Saturday, June 6, 2009
I do not exactly recall how I first came across Slavoj Zizek. I believe it was in my search for contemporary philosophers who discuss the events of modern society at a deeper level than journalism is able to do. A few online pieces of his work proved to be rather interesting, especially his fascination in film and the underlying messages it often conveys. So, I was happy to see an interview with him in the Financial Times a few months after my initial introduction. The interview jumps from the financial crisis to Marxism and even includes a brief anecdote on the movie, Titanic. However, it was one reference he made to the film, Short Cuts that caught my attention. He claimed it be a Hollywood film which deserves to be called "art" compared to many "fake" European films. This stuck with me namely because I remember as an early teen looking at the VHS case of Short Cuts at my local Blockbuster. It was a blue case with little cut outs of all the different actors in the movie. I never did rent it, most likely opting for True Lies instead.
Nearly 15 years after having first seen it dawning the wall of the New Release section at Blockbuster, I finally sat down to watch Short Cuts. It did not disappoint. As an American living abroad now for several years, I am becoming more and more curious about my native country. I find myself constantly in search of those cultural works which best describe the true essence of the U.S. This serves two purposes. The first is that it allows me to have a portfolio of recommendations for those individuals who actually show a curiosity in better understanding the U.S. and its people beyond the stereotypes often conveyed by our own pop culture. I have not come across many interested takers yet but I am ready when it does happen. The second is simply because I relate to these albums, books, or films more now than when I am living in America. I appreciate them more, mainly due to nostalgia. Returning to Short Cuts it depicts the real life of normal people living in the more mundane neighborhoods of Los Angeles and confronts the difficulties they face in their day-to-day lives.
The film was based on the short stories of Raymond Carver. The director, Robert Altman, took a dozen of Carver's stories and weaved them together. The Criterion Collection of this film included a documentary on Carver. Thus my introduction to Carver began here with the first scene being of his widow reading one of his poems above his gravestone in Port Angeles. I only discovered he was buried there after the fact. However, I only needed to see the evergreens in the background running up to the cliffs edge above a large body of water to know that she was in the Pacific Northwest. Such an interesting string of connections served as the sign to me that the author's works deserved reading.
Will you Please be Quiet, Please? is Carver's first collection of short stories. He lived his entire life on the West Coast and this comes through in the stories. I found myself relating with his words. I have two more collections of his short stories to read and will describe in my future posts those that I enjoyed the most. In the meantime, go and rent Short Cuts. It is certainly no longer in the New Release section of Blockbuster, especially the one on N.E. 8th in Bellevue which closed down two years ago. Actually, the action "go and rent" isn't really valid any more either. It can be substituted with "go to 'Your Favorites' folder on your browser, left click, Search on Netflix 'Short Cuts', left click three times".
15 years is a long time.