The forms of why
The reasons for pauses
Ellipses of the body
Stutter forth like breaking trains
Art does know
But then someone tries to say
What and where
Art knows without ever
Belaboring the point
If we explain we kill
So movies about suicide
Movies about making movies
Shrink when they should see!
And keep quiet about it
Normally, I’d write a longer, more traditional review, but the poem above will take its place, for the most part. Shrink stars Kevin Spacey as a Hollywood therapist in need of a therapist. Sinking into oblivion after the suicide of his wife, he drowns himself in a sea of booze and a ton of pot, no longer believing in what he does, or anything else for that matter. The movie strings together several stories, several lives that cross paths, ideas, dreams, phobias and obsessions, with the therapist as the focal point. Because it deals again and again with neuroses of one form or another, the film soon becomes claustrophobic and all too dreary, and the ennui of the characters begins to make the viewer feel the same — about the movie itself. Bored and indifferent. There is some rebound of feeling close to the end, as some of the strands begin to come together. But, by then, it’s a bit too late.
The movie reminded me of one of my favorite aphorists, the Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran. One of the great curmudgeons of all time. A few choice quotes:
We cannot consent to be judged by someone who has suffered less than ourselves. And since each of us regards himself as an unrecognized Job…
We interest others by the misfortune we spread around us.
Each time I think of the essential, I seem to glimpse it in silence or explosion, in stupor or exclamation. Never in speech.
The more we try to wrest ourselves from our ego, the deeper we sink into it.
It’s difficult to make movies about bored and indifferent people, even if tragedy led to their condition. When we view the boredom and the indifference first, when we join the story already in progress, it can become difficult to make the connection with their tragic circumstances and then feel along with the characters. In order to avoid cliches, the director may end up being hit over the head with them. Remaining in a postmodern state of fence sitting, of cynicism and fear of being too articulate or judging too much, movies can fail to say anything, and fail to take viewers with them into another world. To me, that’s the prime directive for film:
Pull the viewer into that complete world you envision. Keep them there, away from their own for two hours. Wrap them inside that complete world, let them walk around inside it with you. Pull them in . . .