30 April 2008

Kite Runner, 2007

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 7:20 am

[Screenplay by David Benioff, adapted from the novel by Khaled Hosseini. Hosseini, an Afghani by birth, left the country with his family after the king was deposed in a communist coup. I commented in the post on Disgrace that I’d put up a screen shot only if something about this rather disappointing movie stuck with me when I woke up this morning. It did — and here it is.]

Baba, a wealthy Afghani, owns a large estate in Kabul. He has one child, a son named Amir; his wife is dead. A lifelong servant and his son Hassan, members of the oppressed Hazara minority, live in an outbuilding on the property. Despite class and ethnic differences, Amir and Hassan are best friends — at the beginning of the movie anyway. The story begins in the 70s, just after the monarchy has fallen to the communists.

AMIR: The mullahs at school say that drinking is a sin. They say drinkers pay when the Reckoning comes.

BABA (swallows some whiskey): Do you want to know what your father thinks about sin?


BABA: Then I’ll tell you. But first understand this and understand it now: You’ll never learn anything from those bearded idiots.

AMIR: You mean the mullahs?

BABA: I piss on the beards of those self-righteous monkeys. They do nothing but thumb their prayer beads and recite a book in a tongue they don’t even understand. There is only one sin. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation on theft. Do you understand that?

AMIR: No, Baba jan.

BABA: When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to her husband, his children’s right to their father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. Do you see? The is no act more wretched than stealing. A man who takes what’s not his to take, be it a life or a loaf of naan, I spit on such a man. And if I ever cross paths with him, God help him. Do you undersatnd?

AMIR: Yes, Baba.

BABA: Good. (Drains the rest of his whiskey with a single swallow, stands, and returns to the bar.) All this talk of sinning is making me thirsty.

29 April 2008

Once, 2007

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 9:29 pm

I liked this musical when I saw it at the theater, and I liked it again when I watched it at home. The music is overraught and not something I would ordinarily listen to, but it was the kind of music the lead character would play so it’s okay. The combination of unfulfilled romance and earnestly hopeful artistic ambition seemed right. There’s probably not much more to be said about it.

25 April 2008

Disgrace by Coetzee, 1999

Filed under: Fiction, First Lines — ktismatics @ 10:38 am

[Here are some “screen shots” from this novel, beginning with the first paragraph…]

For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well. On Thursday afternoons he drives to Green Point. Punctually at two p.m. he presses the buzzer at the entrance to Windsor Mansions, speaks his name, and enters. Waiting for him at the door of No. 113 is Soraya. He goes straight through to the bedroom, which is pleasant-smelling and softly lit, and undresses. Soraya emerges from the bathroom, drops her robe, slides into bed beside him. ‘Have you missed me?’ she asks. ‘I miss you all the time,’ he replies. He strokes her honey-brown body, unmarked by the sun; he stretches her out, kisses her breasts; they make love.

* * *

‘We want to give you an opportunity to state your position.’

‘I have stated my position. I am guilty.’

‘Guilty of what?’

‘Of all that I am charged with.’

‘You are taking us in circles, Professor Lurie.’

‘Of everything Ms Isaacs avers, and of keeping false records.’

Now Farodia Rassool intervenes. ‘You say you accept Ms Isaacs’s statement, Professor Lurie, but have you actually read it?’

‘I do not wish to read Ms Isaacs’s statement. I accept it. I know of no reason why Ms Isaacs should lie.’

‘But would it not be prudent to actually read the statement before accepting it?’

‘No. There are more important things in life than being prudent.’

Farodia Rassool sits back in her seat. ‘This is all very quixotic, Professor Lurie, but can you afford it? It seems to me we may have a duty to protect you from yourself.’ She gives Hakim a wintry smile.

‘You say you have not sought legal advice. Have you consulted anyone — a priest, for instance, or a counselor? Would you be prepared to undergo counselling?’

