It's time for some quotes. Recently I found this beauty in an old notebook, a nicely effective quote from Perec's Life: A User's Manual. And frankly, considering the amount of wasted waterpaint and lozenge-shaped rooms in that book, I think it nicely pithy and abrupt:
Life, young man, is a woman on her back, with swollen, close-set breasts, a smooth, soft, fat belly between portruding hips, with slender arms, plump thighs, and half-closed eyes, who in her grandiose and taunting provocation demands our most ardent fervour.
Only, put it in the voice of an Englishman.
The next, one of the better descriptions of Paris, is from Octavio Paz:
I was exploring the city that is probably the most beautiful example of the genius of our civilisation: solid without heaviness, huge without gigantism, tied to the earth but with a desire for flight... In its most auspicious moments a square, an avenue, a group of buildings tension turns to harmony, a pleasure for the eyes and for the mind.
OK now, I came to the song pretty late, but heavens, do I love that pounding rhythm of section of No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age. All rhythm section. Yes, let’s not argue, it’s prime trio rhythm, Kyuss bass and guitar, and the one thing I do remember acutely from glimpsing the video: Dave G really working the drums, almost angry-heavy. Intense young man. The best heavy is simple heavy, I say. And the recording of the drums is superb, solidly dry and immediate, maybe just a little compression on it. If only everyone could be this tight.
After a sickness and hospital-related absence, more news in brief. Finally, Capturing the Friedmans. Bravely navigating the ambivalent line of non-judgement, sometimes Errol Morris-style, sometimes a little haphazardly but always well-edited and balanced time-narrative wise. As much about leading questions (leading suspicion and justice, leading hypnosis, leading interviews, direct leading statements from the judge) as the inability to ever really form a decided, jury-friendly opinion, I loved its ambivalence without overtly putting the viewer in the jury’s seat. I also got a suspicion that their community hung the Friedmans because they were dysfunctional in a way slightly un-American, possibly for being Jewish. As though dysfunction isn’t the recognised norm or in any way universal. Hence the punchy nature of the dinner table arguments: everyone raving and railing, the mother in denial and waiting to exploit her neutrality for her own inclination to divorce (she reminded me most directly of Sharon Osbourne, for guile), the sons appalled and screaming, and then the camera moves to the right to reveal… the grandmother, sitting there all along. And the mother hesitating, almost tactlessly, to embrace her son out of prison, near the end.
Finally I can flush the 700 pages of Middlemarch down the memorial drain. Occasionally great prosaic insight; an amazing instalment of the social system novel, with the odd scientific parallel trimming and much psychological accounting — the kind that breaks the beginner’s writing rule ‘Show, don’t tell’ over and over again, proving the rule is shit (Balzac never hesitated to ‘Tell’). But, though the prose style is quite advanced or ‘adult’ as Woolf would have it (it brims with an intelligence, a fat faculty for fleshing motive, mind), and though it seems to occupy its own bubble-like range, circumscribed by mode, I felt this is one novel that cannot be read exclusively — you have to take frequent breaks or parallel reads with racier material, lighter alternatives — like Petronius would say, you have to change your chariot occasionally. It’s a bit like chewing on a floury English loaf for days on end. Though, again, in all fairness, there are moments of great fluency and plot management — I admit to occasional rivettings. The line from here runs direct to Lawrence (parallel opening chapter with Women in Love). And the ref to Italians with white mice seemed to hark back to The Lady in White.
So I padded the read with Durrell’s Bitter Lemons. Great mature travel writing from a Mediterranean master. If only because I’m planning a trip to Cyprus before the year’s end. Hilarious account of buying a house with a wise Turk. A little short on conclusion — politico-historical (which might help understand the current mess), but great stabs of poetry, great longing and welcome. And also Octavio Paz’ In Light of India — more acute and shimmering poetry. Didn’t realise ‘till later that I’d picked out travel writing by two poets. And also more Carver shorts. For lessons in economy and selection.
