Image: cityscape from Wong Kar Wai's beautiful 2046 (2004).

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Monkey on Your Back Is the Latest Trend

So, since last posting, my quest for floors has been totally unsuccessful, I've had exactly one meltdown, exactly one dose of bad news about my dissertation (just when you think the deadlines can't get any tighter, someone finds a way to insist on getting the finished product sooner), gone to San Francisco, got caught in the rain, watched groceries roll down a steep, steep San Francisco hill, been hurt (no joke) attempting to do this class with my sister, said goodbye to a beloved coworker and thought of two dozen more ways to make myself feel badly about my doctoral qualifications.

I did, however, get some writing done today, and it is not yet midnight.

And, rather than waste time on the emptily yet overly emotional spectacle that is the Superbowl, I opted instead to finally go see the almost overly emotional mini-spectacle that is Juno. Not only did it play at TIFF, where I am happily employed (well, most of the time... more on that later), but it seems everyone on the planet has seen it. Parents of a three month old have seen it. My parents have each seen it... not even jointly. The person sitting beside you as you read this, or someone who will sit beside you a little later... they'll have seen it. So I felt immensely derelict in my film-going duties for having managed to miss (NOT avoid, just miss) it thus far. And, by now, I feared the hype. I feared the inevitable disappointment that befalls me when all the world has seen and loved something and convinced me that I have missed the veritable second coming of entertainment itself. I typically despise the thing that everyone else adores. (Case in point: that Sarah Silverman anniversary video for Jimmy Kimmel... wow that was dull.)

So I was so pleased to love Juno, to love it enough, in fact, to giggle and then get all weepy eyed and shelve all analytical distance. Ok, in truth, I've spent quite a bit of time since the film -- and even a bit during -- muddling over how insufficient traditional auteur theory is when confronted with a film such as Juno that is so clearly signed by its mercilessly clever screenwriter (the improbably but delightfully named Diablo Cody) and by the defiantly excellent performance of Ellen Page as much as by the decisions of skilled director Jason Reitman and his wiz of an editor, Dana Glauberman. But I struggled to keep it in check (I still am as I write this) since going to see it was supposed to be a nice cathartic break from all things film-theoristy.

And, given the abovementioned tears, it was clearly cathartic. Of course, I've been getting weepy-eyed a great deal lately. I may have welled up at one of the trailers that preceded the film. I may have sobbed my way through the final five minutes of Rescue Dawn, Werner Hertzog's truly wonderful remake of his 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. The latter might not seem so odd to many who've seen it -- it takes a fantastically simple narrative device and tells an incredibly lasting tale of human perseverance and is given heft by a ludicrously good and criminally overlooked performance by Christian Bale -- but I watched it on a plane, on one of those little choose-your-own adventure type screens that are about two inches by five inches in size. It was the kind of screen that ought to flatten landscapes, deflate epics and belittle (sorry for my literalism) performances, no matter how strong. But Rescue Dawn still managed to be excellent, and not just as a way to kill time between YYZ and SFO. Its politics seem somewhat transparent and, to me anyway, also completely appealing: why retell Dieter Dengler's story now, in a trenchant, viewer-ensnaring narrative form, if not to hammer in the point in every screening, everywhere, that troops, abandoned in North Vietnam then or in the Middle East now need to come home?

So, yes, I have been having some heightened emotional responses to film lately, but the monkey on my back that answers to the name of diss is getting both fatter and meaner and that probably has a lot to do with it. (It hurts to walk on bare concrete... all the more so with monkeys on ones' backs.) And, truthfully, I wouldn't be in this racket in the first place if I didn't prize the power of films to unlock and unleash emotions that are inconvenient, often unpredictable, even unwieldy.

In other news, I've been meaning to post about the dream I had in which I was hanging out with Paul Virilio, except it was Virilio as embodied by some younger dude who may have been Viggo Mortensen. Virilio, Viggo... I guess I do not need to go too far to figure that one out. We were talking about fear and his (Virilio's, not Viggo's) theory of dromology. (How much would I enjoy it if Viggo had his own theory of dromology?) It made perfect sense at the time and I woke up laughing, which is a plus.

Next week, my dream about my fireside chat with Baudrillard as embodied by Michael Cera.


Anne said...

Wizard. Juno is my new hero. May we both finish up this term with as much attitude as that girl!

Kate said...

Thanks Anne!
You've had some wonderful posts lately. I'm cheered by your "light at the end of the tunnel" checklist... should do one myself...