La Strada/Nights Of Cabiria

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In an interview with Charlie Rose I recently watched, Martin Scorcese is talking about Fellini. He is recounting when he wanted show his daughter 8 ½, however he decides not to show it to her as her first Fellini film, he instead guides her through her viewing by showing her the three films that preceded that. Now, prior to seeing the interview I had not seen La Strada or Nights of Cabiria but had seen La Dolce Vita and the aforementioned 8 ½. Being the cinema nut I am, I had lept to the films that were most obviously Fellini in my mind. However having now watched his collaborations with his wife Giulietta Mansina you really get the sense of an artist evolving into himself, even in the space of two films. This is not to say I didn’t like 8 ½ when I saw it, quite the opposite, the viewing of 8 ½ in the NFT 1 of the BFI will long stay in my mind as a life altering experience in the cinema. I just feel that now I have caught up with the two preceding La Dolce Vita I understand this titan of world cinema more than I did when just watching his 2 most famous films.

He is a filmmaker much talked about by film scholars as one of the greatest of all time, and without a doubt in my mind you can see this from just a few scenes in his 60s work. But by just watching La Dolce Vita with no prior knowledge of what got him there I tend to agree with Scorcese, that you just don’t understand what ‘got him there’.

LA STRADA

La Strada opens in a small seaside town with a girl being in effect sold to an older man in order for him to take her around performing as part of his muscle man act. This seems a pretty grim situation from the off, however this is just the start for our tragic heroine Gelsomina played with incredible subtlety by Fellini’s muse Giulietta Mansina. Whilst in his later work Fellini focuses much more on internal turmoil and with the struggles of the mind, here Fellini is still working with reality as many great Italian directors had before him. Life is hard for the people of La Strada and getting by depends on solid hard work, going from town to town playing your act for different towns and audiences in order to get by. Anthony Quinn plays the brute Zampanò who subjects the innocent figure Gelsomina to an education in this life the hard way round. He is a man who knows this life and has grown jaded to others, he has no interest in friends or frivolities. Anthony Quinn plays him with such conviction that by the end of the film you really have no choice to be sick at the sight of him. He is such an intensely unlikeable figure, it hurts you to see such a man impose himself on Gelsomina throughout the film.

Giulietta Mansina gives a strange but incredible performance, she is often completely without dialogue and yet manages to convey intense emotion just through her face. The setting of the film in the world of circus acts and clowns makes sense of the performance. Much like the famous clowns of the silent era she uses expression to convey emotions more than in her dialogue. Whilst this may could end up as cloying or sappy, she uses these facial expressions with such aplomb it’s incredible. At points you can almost see inside her head to see how she is seeing a certain situation, something I’ve seen very few actors able to do just with their face. Much like a clown, Mansina paints her expressions on her face, this is yet again in complete contrast to Zampanò whose macho intensity leaves him with about 3 expressions he seems able to use, cynical, angry and neutral.

Fellini here uses the couples travels around different performances and encounters  with other circus performers to show a corruption of a soul. Gelsomina is clearly the innocent and Zampanò the weathered working performer. He performs the same shit routine to crowds year round, no interest in anything other than getting food or wine and maybe a shag on the side. Gelsomina being completely new to this world has to adapt, she has to shut up and do what he says despite not knowing anything of the trade she has been thrust into.

In terms of showing Fellini as a different director in terms of style, La Strada has Fellini at a crossroads. He is showing his movement slightly out of the realist stylings of his earlier work and moving into a more existential guise. This is not to say La Strada doesn’t have realist tendencies, but instead it serves more as a parable on human cruelty and corruption of innocence.

