Broken Promises

Here I’m placing stories for which I had high hopes but was met with disappointment.   The nature of this disappointment is entirely different from the usual because of the expectation.
Just by way of suggestion and certainly open to argument and advocacy.

A late addition, and with some reservations:

  • Mildred Pierce, 2011. Directed by Todd Haynes.  Now I’m putting this tale on this branch because it’s more of a promise broken to myself, to tell the truth.  I had a misconception about the story from my early, heady days with femlit/cinema crit. involving vague memories of watching the Joan Crawford film of the same name.  I should have known Mr. Haynes would be loyal to the gist of the piece of literature that sired it- a James M. Cain novel after all – a manwriter firmly entrenched in his noir twisted view of the human animal, men and women. But it’s the women who are, at end, the seductive, indecipherable miasmata (and from which the men seem outright unable to disentangle.) 

I did spend a good deal of time with this HBO miniseries. Well told, if some dark and mean. I decided to include it in our Family Tree in part out of respect for its star Kate Winslet who, along with Kristin Scott Thomas, has become a mainstay of the films in this Salon and its Parlors. Risk taking gals, they are.  But I found this story, of Mildred and her thankless, vicious daughter to be more about aspirations of class as channeled through a mother and her daughter than about any exploration of gender in the way I interpret it. The salvageable take away idea was for me that we grow one another, between us, in our intimate relationships.  Such as how a mother grows a daughter, organic and mutable and not at all entirely conscious.  Maybe a broken promise, too, because I was searching for otherwise narratives about mothers and daughters and found in this episodic an old theme of that primal mother daughter relation — the reptilian one.

For any of you who might have taken note of my expressed intention to tackle the mother daughter issue, I’ve decided not to plunge in.  Not now, at least.  Too big.  Mothers and daughters will have to be the focus of a future project, all its own.  My thinking goes like this: that maybe this subject, of the mother daughter relation, breaths fire still, being right now under such intense spin & change as to be molten.  This relation literally shifts in its texture and composition with each half generation.  It simply requires more than I feel I can give it here, in this weblog environment.  That’s what happens when we all break out of the void together.  Whoosh!  How busy we’ve been inventing, molding ourselves from dust!  From nothing but the shining reflections off & of  men.  But I wander…

Recent additions:

  • Black Swan.   Directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Mark Heyman and Anres Heinz.  2010.  Votes for this film, on this branch, anyone?  I found myself quite ambivalent, standing on the rainy street after.  A tour de force acting job by Natalie Portman, no question.  And perhaps we could look at this story of a young woman so driven to please and perfection that she loses her life, literally, as something other than a broken promise.

We’ve certainly seen that before.  I understand there’s an admirable bit of artistic finesse in the storyline’s mimic of the ballet of the same name.  And I understand that driven-ness, a known truth at the ruthlessly competitive top rungs of our cultural endeavor; an endgame so founded in hacking out your territory in the slippery, sliding pecking order that what’s real gets all mixed up.

Because of this I had thoughts that maybe this story belongs on the EndoftheMaleNarrative branch of our family tree as it shows so vividly the damage done disguised as beauty and done in the name of art.  And who can say?  Maybe it is worth it.  Being the sacrifice.  There’s been a great deal of it…

But I left this movie, besides being impressed by Natalie’s acting, feeling dazed, and I’d have to say, at end, voided.  Like I’d watched some masterfully orchestrated bit of violence that shifted nothing within me except for perhaps nudging me further toward the cynical, residue feelings of disgust in myself for ever being seduced by ballet, and for all those nasty people using their choice of living the life of dance to justify cruelty.  But unfortunately from our perspective as seekers of the Narrative Otherways this tragedy did not give us the trade of enlightenment we expect for the suffering endured by its young dancer, our woman in the game.

But enough of my mumblings.  Catch this diagnostic of Black Swan by Jean Lenihan, a gal on her toes who cuts through all the mesmerizing disguise. Find her thoughts via a recent addition to our Periodic Links Page.

Initial listing:

  • The Women 2008. Dir/writ.  Diane English. Viewed especially in comparision to the Clare Boothe Luce play & Anita Loos screenplay of George Cukor’s 1939  version.
  • The Hurt Locker   2008.  Kathryn Bigelow director.  Mark Boal writer.   I know, I know, the film won all those awards and Ms. Bigelow, bless her heart, is our first but… See our full blown Discourse Parlor on The Hurt Locker here.
  • Friends with Money 2006.  dir/writ.  Nicole Holofceners.
    • Chris Gramm
    • May 17th, 2011

    In Black Swan, shots of Portman’s dancing are almost all from the waist up; she’s obviously not doing much of the footwork; and this would be fine (since she’s playing a part), except that it is emblematic of the fakery throughout the film. Pitched as a tragic tale of sacrifice for art, it’s actually a thinly veiled revenge fantasy of a guy rejected by a pretty girl (if a girl rejects you, she must be frigid, so he urges her. . .. “Nina, you must let go, lose yourself”).
    This is a film about men. All the many producers, writers, director, etc. are men. Not that works by men can’t capture a woman’s p.o.v., this just isn’t one of them. I used to not get the criticism of films about women that lack a female point of view. Now I get the bizarreness of a film about a tortured woman that doesn’t contain a real woman’s p.o.v. The movie I saw just before Black Swan was White Material, so I had a clear sense of what it means for a film to include a woman’s p.o.v. Also, comparison with Huppert highlights the limits of Portman’s range. For the first half of the film she has a mild wincing grimace to convey general anxiety—because her subtle and specific feelings (pov) are not the point of this movie. We are meant to be voyeurs.
    Given her lack of range, I guess Portman won the Oscar because of the masturbation and lesbian fantasy scenes (like Halle Berry won for her “edgy” sex scenes) because this is seen as courageous art—it’s a perverted view of courage–the courage to be a masochist.
    The relationship between Nina and her mother is a replay of Carrie–and therefore completely predictable (and just invites unfavorable comparisons with De Palma and Sissy Spacek).
    Franco’s blasé hosting was not the reason the Oscars were a bust this year, but it was the nail in the coffin. Portman’s performance: best actress? Maybe so, but that says a lot about the state of American movies.

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