Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bren Bataclan Brings Smiles and Hope

Six years ago, Bren Bataclan noted with dismay that fewer people in his home city of Boston were smiling. He decided to do something about it and in 2003, launched the Smile Boston Project . It has been a rolling stone gathering enormous following since.

Philippine born artist, Bataclan, began to leave free small acrylic cartoon paintings in public places like malls, park benches and anywhere people might congregate. In exchange, he asked the finder to commit random acts of smiling. And smile, finders did.

In his website, Bataclan writes that his goals were to: "Bring art to people who typically do not visit art galleries and museums, give paintings to folks who may not be able to afford original artwork, and see smiles around the globe. "

The 2003 Smile Boston Project was a huge success. People were smiling. This was followed by Smile Chicago, Smile Las Vegas and Smile projects all over the US. Bataclan's smile critters could be found in public places throughout the country and around the globe. Smile paintings have been found everywhere from Alaska to Hawaii, from the ice caps of Antartica to the deserts of Saudi Arabia, from Europe to Asia and round and round it has been going bringing hope and the promise of a smiling world.

When the economy bottomed last year, Bataclan changed the note in his 2009 paintings to say, "Eveything will be allright." Many art finders/keepers have been so moved to hope and have left feedback on how it changed their outlook.

Bataclan completed his art degree at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1993 and Masters in Computer Animation at Ohio State University a few years later. Among other activities, he has worked as animator and designer for such movies as Free Willy and Last Action Hero and taught computer animation and graphic design at the University of Massachussets.

The success of the smile project has brought Bataclan into the limelight. He has been the subject of a documentary by David Tames. The book, The Smile Project, has been published by Gingko Press. Bataclan has been featured in TV news such as the June 22,2009 segment on CBS Evening News.

Bren Bataclan is a reminder of the power of one.

All of you out there, practice those smile muscles and spread the word. A Bataclan smile critter may be lurking in a bench near you.

If you're not lucky enough to find one, purchase a smiley critter painting from the artist's website:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont: A Movie Review

But for Netflix, I would have missed Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, an endearing movie released in 2005 starring Dame Joan Plowright as Mrs. Palfrey and Rupert Friend as Ludovic Meyer. This movie squeaked silently by, a pity as it is quite a feel good movie.

Recently widowed and hoping for an independent life, Mrs. Palfrey leaves her home and daughter in Scotland to live at the Claremont in London, a hotel romanticized in a travel brochure. She also hopes to reconnect with her grandson who works in London. Meeting the relic of a doorman should have been the first clue that the Claremont was not as publicized. The suite turns out to be a tiny room with a window looking out to a wall and the shared bathroom runs out of hot water. The Claremont is, in fact, a hotel where people stay in the twilight of their lives as they wait for the inevitable. The dining room is the hub of the regular denizens where Mrs. Palfrey comes overdressed for dinner. Mrs. Arbuthnot (Anna Massey), self elected group leader, provides her with the low down on the other diners. As time passes, Mrs. Palfrey's grandson does not return calls, write a letter, let alone come to visit, making the other residents think he is a fiction of the imagination.

On the way home from the library where she had picked up a copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover for Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Palfrey falls. A young man, Ludovic, comes to her rescue, invites her into his apartment and tends to her scrapes. A friendship develops and when Mrs. Palfrey invites Ludovic to dinner, the hotel residents mistake him for the grandson, a charade they chose to perpetuate. Ludovic earns a living as a street musician while pursuing his dream of being a writer. As the friendship grows, they come to terms with their isolation, having few friendships with people their own age. They help each other find the goodness in their lives, Mrs. Palfrey helping Ludovic find love and move on to his future while Ludovic helps her see the value of her past.

The movie is adapted to the screen by Ruth Sacks, herself in her 80's from the last novel by Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist, not the actress) published in 1971. The book, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, itself, is worth reading and depicts the changes as one ages as in this passage:

“The morning was to be filled in quite nicely, but the afternoon and evening made a long stretch. I must not wish my life away, she told herself; but she knew that, as she got older, she looked at her watch more often, and that it was always earlier than she had thought it would be. When she was young, it had always been later.”

Dan Ireland directs a wonderful cast of older actors and young Rupert Friend. Friend, dashing and handsome, is an actor to watch. (He is in the upcoming movie, Cherie, with Michelle Pfeiffer.) Friend makes us believe that friendship between a young man and an elderly woman is a most natural thing that happens everyday. There is wonderful chemistry between Plowright and Friend as pretend grandmother and grandson and between aging actors playing the residents of the Claremont.

Go rent or buy the DVD. There is no violence, no foul language and no nudity. It is just a great escape movie that warms the soul.


This blog is a collection of musings about things that interest me. The opinions are my own. While I try my best to be accurate and ensure accurate links to relevant sites, I may make honest mistakes, hopefully few and far between. I intend no harm to anyone. I welcome comments but please be kind and observe a no profanity ethic. This site may contain paid content but this in no way affects the honesty and spirit of the writing. I do not collect personal information or insert cookies in reader's computers. Blog posts belong to me. Content may be copied and distributed (but not modified), as long as my authorship is acknowledged with a link back to the content page. Photos are either mine or obtained from free sites. I make an effort to track and acknowledge the owner but this is often not possible. If you are the owner of photos on this site, please contact me. As life is a continually changing process, this blog is a work in progress.