Today’s post is a special double feature: Reel Librarians goes international! (Bibliothécaire in the heading’s subtitle is French for librarian.)
A couple of months ago, I was contacted by Mister Pamp from the Notorious Bib site — basically, the French version of my Reel Librarians site — and after some correspondence back and forth, I suggested the idea of analyzing the same film and sharing our perspectives on each other’s sites. He was up for the challenge, and we chose the 2002 indie film, Miranda. Why? Because we both happened to have personal copies of the film, but neither one of us had yet watched it. Simple as that. Sometimes, practicality rules triumphant. It just so happened that we chose a British-made film.
I enjoyed the experience, as well as reading my French colleague’s take on this film. We ended up with similar outlooks on the film, but it’s interesting to read how we took different routes to end up at the same place. Also, Mister Pamp was able to locate the real-life filming location for the library featured in Miranda!
Click below for each perspective, and enjoy! :)
Miranda: An American librarian’s perspective
Jen @ Reel Librarians
(POSSIBLE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT)
Miranda is a strange woman. And a strange film. It’s a British-made film starring two American actors: Christina Ricci as the title role and Kyle MacLachlan as a kinky businessman obsessed with Miranda. Although one of the lead characters, Frank (played by British actor John Simm), is (1) a reel librarian, (2) earns second billing in the film’s credits, and (3) whose relationship with Miranda is the film’s central plot, there is NO MENTION of him in the film’s trailer that came as an extra on my dvd copy. John Hurt, in a supporting role, also replaces John Simm above the title on the film’s posters and advertising. Ouch.
Those omissions pretty much sum up how important the reel librarian’s occupation is to this Class II film. As in: not very. He could have been a bank teller or a pharmacist or any occupation seen to serve behind a counter. I agree with the Movie Librarians’ summation: “Frank’s character was no doubt made a male librarian so we would instantly accept his mousiness and his need for excitement.”
Even though the opening scene shows Frank at work in the central public library (he’s actually listening to music with his headphones on and creating a self-portrait out of nuts), we are hit with a sign that reads “Library Closing Down” and this self-narration:
Frank. Barracloff. Rock star. Astronaut. Secret agent. Sex god. That was me, wishing my life away, listening to Elvis, munching on nuts. But now I know, you gotta be careful what you wish for. It might come true. Because at 1:05 pm on the 25th of February, my life changed… forever.
And what changed this reel librarian’s life forever? You guessed it! Miranda. She is a mysterious character — perhaps a better word is shady — a wide-eyed pixie who dons different outfits and contact lenses depending on what con scheme she’s busy orchestrating. Christina Ricci is hilariously miscast as the wannabe femme fatale, while John Simm as the hapless Frank seems to be the only one taking the script seriously.
Although with clunker lines like:
- “She hit me like a truck, but with a bit more grace,”
- “You are my Virgin Mary … coal … thing,” and
- “Even Jesus came back after three days, and he was dead,”
it probably was a tougher job than he expected.
The first ten minutes of the film rushes through the first week of meeting Miranda, as she visits the library every day as demolition day draws nearer and the library shelves become barer. Even though we see Frank unshelving books to pack into boxes — a reel librarian UNSHELVING books, that’s got to be a cinematic first! — and clearing off the front desk, he seems completely unperturbed at losing his job. Even at the very end, as he straightens the empty brochures bin and the front desk bell, he crosses his arms and smiles as is satisfied. The film’s message is clear: What a loser.
What does Miranda do? She sets fire to the sign that warns the public that the library is closing down for demolition. Right before she goes into the library and introduces herself to Frank. Subtle. As subtle as the shot of the crane later demolishing the library facade. Because that’s all it is. A facade. (Seriously, that personal revelation was deeper than this entire movie. That’s not really a compliment. ;) )
Fast-forwarding, Frank sums up their love story plotline with more lame-o narration, “Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wakes up.” And in a truly terrible song he writes and sings about his beloved, he also foreshadows his quest to find her after she disappears one morning:
And it’s you, Miranda. Wherever I wander, I’ll find her. From New York, to Uganda. Miranda. Got eyes like a Panda. Miranda. If you were a plane, I’d land ya’. Miranda.
At this point, my husband and I were making up stupid rhymes ourselves.
I came up with, “Your name’s not Amanda, it’s Miranda.“
My husband’s best entry, “It’s not a custard, it’s a flan – duh.“
We do get to see several shots of Frank’s apartment — it’s always interesting to see glimpses of a reel librarian’s home life. Frank does have a clearly defined sense of style. It’s very … Elvis.
