Doodad Kind of Town

Mopping Up and More Netflix Adentures
August 29, 2007, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Cleaning up a basement after a flood is damn hard work! My neighbors and I have been spending the last couple evenings pulling wet and ruined items out of our storage closets and hauling the dry stuff upstairs to our apartments. The dumpsters behind our building were piled high and overflowing with old books, clothes, toys and other detritus last night. Heavy, musty smells arise from below and permeate our hallways. And it’s really hot and humid to boot, which just makes it all that much more painful. (But, then again, watching the second anniversary coverage of Hurrican Katrina today makes out troubles seem not nearly so bad.)

Fortunately, nearly everything I lost was of negligible value, most of it just being held in the storage closet temporarily till my next trip to Goodwill. There were just two notable losses. First, for reasons I can’t begin to explain, I was keeping my college diploma -red leatherette binder and all, – in a cardboard box on the floor. Needless to say, this proud proof of my hard-earned Bachelor of Arts degree is now as soggy and sorry-looking as an old sponge.
The other casualty was my Chatty Cathy doll, brought to me by Santa Claus, circa 1963. She was also on the floor of my storage closet – in her original box, now destroyed. Here is my little orphan of the storm in her first, post-flood photo op:
Actually, she’s not looking too bad for a 44-year-old toy that’s been soaking in a foot of water for four days. Don’t ask me what happened to her original blue-and-white, lace trimmed dress. I’m pretty sure this fetching housecoat was made especially for her by one or the other of my grandmothers. Gone is her chirpy, little-girl “chatty” voice – pull Cathy’s string now and she emits a deep, rumbling, gravel-ly sound – kind of like Darth Vader on Quaaludes.
Meanwhile, with the electricity back, I’ve been able to dive back into my Netflix queue, still looking to catch up with the foreign films I somehow never managed to see in college. Last night’s viewing selection was Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona.”
You can Google “Persona” – and you’ll find lots and lots of highly intelligent people rhapsodizing about this film and how much it meant to them and how profound and groundbreaking it is – and so on, so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. I can only respond to them by saying” I guess you had to be there.”
Be there in 1966, that is, when “Persona” was released and broke all that new cinematic ground. Or, at least, “be there” before Woody Allen released multiples parodies of/homages to this film. By 2007, however, I’ve feel like I’ve already seen everything “Persona” has to offer in the way of filmmaking innovation – but I’ve either laughed out loud at it (in Allen’s “Love and Death”) or been bored to tears by its pretentiousness (“Interiors,” “Another Woman”). I simply can’t take the original film on its own terms.
For example, this shot –

doesn’t thrill me with its visual rendering of a disturbed woman’s personality disintegration. Rather, it conjures up for me the closing sequence of “Love and Death” with Diane Keaton and Jessica Harper photographed almost exactly the same positions, but spouting hilariously meaningless dialogue about “wheat.” I tried like hell to find a still of that scene to post here; I couldn’t find one, but you can see the entire scene on youtube.

The only bad thing about spoofs, is that they sometimes ruin my enjoyment of the original film/show/book/song/whathaveyou that they are spoofing. I will never again be able to enjoy the number “America” in “West Side Story,” because of the wicked “Forbidden Broadway” parody in which a disgruntled Chita Rivera sings “Chita Rivera is not Rita/Rita Moreno is not Chita/Chita is Chita and not Rita/I wouldn’t mind if they SHOT Rita!” That’s the lyric that sticks in my mind now whenever I see a production of “West Side Story.” It’s no longer about Puerto Rican immigrants at a dance – it’s about Chita Rivera’s career woes.

Ironic, then, that Woody Allen – one of Ingmar Bergman’s biggest fans (he even uses Bergman’s cinematographer, Sven Nykist, on many of his own films) – has pretty much ruined Bergman’s masterpiece for me.


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