NIGHTS OF CABIRIA

If La Strada has Giulieta Mansina as an innocent character, Nights of Cabiria has her playing the opposite of this. This is not the rolling countryside of La Strada, instead it is the seedy underbelly of a bustling city, in which prostitutes scrape a living by working at all hours of the day. Fellini here is still clearly interested in the underdogs of society, those that are far away from the glitz and glamour of La Dolce Vita and 8 ½ . Mansina enters the film as a ball of energy, after being rescued from a mugging which results in her almost drowning in a river she explodes with energy off the screen and displays a woman who knows exactly what kind of world she is in.

Cabiria (Giulietta Mansina) is not at all jaded by her life, she just accepts that this is what she must do to get by. However throughout the film she is always trying to find a way out, a way to escape from her life and move to something greater and more conventional. This theme of being discontent with the life that you are in is something Fellini is obsessed with, especially at this point in his career. Every film from his 50’s and 60’s work tackles this to varying degrees. The hope displayed by Cabiria is heartbreaking at points with Mansina putting in a performance completely opposite to her turn in La Strada but with as much passion and conviction. She won the best actress award at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, and with good reason. Cabiria is the heart of this film as the title may suggest, but it is Mansina’s performance that once again makes the audience really hope and care for her.

Fellini is once again rooting himself in reality but yet again he is toying with this reality, becoming a more adventurous filmmaker with more expressive camera movement and set design. He shows Rome as a dark city, one that does not much care for the underclass. Whilst the movie stars and priests live in massive highly decorated worlds, those having to scrape a buck live in bombed out wastelands left from the war. In one particularly striking sequence Cabiria comes across a man giving food and clothing out to the poorest of Italian society, instead of houses they are forced to live in caves in the ground. Cabiria is struck by the charity of the man and follows him, in a world in which people use her for their own pleasure she finds it fascinating to find a truly selfless man. This comes shortly after her encounter with a movie star who uses her to have a shoulder to mope on shortly after a falling out between him and his girlfriend. Cabiria is unimportant and doesn’t mean anything to him, however Cabiria is yet again fascinated by the wealth and opulence he lives in. Her story shows the yearning for something greater, a life more meaningful than what she has at the time maybe even more than Marcello’s in La Dolce Vita. Whilst he has everything and is looking for a more meaningful life in the glitzy world of the film world in Rome, Cabiria has nothing and just wants simply to be loved.

Fellini has a difficult relationship with Religion, whilst there is often a lot about it in his films he seems to find it impossible to not question it. He was not a religious man and yet Italy is so deeply rooted in Catholicism to not tackle it within his films would be an oversight. The way he portrays religious people can at times be positive, however it always seems to be blaming the church for something else. In this film for instance the church almost seems to be a vehicle for false hope and fear. Cabiria goes to mass and instead of feeling enlightened by the experience she is terrified by it and you can see her wondering if there is any point at all in praying if it doesn’t actually fix any of the thousands of people around hers problems. It is obvious here that he is looking at Religion in a highly critical light, as he does in many of his films.

Nights of Cabiria displays a director yet again evolving in style, moving towards even greater things. Cabiria shows all the verve and brio of a classic Fellini character but also the introspection and internal angst that would be the guiding forces of his next two films. The move towards more expressive and abstract sequences would come to a head in his later films but here the mix of realism and magic balances itself beautifully.

Before watching these films I may have understood the great man’s vision. But now having the route up to his other two masterpieces I can see the true breadth of his genius as a filmmaker. He is a much more emotional and individual force in the history of cinema than people give him credit for. He is at once brutal and tender in these films, blending the brutality of Italian Neo-Realism with a quintessentially Italian voice producing something truly amazing in the process. Essential viewing for anyone interested in understanding Fellini further than just the obvious masterpieces.

-Ed

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La Strada/Nights Of Cabiria

In The Heat Of The Night – Observations and Thoughts

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“The heat makes people crazy” – Huey Freeman, The Boondocks, Season 1 Episode 14

In The Heat Of The Night (1967) is a landmark film. An indelible mark on film culture and history. Though the film has now been heavily reduced to the iconic phrase “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!” , it’s still lost none of its incendiary flavour and quality, though it’s of a different tone of fire to say, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing (1989), it is nevertheless still a testament to film making in every way shape and form, while also being a work of considerable ideological weight, about tough men with conflicting duties and desires and just…well just trying to do the right thing.