Time and again, we also witness every.single.character make fun of Frank:
Frank: It’s the best night I’ve ever had.
Miranda: You should get out more.
Miranda: You look like a hedgehog.
Frank: Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.
Rod (best friend): Frank, your hair is bad. She is exciting.
We’re supposed to root for this guy? All those mean remarks stacking up, it’s tiring. You might say there are enough verbal slaps to cause a nosebleed. ;)
Even though Frank becomes a hero of sorts at the end, he also is burdened with inane dialogue such as this:
Frank: I always buy stuff with preservatives in it. Makes you live longer.
[Narration]: I read this book once. It said 2,000 people disappear every week. They just vanish. By the year 2076 there’ll be no one left. Only me.
Frank [to Miranda]: I love you. … All I’m asking you to do is say three little words. Three little words. And then I’ll go. Three little words.
Miranda: Fuck off. Now.
The final frosting on this wilting cake is this conversation between Frank and his best mate, Rod, toward the end of the film. Warning: I cannot be objective about this. This scene made my blood boil.
Rod: She’s beyond exciting. She’s international. Get out there, conquer it.
Frank: I can’t.
Rod: Why not?
Frank: I’m a librarian.
Rod: Frank, you cling to the past. You haven’t even got one. You just stayed in.
Frank [narration]: He was right. That’s all I did. I stayed in. Read books. Until I met her. … In one month with her, I’ve been kidnapped, made 5 million quid from a psychopath. I was alive, electrified by raw, painful, horrible, glorious life.
Frank is a classic Liberated Librarian. His story arc is actually the central one of the film, even though Miranda gets the title role. He starts out the film dreaming of a more exciting life, and he finds that through Miranda. Male liberated librarians usually need outside forces or actions to instigation the “liberation,” and that is true in this case, as well. For all his (awkward) talk of love, Frank can only muster the courage to go after Miranda after (1) he gets drunk and (2) his friend urges him to go after her. And at the end of the film — even after he has saved her TWICE — he cannot experience personal happiness until she tells him that she loves him. The three little words that he actually wanted to hear.
So there you go. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy helps girl. Make 5 million quid from pervert. It just didn’t feel right.
You said it, Frank. You said it.
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Miranda: A French librarian’s perspective
Mister Pamp @ Notorious Bib
[Please note that the following guest post has been translated into English. Any errors in translation are mine (and maybe Google's, as I used the Google Translate tool). For this post in its original French, click here to visit the Notorious Bib blog.]
The brave film that interests us today is called Miranda and tells the story of a young woman named … Miranda (bravo), but also Frank, a thirty-year-old no-life librarian, who “dreams of a life life beyond his bank loan.” Said in a less literary way: he benefits from a public system and yet could not care less about the public. But it is a strange fact, nobody finds anything wrong with that. Frank doesn’t seem to have any bosses — who are conspicuous by their absence — or users of the library, which also sparks the same absenteeism (with a possible correlation between the two). In short, Frank is called, in the jargon of operational management, a dirty little humbug. However, our kindness will grant a mitigating circumstance. Indeed, in a few weeks , the library where Frank works will definitely close. And closing the public library , except in the minds of some sly students of ENSSIB, we must recognize that this is not the ideal professional perspective to boost the motivation of a librarian. Welcome to …
~~ Miranda (2002)
Unmotivated library workers, we’ve all seen. In general, you recognize them easily. There is Marie-Laure who systematically catches a cold the first day of vacation … in that way, her recovery is also postponed. There is Eric, who recently had the great idea to bring long cigarettes with the aim of prolonging cigarette breaks, or the divine and unconquerable Angelica, who each morning invariably rearranges her book cart with large-print novels because they are easier to shelve, leaving the hard files for her misfortunate colleagues.
Besides these small players is our friend Frank, who wins the prize. At the reception desk, you see him killing time without stopping on a swivel stool that squeaks like a freight train braking, ears plugged into Elvis Presley, and with handfuls of kernels, spreading the shells on the desk to form tribal-inspired frescoes. When the library front door opens, it’s an air current that sweeps away the decoration; then Frank picks up everything and again, until the next visitor.
Of course, all this does not encourage users to respect the place, and you wind up witnessing wastebasket dunks with apples they just swallowed at their desk — or worse , who enjoy burning the library notices posted on the board outside.
