfort...)

  10. i was just thinking of this film. i was telling someone, how much i liked it.
    quiet mornings, bring me comfort... quiet mornings at home.

  11. Rosamunde Pilcher novels-The Shell Seekers, Winter Solstice,September and Coming Home-I have read them so often the characters are old friends...

  12. I find comfort in the fall, in apples and in hot apple cider. Mmm... Being warm is very comforting to me too, like a hot bath or a warm blanket. And Picnics! Oh, picnics in the grass are nearly divine.

  13. It has been said often from me, but I do love your posts so much. A few things I find comfort in are cooking quietly in the kitchen and listening to the sounds, watching emma or amelie, looking up in trees, and feeling sunlight on my back.

  14. To name a few...The smell of our kitchen when nothing is cooking (it smells just like my grandmother's (it's crazy). Saying HELLO MOM-MAY (with a Brittish accent) when I call my mother. The smile that comes over Roberto's face whenever bacon is mentioned.

  15. i feel the same about shop girl!
    the sound of rasping metal makes be feel cosy - i know that most people hate it. but my room used to be above my fathers workshop and i even like the squeaking noises which make you somehow shiver. and when you do it yourself i almost has a ruminat effect.

  16. Oh, I loved that movie, too. There is something mesmerizing about its pace and, like you say, "the stripped down beauty of Mirabelle's life." The only thing in that does not work for me is the short scene where she's talking to her "friends" about the Steve Martin character (and he's talking to his shrink). I didn't feel it matched the tone or mood of the rest of the film. But maybe it's just me..? I loved everything else about it.

    What brings me comfort..? The moments when I realize, right in the middle of them, how very lucky I am. The other night, as I was making dinner, I could hear Noah playing quietly with his cars, and Bill was reading The Ne Yorker on the couch, the dog by his feet... And I had a moment of being in that moment - and feeling grateful for it. Little things like that bring me comfort.

    Sheesh. Long comment. Sorry.


  17. suzie, Shopgirl was released about five years ago. I watched it via DVD. It is based on a Steve Martin novella. Your son's telecaster doesn't seem odd to me at all. Knowing what makes you feel nostalgic and warm & fuzzy is a gift.

    Char, I haven't read the book. Although books are often better than their movie counterparts, so much of what I love about this film is visual. I wonder if Steve Martin creates the same feeling in his novella.

    Shae, I can't promise you'll feel as I do about Shopgirl during round two. It just happens to work for me. I should have bought it instead of renting. It's one I return to like In the Mood for Love and Enchanted April. I like your description of the little birds going about their focused daily rituals. I can imagine feeling hypnotized while watching them. We should tell our husbands how happy their cleaning makes us. They might do it more often. I like that possibility.

    t, The ceiling fan in the middle of the night is a good one. I don't have a fan now, but I have been comforted by that simple repetitive sound in the past.

    Jessica, I loved books and movies as forms of procrastination. Who am I fooling...I STILL love books and movies as forms of procrastination.

    mosey, I struggle with hating to wake up and loving quiet early mornings. I should push through those rough wake ups more often. Someone else recently mentioned The Shell Seekers to me. Now I'm intrigued. I've added it to my list.

    Christina, So, you are one that didn't miss this film. I'm not surprised. I can see you liking it. I need more quiet mornings.

    Anonymous, are the second person to seek comfort in The Shell Seekers. I'll be doing the same.

    Nicolette, I grew up loving the fall (and picking apples). I was born in Chicago and the fall season is very different here in San Francisco. I miss the Midwestern fall that follows the hot summer.

    alexandria, Thank you! I like your comforts too. Cooking quietly is often like a reflex for me when I'm feeling stressed. The first things that comes to mind are knife, cutting board, onion (and/or garlic), saute pan, and olive oil.

    Tracy, These are great comforts. When I smell or taste anise cookies I think of my great grandmother. I'd love to have a kitchen that always smelled of anise cookies. I can understand Roberto's smile. Bacon does have a certain something that is difficult to refuse.

    wsake, How nice to know someone else feels the same about Shopgirl. When I smell freshly cut wood I feel similar to the way you feel about your father's metal. The relationship between emotion and memory is so intriguing to me.

    Maria, I totally know what you mean about that scene. It feels very disconnected from the rest of the film. It seems they were trying to explain something too literally instead of just letting the characters show through their actions what they were trying to say. I'm visualizing the moment with Noah and Bill that you described. It seems so perfect and peaceful. Being able to feel how wonderful a moment is within the actual is nice. I love long comments, especially from you.

  18. Comfort? The ritual of a cup of coffee in the morning and early eve, and of actually making coffee too.

    I remember having that same reaction to this film, though I am forgetting the details at the moment. I want to rent it again after reading this post, though a new TV first before we see anything that visually appealing. Our an old one with a rounded back, picture is fuzzy, and shades of olive green is all you get. (holding out for the new place :) Thanks for the future DVD inspiration...

  19. I like ShopGirl also--a small and quiet story, very real.
    Mirabelle is a lovely person.
    As for comforts, many things spring to mind:
    snapping beans,
    or inspecting things growing in a garden,
    or juts sitting in the backyard pretending I'm in the south of France

  20. Janis, I always go out for my cappuccino. We used to make drip coffee at home, when we lived in Point Reyes. I love the smell of fresh brewed coffee. I watched Shopgirl on my laptop and still liked it, but seeing it on a nice new TV will surely be a treat.

    nancy, Snapping beans is a good one, sort of like shelling peas. Inspecting the garden was a favorite of mine. I miss it. Pretending to be in France seems nice. Have you ever read The Cook and the Gardener? I think you might like it.

  21. I so know what you mean. Shopgirl has that lukewarm feeling, but it's kind of compelling in a weird always makes me wonder about all those souls out there going through this odd 'lukewarm' kind of existence...strange

  22. Annie, It is certainly a different way to live. I suppose what seems strange to us is just normal for them.