Saturday, April 4, 2009

And the Band Played On

If you think this movie “starring” Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin is a sequel to All of Me, be prepared for disappointment. Instead it is kind of a downer what with being about AIDS and all, formerly called GRIDS which sounds cooler but cast aspersions on the gay community.
Directed by the guy who did Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Turner and Hooch, this tv docudrama turns its lens on the serious debut of the AIDS epidemic and the red tape which inevitably strung it along.
It is not a phenomenal movie but I tried to ask myself the question: what is the message to me? What can I get out of this movie? Because in the end, it’s really all about me. And I think basically what I came away with is thankfulness. I’m thankful I’m not a gay man in the 80’s. I’m thankful I’ve never needed a blood transfusion. I’m thankful I don't work in politics or medical research. I’m thankful I’ve never had a mustache for any length of time.
The title is a reference to the Titanic and how supposedly there were musicians who continued playing ragtime music as the ship sunk, an apt metaphor for making bad jokes about a disease which is estimated to have taken the lives of 2 million people as of 2007.

Friday, April 3, 2009


When one first watches Casanova, one sees the pre-dead Heath Ledger entangling himself in a bizarre love pentangle in what refuses ever to be a formulaic romantic comedy.
But he blasphemes one of romedy’s sacred cows when he says that there is no such thing as true love. “True love” is a staple of the genre and Casanova wastes no time sullying it. He does end up with one love, I suppose to appease the genre gods. But after kicking the stool out from under true love, he says that true love suggests there is such a thing as false love, as if there could be such a thing as false belief. At this moment with one succinct line, the two themes of the movie are pinned together.
The first theme is the one for popcorn eaters. You watch and think, “Oh how delightful.” But there is a true message at heart, and I shall attempt to expose it.
The movie takes place in an English-accent-speaking Venice during the reign of the Inquisition. So the notion of Belief and Heresy are there. It’s not a secret. But it’s subtle in the message it tries to convey.
Basically what is being proposed is the dichotomy of flesh and spirit. The age-old split between matter and soul. There is hedonism on one end that worships the flesh and passion. This is where Casanova stands. And then there is the Church holding fast to the notion that sexuality in any form is a distraction from God and therefore condemnable. As one inquisitor says, “A night with Casanova, an eternity in hell.”
Of course there is a third alternative that is never really explored in the movie and that is something along the lines of Sufism that suggests that human sexuality is an expression of godliness, something I’m sure Casanova would have liked to know about.
The romantic story is just smoke and mirrors for pitting humanity against religion. When there is a faux deus ex machina, it pushes the point even further suggesting that not only are our lives not in the Church’s hands, they are not even in God’s. We must make our own lives and our own choices. “What would Casanova do?” the question is posed and apes the bumper sticker slogan: “WWJD?”