Tuesday, 26 March 2013

…one doesn’t feel cheated exactly, but feels: Is that all?

What happens when you disagree with a great critic?  To them: nothing much.  If they notice you at all, you’re a slight irritation, a chihuahua yapping in the distance.  But to the little critic like me…  they overwhelm us with their prestige and their confidence – they know they are right; they have the bank balances to prove it.  Disagreeing with one of the greats is like being ravaged by a Doberman on the threshold of their locked estate; while inside they have afternoon tea and talk about Baudelaire as if he were an old friend; an equal.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Autumn Sonnet

Strange amorist, what can you see in me?
(Clear crystal eyes – I watch the question start)
- Be sweet.  Lie still!  This irritated heart,
That longs for animal simplicity,

Will not reveal its pact with Hell, nor the
Deadly legend written in flames, by Fate,
To you who lure me to my sleep.  I hate
Even the thought of love – passionately!

Go gently, now.  Concealed in some retreat,
Love bends the fatal bow in secrecy.
I know too well that old artillery:

Madness, crime, despair – oh, pale marguerite!
But are you not an autumn sun, like me,
My distant, listless, cold, white Marguerite?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

This is Love

Murder is an incidental detail to Claude Chabrol.  Although advertised by the posters, and implicit in the plot, when we actually watch his films we soon realise that the murders are only partially relevant to the story; if he had so desired the director could easily have removed them without overly disturbing the movie’s structure or meaning.  Death, especially in Chabrol’s early films, seems to occur mostly by accident.  Even in Les Biches, where the murder is done consciously, the act itself feels contingent, as if carried out in a moment of absent-mindedness – there is so little affect in either the execution or the fatal response. The feel of that film would hardly changed (indeed would not have changed) if the murder had never taken place.  It is more symbol than concrete fact.  For Chabrol crimes are not so much a function of narrative as metaphor and decoration; adding texture to a story but not determining it.  Like the clothes the characters wear, and the books they read, the murders are an important but nevertheless arbitrary detail: we could easily imagine Hélène wearing a yellow skirt instead of her blue check or preferring Anatole France to Balzac; and we could easily imagine the schoolteacher’s wife still living with her husband rather then bleeding over the cliff’s edge.  The deaths are significant only because of their effects; a Chabrol film only concerned about the reactions of the main characters to the dead and the dying.  If the victims had lived we wouldn’t have missed their murders at all; the film happily existing without these oddly affectless crimes.