Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Things the Movies Do

I watched this film yesterday. Tilda Swinton is magnificent. And uncanny.

It's been a while since I have been so taken in by beautiful images and benign dissatisfaction. You know? The kind that lurks in all of us, in our daily lives? That we stem with ritual, and form, and pretty clothes, and a social life? Of course, the life of the Recchis, the Italian family around which the tale of the movie is spun, is far from what you or I might think to be daily life. Old Milanese industrial elite, the Recchis and their wealth seem to signify order, propriety, and the its attendant silences. And yet, such order is, I must confess, rather pretty. The visual style is what The New York Times, in this rather nicely written review, calls "postclassical Hollywood baroque". It is a carefully crafted cinematic ethnography of the haute-bourgeoisie. Whose entire world is ordered. And exotic. And beautiful. And we like such patterning.

And yet, in the most predictable, yet satisfying manner, love (or perhaps even the ardent desire for love that then masquerades as such) interrupts order.

Without saying anything else, let me just add here that perhaps what one goes to the movies for, is a dose of madness. The kind of soaring, righteous, rightful madness that most of us are denied in our sensible, reasonable, rational lives. Simplistic, I know. Yet, there seems to be some divine providence to the possibility of a true passion, a hidden path that will make itself manifest in a burst of abandon. Perhaps.

I am simulatenously reading Siri Hustvedt's "What I Loved" and as I watched the movie, some parts of it came back to mind.

"While I was lying on the floor in the studio, " she wrote in the fourth letter, "I watched while you painted me. I looked at your arms and your shoulders and especially your hands while you worked on the canvas. I wanted you to turn around and walk over to me and rub my skin the way you rubbed the painting. I wanted you to press hard on me with your thumb the way you pressed on the picture, and I thought that if you didn't, I would go crazy, but I didn't go crazy, and you never touched me then, not once. You didn't even shake my hand." (Pg.3-4)

It's true. We don't go crazy. Instead, we go to the movies.