Wednesday, August 22, 2007

now playing

Let's declare it Movie Week at the scribbler's cove. I'll begin with The Pillow Book (Peter Greenaway). This was presented to me as one of those "how could you have missed this," "must get in bed and watch immediately" movies, requiring chocolate and candles and all sorts of silky things at hand. Okay, I'm game.

Interim: Said movie is watched.

Yawn. Where's the candle snuffer? Bring the lights up. Do you have any tea to go with this chocolate?

The Pillow Book, as I've had to admit to the enthusiasts, did not work for me. Several scenes were pretty enough. Images of the calligrapher's brush on skin provided a predictable kind of appeal. Rain, blossoms, skin, skin, skin. Lovely, I'll take it.

But I think I spaced out somewhere during the outright enactments between and among various parties in all sorts of debauched states and strained postures. Something about it felt too frankly presented, even absurd, like wildlife mating footage complete with brushes, pillows, and parasols.

Even all that would be fine and passable, except for the subsequent series of freakishly broken taboos that function both to stimulate tension (one imagines that was the intent, anyway) and to meet the basic narrative demands of character development. Neither really comes off.

To great disappointment, I suppose, my primary physical response was a wince. I don't consider myself particularly provincial when it comes to matters such as these, but pillow book pages painted on the salvaged skin of disinterred lovers who died, arms crossed over the chest and blue mouth pouting, after a rather pathetic boudoir breakdown of drug-induced abandon all seemed--well, it just seemed weird to the point of distraction.

And let it be said that I consider weird an especially laudable characteristic, one to be encouraged equally in matters of love as in life. But as with any fancy moves, the risk of the bumble increases. And what a disappointment when a fellow adventurer commands attention by limning an aesthetic boundary, only to slip off the cliff with all the attendant whoa-whoa-whoa gesticulations of the humiliating fall.

Naturally, any heat that the weird might have generated in such a setting is discharged. And then what's left? Only the embarrassed sense of having witnessed the spectacle of sudden insufficiency and the ricochet replays of irrepressible memory.