Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

In love. Working on a book.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Movies I liked once but never want to see again

When I was 14 I loved the Carlos Castaneda books. These days I might be walking down the road, confident and happy and about to catch a train, but if the thought suddenly struck me, "remember planning to live like Don Juan?", I might actually groan out loud from sheer shame. Probably in 10 years time I'll suddenly remember the "groaning out loud about my adolescence" phase, and start to get embarrassed about that. Something to look forward to.

Anyway, Castaneda's stuff was complete crap, of course, with no - you know - truth value (note the lack of sneer quotes around the word truth), and sod all aesthetic value. Some of the mescalin experiences in the first book were well described. So Castaneda was a complete waste of time.

But I also read Herman Hesse about that time, and I'm glad I did. Some of his ideas are valuable, up to a limited point, and the books obviously have literary merit, also without irony quotes. It's just that it's literary merit of a kind that doesn't appeal to me much, now. 14-20 was the time to get the most value out of Hesse. For example the idea that there are a few clever elite people (like me, says Hesse, and you, because you're reading me) while the rest of humanity are just sheep, appeals to adolescents. That's okay. In adulthood things get more complicated than that, and the likes of Hesse don't really do "complicated".

So I'm glad I read "Steppenwolf", "The Glass Bead Game", "Demian" and the rest (I read pretty much all of the novels, plus the poems) but I find him unreadable now. And reflecting on some of the aspects of myself that Hesse appealed to can be uncomfortable.

But I'm thinking of movies that once appealed to me, that I'm glad I liked once, but I would never want to see them again. Such as:

Céline et Julie en Bateau
King of Hearts
Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment
The Falls
WR: Mysteries of the Orgasm

They're all self-consciously arty, especially around the way they tell a story. They all posed structural and interpretive problems - for example I'm certain that part of my extreme enjoyment of watching "Céline et Julie" was picking up on the way the two stories were being told (images of red, images of hands, slowly encroaching into the present-day story) while most of the audience was mystified. The clever buggers congratulated themselves at the interval, the first time I saw it, while a lot of people didn't come back for the second half.

I'm pretty sure the adolescent version of me would have liked recent films that presented themselves as puzzles for solving, like "Donnie Darko", "Memento" and perhaps "Mulholland Drive", which divided the audience into people "getting it" and people going "huh?" Whereas I thought of those recent films as having some of the aesthetic features of crossword puzzles, and I don't find that especially important or rewarding any more.

There is also an interest in madness in most of those films, the idea that mad people are more insightful, more honest, or kinder than horrid old sane people. I spent some time as a psychiatric nurse, and I had to ditch that notion. So I'm less inclined to appreciate art that bases itself on that assumption, unless there are some strong compensating factors.

I don't have a theory to go with this. It's just an observation. Nietzsche observed somewhere that when people notice that they have a different opinion than one they held when they were younger, they congratulate themselves on having achieved greater wisdom. But a new taste, or belief, is not necessarily better than an old one: it's just different.

I don't quote Nietzsche much, except when picking out some particularly nasty piece from him about race, or the benefits of slavery, or of cruelty, etc, and holding it up in the manner of a high school teacher demanding an explanation for this used condom found in the changing sheds. No Nietzschean, me. But his "older does not equal wiser" observation was a good one.



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