Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tiny Literary & Cinematic Reflections

Last night I went to see True Romance, a movie I absolutely adored but haven't seen for about five years, at the Brattle. The reel was a bit jumpy and while I still loved all the dialogue there was something off. I mean I still love it, but to say it gave me the same kind of joy it used would be untrue. I don't think it's the movie as much as it's me. Which is sad, since going to see movies like True Romance made a happy girl once.
I completely forgot about Bama's awesome fight scene with one of the gangsters - that was pretty awesome. I still love all the nicknames Clarence gives Alabama - I have a soft spot for good nicknames and Terantino is certainly good at it.

I also finished Stieg Larsson's Girltrilogy. I can't say I didn't like it, because the novels were well plotted and a lot of the characters were interesting. But, and there is a big but, I found the moral and political undertones of the novel highly annoying. Sweden doesn't have the death penalty and according to the book even when defending yourself you have a likely possibility of facing manslaughter charges if you kill your attacker. Yet the whole series is a fantasy of exacting revenge on people who have done the protagonist wrong. (SPOILER)Even in the end when Lisbeth, no-longer under guardianship, is about to kill a man who has done her great harm, stops because as a full citizen she cannot murder someone not only because she will do time in jail (even though it has been proven that this man has tried to kill her and her associates) but because as a citizen of Sweden the murder would be immoral. There is also a lot of "I'm not a political person, just a moral one" type of thinking by the other main character, Mikael Blomkvist. It's ridiculous, since Blomkvist is a complete lefty. The other part that irked me is the lenient terms all the criminals get for their violent crimes. I assume Larsson based this on actual terms. Instead of years spent in jail, the terms are in months. A serial killer has possibility for parole?! WTF? So yeah, it was a fun ride, but in the end the heavy handed anti-capitalist message with a dose moralizing from the author (via Blomkvist), and the retarded Swedish made the novels hard to completely enjoy. I did love the mention of Astrid Lindgren (one of my favorite children authors) though.

Hitchens does a better job than me.
But Larsson is very much of our own time, setting himself to confront questions such as immigration, “gender,” white-collar crime, and, above all, the Internet. The plot of his first volume does involve a sort of excursion into antiquity—into the book of Leviticus, to be exact—but this is only for the purpose of encrypting a “Bible code.” And he is quite deliberately unromantic, giving us shopping lists, street directions, menus, and other details—often with their Swedish names—in full. The villains are evil, all right, but very stupid and self-thwartingly prone to spend more time (this always irritates me) telling their victims what they will do to them than actually doing it. There is much sex but absolutely no love, a great deal of violence but zero heroism. Reciprocal gestures are generally indicated by cliché: if a Larsson character wants to show assent he or she will “nod”; if he or she wants to manifest distress, then it will usually be by biting the lower lip. The passionate world of the sagas and the myths is a very long way away. Bleakness is all. That could even be the secret—the emotionless efficiency of Swedish technology, paradoxically combined with the wicked allure of the pitiless elfin avenger, plus a dash of paranoia surrounding the author’s demise. If Larsson had died as a brave martyr to a cause, it would have been strangely out of keeping; it’s actually more satisfying that he succumbed to the natural causes that are symptoms of modern life.

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