It follows Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) being roped into investigating a murder in a racist southern town, alongside a Chief Bill Gillespie who’s arrogant, bull-headed, racist but poignantly sad, played by Rod Steiger. The acting alone is enough to make this a must see, as both put on absolutely dominating presences on-screen. However here are some other benefits to extol:

-Haskell Wexler A.S.C – His cinematography is deft in this film, truly an expert at work. It’s the kind of cinematographic skill that people insert into film textbooks to study, because it’s so subtle you don’t pick up on it immediately, but its impact is so resounding that its impossible to ignore.

-Hal Ashby – Who won an Academy Award for Film Editing (also director of Harold and Maude) stitches the film together in such an illustrious way, in a very classic, minimalist way allowing the scenes to flow and the footage to complement that without ever losing the tension involved.

-Staging- The staging of this film is like watching a ballet. Moves are carefully planned, deliberate, thoughtful. Even in a film packed with tension, car chases and drama, the movement is exact in its roughness. Characters reveal themselves through their body language, their expressions, not just their words. It requires the dissection of the sum of its parts, because it’s so well done that you have to take it apart to see how its done.

-Stirling Silliphant- Dialogue in this film is a pinnacle, though no doubt raised by the electric performances. The mystery is delicately unpacked, through the revealing of humans rather than the search for evidence. Character’s weave in and out of fixed moral positions, constantly playing on the duties they and others possess. The duty to law enforcement, to their race, to their friends, to their families. This is a film that remembers people commit crimes, whatever and whoever they may be.

-Colour palette and lighting- A film in a naturalistic style makes it always difficult to the untrained eye to notice because if it’s doing its job it shouldn’t be noticed, but the film’s colours are fantastic. The white lilies in Endicott’s greenhouse. The yellow sunglasses. Specific flashes of colour against the beige and the sun just add some real touches to the film. As for the lighting, it’s already important for being the first film to be lit specifically conscious of a black man’s skin, but beyond that the lighting is gorgeous, both staged for dramatic impact and very natural.

Quincy Jones – The soundtrack in this film, including Ray Charles singing the title track, is just …well listen to it.

-Historical potency- Great characters become archetypes in our stories. Virgil Tibbs, the educated, conscious defender against racism fatherly type is one that has endured, a man of grand stature. A good example of this channeling is Lawrence Fishburne as “Furious” in John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood (1991). Not only has the archetype endured, but the film itself stands as a true monument to the forces of co-operation when the whole world’s against you, something director Norman Jewison specifically angled for.

-Norman Jewison- Speaking of, all these elements and much more are united by the director’s vision, and Jewison produces something incredible. He manages to convey the heat of the town, the heat of conflict, of battles of verbal war and physical confrontations which to this day still shock (read: Mr Endicott). It is a film of striking and restrained fury, anger at injustice, and the forgery of respect which can only be gained by people trying to do good things. It goes to pains to illustrate that no one person is completely right, and no one person can do the job alone. Even the best of us need support. That’s how we lift ourselves, by lifting others.

The reason I’ve picked out just a few of these individual parts, is because something very brilliant happens in this film, is that every part serves the function of the film. Quincy Jones soundtrack is both completely idiosyncratic in that it sounds like Quincy Jones, but also in that it underpins the setting, the place they’re in. The music wasn’t created out of context, it was made for the film. There’s no showboating on the performance side, with the actors involved constantly on the edge of bursting, no mealy or scene chewing involved.

The only flair involved is that of the story as a whole. No individual aspects blindly shines brighter than any other, but since all the aspects are so polished, and are so well done, the whole film is raised to the status it so rightly deserves, a classic.