The question comes from the young woman from the Business School. He can feel himself bristling. ‘No, I have not sought counseling nor do I intend to seek it. I am a grown man. I am not receptive to being counselled. I am beyond the reach of counselling.’

* * *

He tries to wash off the ash under the kitchen tap, pouring glass after glass of water over his head. Water trickles down his back; he begins to shiver with cold.

It happens every day, every hour, every minute, he tells himself, in every quarter of the country. Count yourself lucky to have escaped with your life. Count yourself lucky not to be a prisoner in the car at this moment, speeding away, or at the bottom of a donga with a bullet in your head. Count Lucy lucky too. Above all Lucy.

A risk to own anything: a car, a pair of shoes, a packet of cigarettes. Not enough to go around, not enough cars, shoes, cigarettes. Too many people, to few things. What there is must go into circulation, so that everyone can have a chance to be happy for a day. That is the theory; hold to the theory and to the comforts of theory. Not human evil, just a vast circulatory system, to whose workings pity and terror are irrelevant. That is how one must see life in this country; in its schematic aspect. Otherwise one could go mad. Cars, shoes; women too. There must be some niche in the system for women and what happens to them.

* * *

Just something to dabble at, he had said to Rosalind. A lie. The opera is not a hobby, not any more. It consumes him night and day.

Yet despite occasional good moments, the truth is that Byron in Italy is going nowhere. There is no action, no development, just a long, halting cantalina hurled by Teresa into the empty air, punctuated now and then by groans and sighs from Byron offstage. The husband and the rival mistress are forgotten, might as well not exist. The lyric impulse in him might not be dead, but after decades of starvation it can crawl forth from its cave only pinched, stunted, deformed. He has not the musical resources, the resources of energy, to raise Byron in Italy off the monotonous track on which it has been running since the start. It has become the kind of work a sleepwalker might write.

He sighs. It would have been nice to be returned triumphant to society as the author of an eccentric little chamber opera. But that will not be. His hopes must be more temperate: that somewhere from amidst the welter of sound there will dart up, like a bird, a single authentic note of immortal longing. As for recognizing it, he will leave it to the scholars of the future, if there are still scholars by then. For he will not hear the note himself, when it comes, if it comes — he knows too much about art and the ways of art to expect that. Though it would have been nice for Lucy to hear proof in her lifetime, and think a little better of him.

23 April 2008

Dirty Pretty Things, 2003

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 6:00 am

I wonder if I’m getting sick of looking at all these movies. This one seems so contrived as a story, yet the critics loved it. The screenwriter Steve Wright’s next film was Eastern Promises, which likewise explores the marginal lives of London illegal aliens, though in that later film he casts the immigrants in a decidedly less sympathetic light. I just started watching season 2 of the American TV series The Wire, which centers around the investigation of the murder of several eastern European prostitutes smuggled into the Baltimore harbor. One of the bad guys sports a star tattoo on his knee — just like the Russian mobsters in Eastern Promises. I wonder if Wright found his inspiration from The Wire: after all, Wright started in the entertainment biz as producer of the British version of the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Stephen Frears directed Dirty Pretty Things. I see that one of his first films was an adaptation of the goofy Victorian novel Three Men in a Boat, which I once read to our daughter as a bedtime story. I think I’ll add it to the queue. Nope, can’t do it: it’s not in Netflix’s inventory.

21 April 2008

Darjeeling Limited by Anderson, 2007

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 12:23 pm

18 April 2008


Filed under: Fiction, Movies — ktismatics @ 10:07 am

[Patrick Mullins (aka Jonquille de Camembert) has been a sporadic and memorable commenter here at Ktismatics. I just read his book…]

In ciné-musique we live a movie fiction that was first suggested to us by real movies. To keep living this ciné-musique, we turn the materials of movies into objects that go beyond them. – Patrick Mullins, Day of Ciné-Musique, 2005

A cumulative artifact assembled from cinematic objects gathered from very specific but diverse sources, Day of Ciné-Musique (2005) transports the reader to an abstract aesthetic milieu that author Patrick Mullins calls “reality fiction,” a sort of tangible imaginary space he discovers beneath the hypnosis of a lifetime of infection by Hollywood.

