Charm A Sacred Nun

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"In fact many romantic artists and other hardy pioneers in subsequent generations conceived of the condition (the condition of alienation) as a source of pride, a chance to hurl a haughty defiance, titanic and Promethean, against man, history and God. Forced to live in the desert of his own surrender or on the mountain of his own solitude, the artist found compensation in that heroic doom which Baudelaire called both his curse and his blessing. Using terms suggested by Nietzsche, we might say that the artist believed himself capable of sublimating that fatal and fateful malady into an almost superhuman creative energy, which the German philosopher supposed to be the basis for all mental and spiritual health. The artist hoped to succeed in realizing his self and his work by the way of sin and transgression. He hoped to get a taste of the FRUIT OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE through disobedience and revolt. He thus seemed to become, as Rimbaud wrote, "le grand malade, le grand criminel, le grand maudit, et let supreme savant."

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3 Women, Robert Altman, 1977

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The million dollar question for me in this movie is this: Why is Millie Lammoreaux socially ostracized in the way that she is? I suspect if we know the answer to this question, we gain some insight into 3 Women. In a world of Facebook likes and Favorites, I guess her situation could be translated into zero likes and zero favorites.

She invites you over for tuna melts and she gets no likes. Oh but wait, back up, I’m totally wrong. She gets one like! And that one like comes from the person she doesn’t want a like from: Pinky Rose, the childlike dum dum who thinks Millie is the most amazing thing she’s ever seen. Oh yes, she also gets one more like—from the married dude with the pregnant wife (the 3rd woman) in the film who eventually gives birth (surprise!) to a stillborn baby. 

This movie reminded me a lot of Persona, except Altman added a third character, who’s supposed to be (from the imaginings of a male director) a young woman’s worst nightmare. The 3rd woman is mute and pregnant and draws disturbing pictures everywhere. It made me think that perhaps the fears of young women (getting old, having a baby, men not desiring you anymore) are also the fears of patriarchy. Hint: the problem with patriarchy is not older, pregnant women.  

There’s something “off” about all of these characters. One thing I noticed was that Millie’s dress was constantly caught in the car door. She’s sort of oblivious to everything. She doesn’t get her own lack of desirability and even when people make fun of her in front of her face, she just doesn’t get it. So when she finally takes home the married guy (who also happens to own the apartment building and the bar that the girls frequent) she’s super pissed when Pinky tells her not to (“his wife’s pregnant, Pinky says) and Millie says that Pinky shouldn’t interfere with her business….

Which is when Pinky attempts suicide by jumping into the swimming pool. Lots of twists and turns but Pinky emerges from the coma from the suicide attempt and then starts drinking and smoking and sleeping with the married dude. So, Pinky becomes Millie and now Millie is freaking out.

So, it seems to be about the balance and order between these two women. Who’s going to be in control and so on. At the end, Pinky reverts into this weird childlike thing and I think she even calls Millie “mommy” a coupla times. Oh and I’m pretty sure they kill the married guy.

This shit was crazzzzzzzzy but clearly a great movie. And it was made the year I was born. So, there’s that.  I’ve gotta go to work. 

Two-Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman, 1971

 

If James Taylor is starring in a movie about cars, hell yeah, I’m gonna watch it. I’m a huge James Taylor fan and if pressed, I *might* know all of the lyrics to *some* Taylor albums….(you can make fun of me!) Anyway, this movie follows a race car driver (James Taylor) and a mechanic (played by Beach Boys drummer, Dennis Wilson) as they “race” an older guy (GTO), eastward toward Washington DC from California. We quickly find out that GTO is a compulsive liar/ conman and is, hands down, the best actor in this movie. They never get to DC, which is not at all surprising considering the palpable lack of desire that literally oozes from all of these characters.

Oh, and there’s also a girl. One day she just gets into Taylor and Wilson’s car (a 55 Chevy) and sort of rides around with them occasionally giving them shoulder massages from the backseat of the car. At some point along the way, (there’s nothing prompting this), the girl decides to ride with GTO for a little bit (he tells her how much he likes her and promises to take her to New York or wherever). She nonchalantly agrees, though there’s no way to know what she really thinks or feels. At the end of the movie, she sees a motorcycle driver in café and hops on the back of his bike and off she goes thereby ditching the mechanic, the driver and GTO instantly. It’s all very… what the fuck?

