Sunday, April 24, 2011

Realm Of The Senseless


Three lines from an unmade movie, halfway imagined:

One day we’ll look back on this and wonder why they didn’t just teleport.

Pool is a metaphor for billiards.

I wouldn’t know how to make it meaningful.


Three lines from Meek’s Cutoff, halfway remembered:

Here we are again, working like n***ers.

You can’t imagine what we’ve done, the cities we’ve built.

This was all written long before we got here.

Which I think give an overall impression of the way this movie is able to state its themes literally and yet retain its mythic force. But there’s one question, the big one, that never escapes the lips of the characters: What are we doing here? You see it first on the minds of the women, whose real homes are far back in the East and who find nothing worth replacing them with in the West, but finally no one is immune to recognizing the absurdity of the westward compulsion or absolvable of the guilt of living out an unseen design. One character wonders if Stephen Meek is ignorant or plain evil, and probably the only sense in making a period Western anymore is to ask that question about the people of the past, to try to remember the wrong and inevitable ways in which we came to inhabit this country.

And the last shot: Something about Kelly Reichardt’s sense of time gave me the impression that not very much of it had passed, so I wasn’t able to predict the final fadeout. But when it came, it was a punch to the soul, unsettling any hope that we might be able to read the signs of our own destiny, our doing and undoing.


A second viewing of Vertigo taught me that a man following a woman in her car through the streets of San Francisco is the same as him tracing the random sputterings of her brain with his halfway seeing eyes. Hypnotic, the ways we try to follow each other.


A second viewing of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World reminded me that the movie is, more than anything else, an extended commentary on modern music, sometimes literally (genre headings in an oft-frequented Toronto record store: Gabba, Math Rock, Gloom Rock, Sadcore), sometimes implicitly (when Wallace swaps the gender of all of Scott’s pronouns as Scott tells about the most amazing girl in the world, he’s simultaneously doing the same thing to every love song ever written).


According to City Pages I live on the edge of the best neighborhood in the Twin Cities, but of course the best places are always wherever you’re not, and really the only thing that might keep me in Minneapolis would be if I could get a room in the Commodore, in the Loring neighborhood, also home to the Walker, Loring Park, 19 Bar, Rainbow Road (which must only exist because people like knowing it’s there, and not because anyone really needs what it’s selling), my early morning walk-throughs, and a singular enchantment beamed straight from my idle imaginings of out of the way spots in NYC.


All the devout colors and faces and figures at the MIA were a bit too much for my lightly troubled stomach today, but…

The colors in Georgia O’Keeffe’s Pedernal, ill-making perhaps if less softly arrived at, were an exception. There’s one stray curve in this painting of curves that is precisely the place I’d like to live inside when I get to New Mexico/Arizona.

I find it humbling that a painting called Before And After Being Young was completed in the year of my birth. Fittingly, it looks like a door to the place that exists beyond a womb or a coffin’s satin lining.

I uncovered the heretofore-unseen erotic/romantic element in Walt Kuhn, which is unmistakable in the rendering of his softly masculine circus performer, a lot less so in his sad clown, though now I can see that the gaze (on both sides) is the same.

I usually find more to love in the MIA’s early American art section than in its Modern Art section, but I groaned when I saw that Clementine Hunter’s beautiful The Wash has been removed from the latter to the former, as if it’s been downgraded to mere Americana, as if Hunter was only accidentally great. I hope that’s not part of the new designation.


One more thing about Just Kids: I hate the realization at the end of memoirs (especially ones in which a person succumbs to AIDS) that even a life lived within the past isn’t infinite, that it eventually brushes up against the present, or death. But that’s why I read memoirs, for this beautiful meaning that’s built into all of them, good or bad. Is this partly what’s implied when Gore Vidal (or Myra Breckenridge, rather) says, “More than ever am I convinced that the only useful form left to literature in the post-Gutenberg age is the memoir: the absolute truth, copied precisely from life, preferably at the moment it is happening…”? So written in a novel.


Two songs for Easter Sunday:

Everybody’s wondering what and where they all came from.
Everybody’s worrying ‘bout where they’re gonna go when the whole thing’s done.
But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me.
I think I’ll just let the mystery be.

Some say once you’re gone you’re gone forever, and some say you’re gonna come back.
Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior if in sinful ways you lack.
Some say that they’re coming back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas.
I think I’ll just let the mystery be.

Some say they’re going to a place called Glory and I ain’t saying it ain’t a fact.
But I’ve heard that I’m on the road to purgatory and I don’t like the sound of that.
Well, I believe in love and I live my life accordingly.
But I choose to let the mystery be.

Iris DeMent, "Let The Mystery Be"

I am the spring, the holy ground,
the endless seed of mystery,
the thorn, the veil, the face of grace,
the brazen image, the thief of sleep,
the ambassador of dreams, the prince of peace.
I am the sword, the wound, the stain.
Scorned transfigured child of Cain.
I rend, I end, I return.
Again I am the salt, the bitter laugh.
I am the gas in a womb of light, the evening star,
the ball of sight that leads that sheds the tears of Christ
dying and drying as I rise tonight.

Patti Smith, "Easter"

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