A bit of a peevish swipe at Godard from Camille Paglia, eternal 60s child, bemoaning our short-attention-image-saturation culture. “Today's rapid-fire editing descends from Jean-Luc Godard, with his hand-held camera.” And then, a little further on, saying “the humanities curriculum should be a dynamic fusion of literature, art, and intellectual history.” I’m sorry, Miss P, but that is exactly what Godard is about, especially in his later works, which are as much meditations on image, lit and history as can be achieved in the medium. I admit I’m in a pro Jean-Luc mood, but that is just a shallow stringing of mealy facts, a surface reading.
Let’s talk about corporate social responsibility. Companies that outsource to foreign workforces (ie exploiting cheap labour like call centres in India) should pay a tax for not contributing to the welfare of their own local economy. Or a tax incentive for employing their own. Because it is exploitation and it should be taxed somehow. It bolsters the ever-widening wage gap between executives and lowly employees by exploiting in turn the massive relative wage inequalities of poorer nations, because they can be exploited. It should be called an ethics tax.
1.Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid — a bit of nutty film borrowing and half-baked genre quips. With some real peanut lines like ‘put on yer best dress and I’ll go shave my tongue’ and the arrow in head of ‘Can I use her underwear to make soup?’ Daffy without the lisp. Light and gratuitous.
2. Also Winterbottom’s In This World. Neither doco nor fictive drama, you feel he nonetheless wants to finger the refugee issue in a big way. But like a bad crime movie without motive, I couldn’t see why the two leads should want to leave — it seemed more a trifle on their fathers’ behalf to want something better for them. There’s occasionally stunning photography, and it feels incredibly real and all, bustling about on trucks and buses through the desert — a real delight for DV advocates and devotees. But that absent motivation means we don’t get into their heads, into their implied desperation. So the real-doco/fudged narrative divide comes to cover the confused theory and execution of the film. It becomes strangely un-affective, which is not an ideal effect for a refugee theme. Though I now know how to cross the Channel with only a piece of 4x2.
3.Final Fantasy – the Spirits Within has some amazing set and background animation, some absolutely convincing & suggestive artwork. But the human characters looked like extras in an action video game by today’s standards of animation. Animation standards date faster than expired Macca’s burgers. Also, and no doubt unintentionally a result of the superclear digital sound, the actor’s voices had about 3 to 4 times more character than their animations — never a contrast so clear. I just fell in love with the machines and sets and landscaping and ghost-like rendering of the spirits. Forget the standard-issue plot and enough ‘take my hand!’ last minute scrapes to make Arnie tinkle. In fact, Arnie’s voice would’ve been right at home here, no need to inflect to Japanese animé. But then again, if Sean Connery can be made to look Japanese in You Only Live Twice…
4. I flicked over from Linklater’s Slacker just to see Thora Birch reveal lovely fullness at the window of American Beauty. Such rich expand of forehead, columnar neck… Anyway. Slacker was a rambling runaround to ultimately say very little about US slackers mired in ennui — therefore saying it very well. The theories were entertaining in their diversity. Funny to see so many people, well educated and on the cusp of genuine intelligence, still totally unable to make a unified personal action, a coherent mode of life. But then again I’ve got a weakness for the conspiracy theory as an (at times) desperate attempt to make sense of the world and its (relative) powers. So still an inaresting first film. Nuttiness balanced by the strange fraternity of the nutters.
5. Also, at last, Bande à Part. I don’t really want to talk about it — I will sound academic. Not his best or fullest expression, but Karina is completely different here. Development of the total Jean-Luc Cinema Godard mode. JLG as image-poet, writer-poet, source-text and reference poet, editing poet, montage and sound-poet, humour and car-poet, thought and essay-poet, and all in all, cinema-poet. Lots of gags.
I am now keen to see Sylvia Sidney in You Only Live Once.