the artifice of memory

January 31, 2008

i owe it to myself to write a review of atonement.

the acting was strong. i didn’t know keira knightly could ever be anything other than a gangly, cockney soccer player, a second-rate lizzy bennett or just a sex symbol, but she does alright here. the other dude was pretty good as well. in fact, the movie opens strongly: the first act is a fine display of white-knuckle period drama in the same vein as gosford park, but it’s all completely downhill from there. the one saving grace was an extended tracking shot on the beach at dunkirk which does its damndest to convince us that, yes, war is bad, and it’s ugly, and if you can make any sense out of it then you’re probably already mad. but besides this brief meditation, the narrative remains, for (at least) the entire second half, completely out of focus. the resolution seemed not only forced, but painfully contrived. it was the cinematic equivalent of “…and then i woke up.” obviously, the transposition from literature to cinema hasn’t treated this story well. i’m sure ian mcewan’s novel goes about its business in a more poetic and meaningful way, but i am left with one overwhelming feeling: i sure am glad i didn’t spend 500 pages finding it out.

moreover, the narrative that i have seen described as “jaw-droppingly powerful” and “redemptive,” among other things, failed to convince me. i wanted to see some revenge, but none of the characters had any strength of conviction, nor was there any discernable moral (aside from the tacked-on deus ex machina mentioned above). nabokov said in the epilogue to lolita that a story doesn’t need any moral, and that when writing a book he has “no other purpose than to get rid of that book.” i agree with him, and indeed, his book doesn’t have any particular moral (arguably). but at least that story was stunningly, beautifully told. atonement-the-film went flaccid after the first half-hour. i saw this thing over a week ago now, so my criticism might be a bit blurry, but my frustration remains as virile as ever.

oh, wait…spoiler alert. bit late now. but consider yourself warned.

i was thinking about how many lists i write and how i like to write them and how everybody has a ‘top 10’ this or that and how they are all over blogs and reviews sites and whatnot. here’s a brief example:

top five reasons i should go back to europe:

  • to see sebastian and the grom crew.
  • visit florence and check out what all this ‘renaissance’ hoo-ha is about.
  • two words: minging birds.
  • learn another language.
  • russia and the trans-siberian railway.

i’ve come to the conclusion that blogs and the likes are especially well-suited to these kinds of applications for the precise reason that they are impossible to interrupt and argue with. my reasoning is this: nobody gets listened to on the internet, unless you’re perez hilton or a new york times journalist. chances are you’re not either of these, and so the typical internet user will treat you as a soulless, anonymous moron with nothing intelligent to say. anybody with a keyboard and a phone line can get on a forum and spout their narrow opinions on (literally) any subject conceivable to man. a list is an economically efficient way to streamline these opinions. i’m not saying it’s a bad thing. i like a list. but i recognise their function: getting as many opinions across in as short a time as possible. it’s the fastest way to forge an identity online (besides, i suppose, any arbitrary response to the timeless ‘asl?’ question). anyway that’s just what i was thinking. i should be reading more academic stuff about online culture, but there is hardly time with all the novels i’ve got lying around.

been spending a rather large amount of time fraternising in and around the ‘melbourne independent music community’ lately – partly by choice, partly by association. the upside is, of course, exposure to some truly incredible up-and-coming bands and artists, as well as discovering some of those who are comfortable simply frequenting cosy local sit-ins, playing to an ever-faithful troupe of like-minded bohemian punters. these kinds of shows are often more like poetry recitals than actual gigs, but on the other hand, the scene we have here in melbourne is seemingly infinite, and on some of those lonely drives home, ears still ringing, i often find myself floating in a shallow melancholy. it comes with my realisation that i have a strange tendency to look beyond our shores for music that truly inspires me, when in reality, the intimacy and familiarity of local music always, always hits home harder. and it seems that the homogenous, ever-so-slightly predictable and prevalent indie community at large is finally starting to take notice of some of the unique, vibrant talent we are producing.

but, being the music industry, there’s usually a slight air of arrogance wherever you go. it’s inevitable. even those that begin with the humblest of intentions fall victim to a discerning cycle of rhetoric and ‘integrity versus utility’ judgement at the slightest hint of popularity. i’m not naming any names – i’m not even referring to any particular peeople in particular. it’s just a saddening trend that is all too painfully obvious to anybody who flirts on the outskirts of a scene – something i have been doing a lot of over the last five or six months – and it’s gotten to a point where i find myself torn between reverance and something like inverted jealousy. there’s this delicate balance of genuine warmth and passion on the one hand, and systematic intimidation (in the form of closed-door membership) on the other.

i love my city. i will always love melbourne and i will always come home to it. even at 21 i know that is true. and most of the time i feel like i belong here. but occasionally, i don’t; i get alienated, in over my head, lost, alone, whatever. that’s why i’ve been writing lots of music lately. actually, it’s the most prolific i’ve been since my high school days.

current playlist

the strokes – is this it?
the cribs – men’s needs, women’s needs, whatever
the maccabees – colour it in
over it – silverstrand
the cure – s/t
bright eyes – i’m wide awake, it’s morning
the decemberists – castaways and cut-outs
the psychedelic furs – s/t
trans am – the red line
the clash – s/t
annuals – be he me

notice the jarring lack of aussie bands?

there was so much more to write in this blog, but i kinda like the direction it ended up taking instead. until next time, so long.


3 Responses to “the artifice of memory”

  1. ricep0d said

    reading that post was made exceedingly and unnecessarily difficult by charlie. the only time he ever feels like a cuddle is when my laptop is open, at which time he would crawl over sit his fat ass, encompassing the entire keyboard, mushing as many keystrokes as there is on a mac, many of which i don’t know how to undo until i go over to my desktop and look them up. and now he’s chewing the corner of my screen and trying to paw at my fingers.

    blogging is clearly an exercise for the individual’s narcissism. much like journal keeping but instead open for public ridicule. a record keeping scrapbook for the entertainment of enemies and refueling of adoration from friends. i’m just using mine like webclippings now. except i’m forced to construct cohesive sentences with beginnings and ends because apparently it’s still getting 22 hits a day. heartwarming. i know. all i saying is, a blog doesn’t need to be advertised. especially if you have it imported to your facebook and new feed and i have to get up early tomorrow and i did get through howl today and liked it so there and i’ve got 130 pages to go on heartbreaking work of staggering genius. WOOHOO!

  2. ricep0d said

    ps/ charlie is not fat, his ass is just capable of an astounding number of keystrokes

    pps/ you can basically cut atonement in half up to the moment he gets arrested and just throw the rest away. except for that one long take. that was pretty fucking amazing. and expensive.

  3. ricep0d said

    can’t believe you wiped my comments! they were lengthy!! and now i can’t remember what they were about.


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