Taylor seems to be the most disturbed that he lost the girl but there’s no way to know for certain how he feels since his affect is so flattened.  Some call this film an “existential masterpiece,” but I say not so fast! Yes, it’s interesting that they are moving eastward since it hints at a failed adventure of the road narrative. “I’ll take you to Florida” “We’ll go to Montreal” “Mexico is nice”—all of these guys say this to the girl and I like how you can’t tell the conman from the driver or the mechanic or (ostensibly) the skinny blonde dude on the motorcycle who drives her out of the movie and into oblivion. 

One of the things that I did find interesting about this movie was its relationship to music. I don’t think that Taylor or Wilson contributed any music at all to the film which is curious.  In addition, apparently, no soundtrack was made. There seems to be a weak attempt early in the film to use music to move the movie forward, (there’s a Doors song and “Me and Bobby McGee” sung by Kris Kristofferson is used) but any relationship that the movie has to music fizzles out along the way and eventually seems to become a negative one.  

At some point on the road, Taylor tells Wilson to turn the music off because he “can’t concentrate.” I don’t remember if he says “think” or concentrate” but, you get the gist. There are a couple of other times when the radio is turned off. And I think that these moments work well reinforce the notion that whatever is driving this movie forward is more about some warped compulsion (the skeletal American adventure narrative) than genuine desire.It seems that they haven’t really bought into this narrative but they still have some weak-willed fidelity to it, nonetheless. 

This is all a recipe designed to induce frustration in the person watching this thing. What would seem to be an opportunity for an epiphany on the part of the driver (there’s a man on the side of the road with a broken neck from a car crash), simply washes over him like everything else.

The cinematography is beautiful, though, and for that reason alone, the movie is worth watching. It captures all of the faded colors and sounds and strange delirium and mystique of the last days of one version of Route 66.

Probably, my favorite line is GTO’s when he says, “If I’m not grounded pretty soon, I’m gonna go into orbit.” Who can’t relate to that? 

Persona, Ingmar Bergman, (1967)

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Thought that the movie was interesting but very strange. Not sure how much insight I have at all. I think that all of the extra stuff that says “this is a movie” really doesn’t do much for me but probably it was interesting a zillion years ago when this thing came out.

I’m most interested in the relationship between the actress and the nurse—who is hurting whom and why? On the one hand, it’s really the actress whose hurting the nurse through her neurotic silence and betrayal in the letter she writes to the doctor (where she talks about the nurse as though the nurse were a patient that she herself is observing). She reveals herself, despite her silence, to be, well, somewhat conniving and cruel.

On the other hand, the nurse deliberately puts a piece of broken glass on the ground so that the actress will step on it. On the other other hand, the actress humiliates the nurse through her position (famous actress vs nobody nurse) but on the other other other hand, the nurse is about to throw boiling water on the actress and that’s when the actress finally utters the word “no” and the nurse ultimately holds back.

It’s hard to know what to think about what is happening here, because the nurse projects a lot of her own psychology on the actress *because* the actress doesn’t say anything and so there are all of these boundaries between the two that just fall apart.

 So, I think that the movie isn’t really about the abortion narrative or this weird thread about being a mother and photographs of the son that come up (also included is the boy with his hands up from the Warsaw Ghetto) but rather the way two people communicate and why they do and also the violence that can come from silence, the negative, or whatever you want to call it.

It seems to be about the human desire to communicate, to create narratives (life stories) and what happens (the kind of insanity) that emerges when people deny that to each other. The balance gets thrown off and we start to not know who we are. 

I think that the take home message of this story is: some people are black holes. With those people, there’s not much you can do. Better to stay away from the event horizon. The nurse’s instinct at the beginning of the film that the actress should have had an older nurse with more experience was probably a good one. 

