Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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Solondz and Thanks for All the Fish

Twitter Sonnet #97

Rain creates new living environments.
Contented cats scheme of a restless night.
Anxious plants break radish red through cements.
The garden of pundits predict a fight.
Cheese is the last refuge of face huggers.
Bad alien queens give birth to mouse traps.
Fop xenomorphs tread in fear of muggers.
There's a storm of bugs out there for bold chaps.
The adventure of daylight is shrinking.
Healing happens only at some hours.
The pencilled eyebrow god eye is blinking.
Some joker sent Saruman two flowers.
When there's no grace around, there's no disgrace.
No-one acknowledges monsters in space.

Since I ranked it at number 9 among best movies of the decade, I figured I oughta watch Todd Solondz' Storytelling again since I hadn't seen it in several years. I watched it with Trisa just a short while after she and I started hanging out, which was a very long time ago, I don't remember exactly how long. It's a good movie, though I have to admit it had gotten better in my mind in the years since I saw it and was actually a little disappointing last night. I'd forgotten how flat the ending is. But it remains a remarkable piece of work otherwise, particularly to anyone who's gotten involved in serious conversations of literary or film criticism.

The movie's divided into two totally separate stories, and the first one, which revolves around a college creative writing class, rings loudly true to anyone who's ever been in such a class. Not just for the type of reactions represented--from the people who praise anything earnest and personal to the people who are ruthlessly academic with criticism. But it was also a dead accurate portrayal of the types of stories I'd see constantly submitted when I was one of the editors of the literary magazine at my college--embarrassingly transparent vanity pieces or flagrant bids for pity. I was constantly astonished at how unabashedly these writers would try to convince a reader of how great or pitiable they are, always, of course, provoking almost the exact opposite of the intended reaction. It's what led to one the few consistently followed rules I adhere to when I'm writing fiction--never, ever write about yourself. Because whatever you write will inevitably be about yourself, as it's a reflection of your interests and beliefs, so consciously writing about yourself or how you perceive yourself is annoyingly redundant.

That first section of the film, called "Fiction", is by far the superior of the two sections, but the second, "Non-Fiction", isn't bad, containing a lot of great dialogue delivered well, particularly by Paul Giamatti, who would seem to be an avatar for Solondz himself, and here I'm already contradicting myself, but I always think there are exceptions to rules. And even here you can see the importance of the rule, as the portions of the story focusing on Giamatti are brief, and only the first scene is interesting from the standpoint of writing, the later scenes are made interesting by Giamatti's performance and the fact that his lines are about other characters and the nature of art.

It's difficult to say why the first section is "Fiction" and the second is "Non-Fiction" in relation to each other, even though the first is concerned with characters writing fictional short stories and the second is concerned with a filmmaker making a documentary. Maybe the blurring of the lines between fiction and non-fiction is intended, as the first story features characters basing their fictional stories on their actual experiences while the second features a documentary about a family that is conspicuously stylised. Through exaggeration, it portrays the common arrogance, selfishness, and insensitivity of the average American middle class family, both for humour and as a sympathetic rumination on the spiritually disconnected state in which these people exist. Apparently the section is a response to critics of Solondz' earlier work, as it explicitly argues that the filmmaker cares for these people even as he laughs at them. Which would of course justify the titles of the two sections.

With breakfast to-day, I read one of the stories from the new Sirenia Digest, "Untitled 34", which is a fascinating portrayal of a mythical being in a modern setting, carrying her own myth as emotional baggage to potentially sabotage her new relationship with a young man, perceiving the damage done to her by the human in her story as inevitably to be repeated by her new human lover. A very nice story, tying myth to neurosis, which seems an incredibly perfect idea.
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