Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dueling Blog Posts: Eyes Wide Shut

So, our good friends over at Dirty With Class continue to pester me with incessant requests for a blog entry, specifically on cinema. Here at the Holiday, we aim to please - no matter how long it takes us to get around to thinking about it. I should note here that DWC and I watch a lot of films together. We do tend to agree on most movies, with a few notable exceptions. He takes what I think to be a more writerly view of films, focusing on story, character and plot notes while I take a more expansive approach. Kind of micro versus macro thing. I note DWC's Eyes Wide Shut post, and herewith begin my own.

I find it interesting that DWC likes this movie so much, mainly because I see it as an "old man's movie".  Stop groaning... By this I refer to movies like Kurosawa's RAN, Louis Malle's Au Revoir les Enfants or more recently, Coppola's Youth Without Youth. I guess that I mean that I think one has to have done some living in order to appreciate them.  EWS has, it seems to me a special connection to baby boomers like myself.

Eyes Wide Shut?

Consider this. Have you ever found yourself on a track, a trail, a street that you knew you shouldn't be on? Every little bit of intelligence and sense telling you to stop, turn away and save yourself? And yet, you simply cannot stop putting one foot in front of the other closer to the darkness. What is this about? Aren't you intelligent enough to see what's going to happen? Is your attraction to that man or woman to strong for you to see that they are just leading you to bad end? Can't you see beyond the psychedelic lifestyle and give up the drugs? This what the title Eyes Wide Shut refers to.  After all, Dr. Harford (a kind of American everyman. Harford is a distillation of Harrison Ford) is pretty smart individual. A doctor, seems pretty successful, well educated. Why can't he see that running off into the night, cavorting with prostitutes is not a good idea for him? I don't know but I understand, somehow.


Masks appear often enough in Kubrick's work to remark about them. In The Killing, masks are worn by the gang as they rob the racetrack, Alex and his droogs wear masks during the rape scene. The helmets worn by Poole and Bowman in 2001 qualify as masks, as do the various disguises worn by Clair Quilty in Lolita. A Kubrickian irony is that it is a mask that actually force's Bill to tell the truth - rather the opposite of the typical function of a mask.

The Password

Nick tells Bill the password; it is "Fedelio". Hmm. Isn't that Italian for Fidelity? Well yes, but is also the title of the only opera of Ludvig van Beethoven (Shades of A Clockwork Orange!), a two act affair that involves a man wrongfully imprisoned who is rescued by his wife. Ultimately, isn't this what happens to Bill? If it weren't for his wife, he would have slept with Domino and possibly caught her disease.


I know that its common for people to remark on Alice's last words in the movie as it's summation:

I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible... Fuck. 

I know it seems appropriate since, of course that's what he's been looking for pretty much the entire flick. But, I prefer something Alice says a little earlier.  It's not quite as simple or succinct, but it is the entire movie in a phrase, if such a thing is ever possible, particularly in a piece as densely textured as this one. Bill has just told his entire story to Alice and he is looking for forgiveness and understanding.  By this I mean he himself doesn't understand what it was all about.  She tells him that she doesn't know what it means either, but:

I think we are all fortunate to survive our fantasies... whether they are real or imagined.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Fezziwig Papers

Fezziwig was smarter than Scrooge

"The Fezziwig Papers" is a project that's been bouncing around in my head for quite some time.  Fezziwig, as you may know, is the name of Scrooge and Marley's old employer.  It has always seemed to me that Fezziwig could easily be seen as the hero of  "A Christmas Carol", as he did not need to be visited by a ghostly quartet (including Marley, of course) to know that all an employer needs to do is treat one's employees with respect and dignity to get a good day's work out of them.  The idea of "The Fezziwig Papers" is a series of essays relating to this point.

Anyway, I was struck rather forcefully a couple of days ago watching Chris Matthews interview Phillip Dennis, a Tea Party organizer from Texas, who was proposing the federal government lay off 15% of its workforce. Matthews asked him if he knew how many people would be out of their jobs under this plan.  Here is Mr. Dennis's response, verbatim via MSNBC's transciption:

PHILLIP DENNIS, TEXAS TEA PARTY ORGANIZER:  Well, if they‘re federal workers, not enough because I think we‘re going to happy when we get all of these federal workers off the backs of the American producers and taxpayers out there.  Those are non-producing jobs, and they are—they take money out of our checks to pay their salaries.  They have over-the-top salaries and benefits and pensions, and it‘s a disaster zone.  And that—my answer is, there‘s not enough federal jobs being cut.....Those people will become productive or they will starve, if we can get rid of some of this cradle-to-grave Welfare.

In this I hear the echo of Scrooge's, "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" How in the name of Christmas's past and future did we get to the point where federal workers are held responsible for irresponsibility in the financial sector that caused this Great Recession?  What is the logical reasoning that shows that the proper response to pervasive unemployment  is to fire hundreds of thousands of people?

We are witnessing one the great acts of misdirection ever seen. Working people have been taking it where the sun don't shine for the last ten years.  Their salaries have not risen one damn dollar.  Rather, they were handed out credit cards and encouraged to go into debt. They were sold home equity loans and talked into mortgages with terms they didn't understand or just weren't told about.  The clowns that sold them these time bombs passed them like hot potatoes to investors who were assured they were A-rated instruments, insulating themselves from the entirety of the risk. When Lehman Brothers sneezed on this house of cards and the entire global economic milieu came down with the flu, the so-called capitalists came crying to suck at the teat of Momma Government while the suckers at the bottom lost their jobs and their homes - presumably to become productive or starve. And now they held responsible for this mess, while the financiers on Wall Street collect bonus checks and ship more jobs overseas?

Milt Friedmen must be turning in his grave.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nowhere Man?

So, I saw this concert/award ceremony on PBS.  Very entertaining, I always like it when artists interpret classics and there are some serious ones here, as befits the occasion.  Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, and even the Jonas Brothers...from the sublime to the ridiculous, I suppose. The event was Paul receiving the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, awarded by the Smithsonian and presented by President Obama.

And here's where I get going.

How is it that Paul can receive an award like this without once mentioning John Lennon?  Just a simple, "I wish John were here to share this" would have been enough.  I know that some of the Lennon & McCartney songs were true collaborations, and a lot of them (especially the later songs) were composed separately but does Paul really think he was considered for this award for his work with Wings?  While Paul's post-Beatle output is certainly prodigious, frankly his best song from that period is probably not as good as his worst Beatle song (whichever THAT would be). I acknowledge the hyperbole in that statement.

To briefly continue in this vein, while Paul was pursuing a very successful career in high-quality pop music, John was creating musical icons like "Imagine".  Compare John's, "Merry Christmas (War is Over)" with Paul's "(Simply Having a) Wonderful Christmastime". But these comparisons are unfair., and I really don't want to begrudge Paul's achievements, only to point out what seems be churlishness on his part, at least on this occasion.