-Alex

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In The Heat Of The Night – Observations and Thoughts

Spiritual Succession – Dazed And Confused/Everybody Wants Some!!

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Being young is difficult. It’s not as difficult as being an adult, but it is still a difficult rite in its own ways, plus its a hell of a lot of fun growing up. As I have just passed the finish lines on my teens (hello 20) it’s both apt and odd that I should find an interest in these films now. Apt because they are perhaps the more authentic remembering of teenage hood/early adulthood, with much less of the misty eyed nostalgia masking the awkward pains and truths found in the time, because when you’re growing up, you’re not always growing up. Mainly in any direction you find yourself flying in And its odd, because well, I’m just about out of the Dazed and Confused era equivalent in the UK, and just about to enter the Everybody Wants Some!! era which is the equivalent here in university, and waiting in the limbo between, it’s odd watching Linklater cover the same track of time, 23 years apart (Dazed And Confused released in 1993, Everybody Wants Some!! in 2016).

Anyway enough about me, let’s talk about films.

DAZED AND CONFUSED

Dazed and Confused is a film made in 1993 about 1976. About May 1976. About the last day of school at Lee High School in May 1976, and what the kids are trying to get up to on their last day of school. It features a very large ensemble cast, containing some names which would rise to prominence, mainly Matthew McConaughey who stars in an iconic role, and Ben Affleck. But the film is not about any one star, so I should adopt the same mentality. The film follows characters across the whole social strata of the high school spectrum, from sports jocks to poker playing intellectuals, from angry seniors and hazed freshmen to faux greasers and far too real stoners. It’s a testament to the far more real truth of teenage life, as the sectioned off tribalism people often assign to young people (here are the goths, here are the jocks, here are the nerds…) actually ends up seguing into a blend and mish mash of people who come together, interlocking at different points and exiting in different and random trajectories, but still for a short time, together.

The film springs affection towards everyone involved, bar Ben Affleck’s sadistic O’Bannion, but even then he’s portrayed with an amusement rather than a terrifying danger. It’s drama is both low-key and extremely natural. The artificial dramas which say, permeate a film like Mean Girls, are completely absent here. The bonds of friendship aren’t elevated to a melodrama, but allowed to flow and segue into one another. Alliances and enemies are formed, but never with malicious motives or intent. The freshmen are condemned to be paddled because…well they’re freshmen. Mitch (Wiley Wiggins), the young weedy freshmen who we follow is offered a token a friendship from Randy, our resident cool guy who’s friends with everyone, because there’s no need to be a dick all the time. The party that was supposed to happen just kind of forms in a different place, and hell they’d manage to entertain themselves somehow if it didn’t. After all, they just wanna have a good time.

Interestingly, I read the script alongside the film, and there are a hell of a lot of marked differences. The script spends far more time with the intellectuals/poker players, and is far more idea-dialogue heavy. It touches on low-key racism due to Vietnam, race relations, slagging off Nixon, and all the kind of stuff that is not hard to imagine that Richard Linklater heard when he was in high school, but exactly the kind of substance to make producers sweat and editors cut. It’s not the most relevant point, but it was very interesting to see how the power of removing content from the film both narrows its focus (so the film becomes mainly a quest for just having a good time and being youthful) and also cuts away part of the experience of youth (notorious for being highly incensed, being exposed to the undersides of politics for the first time, and being mouthy about shit you believe in).

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!

So where Dazed And Confused starts with an ending, Everybody Wants Some!! ends with a beginning.

I haven’t much experience with Linklater’s work outside these two (School Of Rock), but it is both a spiritual successor to Dazed And Confused and according to Linklater, a sequel to his hit Boyhood.

