So, it appears graduation and cross country road trips tend to put a damper on internet output, so therefore I return to muse. I saw Midnight Cowboy for the first time yesterday and I have a newfound respect for Jon Voight. I do think the film succeeds as a sort of late sixties trinket of culture-as-captured but not necessarily jailed. The cinematography tends to mimic the time period, in that there is a constant zooming in and pulling away from artifacts,themes, epicenters, and personalities. Voight pulls off the naive cowboy punch which, as stultified by Hoffman, makes his vulnerability a sort of insignia for the failed American voyage to a “better place.” He seems woven out of clay and even a touch inhuman in this film–the western simulacrum–while Hoffman, the crippled and weaselly Yorker, is emblematic of the dreamer turned parasite in the hustling tides of a generation entering the yet-to-be-categorized as war-warbled sixties. The two together, a truly disheveled dreamer and a tucker out clinger, create a space of sympathy that is at once comforting and, as was most likely intentional, irksome. One can choose to understand the phsychadelic intrusions of the urban world, the warn out west, and the cold streets as the psychological entrance to a place of homosexuality-as-part-of-culture, or instead snag this time period as the pivotal arch of a culture undergoing a direct split from the lingering commonalities of the fifties and the free-spirited disrobing of the sixties. I think that some viewers are partial to the prior approach but that this undermines the film as film, instead making its scenes separate and stricken by labels.
On a different note, I saw The Brothers Bloom yesterday as well, the directorial debut of Rian Johnson, who also wrote the script. The movie, starring Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, and Rachel Weisz, is a disjunctive but playful story about con artists and the divergence of reality and fable. From the very beginning of the film, one can tell Johnson is toying with his own intelligence by threading literary allusions everywhere. The very title plays on the Grimm brothers but in using Bloom calls to mind Joyce’s Ulysses. Then, quite directly, we learn that the brothers are named Stephen and Bloom, the two major characters in Ulysses being Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. It is a smack in the face when we find out Weisz’s character, Penelope, bears the same name as Bloom’s wife in Ulysses. With this much information early in the film, even the slightly versed-in-literature viewer is then feeling a touch patronized or even self-congratualtory, as the role of the viewer then becomes one who searches for more allusions, as opposed to being guided in a story that might have some nice and original surprises. The result is that the movie fails to understand what it wants to be. In what I’ve read about recently, in many poetry discussions, is the need to resist lines that feel necessary and, in addition to being driven by wit, particularly innovative. This is where the director should have stopped himself–by employing such allusions early on I believe he let them control the trajectory of the film, thus hindering it from continuing to unwind in the normal structure of plot; this is not to say, however, that every film even needs a plot but that in risking one intentionally and for the sake of pressurizing pun the film becomes a series of gestures toward an unfulfilling whole. What is most obvious then, in this case, is that here lies yet another problematic film that may have alleviated its monotony and disparate elements had the writer allowed his seemingly brilliant script to be directed by another person. Very few auteurs are capable of being just so and Johnson might have benefited from separating himself from the whole process. Before this spans the field of negativity, I’d like to add that Rachel Weisz was hilarious and I cannot wait to see her in more comedic roles. Ruffalo was Ruffalo, an always strangely alluring actor and Brody was Brody, a chalky but piercing presence.
On a non-cinematic note, I have spent the morning re-reading A.R. Ammons’ Garbage, a long poem of such sparkling pips of individualism that one cannot enter its frame without questioning the self as initiator, purveyor of the outer. I recall reading this poem around six years ago on a damp porch and on an island in Minnesota that did not have electricity. At the time it sucked me in to its entirety and perhaps I forgot to pace myself. So now I return to it in hopes of taking not only a breath but also a pen to what enthralls. Here is an excerpt:
“our chests burn with anxiety and a river of
anguish defines rapids and straits in the pit of
our stomachs: how can we intercede and not
interfere: how can our love move more surroundingly,
convincingly than our premonitory advice”