October 29th, 2006

Behind Charlene

"Empty Like the Tuileries"

There's an interesting article on the Time website featuring a letter from an American soldier in Iraq. It seems lately there've been a lot of particularly gruesome descriptions coming from Iraq of the tortured and the dead and the social climate that produced them. I forget where, but I heard about a dog seen carrying a human head in its jaws, and I couldn't help being reminded of the early scene in Yojimbo (later paid homage to by David Lynch in his Wild At Heart) where a dog is seen carrying a human hand, indicating to the audience what a thoroughly bad town it was Sanjuro had wandered into.

I'm reminded of a story I've heard a few times about Yojimbo's director, Akira Kurosawa--of how, as a young boy, he and his brother survived a devastating earthquake. When they saw corpses in the flooded streets, Akira's brother told him not to look away because not seeing the truth would inevitably be more frightening.

So one of the things that interested me about the American soldier's letter is its reference to visiting VIPs and their sanitised visits to safe zones, "which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency . . ." He mentions Bill O'Reilly as being the biggest offender in painting a false picture of Iraq for American television.

Considering that the ruling party is so secure in its hold over the people's uninformed, and perhaps uninformable, collective imagination that it's comfortable reversing even its most keystone rhetoric and denying recorded past uses of it, it seems to me that there is a vast dark room a lot of people have shut themselves in that must be very frightening indeed.

It reminds me of David Bowie's Outside album, lyrics like, "Explosion falls upon deaf ears while we're swimming in a sea of sham."

I saw Marie Antoinette last week, Sofia Coppola's new movie, which I found to be a beautiful and generally enjoyable experience. A nice meditation on an atmosphere that perhaps didn't exist anywhere except in Sofia's camera. A number of the reviews I've read talk about how the movie received boos from French audiences, so I read part of the entry on Marie Antoinette in Wikipedia this morning to try to find out why. I was actually struck most by some of the more neutral differences between the movie's accounting of events and Wikipedia's, such as the difference between whether or not Antoinette wanted to flee Versailles. Reality and the history of it seems an awfully fragile thing, and I'm impressed again by how the people who know less tend to be far more passionate. It seems to take rare guts for someone to stand up and say "I have no idea what I'm talking about . . . but I get the feeling that you don't either." (Which is what David Letterman said to Bill O'Reilly recently).
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