The book begins and ends with a series of visual images: photographs of works created by Swiss painter Christian Pellet. Each image appears abstract and iconic in isolation, but collectively they function like screen shots excerpted not from a particular movie but from the protean arche-movie that spawns all films. Oddly, the poses and gestures have been transposed from “real” movies and re-staged by live models. These transmutations, conveying a sense of artifice in the extraordinary attention paid to seemingly irrelevant details — clasped hands, buttons of a vest, part of an armchair — lend a formal gnostic aura to the book. This process of abstract idealization, where cinematic events intertwine with the material world, mirrors Mullins’ writing, in which he juxtaposes real visits to L.A. with idiosyncratic glimpses of mostly obscure Hollywood movies. The cumulative effect of these transformations is the assembly of a ciné-musique landscape that verges on the surreal, perhaps bordering on Melanie Klein’s psychoanalytic territory of disembodied organs and childhood fantasy. The approach also calls to mind the novels of Alain Robbe-Grillet, who, through attention to details that repeat themselves in different times and places, paradoxically creates a sense of eternal transcendence. It’s appropriate then that both Mullins and Pellet cite the film version of Robbe-Grillet’s enigmatic novel Last Year in Marienbad. But Mullins’ writing is more subjective than Robbe-Grillet’s, more personal and romantic.

Los Angeles isn’t just the primary setting; in a sense it’s the main character in this sui generis work of reality fction. Here L.A. isn’t anchored to a specific physical location: it manifests itself in other places, in movies, in people’s lives, in Mullins’ life. The ubiquity of L.A. is the joint production of the individual imagination and the image-making machinery of Hollywood. But L.A. is also a real place, which Mullins visits a number of times in the book. And then there’s the visit to Tahiti, which exists in the author’s imagination as the limit of L.A., the physical beauty of the place infused with the magic of Hollywood but stripped of the Disneyesque machinery. Maybe Tahiti is the reality, the charmed and exotic substance of which L.A. is the Hollywood-projected fantasy. But confronting the reality, even if it’s a beautiful one, is to confront a “finality” that is also the limit of Hollywood.

And ciné-musique, though not as authentically ‘Hollywood’ a product as cinema, nevertheless takes the facilities found in Los Angeles into itself to define what was transformed and created by Tahiti.

The result of all this movement and transformation and assemblage is a kind of still photo of ciné-musique in words.

Appropriate to a work of ciné-musique, Mullins’ text embodies a musical structure, its four chapters not forming a continuous narrative but rather complimenting each other like movements in a musical score. The first movement, where trips to LA are near-doubles of each other, causes L.A. to become a kind of eternal return that could be glimpsed any time and all the time. The second movement consists of a series of brief “movie reviews” which stand separate from the movies on which they’re based, populating a kind of staged statuary of cinematic objects composed of actors and roles, sets and songs, and always of Hollywood. Mullins’ focus is idiosyncratic, imbuing seemingly trivial objects and events — a particular seat in a theater, a throwaway line of dialogue — with importance. Motifs repeat themselves in a musical way, crescendoing and fading, only to return again. The third, lyrical movement recounts the author’s trip to Tahiti; the fourth and final movement reprises the opening with a return to the first L.A. excursion. The work as a whole is unusual in content and structure: engaging and charming, not analytical or theoretical. It’s not really a memoir in the ordinary sense of the term, and yet the personality of the “composer” reveals itself in this unique literary composition.

