Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Le Loup and the Monkey Boombox

Perhaps it's the relative amount of time spent on each, but there is a huge difference between my retention of film and books. Walking through a bookstore, at brief glances I know what I've read and what I haven't. At the mention of an author's name I can usually name all (or many) of his or her books. Similarly, at the mention of a title I can come up with the author. In the video store I have an awful habit of picking up (and too often even checking out) films I've already seen. Maybe it is that I only spent two hours with these objects and while experiencing there is nothing tactile, I'm not looking at the cover--with title and maker--every time I stop and start. When a film is paused I'm left with only an often blurred moment of the movie in front of me.

Yesterday while in the video store I wanted desperately to remember the title of the film we had rented last week (Auf der anderen Seite or in English, The Edge of Heaven). I knew it was done by Fatih somebody and wanted to pick up one of the other films he had done, but I refused to approach the counter and ask the cute boy who works there about a director named Fatih somebody (the director's name is Fatih Akin, and while I highly recommend the film I did have some problems with it. While I liked how it dealt with chance and circumstance and how we are positioned in the final frame of the picture so closely with the character we do not get a chance to really get to know (in context of the film, this worked for me), I felt some things were a bit much to be believed). In retrospect, I could have asked the boy behind the counter what it was that I rented last week. Somehow this didn't occur to me. Instead I ended up getting Michael Haneke's 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, which we have now watched half of. We are getting better at getting to bed at a reasonable hour. The evening is just not long enough for all the talking, eating, and entertaining ourselves we need to do after long days of working/avoiding work.

If you aren't familiar with Michael Haneke's work, you should familiarize yourself. He is one of those directors I like so much that I always save him for later. Like writers I love (Stein, Ondaajte, Haruki Murakami), while I could consume everything at once, I choose to hold off until I need something I can trust.

Haneke is probably best known for 2005's Cache, a film in which "a married couple is terrorized by a series of videotapes planted on its front porch." That's all I'll say because that could mean anything and suddenly even I'm interested all over again. And I know what happens (sort of). While certainly a thriller, there is much stillness in that film as well, something I need to consider something a favorite, in film and in literature.

I have not yet seen either of his Funny Games, though I am intrigued by the idea that a director or any artist would do the same material twice. For seeing the trailer for the more recent of the Funny Games (starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt), I have some reservations that it may be more violent than I'm willing to stand, though I'll probably see it eventually regardless and just close my eyes every time Pitt swings a golf club.

While I am shaping up to love 71 Fragments on the same level, the Haneke film that propels him into my favorite category is Le Temps du Loup (The TIme of the Wolf), which stars one of the greatest actors in contemporary times, Isabelle Huppert. Huppert also stars in Haneke's The Piano Teacher, a beautiful, inherently hard to take film adaptation of the Elfriede Jelinek novel of the same name. One thing to note, which I feel embarrassed to even discuss: don't rent The Piano Teacher (or anything really, if you can help it) from Blockbuster. I had already seen it several times when C and I picked it up there on a whim while passing by the local Blockbuster on the way back to my apartment one evening a few years ago. While we were watching it I kept getting confused. I kept wondering if I had gotten the chronology of events wrong as I waited and waited for a particular scene to show up. The scene is integral to understanding the narrative, integral to understanding anything at all about the main character. As we got closer to the end I realized that IT WASN'T IN THERE AT ALL. Not only that, but the last twenty minutes was butchered as well, probably three to five minutes crudely edited out of the final scene. When I returned it to Blockbuster I looked at the box, which said nothing about editing the material. I asked the boy behind the counter, who could tell me nothing about BBV's policy. I called the corporate office and they said that they do edit some films to keep the family image. I told him this was fine (although, no, it isn't), but that they should say so on which films. I mean, what about students who are doing academic research, writing papers on film. If someone were to write a paper on Haneke's films or on French film or whatever and use this chopped-up version their analysis would be at best incomplete, but likely completely inaccurate.

Anyway, Le Temps du Loup, which I will likely never see again because it is my absolute nightmare seems to me a realistic portrayal of what I imagine a post-peakoil-apocalyptic world would look like. I do not want to live there, though I understand that it could happen in my lifetime.

Yesterday also found me at the library returning overdue books. It was here that I was called a monkey by a large and very drunk stranger with a boom box. I've seen him before, walking around downtown, harkening back to the eighties, carrying his music around with him like this, you know, sharing the love. I had never had the pleasure of interacting with him though. I was on the lower level, looking at the stacks of free books the library had set out. There were several hundred volumes and I have to say, I don't blame them for removing any of them from circulation. I like to pride myself on not only being a proficient reader, but also a widely read person. By this I mean I'll read almost anything. I did not, however, take any of these books home with me. And it's not because my perusing got interrupted by name-calling, it's because none of the books were worth taking home.

After I'd been there a few minutes, casually listening to the sound of the man snoring in the chair by the public phone and the sound of the three chattering pre-teen girls whooping it up on the stairs, boombox man stumbled down the stairs and asked the young girls to watch his boombox while he "took a piss." My heart was warmed. I thought, I DO live in a city. This isn't a small town at all. The girls giggled and threatened to steal it. The man's response was to go around the corner, turn around, peek around the corner at his boombox, the girls would giggle, rinse and repeat. Eventually he went to take his piss. When he came back he spent a lot of time trying to get the girls to laugh, which they did at everything, including making fun of a library patron - me. I mean, it was hard to take offense, really. I was crouched down looking at the lower shelves when I heard him start talking about monkeys. It was fairly nonsensical at first. Then I heard something about hunkering down, stooping, etc, etc. When I turned around the man was laying on his back next to the girls, half on and half off the stairs. "Yeah, I'm talking about you, girl. I'm a big man talking about you, monkey girl." I'm not easily frightened, but there was nothing nice about the way he called me a monkey. Regardless, I went back to my futile browsing. By this point most of the other browsers had taken off because of how loud he had gotten. Soon, he turned on the boombox, got yelled at by library staff, and left.

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