Everybody Wants Some!! follows Jake (Blake Jenner), a freshman at college on a baseball scholarship, and getting to grips with his new cohorts in their state provided house, who are a colourful cast of sports jocks, all beer, babes and baseball. I’m just going to talk about the film on its own here, as comparisons are down below.  It again has that same loose, free-wheeling structure following Jake on the weekend before class starts. It’s very much concerned with identity, as the new environment, people and cultural camouflaging they do to get laid, with them taking on disco and country western personas in the same night, before getting roped into a punk concert, leads to Jake having a full on identity crisis, still in a very low-key, enjoyable way.

But everybody involved is performing, bigging themselves up and putting on facades to present to try to entice…well anyone who’ll listen. There’s no real bad person involved, no antagonists or mortal enemies, just people navigating people. They are bonded by their similar tribal desires, to be the best in everything, games, sport, women. It’s what causes the conflict and camaraderie. If you can’t get on board with their aims and their ideas, then you’ll not like them. And while their politics is not PC (I heard a lot of swirling noise going on about the gender politics of the film is rather old-fashioned), their intentions aren’t malicious. They’re just guys who are confident in the traditional masculine role.

That said, the limitations imposed by following a group of frat boys very closely are real. If you don’t like them, then two hours of them being themselves is going to be nothing but aggravating, so be forewarned. But its a film filled with joy, nervousness and sadness mingled in its core.

THE TWO FILMS

Okay so I prefer Dazed and Confused. It’s not to the detriment of Everybody Wants Some!!, but Roger Ebert referred to Dazed and Confused as “art crossed with anthropology”, and there’s more meat on the bone of Dazed and Confused because there is a larger spectrum of people on offer. But both films share so much spirit.

Perhaps the most important point is that not only does Linklater de-romanticise teenage hood, and make it far better for doing so, he also refuses to conform to a certain bias in portraying high school students. There are grounds for a relationship between the kids who were bullied in high school and the kids who would write movies. Especially since the 80s (call it the Spielberg effect, considering he was a massive nerd and outcast in the bunch of filmmakers he called friends, all those mental New Hollywood lot), the nerdy kids become the hero, the dungeon and dragon players who become the heroes of their own fantasies. They are the victims of the slack-jawed dumb jocks, the bullies who exist to make their lives miserable.

Linklater, who did not experience life in that way, doesn’t lie to us. The closest thing to ciphers or lead characters are both sports stars who are both intelligent, something akin to a mirror of his own personal experience. He was a starting quarterback, like Randy Pink in Dazed And Confused, and he went to college on a baseball scholarship like Jake in Everybody Wants Some!!. And so we get a view from the top of the pyramid, and a refusal to conform to that idea of dumb sport blockheads which permeates American film culture. Sure the bad apples exist, but the bad apples are their own entities. They’re not trying to escape, they’re trying to grab as much as they can from the real world.

There’s also a thin line of pain that runs deep in both films. Both films feature a singular character who is borderline sad and desperate, simply because they’re old. They display exactly the same characteristics of the youngers, but their very imitation is what makes them sad. In Dazed and Confused the character is Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), who is venerated because he’s an older guy, but is rapidly on his way out, when age is no longer treated as a good status. He’s stuck in high school mode but he’s already out. In Everybody Wants Some!! its Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), a hardcore stoner who is dropped from the team and the college mid story when its found out he’s actually 30, and goes from college to college faking his records so he can continue living the student life. If there’s one thing more difficult than being young, its being old wishing you were still young.

It’s like the young people exist in this fragile glass cage, and before you know it will be pushed out into the big wide world. And then there are people who watch from the outside, desperately trying to seek (in vain) some way back in. And you obtain both a mixture of pleasure and pain watching them, because you miss it while simultaneously being glad it’s over, and are either taking part vicariously in their joy or suppressing your pain in wishing you had the chance to do it over again. Or perhaps both.

