Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Buried in the Landscape

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada - one of the reasons I wanted to go and see it was that the name Melquiades came up in the last book I was reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude and I enjoy a coincidence exploited well. It's a good film to see if you are in the final stages of submitting a highly competitive academic bid of a kind you've never written before and everyone else is either no help or not helping. It's good and slow, thoughtful, develops its characters and story thoroughly, spreads them out across a wide wild Mexican landscape. Funny how much better the landscape looks when they cross out of Texas into Mexico. I wonder why that is.

There are touches that are pure Guillermo Arriaga, who also wrote Amores Perros (visit this link for a bizarre/entertaining/annoying piece of animated typography featuring those words), like the dark humour and dying animals. That mule going down a cliff: I've never seen anything like it.

But my favourite moments involved media - televisions abound in the story, though not in the landscape, and there is one strategically placed radio. Nearly all of them are used for comedy; obviously designed as an absurdist commentary either by Arriaga or whoever interpreted his word into flesh. From the old blind man listening to a Spanish radio station without comprehension because he likes the sound of the language, to the TV set showing an old English-language family drama run off the car battery and being watched by three Mexican gents pausing in the wilderness... it makes the border patrol guy cry with nostalgia to see it, but they just wonder what set him off. The fact that they don't understand the English is a witty echo back to the other side of the border. Then there is the space drama in the cafe; the grand prix flag waving on a whole bank of HDTV sets in the shop window in Odessa. Even in the hotel room when they turn on the TV to escape the embarrassment of intimacy, there's three channels of porn.

The day before I saw this, I watched Hustle on telly in a break from the bid writing, which had an absurd Bollywood theme though, sadly, no commentary on life that I'm yet aware of. More significantly here, it featured a man turning from bad to good after a blow to the head. Desperate events eventually have some effect on the baddie in the film too. Redemption themes then? Or perhaps just catharsis through self-ridiculing media.

But I must end this comment on the glorious Melissa Leo, who is maturing well and shows - in a burst of tatoos and nakedness - that middle-aged and sexy is not an oxymoron.


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