Friday, November 18, 2005:

History of Violence

O.V. Wright -- Without You
O.V. Wright -- Motherless Child
O.V. Wright here with some Memphis Soul. He performed in the 1960s and 1970s, starting out in gospel and moving towards the secular, like any number of other soul singers; what's great about Wright is his voice: it's consistently great in his early work, and not quite as powerful but still mighty good in his later work (later, for Wright, being his late 30s and early 40s--he got into drugs and died at 41).

"Without You" is a somber tune about a man who can't make it through the night without his woman; the production has strings, a slow drumbeat, high lovely backing vocals. The song seems less calculated than straightforward and vulnerable; it has the added benefit of proving that Wright was in the same league as Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.

"Motherless Child" is a mournful song, this one about feeling lonely and isolated away from home, the man wondering why he left everyone that loves him.

Wright did have some more chipper tunes but I'm feeling these more right now for some reason.
[The Soul of O.V. Wright @]
[The Complete O.V. Wright on Hi Records, Vol. 1: In the Studio @]

Busy days. Wednesday noon found me at my computer desk, trying to decide between work on half a dozen school assignments, three different personal projects, and a couple of different overdue errands. It was a tough decision, calling for decisive action, so I went to the movies.

Despite the profane reaction the ending got from some of the audience, I think A History of Violence is brilliant. I love the way it started off wry and predictable, perhaps to lull us into a false sense of security, and then went off the rails to great effect.

Girish is right in calling the violence "documentary"; that's exactly the way it should be, I think. It's not the violence that disturbs so much as the results, the effects like a heavy bell being tolled, settling deep into your bones, the ring that seems to linger, leaving you uncertain if you can still hear it long after it should have stopped. It's something that filmmakers gloss over sometimes, which can serve its purpose (most often a tidy solution to a sloppy absurd plot), but I think it tends more towards the flashy than the substantial. I've known victims of violence--people who've had abusive husbands, fathers, mothers--the effects ripple out over decades, sometimes spanning generations. It's a short-term solution causing long-term problems.

About the film, though: usually I can gauge with annoying accuracy how far I am into a film, in addition to having my mind scampering about, questioning the framing, the lighting, the costumes, the continuity errors on the cup in the background.... Not so with this one--once the Stalls were introduced I was engrossed. The film was poppy and immediately accessible, but also thoughtful; I cared about the characters and wanted things to work out for them; I felt a real anxiety when the chips were low and the odds were high. And then it ended, just when I was thinking the film had turned the corner to start into the home stretch.

Maybe the rest of the film that I'd imagined, that Cronenberg thought better than to include, would have been too Bergmanesque to fit in. At any rate, it's not much of a complaint that it left me wanting more; it's much better than leaving me wanting less. I suppose the ending makes the film a cousin to Mean Streets. Maybe a second viewing would show that it also divides more neatly into four sections than three.

Which is not to say I have no complaints about the film; there's one that nags at me, that seems a curious omission, or a plot hole, or a dark implication about the family, but it's the kind of nagging concern that can't really be discussed without spoiling the film. In spite of that, I think the film pulled off a rare coup in being both entertaining and thought-provoking; and of the Cronenberg films I've seen it's by far my favorite.

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Glad you liked the film, Tuwa. Yes, it offers a lot to think about, which is fun.
And how's that finger of yours doing?

Girish, it was an awesome recommendation. Feel free to make more. :-)

The finger is doing amazingly well. I'd put up praises for Neosporin but I'd sound like a corporate shill. (I'd thought of making a Civ IV joke with it--that it could be a scientific discovery and when, say, Russia sent a diplomat to demand the secret of Neosporin, if you wanted to insult them you could give them Rubbing Alcohol instead).

Funny that I forgot to change the post title after I'd added in the bit about O.V. Wright ... sometimes I think I should start a separate blog about some of the movies I write (but do I need yet another?)

dang, mr mortensen was mesmerizing in a history of violence..

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