But for every moment of pain, there’s a moment of happiness created too. And they’re not big dramatic peaks, filled with the highest drama, they’re embracing the small comforts and the thrill of hanging out. Tiny moments which add up to friendships and experiences you recount 20 years later and laugh to yourself about. By removing the melodrama all that’s left is the real drama of living, and the authenticity of the teens, mawkish and stumbling as it may be, is revealed. So too does it allow the audience to connect in a much richer level, which may explain why Dazed And Confused has taken such an iconic place in cinema history. Because the worlds aren’t inhabited by grand heroes, damsels in distress or monstrous villains, and most of us will never come into contact with anything resembling that. Fantasy plays on our ideals and dreams, but Linklater just stylises and compacts reality in an affectionate way, and so suddenly we can empathise and relate in a much more intimate way because the mirror looks so much like us, not just who we imagine ourselves to be.

If you didn’t care for any of this, at least acknowledge this: the spirit of Dazed And Confused is alive and well in Everybody Wants Some!!, and the spirit of Richard Linklater is one which you can smile along with, because life is rough, and we all just want to have a good time.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from an interview by comedian Marc Maron:

 

-Alex

(P.S, there’s a scene in Everybody Wants Some!! where Jake recites some Camus indirectly, about the myth of Sisyphus and baseball, and its the most teenage thing ever.)

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Spiritual Succession – Dazed And Confused/Everybody Wants Some!!

Author: The JT Leroy Story – A Tale Of Two (Three, Four, Five…) Truths

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Disclaimer: Before watching this film, I had never heard of anything pertaining to the JT Leroy Saga. I have never read any of JT Leroy’s works, nor any of the literature surrounding this literary scandal.

So with that out-of-the-way, and all attempts at establishing any credibility in being an expert on this matter scribbled out, let’s move on as to just what the hell is going on here.

I shall not reveal the whole eclectic saga, that was director Jeff Feuerzeig’s job in making this film. In short, Laura Albert, a woman, invented or channeled a persona into her being, that of one Jeremy ‘Terminator’ LeRoy, an abused boy who had endured prostitution, drug addiction, AIDS, a sex change (which is explained later) and vagrancy.She then wrote from this persona’s perspective, and became wildly well-known, courting fame and time in the spotlight for the searing, brutally honest fiction that was being written.

All this without a body, and without being real. Because JT Leroy didn’t exist, at least not as a physical presence on this earth. So Laura Albert recruited her sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop to play JT Leroy. And it worked, from 1998 to 2005, JT Leroy was a real construct who swooshed around the celebrity and publishing world, accompanied by Albert in another persona she had created alongside the real Terminator story, a British woman named Speedie, and her boyfriend Astor (who was really her husband, Geoffrey Knoop).

So the labyrinth was pretty complex, and the labyrinth was pretty well embraced. Her books sold, and she was the toast of the cutting edge, with Savannah even engaging in a passionate affair with Asia Argento. But all good things come to an end, and an exposé in 2006 by one Warren St. John in The New York Times collapsed the house of cards.

Make no mistake though, the house of cards is not truly laid out here. That’s not to denigrate the film, it’s just that the film is doing a very different kind of thing that a regular documentary might angle for. This is not an investigation, this is Laura Albert’s confession, her account of it all. It is a serious unraveling of her perspective of how it all went down, the puppet master behind the board locked into an unceasing performance. The supporting cast of this film circle tangentially at best, only their to provide light context and not much more. And that’s okay, the film is delving into the mind of Laura Albert, a mind which spawned JT LeRoy.

And there’s a lot to it. Drama and betrayals, affairs and desperation, the truth and the lies becoming so indistinct that you should be riveted by it. But of course, that depends on your point of view. If that seems vague, I’ll put it another way. Half of the importance of the story is simply because she’s not just deceiving regular people, but because she’s deceiving celebrities. Laura actually tells us at one point, that she knows she’s made it when she illustrates the ‘Bono’ talk that Savannah as JT got from you guessed it, Kings Of Cool, Bono from U2.

Cool is always nebulous, and always notorious to pin down, very subjective. But the anti-U2 sentiment is fierce among people my age, and I can’t ever remember a time when anyone even remotely discussed Bono as cool who wasn’t over 30. Bono, for anyone who even vaguely pays attention, represents the shallowest of cools. He’s probably a top bloke, but U2 have never been anywhere near the cutting edge of cool, and belong somewhere along the great “Stadium Fillers” genre.

I mean, U2 diatribe aside, the credence given to Laura’s story rests on the fact that the elite incestuous celebrity circles welcomed her, and the fact that she suffered great trauma in her life. The second bit is very valuable, but the first bit is basically a very indulgent walk with all these famous people who really like JT LeRoy, and how cool it was that all these cool people liked her. And the deception runs deep. Albert would make (and record) all calls she made as JT, so she’d live vicariously through Savannah, as Savannah would have these experiences with the cool-illuminati, an affair with Asia Argento, chatting with Gus Van Sant, ambiguous happenings with actor Michael Pitt, and much more, Laura would chat as JT to them.

And you know…cool I guess? Like it just doesn’t really move me much. It’s like her actions are meant to be far more grandiose because she’s deceiving celebrities. And that only works if you buy into celebrities being better than other people. Which I do not. We’d all like to live that fantasy, of well-known, very successful people telling us that they love us, our work, our personality, ourselves, I understand it, and I understand what drives that. But her actually getting to live out her fantasy is not something that can really be enjoyed, maybe only by her and the conspirators involved. Because you can’t live vicariously through Laura Albert, because you know she’s lying. It’s so far removed that all you can do is watch the journey slowly unfold passively.

I’m rambling here but bear with me. The title talks about the ‘Truths’ in this film. Camus says in his seminal work The Myth Of Sisyphus “In psychology as well as logic, there are truths but no truth.” He’s referring to the inability to perceive the whole world from all sides, so we can’t really know the details we’re working with. The same can be applied here. We can never really know the whole story, because the whole story depends on multiple people, with internal dialogues and psychologies, that we can never really draw the boundaries in it between what’s true and what isn’t. Albert specifically denies that it was a fake, because LeRoy is real to her. In fact she states that she suffers from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.

This is the stuff I find much more interesting. The reveal of JT LeRoy’s ‘hoax’ is really interested, because the reaction to it was so damning. People implicitly believe that what they see or read or listen to is true. You have to, its logically ruinous to assume everything is a lie. There could be no truth if everyone was lying. And people took it for granted, but they were also so willing to believe the story, so desperate to accept her truth, because even though the books are published as fiction, we always assume that fiction is molded from the human channeling the world around them, and when stories are told with such uncompromising brutality, when they involve such hard times of human suffering, when those trapped in ivory towers see such earnest hardship, they marvel at it. They marvel at the human audacity to take good from the bad no matter how rough it might get. Especially those who are protected from it.

I feel like the film is both too long and too short. Or maybe its just focused on the thing I don’t find interesting. The film seems to wrestle with two tracks, the track of recounting the whole sordid affair, as a train of well-known faces walk through, their intimate conversations of real life played in voyeuristic scenes where tapes roll, and the other track which revolves around authenticity, authorship, and the blurred lines between fiction and fact, and truth and lies. because the best lies are inspired by the truth, but the truth does its best to expose lies. Laura Albert suffered, and she channeled it, however indirectly into her writing. And even if she didn’t suffer, she had the capability to imagine and create it. But the thing people seem to get upset about is her creation spilled over into reality, and somehow people were deceived by that. Well art influences life and vice versa, and Laura just took it to an extreme. Her whole life became a performance.

Which is both brilliant and horrible. Because I don’t think she can stop. And with a film of the whole story in the works, it looks like the sharks desperately seeking salacious stories won’t either. A maddening cycle of trash. Waiting for someone honest to come along.

The only thing for me to do is to just shrug and move on. It’s not all that interesting anyways. It kind of fucked me off if I’m honest.

-Alex

 

Author: The JT Leroy Story – A Tale Of Two (Three, Four, Five…) Truths