The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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For me

I do it for no one,
for me,
without reason,
knowing without understanding
that it means nothing
and changes everything.

November 21, 2009   Comments Off on For me

Stop Making Sense Everybody!

Stop Making Sense

November 21, 2009   3 Comments

The Lost City of Z

Scouting around for a non-fiction bestseller that would put his name in lights, David Grann, a staff writer for The New Yorker, hit upon the idea of tracing Percy Harrison Fawcett’s attempts to find a city he called Z in the jungles Brazil. Besides writing about Fawcett’s explorations, Grann also decided to make the trip himself. The contrast between Fawcett, one of England’s foremost explorers of the early part of the 20th century and Grann, an over-the-hill tenderfoot, is rather drool, as the author knew it would be.

The Lost City of Z is an important book, not because it presents Fawcett’s tragic quest in such well researched and graphic terms, or Grann’s own buffoonish one, but because it examines the roots and consequences of delusion and obsession in inescapable terms. Fawcett impoverished his wife and managed to kill both himself and his oldest son on his last trip to the Amazon in 1925. He became a raving maniac, adopting the tenets of Theosophy and occultism. Ironically, although he did not find his city, it may well have existed. Fawcett was not a trained scientist. The problem was that the jungle devoured it without leaving traces he was capable of seeing.

November 21, 2009   Comments Off on The Lost City of Z

Why in hell are you going to Budapest?

The biggest, baddest, and perhaps the best Jim Jarmusch film is his 1984 production of Stranger Than Paradise, a black-and-white montage of American life with only sixty-seven total shots. It is an important film. In 2002, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. In a sense, it marked a high water mark for Jarmusch who has struggled to top it ever since.

Like most of Jarmusch’s films, the plot is minimal. A young Hungarian woman (Eszter Balint) flies to New York and stays for a few days with her cousin (John Lurie) before moving on the Cleveland to stay with her aunt. On a whim, the cousin and his buddy drive to Cleveland, hang out for a few days, and then drive with the young woman to Florida, where they lose their money at the dog races. Stranger Than Paradise is a slice of life with no sex, lots of inane conversation, and gorgeous shots of the most dismal spots in New York City, Cleveland, Florida, and the freeways in between. In other words, life at its most mundane.

Jarmusch laughs at his characters all the way through the film. He seems to be saying, “You guys think you’re so hip, when you’re actually lost and clueless.” He saves his biggest joke for the end, when the cousin mistakenly flies to Budapest thinking he’s following the young woman.

November 21, 2009   Comments Off on Why in hell are you going to Budapest?