All I wanted to do yesterday, workwise, was get back to "pas-en-arrière ", but, instead, the entire day was spent finishing up the layout for Sirenia Digest #4 (which, because of No. 0, is actually the fifth issue). I'd hoped we could get it out to subscribers last night, but a number of problems popped up late in the day, early in the evening, so now I'm thinking it'll probably be mailed this evening. Click here to learn more and/or subscribe. Oh, and I answered e-mail, though I still owe morganxpage a long and thoughtful reply. Today, though, I will get back to the new vignette. Suddenly, it seems Limbo is being replaced by a number of things I need to get done before the Daughter of Hounds editorial letter arrives from NYC. I'm supposed to do illustrations for a new subpress chapbook, "Night," an sf story I wrote last summer (originally intended for an anthology, but now it's coming out as a chapbook). I have the Bradbury introduction to write. Alabaster has to be proofed from the ARC (which I should be getting this week). And there's other stuff. I just can't remember it at the moment. There always "other" stuff. It's a rule.
Speaking of my editor, Liz Scheier has a piece about the rise of "urban fantasy" on the Irene Goodman Literary Agency's Live From NY blog, and I get a mention, along with Neil and Charles DeLint, as an example of a dark fantasy or noir fantasy author.
Until last night, I'd entirely forgotten Spooky's "Tammy Faye Scarran" comment during the Oscars, when Dolly Parton was singing that awful, treacly song from TransAmerica. If you're a big Farscape dork like me, and if you've seen what an unfortunate mess plastic surgery has made of Dolly Parton, and if you've ever seen the loathsomeness of Tammy Faye Bakker, you'll get the joke. If not, don't worry about it. Me, I laughed until I thought I'd hurl.
Last night we saw David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, finally, and I have to say that it's been at least a few months since I've felt so passionately about a film. Wow. I do wish that I'd seen this one at the theatre. A History of Violence is a damn-near perfect film, and it's possibly now my favourite of Cronenberg's. The story's nothing new. In fact, it's that old Western formula: the gunfighter whose finally had enough and changes his identity and just wants to settle down and live the quiet life, only to run afoul of some hot-shot psycho killer, and the confrontation dredges up the gunslinger's Terrible Past. And yet, as I've said time and again, it's not the story you tell, it's how you tell the story you tell. And Cronenberg manages to tell it brilliantly, at once unflinchingly brutal and wonderfully understated. [SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED] Even the sex scenes work, both of them, and sex scenes almost always lose me. But these contributed to both the narrative and to the characterization (and were, well, damned sexy, in the bargain). During the cheerleader thing, Spooky and I got the giggles, and I said something like "This is how normal people role-play, isn't it?" Of course, Tom Stall turns out to be anything but normal people. The actors all deliver top-notch performances, and Howard Shore's score contributes to the film's unnerving understatedness. But what I loved most about A History of Violence is its terse directness, the point at which it deviates from the aforementioned formula. Tom/Joey doesn't speechify about how he has to go away to Philadelphia and make the bad things stop. He just goes. He doesn't speechify when he confronts his brother, Richie. Nor does he give Richie a chance to speechify before putting a bullet in his head. And then, there's no expository resolution at the end. Tom/Joey goes home to a family which has been forever transformed, utterly, and his family takes him back. And that's that. We never know what the trouble was between Fogarty and Tom/Joey, or if he killed the "real" Tom Stall to make the name "available." No long-winded, bullshit exposition. Bravo, Mr. Cronenberg.
As setsuled notes in the comments to yesterday's entry, the same thing's true of Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. We are presented with a mystery which carries the reluctant protagonist from scene to scene, constantly revealing new facets of his personality and the history that has made him who he is, and in the end there's no resolution. The mystery remains a mystery. We'll never know who sent Don those two letters, or if the kid he buys the sandwich is his son, or if it was that guy in the Volkswagen, or if he even has a son. Those things aren't the point. Both these films should be applauded for resisting the easy route taken by most filmmakers and authors and defying the audience's increasing expectations/need to be spoon-fed all the way from Point A to Point Z.
And now I shall quote setsuled, whom I hope will not mind:
It's good to see you say that [my praise for Broken Flowers]. It's an issue of some contention—it seems there were a lot of people who simply did not get it. My friend phoned me immediately after seeing it and told me how women in the bathroom were saying it didn't make any sense and didn't have an ending with any resolution. Then my sister told me that, when she saw it, the audience was constantly yammering the dumbest possible questions at the screen...Ugh. Anyway, I thought it was a wonderful movie, and it's difficult talking to people who seem to regard it as a confusingly lifeless bit of film. It reinforced my belief that most people don't like being forced to react naturally to circumstances happening onscreen—they need to be led down very familiar rails.
I mean, the chief thing I loved about it was how understated it was, and I think a lot of people were missing the bullhorn technique.
I loved stuff like the scene where he's on the bus and sees the young guy and the girls reacting to him. I think people in the audience were waiting for the tip-off that the guy was Murray's son or wasn't—the fact that the movie never gave conclusions, and allowed us to grasp fruitlessly at cues...I loved that. That the whole point of the movie was that there were these little realities that might be perfectly valid in the moment, but then may be invalidated in the next—but that that didn't negate the validity of having experienced them. The fact that Jarmusch did this without ever explicitly stating it—that he allowed us to simply witness it...I thought that was absolutely incredible.
Also, the latest round of eBay has begun, including the "choose your own letter" Frog Toes and Tentacles auction. Proceeds will be going to repair Spooky's iBook, without which managing eBay and Sirenia Digest has become quite a hassle.