Monday, March 22, 2010

Deep Thoughts #27

Only vis à vis the idiotic ramblings of John Boehner can someone like Bart Stupak be seen as the voice of reason. I is proud to be American.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Police, Adjective

Ever since I watched 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, sometime last summer, I’ve managed to convince myself that the whole of the Romanian film ouevre is of interest. Of course, you can’t really make that kind of statement having only seen one example of the craft…but that’s how much 4 Months worked for me - both while I was watching it, and later, when I had the chance to think about it and go back over some of the images in my head. So…when I read about Police, Adjective in Film Comment, I was intrigued. Film Comment devotes a lot of space to the Cannes Film Festival every year (or at least they did this year), and most of the people who write for the magazine seemed to be quite taken with the film, as were audiences at Cannes.

It’s the story of a police officer who spends most of the film in “pursuit” of a kid who smokes hashish with a couple of his friends every day after school. The officer’s boss wants to put the kid away for seven years, but the officer, Cristi, wants to go after the person supplying the kid with the hash. Cristi is convinced that the laws against possession and use will be repealed relatively soon, and he is having a crisis of conscience that he might be locking someone up for something that will very soon no longer be illegal. His hope that an onerous law will be soon be overturned is symbolic of the hope of the Romanian people after the demise of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and the fall of communism.

The reality is another story, one told by the long periods the audience spends watching very little happen on screen, as Cristi tails his quarry and observes the actions of the smokers. We don’t see a whole lot else going on while this is taking place, and there also isn’t much that takes place in his office when he compiles his reports, or at home when he eats his meals, or in other offices in the police building where he waits for people to help him check various bits of information or to gather documents necessary to the case that he is building.

It could be said that the film is slow; but if that is all that’s said about the pacing, then the person you’re talking to is missing the point. The sometimes glacial pace of the film reflects the glacial pace of Romanian police trying to build a case that smacks of the kind of communist interference in people’s lives that now exists in only five countries on earth - none of which are in Europe. It also works to show how little Romania has progressed since the fall of communism. The police officer’s apartment is tiny and cramped, there is little traffic on the street, and practically no one smiles. The police have office equipment so (relatively) antiquated the computer monitors are the CRT variety, and all of the phones in the police building (headquarters seems like an awfully glorified word for what this building is) have cords. But at home, Cristi’s wife has a computer with a flatscreen monitor, a relatively elaborate speaker system attached, and a broadband connection (she can be seen streaming a music video in one scene) to the magic Internets.

When Cristi presents his case to his boss, he is called into the boss’s office and cruelly - but slowly - demeaned by his boss for taking so long to report and for taking a stand against arresting the young smoker, despite the fact that the young smoker is clearly breaking the law. The boss demands that Cristi uphold law and order, his sworn duty as a police officer. The totalitarian tone - again - reflects the bygone era of communist dictators; and for some, clearly, the era is gone but not forgotten.

In lingering to the point of absurdity with most of the shots and scenes in the film (and returning to the same places again and again), director Corneliu Porumboiu employs a hand so didactic that he’s practically daring you to sit there and be preached to for nearly two hours. His style may be somewhat heavy-handed, but his tableaux of modern Romania are undeniably artistic in their construction and in the compositions of his shots; and he is to be applauded for painting as monstrous those kinds of people in the world who see things only in black and white. In many ways, this is quite a daring film; but Porumboiu pulls it off. (It’s also billed as a dark comedy. I’ll agree with dark. I’m not so sure about comedy; but then, I’m not Romanian. It was funny in places, but most of the comedy seems to have been lost in translation - a common, though no less unfortunate, pitfall for writers of sub-titles.)

Just as happened with 4 Months, this film has grown in my estimation in the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about it and writing about it. This will be one week only. Go see it while you have the chance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Published (Very) Short Story Forthcoming

I checked my e-mail at work tonight and found that I had a message from the editors of Ichabod’s Sketchbook, saying that they wanted to accept a piece I had submitted for publication in their next issue. After that, I spent most of the rest of my shift grinning like an idiot. After I heard about Ichabod’s Sketchbook, I started sort of hoping that maybe my first ever published work would appear in an Irvington literary journal. I thought that would be very cool; and wonder of wonders, it looks like it’s going to happen. (And I’m supposed to read it at the launch party. This fills me with trepidation.) Also, it turns out that, hours later, I’m still grinning like an idiot.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Deep Thoughts #26

I had to re-read Hoppe’s column in this week’s NUVO. It’s so rare that you read anything about the 10th Amendment that actually makes sense.