* * *

The all-but-forgotten film Welcome to L.A. represents the first flowering of ciné-musique. When I first saw this film in 1977, says Mullins, the film itself was my first trip to L.A. Here L.A. and Hollywood are inseparable. L.A. is about glamour, says Mullins — the cinematic glamour doesn’t just draw you to the real place; it’s part of the place. The image and the music, even the actors who play the roles, are part of the real fiction they depict.

Then come the “real” trips to L.A., populated with airports and liquor stores, motels and streets and boutiques. This L.A. too is a real fiction, a place where actors have homes, where vistas open up on clear nights to reveal something like magic, or like movies. By virtually duplicating one another these trips transform L.A. into a kind of eternal mythic place. The days recounted in sequence create a cumulative effect, like waves piling onto the shore, which while clearly numbered and dated combine into something almost timeless, so that the empirical sequence becomes less important than the feeling of these waves washing over the writer and also the reader…

There’s something intangible about the plenitude bestowed by “that day” in Los Angeles — one gets the sense of quest, pilgrimage, attainment, but the reason why these particular events had such a profound effect remain mysterious, deeply subjective, hinted at and alluded to but never fully stated: to Ann-Margret, the way out of Blanche DuBois Southern-Fragile Syndrome for me, whose hilltop home and whose cine-persona are in a sense the objects of the pilgrimage; to the aura that somehow seems to surround Mullins here, drawing the attention of blondes and dangerous automobiles; to the attainment of the sort of adulthood that preserves or restores the idealism and enthusiasm of youth. He takes a taxi back down into town,

and yet how in my memory I am always instead walking down that hill, a finished and perfect person, and as I am walking down that hill, I am exactly who and what I always wanted myself to be…

Then comes the day after “that day”:

mainly what you saw was Hollywood itself, directly below, spreading out in all the glamour it is reputed not to really have… mainly what you saw was that all these lights were literally twinkling.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime manifestation, and not only for the pilgrim — even the natives had never seen the city look like this.

It is just that I can’t stand not to, I can’t stand not to stop time.

Reading Mullins’ movie “reviews” one gets the sense of a strange sort of autobiography, almost cubistic, being assembled from pieces of these movies as they touch the author’s life. A young Alabama boy admires the movie posters in his small home town; many years later he finally gets to watch these same movies. These posters and movies possess the Hollywood aura that build the foundation or rhythm of ciné-musique. Other movies open up a sexual awareness that’s destined not to conform to the standard romanticomedy — and yet the films fail to capture this particular magic. Does this mismatch between overt cinematic reality and a covert sexual mystery lead into Robbe-Grillet’s world of surfaces, always hinting at something more profound but never actually showing it, so that the surfaces themselves become the mystery, the peculiarly ambivalent objects that appear and disappear without apparent cause or purpose, the purity of aesthetics as the object of obsession? Then come movie music and movie stars, building the ciné-musique and the glamour, along with the darks underside of the glamourous surface of L.A.

And then Mullins returns to Welcome to L.A., having gone through this life progression traced through the movies, no longer blinded by the glamour but consciously attentive to specific images and lines of dialog, revealing the flavour of the upper-middle-class world-weary young and disappointed. This revisiting of the same film seems to signal a turning point in the writer’s life, and also in American life. Now the reviews begin to unveil the cold indifference of the city, occasionally punctuated by deep humanity and love. It’s this gradually transformed self, a habitué of a transformed world, romantic and humane, sophisticated and jaded, who embarks on the L.A. quests.

