Thursday, April 26, 2007

Borrowed Equity, Charlatans, & How We Win our Wars...

Have you ever had a party and wondered who that loud, commanding "personality" was, the one you didn't invite? Have you ever deferred to someone who had a sturdy head perched on their shoulders, one that demanded deference? Have you placed your political hopes in a candidate, one who glowed charismatically and was loved by the camera? Do you ever let someone go ahead of you on line, the dark silent beauty with storied eyes? Does Stephen Colbert the character make you wonder about Stephen Colbert the man?

For those of us without a verifiable degree, an earned honorific, much of our value in society essentially comes down to our public performance (accompanied by our lazy resistance to fact checking). Two actor-driven films that drive home this point are Matador and Color Me Kubrick. Both films are seriously flawed, even forgettable, and yet they are also as true and absurd and as demented as a long night in a big city on someone else's bar tab. In Matador, Pierce Brosnan's ultra-human post-Bond performance (who knew?) seems filled with lies and red herrings or might they be truthful confessions? It creates an effective polarity. Color Me Kubrick takes the hall of mirrors effect much further... It could have you squirming in your seat for the first half hour... when's this schtick going to give way to a proper movie? you'll likely ask... But the film's comedic power and cinematic relentlessness will win you over. The layers of irony and revenge that lurk beneath really stack up. Especially when you discover that this film was made by a former employee of Mr. Kubrick's (clearly there was an ax to grind). John Malkovich's fey faux Kubrick is so preposterous, so silly, so cumulatively abundant, we ultimately surrender (as do his victims) to his quackery, shifting accents, iridescent butterfly pins, and striped pajama bottoms held in place around his fat boy girth with a yard or so of rope.

We are always in charge of our public persona, whether we decalre it or not. We are all in drag of one kind or another. There are an infinite number of messages to project. I remember when my father stopped wearing Brooks Brother's suits and started wearing blue (collar) work shirts and paint spattered khakis and making sculptures of wood and found objects. It was his declaration of independence from a cold system of compliance and humiliation. I imagine it was his way of eschewing a world where you were assessed by your show of belonging and your wardrobe. I admire him for that.


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