Saturday, February 14, 2009

Books Books More Books -- In The Cut

It's not an obsession, or a sense of the inadequacy in my own understanding or intelligence that drives me to keep buying books. Books I will never read, because my genetic lottery ticket will hit BINGO when I am 57 or so.

Hey, I COLLECT books. Like a doll-collector collects dolls, like Corben Bernsen collects glass snow-ball thingies.

People don't say to collectors, "Man, have you READ all those dolls?" Or, "Are you smart enough to understand all those snow-ball thingies?"

My futile answers of the past were corny lines like, "I planned to read them at the time I bought them", or (my personal fave), "I am intelligent enough to WANT to understand them..."

Part of it started with how I idolized those 'art for art's sake' authors like Joyce and Beckett when I was younger. Obsessed, I so desperately WANTED to get it, whatever the fuck they were raving about. I took them all way seriously. I thought they knew all the meanings they had planted in their works. For years, I'd only buy experimental fiction, non-popular stuff that's even WAY more unpopular these days, with a few (one lately deceased) exceptions. I thought these wonderful men and women (does anyone have a copy of Ann Quin's Three, or Tripticks, to complete my collection of her books?) must KNOW and UNDERSTAND pretty much everything they write - before they write it down, right?

"I know my song well before I start singing," as Dylan said.

Before I could write anything, I'd need to know and understand everything too. (I fear that people will trip me up on factual or interpretative errors in even this bullshit post for example.)

So I started a quest. These days, I'm trying to re-balance my collection which was way swayed early on there, so now I'm trying to avoid buying anything that's contemporary (you know the newly discovered, just released, best book ever written, like the stupid things I just bought by [over hasty assessment coming up!] Roberto Bolano) and anything from America or England. Hence my mid-20thC European focus at the moment. Particularly the neglected and/or suppressed writers from Russia during the Stalin regime.

So now, with such a coolly intellectual, non-spur-of-moment plan, I can justly say, "I am a collector."

I polish the spines, dust the uppermost edges, sit back and admire them. My books, my pets, my babies.


However, I'm going to have to make an exception from that plan almost straight away. After looking at my books for a few minutes, I put on a movie.

I just watched the 2003 movie In The Cut again. "Meg Ryan does sick porn", is what you're thinking, right?

Isn't it great!

My first copy of this was a handi-cam pirate edition from Shenzen, which was crap to watch and the distortion so distracting. Now I have a bona-fide DVD, legitimately purchased from the art collection movie in the pirate DVD store in Fortune Tower, Bangkok, and I find much of the defocused distortion was intentional, but I don't think it's crap anymore.

Yeah, I think instead it might be time for a re-appraisal of this movie. It only rates 5 point something on the IMDB poll - it a way better movie than that would indicate. Maybe the Moral Minority did a spam on the IMDB numbers or something, because it rocks.

True, I enjoyed it immensely. OK it was porno in the sense that hey, that was a *real* blow-job, etc... But it was also such a great psycho-murder mystery with a dark, as I said, often defocused vision. Great shaky-cam work too which I didn't find it intruding for once. (Zizec is SO right about movies being a voyeuristic thing - shaky-cam plays to that perception of you being there very well.) Aside: Kevin Bacon in a weirdo red-herring role was just terrific with this intense borderline personality emotional manipulation, "love me or the dog dies" sort of thing - it was almost a send-up of his other similar roles.

Just Meg Ryan though, wow, she was in another place, a dark, dark place. She lusts, but she no trusts. That man/woman thing, that war between the sexes, it's no holds barred here. Men are nasty sex-obsessed bastards and liars, woman use sleaze and sex as weapons (about the only song I would have like added to the soundtrack) and everyone is, if not evil at best rude to each other. But it's actually a well-contrived near tragedy - Poetry Ads on the train send chorus-like messages. All the characters are flawed, or presumed flawed by the "I like to be ironic" Frannie (Ryan). There is subtle feminism too, with Frannie teaching Woolf's "To The Lighthouse" - an obviously phallic RED lighthouse i drawn on the board, only to reappear in reality at the end - a book in which nothing happens except "one lady dies", as a student comments in her urban English Lit class. An asnwer, a statement of Woolf's call for more artistic recognition for women. The two lead female characters, Ryans's Frannie and her half-sister, JJ Leigh's Pauline, live alone. A room of one's own, geddit? However, when men are as seen to be as sick as this, is it safe to be alone?

Yet somehow, something like love comes through, a twisted love to be sure, in a sad, sick, extremely dangerous world. The final scene presents a pretty amazing, very disturbing tableau.

