Future daze

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Juan Cole
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The Grudge / Matchstick Men (download versions)

Yes, an inaresting combination. Like something went wrong at the Chinese restaurant when taking your order. We all had a good laugh as Buffy went from room to room in this very standard thriller; chuckled at her low-register screen presence, and winced with occasional mirth as she hobnobbed Japanese in this Japanese crossover shot. Shoot it does, but very wide. Scary little surprises, almost all of them audio-based drive the action; plot threads and pseudo-mystical sources are left hanging like sloppy noodles, and an ending so thoroughly dissatisfying it had us choking and shredding the chef. The impression of leafing through an American clothing catalogue, or possibly even a Wallpaper special, while waiting in a rather chilly Chinese restaurant where someone’s doing stupid human tricks. Can the jaw really stretch that far? The tiring expectation of a loud crash of horror every time things went quiet. Why do ghosts go about scaring and killing the long and maximally drawn-out way? No apres-vie best practice seminars? Why wasn’t there more soul and source in the characters, all so underdone and in the case of the police officer who’d already lost his colleagues to the same ghost (yes, this is an Asian production), completely excised from the final body count? In all a shame considering the fair production values. But we beefed up the disappointment with a bit of light and cool Ridley fluff (Men). Although fluff and beef are mangled metaphorically; no meat and roughage go together that well in a cinematic squishy. Ridley stands second only to Spielberg for consistent if pedestrian entertainment, your average, good value dinner fare. Cage is super as the OCD scamster but he’s locked in a rather predictable double set-up. The ticks and the manias come so naturally to him it makes you wonder: is this typecasting or acting? And in turn, are we viewers becoming obsessively predictable in being fed such familiarly double-crossed plot masquerading as original cinema? One thing I had trouble with is that whenever I see Elvis I now think of Nicholas Cage. The wires got crossed, somehow; the imitators have killed the king. No matter. Also, there was something uncanny on the Dutch TV before (a royal gala performance no less, and Beatrix looked decidedly weary as though thinking My, is it that time of year again?), namely, the annual Dutch Spastic Orchestra concert (they did have a nicer name, I've forgotten). Yes, they were fun in a perverse way (most of them played one-finger keyboard lines), but they later gave me the even cannier idea to start up an OCD orchestra. A hefty Philip Glass score perhaps, and then possibly speeding up the action with Benzedrine. And forcing to audience to listen for six, seven hours at a stretch. I mean, everyone deserves their representation, their chance in the spotlight, right? Maybe I’m the one that’s sick.

David Foster Wallace, the Broom of the System

What can you say about such a clear *first* novel: there’s shades of future brilliance, an introduction to the theme and method of the mature author, as well as the normal failings of overwriting, bad contour and unevenness, that nagging sense of juvenilia. Everything that the Jest is not. I liked the narrative duotone of the character who fears she is nothing more than a narrative character, working in an ensemble of characters who are actively plotted to enact a narrative for and around her. Smackings of undergrad humour maybe, not the mature DFW who fully knows his LitCrit and the value of real literature; and occasionally the gags are played purely for superficial fun in the numerous creative writing exercises in ways that don‘t help the reader’s triangulations. DFW knows this. But still there’s enough narrative cleverness and good dialogue to keep it simmering. And the first trace of the DFW theme-tropes (dare I call them memes?): reflective arts and sciences slash philosophical reflectivity; geographic reconfigurations; gross physicality (as Wittgenstinian tactic); psychological discourses and excesses of projection; students and drugs; acutely dysfunctional families; lampoon televisual culture; little narrative problem-paradoxes; and the gifted rendering of fractured characters’ dialogue. Choice quote:
"Handcuffs? You’re going to forgive me with handcuffs that say 'Bambi’s Den of Discipline' on them?" (p440)
With all his "fine disdain for ‘reality’" (cover blurb) and young writer’s cool, it’s easy to see how he got lumped in with Ellis et al (that ending leaves… desired). But what has Ellis done lately that even comes close to this.

posted by rino breebaart  # 8:14 am
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Alternatively, read about it at: The Slow Review or the long blog. Or even Nurture Health

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