Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Muddled Creatures

Reading books about movies lately has done nothing to halt the growth of my Netflix queue, and now the blog i dream in super eight piles on with an enticing take on An Unmarried Woman. The blogger writes:
(Paul) Mazursky, here at least, is a director who likes people — both the characters in his movie and the audience watching it. He trusts them to be complex, intelligent creatures who can feel conflicting things and hold more than one idea in their heads at a time. He gives us a movie that’s adult in its comprehension of the world and its take on relationships, in the way it’s both light and serious, clear-eyed but still hopeful.
And she cites Roger Ebert, who in 1978 wrote this beauty:
An Unmarried Woman is such a good picture not because it states vast truths about men and women but because it finds that there are none; its heroine and, maybe the rest of us, are in a muddle most of the time, and depend more than we’d want to admit on old friendships, white wine, and quiet desperation to get us through.


Blogger Seb said...

I find myself increasingly shying away from tell-it-as-it is modernism and inclining further toward heart-punch sentimentality, if, indeed, I ever strayed very far.

This remark is pertinent to your post re: memoirs, but for whatever reason I feel compelled to note it here: though my shyness has not prevented me from reading the Wolff brothers' memoirs (The Duke of Deception and This Boy's Life) or late-twentieth century meditations on boredom, loss of identity, and despair (as in Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49) this attitude has, perhaps, prevented me from enjoying these works.

Some people react in similarly averse ways by, say, "finding Jesus," (who, as a fellow alcoholic likes to observe, may be somewhat bemused to learn he has been lost) or searching for "spiritual" meaning in all kinds of strange places.

I contend that the drive toward certainty and flight from its opposite is symptomatic of a loss of symbolic language. The new ABC offering "Eli Stone" appeals to my wife and me on entirely symbolic terms - the show speaks to what I consider inherent or intuitive knowledge of moral behavior. Once it has opened the doors of our sub-conscious awareness, the show has latitude to make us laugh and cry, to find inspiration while giving voice to our doubts about the apparent emptiness in the world around us. At once playful and entirely earnest, this rather silly television show strikes a very deep chord in my being, and Angela and I find ourselves astonished at its power.

I'm not saying this to plug a show that has very limited appeal to most of my friends; I merely want to illustrate a point. Angela and I are steeped in biblical mythology, and we know that the prophet's road - the voice of morality no matter the cost - is a road of sacrifice and loss. Our real-life heroes are the people who act while others ponder, wonder, and talk...seemingly endlessly, talk, talk, talk. Reality TV and the Internet highlight this dissociation. Our culture seems to want to live vicariously rather than in fact. There is nothing wrong with that, but the vicarious lives most popular in recent decades are very shallow. From a standpoint of the mechanics of civilization, that is a very bad sign - catharsis in media is as close to a "sacred" activity as any, and the decline of it tends to demonstrate a wide-scale collapse of morality.

Will I see An Umarried Woman? With such glowing reviews, how can I not? All the same, I was moved to explain my reticence. We are muddled creatures only when the triumph of Reason puts us in full flight from intuition. Biology has begun to encroach on the jurisdiction of Philosophy, giving us cues as to the provenance of our moral convictions; the irony of these discoveries is that the quintessentially rational pursuit has begun to demonstrate that we are, at our foundations, not rational creatures.

5:12 PM  

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