Thursday, January 20, 2005


Belated Remarks On Films That Would Screw Time Were It To Forget

I will simply point to those who've been in this business for a long time and who have diligently put together some kind of list or round-up of the year's movies. One of things that keeps on coming up is Eternal Sunshine, so I will say a few words about it (I do not pay attention to giving things away, so those of you who haven't seen it might want to opt out.)

I suppose one would have to give credit to Gondry and Kaufman for trying to inject some soul into pomo. The memories and confrontations that escape the wrath of the clever plot are diamonds in the rough. The scenes up to the opening credits, and the scene with Winslet indifferently eating Chinese food and watching TV as Carrey paces about muttering, “There is a guy in your apartment, and he’s stealing your panties”—stand out. But I couldn't let go of a lot of things. When Kaufman gives himself creative space, seeking shelter for Carrey in humiliating memories, what does he come up with? Getting caught masturbating and being bullied as a small kid which--in this day and age--have to be the most generic humiliating moments someone could come up with. Staring up at the stage light bearing down on him, Carrey still has that ghastly Truman Show residue clinging onto him: "I want to cancel, can you hear me!"

Unfortunately, yes. The subplot with the doctor and the secretary seemed to be a rather redundant distraction. The tape-listening session is what carries the movie, and Kaufman can get to it only through this inane plot twist. It could have gone on in Carrey’s head—he knows what’s on her tape, knows every one of his own faults and annoying habits anyway (isn’t the dark truth about your grown self a better place to hide than some predictable Freudian angle that’s bound to get zapped?). And the considerate Clementine who is a passenger in his memories is not any different than the Clementine who he meets anew, which rather simplifies things. And as for the plot logic and mechanics, what’s the point of all that Montauk shit when the secretary fell in love again sans self-referential romantic rendezvous? Or did the doctor whisper “meet me in the office” right before he got snuffed (No--he forgot to give himself one of those “Do not mention ex-lover” cards)? Looks like something out of a three-day scriptwriting class….And when Elijah Wood woos Winslet with Carrey’s memories, Winslet submits too easily into the “Error Error does not compute” mode and snowballs smoothly into Carrey’s arms again. La-di-daaah.

It is still a pretty good film though, although no better (and maybe worse) than I Heart Huckabees (disclaimer: I saw Eternal twice, and Huckabees once). And though one could claim that stereotypes abound in the latter, with the likes of Jude Law as Mr. Apprentice (which we get now thanks to CNN Turk) and the religious right family, their arguments fair remarkably well (“You have to own the land to save it”, “Africa doesn’t need open spaces, it needs development” etc etc) against those spouted out by our distraught protags. I suppose some may have mistaken the religious family’s ire towards them and subsequent “God bless you” when Wahlberg mentions that he’s a fireman as hypocrisy, whereas they’re simply exercising a reasonable thought: that people who do good things can say stupid shit, and it’s good to keep those two things separate. I do think the film succeeds in portraying the human inclination to try to follow an obsessive thought to its logical conclusion. Although I also think that Niaomi Watts and Schwartzman's bickering parents were kind of useless. Overall, it would be hard to deny using the description for the film that Allan Bloom used for Woody Allen’s Zelig (and what he perceived as America's current state of mind)—that it is merely nihilism with a happy ending.


Milliyet newspaper thought it was a good idea to let everyone know that the BBC was hosting a Word Cinema Award, and that people should go to the website and vote for Uzak (Distant). No doubt now that people who haven’t seen the movie and who would have walked out in the first half hour of the film if they had are going to rush to the website. Apparently Milliyet forgot the last time a newspaper advertised an award and urged people to vote. It was Time’s Men of the Century. And to give an idea of the scope of the disaster for those who don’t know, Ataturk was beating out Einstein for Scientist of the Century (or so it was said), and Time Magazine had to scrap the whole approach. Looking at the shortlist, however, we actually have a contender in the right place.

In general there seems to be a lot of cheerleaders-turned-journalists or journalists-turned-cheerleaders, I can't decide which, running about (see Birand below).


The cold blooded murder of a Turkish Cypriot couple and their 15 year-old daughter in southern Cyprus made the entire island nervous. From the Cyprus Mail editorial:

Under the circumstances, it was rather foolish for television stations and newspapers to announce whom they suspected had committed the murder in the absence of any evidence to support their claim. Greek Cypriot stations reported on Saturday night that the murder had been committed by members of the Turkish secret service (MIT), without a shred of evidence to back this up. In the north, the ‘interior minister’ was more cautious, but still alleged that mafia elements were probably responsible for the triple slaying.

Was it really necessary for journalists and politicians to engage in a public guessing game as to who had killed Elmas, his wife and daughter? In such instances, the media and the politicians have a responsibility to exercise restraint, because there is a danger of allegations being exploited by extremists on the two sides to create tension and hostility between the two communities, at a time when confidence and trust are growing.

In the south, the more hard-line newspapers insisted that MIT were behind the murders and tried to cause alarm by alleging that armed Turkish agents were coming and going freely from the north. These allegations were endorsed by the government spokesman in an attempt to score political points. In the north, the hard-line nationalist papers were convinced that Greek Cypriots were behind the murders. One alleged that Greek Cypriots, who had ran up big debts gambling in Ali’s casino were responsible; another claimed that Greek Cypriots, who did not want him to market his bottled water in the south, had ordered the killings.

The big danger is that a couple of hot-heads on either side of the line could take this nonsense seriously and undertake a revenge killing which could take relations between the two communities 20 years back.To be fair, the majority of the media and the politicians in the north did not exploit the killings politically, while the ‘interior minister’s’ speculation about a mafia crime was helpful in that it quashed any Turkish Cypriots suspicions that Greek Cypriots were behind the crime. But there will always be extremists who will use such crimes to cause tension and hostility. This is why it is important for the media and the politicians to act responsibly when something like this happens.

James Bowman on Nazi madness.


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