Afterward the myth of L.A. can be sustained only by surpassing the place itself — by going to Tahiti. This is a going-beyond, into a place that Hollywood wishes it could conjure but that exists as something prior to L.A., something L. A. is built on top of, so this is also a going-before even though it happens later in the chronology. There are the hotels and the nightclubs and the lascivious types that could be L.A. or actually Hollywood, but there’s an interior to Tahiti that holds no correspondences in L.A.: lush, verdant, steamy, silent. And even in this dream trip Mullins is thinking about L.A., making comparisons, remembering, trying to consolidate. Even the perfect twinkling vision of L.A. the day after “that day” is cold, hard, urban — the opposite brilliance of Tahiti. Now, says Mullins, there is no further need to compare or to merge the perceptions of these divergent paradises, because now I possessed them both. He’s free to juxtapose without being forced to merge one into the other, to allow for the possibility of radically different, “singular” paradises. Still, there’s something important about sandwiching Tahiti inside of another L.A. experience — perhaps L.A., or maybe Hollywood, is the gateway to all paradises, the sense of embarking on a glamourous voyage, of preparing the palate for the flaneur’s ciné-musique. And “why are you staying just one week?” is asked three times: first, Mullins offers no answer; second, I’ll be back; third, none of your fucking business. Touching the enchanted rock under the waterfall, hearing the sanctified choir, and the epiphany is accomplished. Only through the dissolution of that other myth, the mythic Tahiti, is Mullins somehow able to sustain the mythic glamour of L.A. But the real Tahiti is magical enough, so both places can survive as two distinct manifestations of ciné-musique.

Having passed under the cascades of old movies and Tahitian waterfalls, Mullins returns to the day after “that day.” Now the L.A. quests, always crossing each other in the book’s timeline, converge even more completely: Tahiti attitude and a secret motel with a Tahitian garden juxtaposed with 1984, surrounding this most important trip in late 2001, perhaps changing the experience retrospectively. An encounter at the motel with a young man, a slight sadness to the inauthenticity of his charm, exposes the money-and-action business of Hollywood.

It didn’t matter that his life was inauthentic for the cine-musique to use it as part of its story. The authenticity was given by Tahiti and ‘filmed’ in Hollywood, because that’s where the ‘cameras’ are. Incidentally, that’s why this is ‘true fiction.’

Even the purity of Tahiti is endangered, and it’s got its share of bullshitters and jaded sophisticates, of abominable public works projects and high-money development schemes. And even L.A., a city of deliberate collapse, is able sometimes to offer up its own perfection:

It was the only time I ever saw the diagram of the topography of another planet — too slick, too sharp and too brightly gleaming for the world just yet.

What to choose? Perhaps it is a movement toward this distant future cityscape, a hard and glittering and noble new paradise rising up from the midst of the apparent collapse of the fantasy, bringing some of the Tahitian purity with itself into the city. Ciné-musique.

* * *

The book is dedicated to Sandra Dee, Pellet paying her homage with a portrait not of someone portraying Sandra but of Sandra playing herself. Sandra Dee the perennial ingenue who never made it as an adult Hollywood star. Sandra Dee who is quoted in the book as saying: “It’s so hard to establish an image and you work damn hard to get it. But once you’ve got it, baby, just try to get rid of it.” Sandra Dee, whose Hillsdale Avenue apartment becomes the pilgrimage site for the day after “that day.” Sandra Dee, who is directly responsible for seeing this overwhelming natural event — the glittering vision of the otherworldly city. Sandra Dee, who died shortly after the publication of Day of Ciné-Musique.

14 April 2008

Idiocracy by Judge, 2006

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 8:46 am

13 April 2008

Story Fragment 2

Filed under: Fiction, Reflections — ktismatics @ 6:36 am

(By the time his next birthday rolled around my friend had moved back to the States, had taken a new job as chief intellectual property lawyer for a telecom firm, had undergone emergency triple bypass surgery…)

After the progressive deterioration finally made itself overtly manifest in certain macrolevel malfunctions, after the occlusions had been discovered, after the auxiliary conduits were laid in place, as the system gradually re-equilibrated and restored itself to full capacity, Rick increasingly came to see himself as a metaphor. Then the fundamental problematic became one of discovery: what am I metaphorical of, toward what higher or deeper truth do I point?

