Thursday, June 2, 2011

Today and Tomorrow

"I'm doomed to want things that aren't things," Ofelia Hunt writes in Today and Tomorrow.

There are plety of things that aren't things in the book. Actually, there isn't anything that is something. There is only ever nothing. Lisbon, New Mexico, Bill Murray are like mantras that are not real that get said to placate reality.

Ofelia Hunt, if she existed, wrote something about metaphor and meaning. She hates them. Metaphors are fake things because they make everything more meaningful than it is. And meaning is meaningless unless it is a lie. And a lie is a metaphor for things that aren't true. And so on.

I felt more strongly about some parts of the novel than others. I wasn't sure about the thin man. And at certain points as it went along it felt more arbitrary than necessary. In her blog, Ofelia often says that she writes and rewrites. And usually that editing process is obvious with precise word choice. But in her novel, she seems to get away from that process. Just a rush of words, a waterfall of sentences. Sometimes.

I felt overwhelmed by it. I wanted to stuff it all inside my brain, but it wouldn't fit. I tried to make a flow chart, but everything flowed into everything else and then into nothing and then into a trash can.

A lot of other reviews like to give a little plot outline about the things that puport to happen in the novel. They are wrong. The trick of the book is to create something out of nothing and vice-versa.

Rendez Vous d'Anna

I've seen a couple of movies by Chantal Akerman. They are all like this. Long and mostly plotless. It's like she likes to push the bounds of cinema, taking it into new directions that are simultaneously banal and beautiful.

Her scenes are more like moving paintings. I kept on thinking of Rothko's subway and Lucien Freud.

She skips over the things other films concern themselves with, focusing on the interim.

There is one scene in which Anna lies in bed listening to the radio for a solid two minutes, which in film feels like forever.

There are a lot of trains and traveling, but also four major conversations.

The first is with a German she picks up and almost has sex with. He tells her about Communism in the 20's and then Nazism in the 30's and all of the aftermath that changed his country.

The second conversation is with her friend Ida who talks to her about the importance of having children.

And then she gets her turn to talk, to her mother about maybe being in love with a woman, or at least kissing her.

The fourth conversation is with her boyfriend or husband, Daniel. "We can't affect what happens. We're just carried along by the current," he says.

I really wished she had never gotten a chance to speak, because I wanted to use this quote from Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan: "I've been accused of [being a good listener] all my life. It's like someone who prays every night saying God's a good listener. Just because you're talking to us doesn't mean we're listening." Because basically all four conversations are actually monologues. They just talk and talk.

There are some interesting moments to watch that feel like they are orchestrated to complement the characterization. Like the automatic doors that open and close. Or when she's walking in the train and she seems to get smaller and smaller going through smaller and smaller doors like Alice in Wonderland. Or how there are so many shots of the backs of people's heads. Silhouettes back-lit by lights the car is driving towards.

(Painting credits: George Tooker - Subway, Mark Rothko - Entrance to Subway, Lucien Freud - Girl in a Blanket, Rene Magritte - Not to Be Reproduced, Edward Hopper - Morning Sun)