OK, I'm sick too, I liked it. What I mean by 'like' is that I RESPECT the moviemakers' intention, and I felt that it succeeded - it spooked me, it shocked me, it aroused me... What more do you want? A car-chase? This was much more like Klute (mm, the similarities have just struck me on draft 3 of this) than being of the Se7en ilk.

But the sex scenes with Meg and Mark Ruffalo, obviously filmed by a woman and from a woman's novel, were the most sensual things she's ever done. And pretty much I've ever seen (without paying $5.95 per month - if only I could remember my password). And I doubt she or anyone were faking these orgasms (but not to the Short-Bus to Base Moi level where there are genuine(ish) money-shots).

Aside: Susanna Moore, who wrote the book and the screenplay (with director Jane Campion), is, I note with no small amount of irony, in one of the NYRB classics I mentioned the other day, having written the introduction to Twenty Thousand Streets Under The London Sky."

In case you missed my point, I enjoyed this movie very much, in the way I enjoyed Se7en, which was much more contrived and blockbuster movie-like - including a chase scene - but this one is more human, more harsh, more realistic and even more bleak if that is possible. Of course now I'm heading out to try and get a copy of Susanna Moore's book in Kinokuniya or Borders.


Because I want to have what SHE'S having.



savannah said...

have you read savage detectives yet? 2666 is sitting on my bookshelf right now!

Indiana said...

To be a true collector one must first become both narrow minded and then secondly, a snob. One must learn to be obsessed and one must regard the objects of desire as more import than anything... this really you?

Do you seek only first editions, or are paperback reproductions of the words enough to satiate your need?

Or is this really just a rebellion against the works of Clancy, Cussler and King? ~grin~

expat@large said...

Sav: Did you miss the point? I don't READ anymore. Particularly Flavour Of The Month writers like Bolano.

OK I don't read, apart from the biography of Robert Parker, the wine man - how can he CAN he tell if a French wine is over-priced horse-piss or if it's going to melt into you memory like the girl in Ballad of The Wandering Aengus?

Indy: Yes, that's me. You've named The Axis of Evil as I define them. Plus PD James. And watsisname Brown.

expat@large said...

Sav: I started Savage Detectives, and I'm going like, do I really CARE enough about old Mexican poetry cliques to keep going with this? Not just at the moment...! I'd rather read something thrilling and exciting, like the Lying-in hospital section of Ulysses... (which I only skimmed 34 years ago).

I'll get on to it, along with the Pynchon I promised myself, what. 2 years ago? I got the 3 volume 2666 rather thn the single volume, easier to slip into the beach bag for reding by the pool. Hey what a good idea, I'm going for a swim. Or should I got the Maxwell Rd Food Court for breakfast/lunch...

Stephen Folan said...

I saw 'The Cut' for the first time a few weeks ago. I don't trust film reviewers that much and sometimes a bad film can resonate better than a good film especially when you imagine what it could have been.

Anyway I liked what Mark Ruffalo and Meg Ryan did as it seemed like awkward enough to be a real realtionship - a bit like 'Klute'.

On the book thing. I often buy books on the basis I would like to be the version of me who has read it and understood it.

expat@large said...

H-G: yes Klute! The comparison only came to me once I had 99% written the post.

Awkward relationship due to the lack of trust. Interesting how her suspicion of Malloy only fires up her lust rather than quenches it... Note that she can only find safety in Malloy at the end (the lamb lay down with the beast) when he is still cuffed to the pipe - tamed, tied down...

I found the book at Kinokuniya today and am reading it now. Excellent, explicit. The movie is VERY VERY close. Well done by Campion.

That's a good line about books - might have to steal that.

savannah said...

i didn't miss the point, sugar! i've been reading YOU long enough to know that half of what you say is bullshit and that the truth is somewhere in the middle. i didn't finish savage detectives because the MITM took it to africa. i also bought the 3 volumes for almost the same reason. anyway, as to reading...i read what i like, not what someone tells me to! and yes, i adore p.d. james, and michael connelly... ;) xoxoxo

i'd send you the proust questionnaire, but i know how you hate q&a/lists *snickering*

expat@large said...

Sav: Like I'd REALLY think you'd to miss anything...

I actually prefer when PD James write as Barbara Vine - a little bit less genre...

I thought the Proust questionnaire would be like a Nabokovian Lit exam - What colour were Mdme Swann's underpants? sort of thing. Lucky, because I never saw the movie.

Spent another $200 today (including In The Cut - it's amazing!)... sigh. That's it, ENOUGH!

savannah said...

you do know i love you, don't you, sugar? ;) xoxo

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