Independent movie directors frequently churn out interesting movies. And by that most people mean different (or did I just mess that up?). But if someone were to ask me what I thought of certain movies by certain independent directors, I would think intimate. Often, the movies reveal too much about the directors themselves (well hello Wes Anderson, we know you love the kinks). And then there are other times, when the movies reveal too much about you. This facet especially, can seldom be captured by the expensive, glittering, larger-than-life, populist films. How can such movies afford to show you glimpses from your own life, when you pay good money to forget exactly that for a while?
This feeling of intimacy was reinforced when I plowed through Jim Jarmusch’s impressive repertoire. Indeed, he is the man who is sometimes, somewhere credited as the father of the American Independent Film Movement (so really, who better than the man himself for a commentary on indie films). As I watched Stranger than
Broken Flowers, in contrast, actually had a linear narrative that was headed towards the finish line, or so it tricked me into believing again. The ingredients were ready and waiting. There was a plot, a protagonist, a receding character with a receding hairline who injected ironic humour in short bursts at irregular intervals, fast cars (ok, not really) and hot women (will you look at Tilda Swinton?), and oh yes, a mystery waiting to be solved. There had to be a conclusive ending, I calmed my fluttering heart. There just had to be. This time round, there were multiple, discrete stories within a story, and multiple, coupled scenes within those stories. But the whodunit question was never answered. Indeed, the movie even recognized my growing trepidation, and threw random faces at me. Maybe him? It seemed to taunt me. I sighed and settled back. There was a vague thread of reconciliation reaching out to me. The movie was trying to tell me something, something else altogether. But I think I had stopped paying heed to the signs, a long, long time ago. You hear what you want to hear, you see what you want to see, and when you realize that it has all been one horrible mistake, you stop for a second, take stock, reorganize, and continue trying to fit the mismatched jigsaw pieces.
And then there are, of course, just stories. Simple, solitary, specific stories. Characters weaving in and out of the larger narrative, often never even bumping into each other, when they really, truly should. A Night on Earth is probably my favourite Jarmusch movie. Filled with stories of such significance that they can become your life’s marginalia or paraphernalia, depending on who is watching. It satisfied that gnawing urge to see something through to its logical conclusion, at least once every thirty minutes. Equating a provisional finale with meaning, magnitude or fulfillment helps me get by, I realized with a start. But how did Jim know that?
In reading about V.S. Naipaul’s lifelong whims and fancies last night, I continued to be surprised by how pedestrian yet theatrical the lives of revered (well, maybe Sir Vidia cannot be considered revered completely) celebrities can be. In effacing the shadowy yet strident barrier that separates who we do not know from the what we do know, in trying to wrap our minds around the affected distance and the delicious access to the rich and famous, we are at once craning our necks to catch a glimpse of them from behind reinforced brick and stone, and absorbing gory details of their lives as if over sweet tea and buttered toast in their living rooms. What is it about celebrity-hood that suddenly makes them less human? That the banal reoccurrences of love, sex, and rock-n-roll is suddenly propelled into a glaring light that may be all too unbecoming.
More often than not, the stories deserve the attention they get. In the intoxicating trappings that accompany the lurid lives of the rich and famous, we find escape from our routine and conventional stories. Often, such intimate details may reveal a side of the celebrity that we had been kept in the dark about. If unruffled, collected, stoic Jinnah could only betray any emotion at Ruttie’s funeral, his broken, ailing, dead wife (I have suffered much sweetheart because I have loved much. The measure of my agony has been in accord to the measure of my love.), then we are suddenly privy to real and raw emotion. Real only because it bared itself only in trying circumstances, and raw because the world was waiting to pounce with bated breath. Sometimes though, we are surprised to find a natural thought process in the events of a celebrity’s life journey. Sir Vidia loved Margaret because she satisfied him sexually in a way that Pat could not, and he loved Pat because he could never churn out what he did without her unfaltering and forbearing support. He could love either, and leave neither. It made him a crummy human being, sure (I was liberated. She was destroyed. It was inevitable.), but there was awareness here, a sense of what was going on that was far removed from the haze of drugs, alcohol and hysteria. It suddenly reduced Naipaul to a fragile, imperfect human being. And really, is there any other kind? Celebrity or not?
I think what continues to surprise me is that tomorrow, suddenly you and I could become rich and famous. Because the urges are the same, the will (or lack of it) to fight our demons eternal. Really, we are just as normal as them celebrities. Somewhere, sometime some real talent, fine work, and good luck needs to surface to make our personas well-known, our memoirs interesting, but I could just as easily shed a tear for you, my darling, and continue to love you imperfectly as is my curse to do.
And then I thought back on certain nights, where alcohol and laughter overflowed, or certain days when some good-natured ribbing broke ice and raised eyebrows. There was a time, I realized where I was the person who held a special affinity for boys with fully-functioning four-wheel vehicles, and declared pink as my favourite colour. It was interesting because these judgments were pronounced based on my actions, rather than intent, which can be as inconsequential (or otherwise) as you want it to be. It is that fine line between manslaughter and murder, between running over that guy dressed in black from head to toe on a cold, impenetrable night, and slaying your husband’s alleged paramour because she does kiss so much better than you, darling. Or maybe I am getting too serious.
In any case, when I was positioned as the car-boys and pink loving girl, my intent had been pre-determined on populist (but there exists a “fine line” between that and popular as well, but we will leave that for another day) demand. And while I protested feebly, at some point, I could no longer remember (or care) if I just happened to have guy friends who had a car lurking in the back somewhere (because I had met them while requiring assistance in finding my way back through the warrens of our precious little hamlet) and if I just happened to possess many pink items (because on my limited budget, the pink items always seemed to be the most reasonably priced), or if maybe I did actively seek out these traits in my men and my merchandise (but would you believe that?). It turns out, that sometimes, action and intent can get so entangled that they begin to resemble an isolated, solipsistic state of being. Indeed, I am what my intentions are, and what my actions will dictate. But most of the time, I am just what my actions-intent (or intent-actions) are conveying to the world outside.
And while quite often, and surprisingly, I find that my intent is indeed being (rather inadvertently) shaped by my actions, I want to take a step back and distance myself from the more invidious of conclusions, because it really, really isn’t true (this isn’t a trick) and because for all practical purposes intent should dictate my actions (this isn’t the court of law). And yes, quite often, my actions will make me deliberate on my intentions in the first place, and possibly even jump forward to make rightful space for my intent to wedge itself in before my action (oh alright future-husband, what does your daddy make?). But frequently, this can be rather bewildering, because really, I quite hate pink.
* and of course, to emulate the tactics of a liar because that’s what they would do to throw you off, but are we clear that I wasn’t trying to be dishonest myself?