Perhaps it was justice after all: the flow of justice coursing through the social reticulum, cumulatively bottlenecked by discrete deposits of injustice until finally the whole apparatus clogged up and slammed to a halt. But, Rick considered further, is justice really all that natural, all that fluid? Isn’t it just as likely that, left unchecked, our instincts would channel us toward acts of cruelty and vengeance, of dissimulation and intrigue, of exploitation and dirty tricks – in a word, don’t we flow naturally toward injustice? The roadblocks and checkpoints, the full dockets and continuations, the restraining orders and prison sentences – justice doesn’t flow; it blocks. Rick realized he was falling under the seduction of the paranoiac promise, where some hidden countervailing truth bestows meaning on everything that seems real but isn’t.

Injustice flows, but so does justice. It’s the interplay of the two that defines the system, the moves and countermoves circulating endlessly. In such an arrangement I’m something more than a metaphor, Rick realized, or maybe something less. I’m a tiny bipolar cell in the vast voltaic array; I’m a microscopic nexus of capillary exchange. I feel surging within me the waves of righteousness, but their force is heightened by seismic thrusts of fascistic violence. Not neutralized; reinforced.

What is it, Rick started asking himself, that blocks the circulatory interplay of justice and injustice, of civilization and desire? So when the knock came, Rick knew who it had to be. “Let’s go,” Johnnie said, the words framed inside the talk bubble that his icy breath projected into the space between them. Rick hadn’t heard from Johnnie in a very long time.

“Go where?” Rick felt like he had to ask. Johnnie grinned sarcastically before he headed back down the drive toward the idling old station wagon. “Should I bring anything?” Rick shouted after him, but Johnnie just waved his left arm as he levered himself into the driver’s seat. Still, Rick knew without asking. He grabbed the metal cylinder off the kitchen counter, stuffed it into his overcoat pocket, and, snatching his hat off the peg, stepped out the front door. He left no note; he didn’t even lock up. He’d call when they got there, make sure everything was okay. He reminded himself to pick up some presents in the santoo market this time, maybe some assorted neuropsychic reagents, the kind you couldn’t get most places without committing yourself. Rick wanted his wife to understand, but even with the Fukayama array up and running he wasn’t sure how far he’d be able to push his luck. Still, the realization had gradually dawned on him: it’s about time for Rick Mayer to push his luck a little.

Oh, you mean Rick Thayer. Say, isn’t he the guy who used to hang around at Larousse’s bar? Well, it was late spring, I think, when he began assembling his crew …

12 April 2008

Story Fragment 1

Filed under: Fiction, Reflections — ktismatics @ 9:27 am

(I wrote this bit 4 years ago as a sort of birthday card for a friend of mine, at the time a fellow expatriate.)

I remember it like it was yesterday. Rick came into the little bar my friend Larousse used to run. Fit, well-dressed, irresistibly attractive to women, Larousse often found himself challenged by men who thought they had something to prove. Funny thing, though: Larousse was just about the least threatening guy you could ever hope to meet. All he wanted to do was pour pastis and wine for his friends, enjoy a good meal, maybe gamble a little, help the patrons work crossword puzzles. It wasn’t his fault, really; it was his fate.

Rick was an American: that much at least is known – one of the few who made their way to our stagnant backwater in the south of France. He wore the closely-cropped goatee and the beige slouch fedora that Americans of a certain age often sported in an effort to disguise their nationality and their thinning hair. Of course it didn’t work.

Rick strode jauntily into the bar. “Ça va?” he asked Larousse. The midday heat was unusually oppressive: when Rick took off his hat you could clearly see the dark sweat stains spreading unevenly across the inner rim. Or perhaps it was cold and rainy – I find that some of the details escape me now. It’s a good thing they didn’t call me to testify at the inquest.

Et toi?” Larousse replied. Smiling amiably, Rick said nothing. This sort of casual indirect response always baffled Rick, whose French was nothing short of execrable. He ordered his usual – water gazeuse, with plenty of ice – and took his customary seat at the table farthest from the bar.

