Monday, March 23, 2009

All the best fields lie fallow for months, I'm sure.

A couple of months into the thesis, and I'm already seeing Borges everywhere. I worry, briefly, that it's like the Discordian rule of five - that certain themes becomes more apparent the more I look for them. (Then I just shrug my shoulders.)

But having seen a couple of solid films in what passes for our friendly neighbourhood baroque theatre (just without the friendliness from anyone on staff, and as an added bonus if you're sitting downstairs, with a pinch of drunken screams from the nearby alley), I'm starting to think that certain filmmakers are cribbing from the same playbook.

First of all - Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth. Without more than a cursory viewing, one can see each of Borges' four kernels of fiction: the double, the travel through time, the story within a story, the contamination of reality by a dream. Having read Labyrinths et al altogether too many times, the references to Zhuangzi and the butterfly at the end of the film felt tacked on, an unnecessary throw towards explaining the conceit, but I'll take it. (In an ideal world Matt Damon wouldn't fuck it up with a bit part, but I'll still take it.)

More glorious, however, was Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York. (Wired covered the hell out of this movie last November, publishing a meta-article on Kaufman, and letting publishing geeks the world over see the sausage factory at work. The creative director detailed his part in the process here.) But the film? A play within a play, mirrors upon mirrors and progressive regression until the withdrawal from reality and subsequent death of the creator – check. Most strongly resonating with me, though, was the Borges quote that wasn't even mentioned in the film, but applies almost beyond words: "Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face."

So much so, that I drove home repeating the final phrase in my head over and over - "the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face". The part stands for the whole, the general stands for the specific. I'm so enamoured of this that a couple more weeks on Petrarchan sonnets wouldn't go amiss at this stage.

That nothing bothered me more than the dissonant references to Schenectady, NY, probably says more about me than the film. Although if I'd known of the city beforehand, it would have been smoother sailing. Balance, the demand for a more and more structured mimesis, and the abrupt ending (fade to white FTW!) made for the high points, and only the fact that the inward focus meant the ideal repetitive world didn't subsume the rest of New York keep the film from eating into more of my thesis mind-space.

Speaking of re-using the big four ideas and constructing fresh narratives from them, I'm turning over in my head the idea of a circular show about people working for some under-funded or mis-managed association. Key to this is the notion of having no sympathetic characters, the ready co-existence of the banal and the atrocious and a pervasive and depressing subtext that branches into the dialogue. I can do con-fusion, apparent idealism, and a pervasive lack of coherence like nothing else. Surely there's a market for this outside of comparative literature....


This week I wrote something stupid about Resident Evil 5, and something slightly more glowing about thatgamecompany's beautiful Flower. Next week I'm skipping the review basics entirely and instead writing about narrative in my 'review' of Gears of War 2, and hopefully after that I'll be free enough to start some source material comparisons with Beowulf and Conan, and their most recent hack-slash incarnations. Leading up to, of course, the inevitable travesty of Dante's Inferno (tagline: "Go to Hell". I'm not kidding.) Dear Lord. Dante's all up in the demons' faces in the trailer, below, stabbing ghouls with a crucifix. No word on whether the ultimate goal of the game would be, but I presume it's not saving Beatrice from Lucifer. Otherwise we'd be retreading Ghosts 'n' Goblins territory.

Granted, the nine circles of hell would lend themselves to game levels rather nicely (the dark wood as a tutorial level, perhaps?), and there's a built-in trilogy option if it takes off, but goddamn if it doesn't look like a poor man's God of War, with extra crucifix.

Anyway, work, work, and more work. But if you're up for what passes as banter around these parts, you could listen to 91FM (Dunedin) at 8am and 9am weekdays. (If there's no banter on a certain day, sorry. We're not particularly chatty at the best of times, and certain brands of topical humour began and ended with Murphy Brown.) Alternatively, you'll hear the day's top news stories read out loud, then slightly undermined or roundly castigated, which is probably the best way to do it.

1 comment:

Michael Schraa said...

Youth Without Youth was silly beyond words but it did make me think of how much like Benjamin Button it was. Then The Fountain too - "the transhistorical film", I shall name this contraption. I'm sure one could think of others but the closeness of their arrival suggests something in the air. Something rather soft-headed I would say, but Benjamin Button did at least have the good manners to look pretty.