Dog's Dinner

"You're not loved because you're lovable, you're lovable 'cause you're loved."

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Someday, A King Will Come

It's a little distressing that before even having opened, the new sushi place in my town has been defaced with a graffito, albeit a timid, innocuous, even elegant one, small, abstract, and amber in color. But I suppose the management asked for it by placing a huge black & red banner over the street several months ago proclaiming "Here Will One Day Rise a SUSHI-BAR." In fact the graffito and the banner together will probably be the only interesting aspects of the restaurant's life, if the sushi is going to be comparable with what I've eaten in Krakow and Katowice. I know many (most?) people would just say, "Polish sushi? A non-starter!" and have done with it, but as you know, I like strange and sometimes unsuccessful syntheses, hybrid homunculi, awkward juxtapositions, et al. And someday, mark my word, there will be great sushi in Silesia.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Smiling Friends

Just finished David Lodge's Souls and Bodies (actually called How Far Can You Go? but the US publisher changed it for whatever reason) and wanted to share with you one of my favorite parts. Throughout the book, the narrator periodically steps outside of the action and becomes "the author," David Lodge, with some factual banter. In this part he shares an excerpt from a fan letter written to him by a Czech reader:

"Dear Sir, I beg your costly pardon for my extraordinary beg and readings-request, with them I turn at you. I am namely a great reader and books-lover. Among my best friends- books- I have also in my library the Czech copy of your lovely book 'Den zkazy v Britskem museu'. I have read it several times and ever I have found it an extraordinary smiling book. I thank you very much for the best readings experiences and nice whiles, that has given your lovely work..."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hall of Mirrors

I recently watched two films about two couples coming apart and/or together, the colossal Le mepris (Contempt) by Godard and the recent Closer by Mike Nichols. I won't go into any kind of comparison since the similarity basically ends there. Closer, like Nichols' excellent Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is concerned primarily with the difficulties caused in relationships by neurosis; Contempt is part of a grand tradition of films that superimpose that theme on Schiller's theory of the Naive and the Sentimental in poetry, the Naive being epitomized by the ancient Greeks and their unselfconsciously ritualized harmony with Nature, also by such large-as-life figures as Shakespeare, Cervantes and Goethe, the Sentimental by Schiller himself with his sense of separation from the warp and woof of Creation.

The other films I have in mind are the earlier Viaggio en Italia (Rossellini, 1947/8?), itself referenced in Godard's film both directly (the two couples go to see it with the wise old resplendently monocled philospher Fritz Lang) and indirectly (they also watch some footage of Greco-Roman statues not unlike the footage of such statues in Viaggio, except in color), and Pasolini's marvelous Medea (1969), featuring a monologue by Chiron (beautifully played by the great French actor Laurent Terzieff) remarkably similar to Lang's Schillerian reverie.

It would be fun to be the manager of an old-school double-feature theater (do they still exist?) like the wonderful one my parents used to take me to in Dallas, and have to decide whether to show Contempt with its parent text or its sibling/child.

One could also, however, situate Contempt within a tropos of marital and sexual anxiety specific to the early-middle New Wave period, alongside Truffaut's La peau douce (The Soft Skin) and, more revealingly, Chabrol's Les bonnes femmes. Of course the symptoms of what Godard was later to condemn as bourgeois complacency are already evident in those two films, but the haunting image of dancing couples marks his and Chabrol's debt to Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt and its disturbing critique of marriage and romance. Truffaut's film, on the other hand, shares with Godard's a nauseated shame at the weakness to which the intellectual man is reduced in his pursuit of a "Naive" relationship.

Speaking of Hitchcock, the whole idea of a couple watching their precarious union reflected in a broken mirror comes from Rear Window.

I propose that in place of the cryptic French term "mise-en-abyme," academic literary discourse should adopt the carnivalistic term "hall of mirrors."

Incidentally, the changes proposed by Jack Palance's vulgarian producer Prokosch (why exactly MUST all vulgarians in films have Eastern European names???) and at first accepted by Michel Piccoli's poetic Paul, i.e. that Odysseus and Penelope's marriage is broken (he wants to roam and not to come home, she has been unfaithful) are nowhere near as radical, i.e. as destructive, as, say, taking the Gods out of the Iliad or the infidelity out of the Arthurian Cycle. A different time, sigh.