Kaufman, Duffy, Bukowski, Milton (Giles)
Item: Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut with "Synecdoche, NY" was quite a piece of work. Mesmerizing, an oxymoron of a time-collage that might be called a claustrophobic delusion of grandeur. We cannot escape our lives, and in fact our lives contain whatever art there may be in toto, so that as we attempt to create art, to externalize our experience, we instead burrow deeper and deeper in spirals of self-reference-- until we no longer can tell ourselves from our own creations, versions, reflections, memories. In the meantime we grow old at a dizzying pace. We fear death, but our fear is extended pathetically across decades. We love, and try to make something important. It's a masterpiece, but to leave it at that and run away is a criminal act of laziness. This is a film to own and see many times again. It is a film to be slowly devoured by.
Item: Troy Duffy's saga with "Boondock Saints." Saints II has just finished production last fall. In this item Duffy is the "piece of work." I think he has some film chops, but cannot be any fun to work with. I watched "Overnight," the documentary of the extended debacle that resulted in the aforementioned cult classic. This man is lucky to have made the movie, and lucky the Hollywood mafia (if there is such a thing) allowed him to live, given his absolute "take no hostages" approach. Apparently he has survived and got the job done. I am sure he would insist no luck was involved, just a lot of profanity. He might have taken some plays from Tarantino's playbook though, and things might have gone smoother. But hey, what is so sweet as kicking butt? Perhaps he is mellowing, but is he a boondock lifer?
Item: Viewed "Factotum," another movie referencing acclaimed drunkard Charles Bukowski, and the novel of the same name. Apparently there was an antidote to Rod McKuen all along that I never noticed, but reading Bukowski is a little bit like drinking tobasco sauce without actually needing it. Looking at some of his poetry, I can see that it might be effectively translated to French or German and read better than it does in English. Some of it I like. Some of it seems like, well, the DT's of an aging alki. I am still drawn to it the way I am to Henry Miller's stuff, but not as strongly. I would go on a two-week drunk with Miller, but I would just buy Bukowski a beer. Bukowski is the only guy I know that makes Mickey Spillane seem a little feminine.
Item: If not for the writing of John Mandeville, Columbus might never have "discovered" America. Mandeville is credited by Milton for stoking the greedy fires in Europe with his descriptions of Eastern wealth. By placing the idea in the minds of the burgeoning reading public that the world was round, his writing is said to have produced the "tipping point" that pushed Europe into its grand age of exploration and exploitation.
Milton shows more guts in his travels to the war-torn mid-east than I would be able to muster. His visits to Cyprus, Syria, Jerusulem, and the Sinai Desert are filled with mysteries only partially revealed, thoroughly muddled by the palimpsestic political tamperings of several thousand years.
It makes one sad to see how little is left unaltered of the ancient world. However, his descriptions of his visit to the remnants of the Nestorian church and to the Holy Sepulchre in Jeruselem, of his visits to the nunnery in Saidenaya and the monastery of St. Catherine's in the Sinai Desert are found to be captivating reading.
His final take on Mandeville leads me to see that the second half of the Travels book is a clever attack on Christianity, where the strange atrocities and beliefs protrayed may be, in some cases, invented to reveal the actual practices of the church in a horrific light. Milton states that Mandeville shows that all cultures are devout and worthy, but I think he is being very diplomatic. The book: The Riddle and the Knight.