When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

December 02, 2004

Gun-Shy In the Cut


I'm pretty much down on Hollywierd these days, although I think the new generation coming up is going to be considerably different from their predecessors. And I'd heard that the movie with Meg Ryan and Kevin Bacon called In the Cut was a little strange. If I weren't profoundly and clinically attracted to Meg Ryan I'd have switched the channel early on, but instead I just got drawn in by the unconventional image of her. (My mother doesn't understand why I like Meg. Mothers just don't understand these things, by definition.)

I was also pretty leery of director, Jane Campion, who for no better reason than assonance I identified with Joan Didion, who wrote me a very snarky letter back in 1981 and whose political ideas aren't inconsistent with those of Noam Chomsky. And the movie also impressed me as having what Gene Siskel (with whom I went to high school) would have called an "idiot plot." An idiot plot is a sequence of events whereby if any of the characters weren't idiots, the plot would never have evolved in the first place. Why did Meg's character never tell the police investigator that the reason she thought she recognized him in the bar that night was his ace-of-hearts tattoo? Why was the scene in the police station, where she was asked to look at photos, so unprofessional? What was she doing there? If she noticed the tattoo on the detective's wrist, why didn't she ever notice the same tattoo on the wrist of his partner? How did she get back to the apartment, a distance of at least 30 miles, on foot, with blood and trauma, without having been stopped by any authorities or even a good Samaritan alarmed by her bloody appearance on the highway? None of these elements of the plot make much sense, in the real world. Had either she, or the detective, or anyone else, ever used common sense the movie would have ended abruptly, which is Siskel's definition of an "idiot plot."

But they didn't use common sense, and the reason they didn't is, I think, essential to the message of the movie. They were "swept up" in passion, and were never really using common sense about anything. They were both dumb as posts to the everyday world, but fearless in the sense that they both knew they were virtually helpless and "ploddy ploddy forward" anyway. Every turn of events was uncomfortable, and ominous, if not simply terrifying. She and the detective drive upstate (or perhaps downstate to the "barrens") for no particular reason, and he steers off into a secluded wilderness perfect for a serial murder or (as she puts it) "burying bodies." But it's also pastoral, and comforting. She asks what might be in some garbage bags floating near the shore, and he fires away at them with his .357. She's terrified at the sound, and says she's "afraid of guns," which prompts him to suggest that she learn to shoot. He hands her the gun, but gives her no "paternal direction" about what to do with it. She fires a round one-handed, at the water, and then fires several two-handed rounds hitting the garbage bags. It's just a tool. Nothing more, and nothing less. No mystique.

(At this point I'm wondering what liberal pinko message Jane Campion is trying to send. Guns make innocuous situations threatening, perhaps? Where will she take this?)
But the tension dissipates, the characters head back to the travails of city life without even consummating their lust... and romantic tension builds, for reasons that aren't at all clear.)

I'm not going to reveal the end... because I think the movie is worth watching, but suffice to say that the message of the film is, indeed, fearlessness in the face of fear and confusion. It isn't logic, or coherence, or romance, or justice, or anything that will make you feel particularly comfortable. But it's genuine.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at December 2, 2004 08:29 PM

Retaliatiory Launches

I would have watched it just for Meg also. Hell I watched Sleepless in Seattle because of here. what a painfull movie..but she is a Hottie

Posted by: Michael at December 4, 2004 06:25 AM

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