Saturday, September 23, 2017

big weekend mood

A few recommendations for the weekend: One More Time with Feeling, a truly remarkable documentary about Nick Cave's struggle to make an album after the death of his son, and The Art Life, a documentary about David Lynch. You can watch them both for free if you have Amazon Prime.

The latter I haven't seen yet actually, but I'm watching the TP finale tonight and plan to watch it after, or maybe tomorrow. Is this movie a thing people know about? Probably. I mention it because the only reason I even know it exists is because I saw a poster when I was traveling this summer.

I had just left some friends, one of whom lives really far away, and was staying in an unfamiliar town by myself for the night, feeling sort of melancholy. I took it as a real auspicious sign when I found this theater right next to my hotel. Unfortunately I had missed the last show by about half an hour, haha. That was not a sign, I decided. Just bad luck.

Had a lot of feelings last weekend about Harry Dean Stanton. It's sort of weird sometimes, the celebrity deaths that truly touch a nerve. It's partly tied to all these residual Twin Peaks feelings, which are, in turn, tied to some other shit I got right now. You know how it is. I haven't started in on the TP think pieces yet (thanks to the people who left recs--looking forward to reading them), but I feel like a lot of what I saw people talking about over the course of the season was this notion that interpreting Twin Peaks is this intensely idiosyncratic experience...that whole postmodern disconnect where the way in which you experience of a work of art (or anything) can never really be conveyed to another, etc. That just seems deeply, instinctually wrong to me. Postmodernism, just for lack of a better word, runs on a spectrum from cold (Bret Easton Ellis) to warm (David Foster Wallace), and to me Lynch runs warm in that his subject is collective experience and, like, forging connections more so than alienation. Lynch is more about feeling alienated from yourself...also the search for coherence in an incoherent world.

Exhibit 1: warm postmodernism (John Ashbery, who died a few weeks ago)

I don't know, maybe I'm wrong--I had to maintain a certain distance from the ~conversation~ after I fell behind on the show, but I feel like people talk about Lynch all wrong. The Twin Peaks revival actually had a really communal feel to me: all this shared affection for Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan, everyone's incredulity that a third season even exists (still don't have a bead on Showtime's angle at all--is there an explainer somewhere??), seeing the passage of time in the faces of the actors, and realizing the sort of overwhelming number of them who have died. Reading all those dedications in the credits, Jesus. I suppose it's hard to separate the content of the show, which is about these big human themes, and the experience of watching it, which felt really rich and resonant.

This conversation between Albert and Gordon in E4 was probably my favorite moment in the series.

Every scene those guys shared was just hugely moving to me. Where a lot of the original TP felt like it was trying to come to terms with violence, a lot of this iteration felt like it was about confronting  death. Anyway I probably have emotional problems.

Harry Dean Stanton as Carl was my favorite addition to the cast and maybe my favorite person on the show this season. The little moments that showed he was the king of that trailer park, like when he blew that whistle to call his driver or (my absolute favorite) when he pulled out that CV to radio the sheriff's station...those moments were the most pure delights of the season, and I say that as someone who took a lot of delight in this season.

The Nick Cave movie I saw in theaters, probably the only non-diehard Cave fan in the audience. (I like him fine, but more his stuff like Skeleton Tree and his score for The Proposition...classic Nick Cave is a little too theatrical for me.) As it happened I had just seen Fun Home the Musical, and the two had a surprising number of things in common...both are about the sudden, unexpected death of a family member. Both are adaptations: a musical about a comic and a movie about an album. Fun Home had come to Chicago and I went because a friend wanted to go. She thought of me because I'm her Comics Friend, which is fair, but the thing is, while I'm happy to be your Comics Friend, I'm not so much your Musical Friend. I like exactly three musicals: Annie (because it's perfect), Rent (because I'm old), and Jesus Christ Superstar (no fucking clue--one of my life's great mysteries). I guess technically I also sort of like Cats. Fine. That's four. Every other musical ever I regard on a spectrum from mild distaste to actual loathing. I didn't go into Fun Home expecting to hate it in the way I'm dead certain I'd hate, say, Hamilton. (I'm generally not one of those people who gets a kick out of putting down things that other people like, but I hate the very idea of Hamilton with my life. Every time someone RTs Lin-Manuel Miranda into my timeline I feel actual anger.) (Like I said: emotional problems.) But anyway I was wrong, because from what I can tell I'm the one person on earth who seriously hates Fun Home the musical. Alison Bechdel's whole thing is the contortions she put herself through to express emotion, so I can't imagine a more wrongheaded approach than sentimentalizing her story. And just at the level of adaptation it was almost hilariously dumb; to convey that she was a cartoonist the actor would just say 'Caption: this that or the other is happening right now.' God. On the level of sheer representation, I guess having some kid sing a song about her deep admiration for the aesthetic of butch lesbians is cool. There's a whole song about Baby Bechdel finding a UPS delivery woman to be her hero. I like the idea of little kids singing about how much they can't wait to grow up to be butch lesbians on Broadway. It was also sort of cool when they had Baby Bechdel, College Bechdel, and Current Bechdel on the stage together, I'll give it that. But those are pretty much the only thing that production had going for it. Utter shite.

Once More with Feeling is exactly the inverse of all that--just this really intimate portrait of a musician who's normally very stylized, very theatrical, very conscious of image. Very thoughtful, very sad, beautifully shot in the music video pieces. Warren Ellis (no, not the comics one) is so intensely cool, it blew my mind. I never knew! Anyway I think it's quite a thing, an actual act of public service, to have made a film like that. I'm going to watch it again sometime soon.

Not sure why I'm on about all this. Big weekend mood...

1 comment:

  1. Criterion released the movie David Lynch: The Art Life on DVD and Blu-Ray. I haven't gotten around to it just yet, but it seems quite interesting. It didn't get a big release. I know it only played in Ottawa for about 10 days.

    Here's a link to the criterion page: