My my but it’s been sour in here the past couple of days. Perhaps I should recommend some other places to go. Mark Riebling, after a lengthy hibernation, has posted the first couple of chapters of his forthcoming book, The Eagle and the Cross: The Pope, the Jesuits, and the Plot to Kill Hitler, in which he rehabilitates the unjustly maligned Pius XII, and they were worth waiting for. I’ve just put up a site for the artist Tom Sellers, whose paintings I can’t afford, but maybe you can. I lazily let pass Cinderella’s translation of and commentary on an interview with Pascal Bruckner, author of the brilliant Tears of the White Man, who provides the best explanation of French politics I’ve heard to date. Evan Kirchhoff, via Colby Cosh, theorizes on the strange fascination with Michael Moore. Seablogger dissects “queer” vs. “gay.” And I promise to be cheerier next time out.
Patton famously remarked that the point isn’t to die for your country, it’s to make the other poor dumb bastards die for theirs. He might have added that the point isn’t to be captured by the enemy for your country either, it’s to capture the other poor dumb bastards. So could someone please explain how being captured in an ambush qualifies PFC Jessica Lynch as a heroine? Isn’t it more heroic not to be captured, or better still, to rescue someone who has?
(Update: Floyd McWilliams points to a WaPo story that shows I was rather unfair to PFC Lynch. It still isn’t clear how she was ambushed in the first place, but she certainly fought heroically after she was.)
The other day Michael Blowhard and I caught a matinee of Irréversible, which runs backward chronologically, as you have now become the last to hear. The climax is the first scene in the movie, at a gay sex club, filmed through a red haze at dizzying camera angles. You don’t know the characters, so when one guy you can barely see beats another guy you can barely see to a pulp with a fire extinguisher, you’re thinking, “Gee, some guy just got beaten with a fire extinguisher. What was that all about?” And backward we proceed, for there is nowhere to go but backward.
Radical conventions tend to be radically confining. If you’re going to adopt one it should be for some purpose higher than confusing the audience and establishing your avant-garde bona fides — as in Memento, where reverse chronology succeeds by placing the audience in the same position as the amnesiac hero. Start with normal chronology, and you can take some liberties. The audience will tolerate an occasional fast forward or flashback because it’s securely oriented in time. You cannot profit from the expectations of your audience by turning them on their head.
Vers libre, another radical convention, runs up against similar difficulties. You gain in heightened emotion, a sort of breathless urgency that William Carlos Williams and H.D exploit brilliantly, with their tiny poems about fire trucks and pear orchards. But in the rush you lose the opportunity for meaningful variation against the background that rigid meter provides. It becomes impossible to write anything even moderately intellectual, and you exclude the greater part of human experience.
The last variation, as J.V. Cunningham wrote, is regularity.
(Update: Michael has a far more thorough and entertaining version of our outing. He discusses the Kaurasmaki film we also saw — which I didn’t mention because it didn’t fit my thesis, and I’m the sort of blogger who always needs a goddamn thesis — and provides links to genuinely useful sites, with pictures of Monica Belluci without her clothes on.)