Rick never engaged anyone in conversation. He would drink his fizzy water, savoring it like a fine Cointreau. Then he would begin loudly chewing the ice cubes. If Rick was aware of the disdain this barbaric act instilled among Larousse’s customers, he never gave any indication of it.

Rick was grinding away at the last cube in his glass when Monsieur Giono walked in. It was obvious that Giono was angry, drunk, and in despair. His wife was leaning on the bar next to me, sipping her kir, intently watching Larousse’s every move. Giono nearly toppled over as he stumbled between the other tables and slumped into a chair right next to Rick. I don’t think Rick had ever met Giono. Giono looked wildly at Rick; Rick nodded back at him, an uncomfortable grin distorting his intelligent and placid features. If only Rick had left that last chunk of ice lying in the bottom of his glass, the crisis might have passed. But Rick Sayers wasn’t that kind of man.

. . . Oh, you mean Rick Thayer. Well, he’s a hell of a guy too. Say, did I ever tell you about the time he shot that wad of silly string right into Johnny Depp’s face? Well, it was a Saturday night during Carnaval . . .

11 April 2008

Pink Flamingos by Waters, 1972

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 12:36 pm

Gleefully perverse.

9 April 2008

The Wire: F***

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 10:38 am

Here’s a clip from season 1, episode 4 of The Wire. The first minute sets the stage, then the real police work begins.

The Host by Bong, 2006

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 8:16 am

The Host is the highest-grossing film ever in South Korea. From this limited bit of evidence I infer that, while popular tastes may differ between Korea and the USA, they’re variants of a universal category called “bad taste.”

7 April 2008

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu by Puiu, 2006

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 7:23 am

This is cinéma vérité, the jiggly hand-held camerawork letting us experience first-hand Mr. Lazarescu’s queasiness and unsteadiness. It’s the TV show ER at a snail’s pace minus the star power and the snappy repartee; the action consists mostly of waiting, complaining, and the repeated shunting of this one pathetic patient from one useless hospital to the next.

But it’s also a legendary saga: the passing from this earth of an everyman named Dante Remus Lazarescu, who finds himself shuttled through the outer circles of hell even before he’s dead. Mr. Lazarescu is a wholly insignificant loser, but didn’t the Greeks believe that the gods often disguised themselves in just such a figure? Romulus founded Rome and was transported bodily into the afterlife, but what happened to his brother Remus? Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus died eventually anyway. Jesus too.

The movie chronicles Mr. Lazarescu’s personal Via Dolorosa. His last supper is a couple of pills washed down by a glass of cheap booze; his companions are his three fleabag cats. Instead of a thorny crown he’s got a splitting headache; instead of a centurion’s spear releasing blood and water from his side he suffers from abdominal pain and blood-laced watery vomit. He’s not nailed to a cross but stretched out on a gurney, ferried by ambulance through the stations of his final journey like a passenger on Charon’s boat. The nurses and doctors hurl verbal barbs at him for drinking too much and wasting their time whining about his hangover. He falls once, twice, three times, but Mary the ambulance nurse is always there to help him get back on his feet. Instead of the Veil of Veronica and the Shroud of Turin we’ve got CAT scan images of his liver tumor and his subdural hematoma.

At the last hospital we see the two women preparing his naked body and wrapping him in a sheet. Nearly dead now, Mr. Lasarescu is getting prepped for a surgery that in all likelihood will never be performed. Virgil the orderly is going to take him “across to the other side,” where Dr. Anghel awaits his arrival.

4 April 2008

Art Interlude

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 1:25 pm

Here are a couple more recent additions to the kid’s portfolio that she wouldn’t mind your having a look at…



2 April 2008

No Smoking!

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 1:54 pm

Watching an interview with John Waters I was reminded of this PSA. The Vinegar Hill Theater in Charlottesville used to show it before every movie when I was in school there. I wonder if they still do. I wonder if the theater still exists.

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