Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Winding down...

Into a dead brain zone. I got one more polish of DL in me then I have to shut down for a while to let the batteries recharge. I think I'll veg, tonight, and watch "Seven Samurai" again. A brilliant movie, absolutely brilliant. It's a long movie -- nearly 3 hours -- but not one moment of it's boring to me.

However I seem to be in the minority opinion, there. I once watched it on TCM and Robert Osborne and Rose McGowan discussed it, afterwards, and went on and on about how it could have been cut by a third and lost nothing -- and I nearly put my Dr. Pepper through my TV. I lost all respect for Osborne after that; as for McGowan, I know she's an actress but I have zero interest in anything she'll ever do because she's obviously shallow in the most typical sense. Yes, the movie has moments of repose and contemplation, and it builds slowly, step by step to an absolutely breathtaking battle in a driving rainstorm, but to me every step was important in building the reality of Japanese life in feudal Japan and by taking its time and letting you become friends with the samurai and the people they're out to protect, it makes the victory and sense of loss at the end overwhelming. You don't get that from "Transformers" or "Armageddon" or any of the tripe popped out by Hollywood, lately. Hell, I even saw a movie that could have been really good nearly ruined by the feeling that pacing was more important than the people in the film (that and the villains were absolute idiots, but that was also dictated more by pacing; KISS bad guys to make the action come faster).

I once had an argument with a film professor over Jean Renoir's "La Grande Illusion." It's a 1936 film about POWs in WWI and has a beauty and humanity to it that is nearly impossible to find, these days. There were three main sections to the film -- the set-up and capture of the Frenchmen and their confinement, living in the prison camp and trying to find ways to escape, then two of the men escaping and finding refuge at a farm house before making it across the border to Switzerland. The professor insisted it would have still been a good movie without the last act set in the farmhouse (one of the French escapees falls in love with a German woman who's lost all the men in her life to the war). To me, that's what elevated the film to poetry (and I know what I said in my previous post, but this is the sort of beauty I actively love to find). I understood his point, but it was a minimalist's one -- "You said what you need to, now get on with it."

But sometimes meaning comes from the periphery of a story, the incidental moments that give it life and elegance. In today's world of "everything has to be connected absolutely" as regards storytelling -- meaning you can't have someone like to carve soap animals unless it winds up emphasizing some element of the character; shadings no longer allowed just for the sake of themselves -- it feels like we've lost the ability to tell simple stories about simple people. Stories like "400 Blows" -- about a boy whose parents neglect him as he slides into juvenile delinquency. Or "Wild Strawberries" -- about an irascible old man driving to accept an award and learning he's been a jerk most of his life. Or "Late Spring" -- about a man who wants his daughter to get married even though he knows if she does, he'll be left alone. Or "Dodsworth" -- about a man who gives up his life to make his wife happy only to learn she can never be satisfied. Or "Norman's Room" -- about a woman who's got cancer and has to convince her distant sister to take over the care of their ailing father and elderly aunt. Small gentle stories about normal everyday people.

And I write things like that? Sometimes. I'd like to think "Bobby Carapisi" fits into that mold...and that "Place of Safety" will...and maybe "Desert Land" does. I wrote a novella titled "Perfection" (published in an anthology called "Boys Will Be Boys - 2") that has my usual erotic elements in it, but which focuses on a young art student finding not only his muse but his meaning in life, and I think that's in this realm. Same for "5 Dates," my last screenplay...where I sort of updated "Beauty and the Beast" into a high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan but kept it grounded in reality to where it works on a human level, too.

Oh, I dunno -- maybe I'm deluded. I just like to think I'm aiming for the same things I like in books and films and plays but in reality I'm just as caught up in the rules of the game. Guess I'll never know.

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