On a scale of 1-10, I would give this movie an 8

A Woman Under the Influence, John Cassavetes (1974)

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I’ve been watching movies and I thought that I would jot down some thoughts after watching them. I have never seen anything by John Cassavetes and I have to say that this movie was difficult to watch. On the surface, it appears to be about a mother of three who goes crazy and then is sent off to the nuthouse by her husband, her cold and bitter a-hole mother in law, and family doctor (who really comes across as a kind of quack) and returns to the family. However, I think that the film is really about the difficulties of the family structure within the modern world and the recurring narrative of the woman who gets sent off to “get better” and returns. . In the first version, we have to buy into the idea that it’s the mother who is crazy but in the second version, it’s just a story where the woman has to take the fall for the failures of family life in capitalism. In other words, blame it on mommy!

Certainly, the father is just a nutty as the mother (when the mother is gone, he takes the kids to the beach and commands them to “have fun” and, at the end of the fun beach day, doesn’t hesitate to give them all beer). He’s a terrible father who admits to his co-workers that he doesn’t know his kids. Hmmmmm, wonder why that is!

None of the characters seem to have the slightest bit of insight into the problems that they are having. I would say that they are at least moderately intelligent but totally shallow. They almost seem to fear stopping for a moment to think and reflect on life and one gets the sense in watching this movie that it’s just impossible for them to stop. I can’t say why since I don’t know that many people like this. I know a lot of people who endlessly reflect and never do anything but that’s another story. They are like sharks that have to keep moving forward or die. 

I think that perhaps that this is the link to work. They have very traditional roles (the father is a foreman) and the mother is a housewife and it seems like it’s the structure itself that is the true problem. As though the structure is what is making them all sick. 

It’s really easy to look at this family and judge them negatively but I think what’s nice about Cassavetes’ style is that he doesn’t do this. He really presents them with a sense of love, empathy and compassion. It’s obvious that he cares a great deal for these characters. He knows that when an artist begins to bash his or her characters with moral judgement, not only do the characters die but so does the narrative and there goes your audience. He doesn’t look down on them and I think that’s why when I watched this thing, I didn’t either. It’s almost as though he is as helpless as his own characters. 

What I found most intriguing about this movie was the interaction between the husband and the wife at the very end. When the wife first gets back from the nuthouse, it’s unclear whether she has changed but pretty soon afterwards, you realize that she’s as loony tunes as she ever was——and what’s finally become obvious is that the husband prefers her that way. It’s very odd. He seems to want her to be crazy, but not so crazy that she can’t fulfill the role that she has played in the family all along. In some bizarre inversion, her madness is precisely what has kept the family together. 

Cassavetes does a good job of presenting people who love each other but have no insight into their own desires, needs, wants and so on. The scenes of the construction site are really beautiful and eerie—there’s a guy who rolls down into a pit and they use these ropes to try to rescue him.

I went the whole movie without crying, but something about the end (I think that the husband and wife are cleaning up the failed dinner party) and it got to me and I broke.

Who knows what else to say. Love is a disaster. 

The Story of Anne Moore

Did you ever read the short story “Anne Moore’s Life”?

No, I never read the story of Anne Moore

It’s from Roberto Bolano’s Last Evenings on Earth

It was raining so much in Tallahassee

I bet it could be one of the last evenings on earth

It’s fucking incredible

This happened to Anne Moore, and that happened

to Anne Moore and isn’t it strange how her name sounds

 like “amour”? Anyway, she moves to Mexico with her boyfriend

I don’t remember his name Paul? George? Simon?

who she doesn’t like and then she starts sleeping with Ruben

(the drug dealer) who would come over and they run out

of money and move into Ruben’s house and then Ruben’s uncle

 tries to touch her and Ruben, in turn, tries to kill the uncle

and then they go to a different city and then she moves to San Francisco

and falls in love with some guy and the sex is not very good

and he is like you should become a prostitute

so she tries it and sleeps with a guy who reminds her

 of her dad and then she falls in love with a Korean immigrant

 and she marries him so he can get his papers

and then they moved to Seattle and he is a virgin

but very endearing and he loves porn and they go

to Taiwan and the Philippines and she comes back to Seattle

and decides she is sick of him and she moves back to San Francisco

 and the Korean guy, Bill, I think that’s his name,

kills himself and then this happened

and that happened and there is never any reason for why

 any of the shit happens

Anne Moore just gets acted upon

She has no interest in having agency or at least in

 trying to stop the so-called “Wave of History”

or some shit I mean what would you call it?

from sweeping over her and everyone else