Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Soul-Shards

I can hear it now...

"Another blog about film? Al Gore will have to invent a second internet to make room for all of these critics' ruminations. The one thing the world needs less of is opinions not kept to oneself."

To be honest, I agree with those statements in general. So why would I create another blog about film? And why do I bother to say that I am cynical and critical, when that ought to be a knee-jerk reaction to the work of a group of artists who call their best things like, "Gladiator," "Shakespeare In Love," "Titanic," and, "Chicago?'

In the opening pages of his 2007 book
I Am A Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter recalls his mother's reaction to a 15-year-old photograph of his father, shortly after his passing in 1991. "What meaning does that photoraph have? None at all. It's just a flat piece of paper with dark spots on it here and there. It's useless."

To console her, Hofstadter reminded his mother that the book of Chopin etudes at the piano in the family living room was also only dark marks on paper, but its contents had a profound effect on people all over the world for 150 years.

"Thanks to the black marks on those flat sheets of paper, untold thousands of people have collectively spent millions of hours moving their fingers over the keyboards of pianos in complicated patterns, producing sounds that give them indescribable pleasure and a sense of great meaning. Those pianists in turn have conveyed to many millions of listeners, including you and me, the profound emotions that churned in Frederic Chopin's heart, thus affording all of us some partial access to Chopin's interiority - the experience of living in the head, or rather the soul, of Frederic Chopin. Each of those strange geometries of notes has a unique power to bring back to life, inside our brains, some tiny fragment of the internal experiences of another human being - his suffering, his joys, his deepest passions and tensions - and we thereby know, at least in part, what it was like to be that human being, and many people feel intense love for him.

"In just as potent a fashion, looking at that photograph of Dad brings back, to us who knew him intimately, the clearest memory of his smile and his getleness, activates inside our living brains some of the most central representations of him that survive in us, makes little fragments of his soul dance again, but in the medium of brains other than his own.

"Like the score to a Chopin etude, that photograph is a soul-shard of someone departed, and it is something we should cherish as long as we live."

Substitute the words, "Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo," for, "Photograph of Dad," in the above paragraphs. Try switching, "Frederic Chopin's Etudes," and "Weekend at Bernie's II." Or perhaps you shouldn't.

I believe that the films of great directors and the characters they create live in the medium of the brains of their audiences, they are the soul-shards Hofstadter describes. But the interiority of souls like Travis Bickle or Maggie the Cat may have a greater impact than the shards of any photograph or piece of music, because films show people who live and breathe in dolby sound on a screen that is larger than life, whom anyone can get to know intimately.

Since I beleive that, and since I care deeply about the interiority of the little girl attached to my lip in the picture to the left, I will be critical and cynical when I would urge a reader to duck the incoming shards, but say nice things about films that share an enriching human experience. I want to write about new films, but also about those that are 15 years or older because they have been under our skin longer and may influence what else we let in.

And I want to enjoy it and not get too heavy about the damage left by Bill and Ted or David Lynch.

So, if you have read this far, perhaps you will read more (and if you have, email me and I will send you a bozo button.)

4 comments:

S is for Pseudonym said...

“…the damage left by Bill and Ted or David Lynch.”

I would be interested to hear what damage do you think has been done?

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

Thanks for your comment S,

I welcome the shards that come from Bill and Ted, and I am an enthuastic fan of Lynch, a kindred spirit to Fellini if ever there was one.

Ted is Keaunu Reeves' best role and most intelligent character, and the creative ideas in both Bill & Ted films (magnetic football with Death, their handling of time travel), as well as George Carlin's appearance, make them worth watching. "Be Excellent to Each Other," are words to live by.

If one can get scars from soul-shards, Lynch's films have left more on me than any director's besides Almodovar. He is fearless and uncompromising, and though I haven't yet seen Inland Empire, it is on my list of must-see films, and has been warmly received by his fans (critics are, as usual, conflicted). I will also read Catching the Big Fish, his book about the creative process.

Hope to talk to you more very soon.

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.