Occasionally, one of Frank’s unemployed friends pays him a visit, and then you see how they both change the world: one butt cheek on the counter, casually shooting the bull about love and its hazards.
You say, this is not possible, such things cannot exist. Alas, Menelaus, and we have not seen everything: when the pretty girl enters the library and asks Frank where the conference room, he simply leaves his post and accompanies the young woman in the auditorium, where he will “hold his leg” for twenty minutes to yap about the beauty of her eyes and the impact of those eyes on the male. Yes, in addition to being a pretty lousy professional, Frank gives into the most clichéd phrases for the purposes of seduction.
“And here is the room where we organize our shows … although the best show currently, I believe, is being played in front of me”
Leaving for a moment his whimsical and inconsistent attitude, in rare moments is Frank captured by a flash of lucidity. Thus, when yet again he pours his heart out to his friend and when his friend tries to encourage him:
- But what are you waiting for, go find her and seduce her! (…) – I could never … – And why is that? – Well … I’m a librarian …
A beautiful vision, but it is a struggle to appreciate when you see how this young man tries to get a leg up in his career. Especially if you look at the statistics, being a librarian is not so prohibitive. There are plenty who enjoy a healthy social life and even manage to reproduce. It is really sad to see such a lack of confidence in a male librarian; with 75% of women in the profession, it is supposed to be an advantage for heterosexual-level opportunities.
The question of a modern man, when he opted for a career incompatible with reproductive claims …
I reassure you, this is not France that would see such things. In fact, I did not want to mention it because I personally abhor denunciation, but I still need to clarify that the charming librarian of this film is an Englishman. This is also why, if you have some basic insight into that from the beginning I type Frank without the “c”. Specifically, our friend works in the great London suburbs, the main library of the town of Harrow, which seems to have a lateral recruitment policy. In any event, the film reassures us that in a few days the library and its staff will not ever hurt anyone because the property is not ready to be only closed, but also wiped off the map.
What does a public library about to be sprayed look like? Here’s a small glimpse:
Naturally, the books have been removed from shelves. They are in bins that readers can always rummage looking for their happiness. Magnetic gates, meanwhile, are still in use (why worry about flights now?) And record-keeping doesn’t make much sense as they cut the heating. Workers and patrons need only survive by keeping their coats …
Before folding the shop, the team tries to do a little business reselling library books. The money raised will be considered a consolation for the pain and suffering imposed on those workers when they decided to close the library. The business ethics, of course, takes a hit, but at the same time, when the ship is sinking, it is necessary to make concessions. And frankly, with all of these books sold, it will make it less to move.
Apart from its incompetent staff, here is another reason solely sufficient to justify the demolition of the facility: the front pediment above the main entrance.
An excruciating sculpture, it seems to include the cross-sectional representation of a small intestine that have suffered the ravages of chili con carne that’s too spicy. It’s just disgusting. To think that the one part of this building that is cultural would appeal only to an intestinal surgeon.
Finally, an interesting library graphic. The poster is not very attractive, but it looks roughly official:
Spectacular, and more:
A Mercedes S-class parks in front of the library. Can we say the the rich have finally discovered the joys of reading in public? … Nay, this wealthy Japanese comes to examine the library he had just bought with his head full of ideas to build something better once it is destroyed …
Sayonara, library. Instead, we will build a park where dogs can pee, it will be much more useful, and then place the playground next to a weight bench and an expression wall for graffiti artists which may also serve as a urinal if sometimes they do not like their park — and of course a fountain that will fill with the urine and everything that clutters up our pockets with material desires. It will be great and then, finally, we have our third act.
Hmm, it is hard to love a film that has such an apocalyptic vision of the reading public. The reality, thankfully, is not quite as described in Miranda as the film chose as its library location the Gayton Library, in Harrow — which was about to be demolished, but the library actually moved elsewhere, in more functional premises. Harrow librarians have also done well, as the allocation of filming locations was done in return for payment against the sum of €25,000, which was used to purchase new books for other libraries in the city. Apart from that, Miranda is not really the film of the year. Neither of the week, or even your evening, in fact: the love story is stupid, the dialogue is heavy, the actors look like actors in commercials for deodorants. Done with more care, the plot of the film could have been fine (the story of a librarian who is tricked by a femme fatale). But as is, the film is a chore that lasts 90 minutes. Bad.
Bad direction of terrible actors: To reclassify these books, the actor looks in the middle of the books instead of checking the spines!
Here is the film’s trailer:
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