Sunday, July 5, 2009

Two Movies and Vellum

This is sort of an outtake version of Caprica. There are neural interface headbands; a dead person surviving in virtual form because of real time feedback; adults grimly committed to acting adolescent. About the only thing absent is Muslim terrorists by another name. That alone makes it more appetizing than Caprica, of course. But that is also why it is Caprica that has gone to series.

For some reason, the authors (Ron D. Moore and Michael Taylor, primarily Moore, guessing by the conjoined twin relationship to Caprica,) thought it would be really fascinating to have a series in which we did not know if the setting was real, any of the characters are real, the jeopardy is real and the point unknown. These people seem to have some ideological idee manque that ambiguity is in and of itself deeper and truer. This has taken it to the point of unconscious self parody. Not even Rupert Murdoch could swallow this tripe, and those people could even renew Dollhouse!

Synecdoche, New York
Charles Kaufman has written in the science fictional mode (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,) the fantasy mode (Being John Malkovich,) the metafictional mode (Adaptation,) and now, in what I think of as the Modernist mode. Malkovich's theme was ambition and its costs. Eternal Sunshine's theme was love's disillusions and their costs. Adaptation theme was the irrational nature of desire itself. Synecdche takes up the failure of art to comprehend life. In retrospect it's all as downbeat as country music. I must disagree with the validity of the final judgment. But Kaufman dramatizes his position with a rather Faustian character, Caden Cotard. Like Faust, he is redeemed, despite his failure, because he knows he hasn't succeeded. There is a good deal of straightforward human emotion. Highly recommended.

Hal Duncan is a brilliant young man with many attractive personal qualities. His novel Vellum is highly ambitious. It is so ambitious in fact that he manages to blend fantasy, myth, metafictional and modernist modes simultaneously. He throws in brilliant parodies as well. It was a curious coincidence that I saw Synecdoche, New York at the time I was reading Vellum. If Duncan had gone another route, Vellum could have been named Celluloid. The world of Vellum is no more intended to be real than the titanic sets of Synecdoche. But unlike the Kaufman movie, the characters of Vellum are not everymen of any sort, but simultaneously mythic figures and fantasy figures. The relationships are simultaneously everyday human relationships and the mysterious passions of myths. The gods and demons capering about in Vellum have nothing to say to me, as I would be justly beneath their notice. I would be the nameless character tormented offscreen by demons, or trampled underfoot by the rampaging armies of angels, or ever so briefly appear as They passed in the street. They of course are the one whose intensity of passion is incandescent. They see all the colors more brightly, hear the sounds more clearly, and probably have much longer orgasms. Their woes darken the very skies. They are beyond the need for reason. It would be presumption to intrude upon their charmed circle. Enter at your peril.

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