pray for rain

August 20, 2012

Last time turned out to be the emptiest of promises, and what can I say, I really have no excuses for not writing. For somebody who portends to have writerly aspirations, my output would make even Harper Lee snigger with condescension. The last six (or is it seven? Eight? Nine?) months have been a series of fits and starts, roller coaster mood swings and making long-term plans with only a short-term grip on the direction my life is taking.

What I haven’t been doing is watching movies. The other night (admittedly, after a six month-long streak of purely visceral recreation, I probably wasn’t in the best state of mind)  I made the deliberate effort to sit down with one of the ‘classics,’ i.e. movies that people like to bang on about in university lectures and expensive quarterly journals costing $17.95, but which few regular people have ever actually seen. Films like The 400 Blows and anything by Godard used to inspire a sense of youth, freedom and sexual energy, even when they were dealing with hefty socio-political themes. But The Rules of the Game, for all its melodrama and comedy, just grated on me. Chekov’s gun makes it’s painfully obvious appearance about halfway through the film, in the guise of a kinetic hunting sequence where our heroes and heroines go game shooting on the grounds of the chateau. Hares scatter haphazardly through the tundra as Renoir’s camera tracks them from its stationary vantage point, the objective spectator; the obvious irony is that the characters become the indelible victims of their frivolous whims, and end up turning their guns on themselves.

Is the point simply that, regardless of class, we are all subject to the same tantrums of the heart, the same irrepresible hedonistic urges, the same desire to subvert the ‘rules’ of polite society? Cause that’s what I got out of it, and beyond this pretty simplistic message, all I could see were melodramatic and immature society types geeking out on their own egos. Call it what you like, but the upper class (at least in post-WWI France) are/were some pretty unbearable people. At least with Altman’s Gosford Park (which obviously took The Rules of the Game as its primary source material), we have the added  visceral thrill of a murder mystery to spice things up.

Not enjoying movies like The Rules of the Game makes me wonder about my intellectual well-being; have I literally grown out of the stage of my life where I cared about academics? Or is it more like a muscle that needs to be trained and routinely exercised in order to be maintained? In truth, it’s probably more a case of investing too much time and energy in more immediate and temporary gratification; I’ve been looking for cheap thrills in music, sport and life. A game of football, for instance, contains all the narrative qualities of a good book (in my opinion), with its rich history of rivalries, alliances, double-crossing, defecting and corporate influences, combined with the way the games themselves ebb and flow, evolve and reach a climax. This is something I plan to go into in more detail later. But I will just say that I don’t really buy Chomsky’s idea that institutionalised sports are an opiate for the masses, satisfying our collective bloodlust, in lieu of governments not being able to get away with waging meaningless wars (at least not all of the time). People like me enjoy sports not only as a physical spectacle – which, by the way, speaks directly to our animalistic instinct to seek out the fastest, strongest, most ruthless member of the tribe – but to our simple appreciation for a good fucking story.

Those are the kinds of tangents I need to distil into more focused and specific entries into this here blog, if I’m ever gonna make it in the cut-throat world of journalism. But then again, major news corporations pay idiots to blog about weekends in Vegas, so what do I know?

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