Sunday, January 11, 2009

Theater and the vulnerability of the viewer

One day last month I was surfing the television when I got in on the middle of Spiderman Two. I was surprised by the face of the actor playing Spiderman. I didn’t really know the story. I soon saw that he was well chosen. When the film finished, and it seemed to me that the story was finished several times before the movie ended, I understood why Spiderman will never become a myth, or Superman, Batman or any of that crew. Two much story. Too many details. It never ends. Myth rests solidly on a sparseness of detail, among other things.

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It was a Sunday night and I was in Chula Vista on the other side on my way to stay in lodging at the VA hospital in La Jolla where I would take a chemotherapy infusion the next morning. I found myself at loose ends, unusually lonely. I wondered if I should see a movie. I went to the multi-plex in a shopping mall. The only film showing that I had heard of was the latest James Bond, “Quantum of Solace.” I didn’t want to see it. I walked around for the next hour, then went back to the box office and bought a ticket.

The actor who now has the Bond role plays it very well. It was a Saturday night, and there were seven people in the audience. The picture itself was a stew of violence, one violent, brutal, sadistic scene after another. There was no end to it. Scenes cut so fast you could not follow the action with precision but were left with the brutality of each. Leaving the theater I wondered how Hollywood had gotten to the place where it is with such films. It is widely acknowledged that Jews run Hollywood. That it is a significantly Jewish sensibility we see on screen. Jews ran Hollywood during the 1930s and the movies were very different. That was before the Holocaust and the gas-chamber invention. Is that possible? That once (Jewish) Israel came to be a centerpiece of Western culture and the focus of morally justified brutality against others, and it was “allowed,” it would only be natural for Hollywood to follow along?

Those of us who are not Jews encourage it all, with our money, and our acquiescence.

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And then more recently, on the television, I came into the middle of a sentimental movie staring Jennifer Lopez. I can’t remember the name of the film, and though it was only about ten days ago, I can’t even remember what it was about. Now I recall that she was, I think, a uniformed police officer. But what I recall most consciously is that the film moved me. To tears. And at the same time I realized that over the past weeks I have been moved to tears by watching movies, watching the catastrophes reported on news broadcasts, most anything. I don’t break down sobbing, but I find myself getting a little weepy over the suffering of others. I have become more aware of my own vulnerability these past months, and I think that has caused me to become increasingly aware of the vulnerability of others. It isn’t a matter of whether the other is in a news reel, or in a melodrama on the big screen. It’s the story itself that affects me. It could be self-pity. I don’t think so. I think that with my own acknowledged vulnerability, I have become increasingly aware of the vulnerability of the other. I think. Maybe.

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And then there was the PBS filmed stage production of Cyrano de Bergerac. I read it and saw it on stage 30, 40 years ago, but I was struck once again by the sophistication, the quality of the language. The modernity of the sensibilities expressed. The stand-up joking around. Somewhere during the production itself memory recalled the first time I read Aristophanes. It was 1954 and I was in Mexico City, 24years old, and had never read the Greeks. I don’t remember in the moment which play it was I first turned to, but I recall the moment that one character, speaking of his action with a lady friend, said,

“I squeezed her until she farted like a weasel.”

I was stunned. A guy would write like that more than 2,000 years ago? I had no idea. At that moment, I decided the Greeks were for me. But I got distracted by the Bulls and afterwards never really did the Greeks well.

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Today is Sunday and usually I would be preparing to go to the other side for a chemo infusion tomorrow morning. Not this month. It’s behind me for the time being. I’m glad to have it behind me. The first of the week I began walking. The first day I did six minutes out, rested, did the six minutes back. The next day I did 16 minutes, eight out, a rest, eight back. The third day, Thursday, I did 12 out, rested, and 12 back. Twenty-four minutes. It exhausted me. Yesterday I was still exhausted. After a full night’s sleep Friday night, I napped for three hours in the afternoon, and another hour and a half in the evening. Last night I slept right on through until this morning at 9am. Today I’m over it. This coming week I will walk farther, but will not walk on consecutive days, but every other day.

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I am being encouraged to comment on Mark Weber’s recent article “How Relevant is Holocaust Revisionism?” This isn’t the place. At least, not yet. But the next issue of Smith’s Report will address Mark’s article.

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