my life at the nyff

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Thank you.

Well, maybe I’ll just repost it after all:

Sadly, culturemonkey’s coverage of the 45th New York Film Festival is a bit of a joke. This year featured a number of anticipated films, many screened for the first time in North America, a few world premieres, and enough ‘local’ filmmakers for the press to announce the return of the New York Auteur. For a general overview of all the films, Slant Magazine‘s capsule reviews are almost finished. Reverse Shot and has several full-length features up, and House Next Door has a sidebar full of posts. Your favorite film blog, or print magazine if you still read those, no doubt has a roughly equal amount of relevant content (assuming it’s any good). But we are not real film critics. We are intellectuals. That said, if you would prefer we do some real festival coverage in the future, we are open to funding proposals and travel deals.

While I had a chance to see two of the NYFF’s big three — The Darjeeling Limited, No Country For Old Men, and Persepolis, I passed them all up in favor of three lesser-known films for reasons that were entirely contingent (of course, this being the NYFF, ‘lesser-known’ just means they won’t play at your local AMC). Spoilers follow.

1. Go-Go Tales dir. Abel Ferrara

As it happens, Steven Shaviro saw this in Montreal months ago and has already said most of what is worth saying about it (Dennis Lim in CinemaScope also loved it at Cannes, the link is to a short review and very good interview). So I’d rather focus on the celebrity antics that makes seeing movies at expensive festivals that one could just as easily download remain worthwhile. We saw it at the Walter Reade, the best theater for this sort of thing as it’s large enough for a good-sized crowd but small enough for intimacy. The time was midnight. Abel Ferrara came out, totally hammered, and said a lot of things that were incomprehensible, a few of them into the microphone. Willem Defoe saved him from himself with a smooth, professional introduction (“I’d like to thank,” etc.), smiled — which was just as creepy from two hundred yards away as it is in close-up — then disappeared. As the lights went down, Ferrara, after realizing that there was a possibility tickets had been oversold (the reserved cast & crew seats weren’t roped off until late), yelled out, “You can come outside with me and we’ll play cards!” Someone yelled at him to be quiet. The first shot in the film was a close overhead pan of Willem Defoe sleeping and I thought of how seeing movies right after seeing the actors makes the experience seem less impersonal, even when you think you’re too jaded for that to happen. As the closing credits wrapped up, Ferrara came back up on the stage while it was still dark and said more imcomprehensible things, then left. The first wave of audience members made their exit. Sylvia Miles (who played the bitchy Noo Yawk landlady) was eventually coaxed onto the stage, where she sat, legs swinging off the edge, and asked the mostly incommunicative 2am crowd in her fantastically shrill, cigarette-stained voice, “Well? Does anyone have any questions? About the movie?” After a little while Grace Jones (who has several songs on the soundtrack) appeared , having “just flew in,” and sat next to her. I almost didn’t recognize her because she doesn’t look like an alien anymore. They had great hats. A few other cast and crew wandered up to the stage to hang out, and as the night (and the audience) finally wound down to the dregs, Miles made sure everyone had a ride home: “People from my floor are here, so I know I’m getting home OK. But I don’t know about all of you people.” Thanks, Sylvia. In a very real way this quirk-heavy closing reception was an extension of the movie’s portrayal of eccentrics, washouts, and outcasts struggling to survive in a dysfunctional showbiz community, plagued by the external pressures of capitalism and their inability to deal with them. The endless struggle of iconoclasm and its rewards: brief moments of glory, and perhaps more importantly the moments of camaraderie and collective affirmation of the absurd in the midst of individual suffering and humiliation. Though certainly romanticized, the film never stiffs the audience on realism; the portrayal is romanticized but not glorified, if that makes any sense. Its somewhat old-fashioned, feel-good vibe almost overshadows the fact that the setting is a nudie club, but if this minor detail means anything it’s that the overall economic, moral, and aesthetic situation, in this present of ours where Show Biz is All Biz, has steadily grown a lot ‘worse.’ At the same time, the absence of any real glamor or hope of financial security is really the precondition of its cheerfulness, and this is the difference between Go-Go Tales and Showgirls, perhaps even between New York go-go dancing and Vegas stripping. It’s telling that to avoid triggering cynical rejection in the audience Ferrara has to undercut Defoe’s rabble-rousing manifesto with the last shot, as if we the festival audience have grown simply incapable of ‘buying’ a straightforwardly happy ending. Is this where three decades of irony-laden ennui and anti-human pessimism drops us off? The return of hope, sentiment, nostalgia for Good Times?

2. Paranoid Park, dir. Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant has a thing for teenage boys. There, I said it. While some might take this as an opportunity to get all moralistic about perversion and exploitation, I submit that sometimes an honest sexual attraction to the subject is necessary to avoid exploitative treatment (this gets at the difference between sexual desire and objectification, but now is neither the time nor the place). And all three films in Van Sant’s ‘slow cycle’ — Elephant, Last Days, and now Paranoid Park — manage to portray the world of high school-aged youth in a way that is hyper-idealized but not false, and most importantly not condescending, not using their specific milieu to achieve or say something else (though the material is there for other things to be said). Last Days might seem like a digression as it is ostensibly about Kurt Cobain, but Kurt Cobain had his biggest effect on high school-age youth, and this is the perspective the film takes, more about his mythology than his life. In a culture where ‘adolescent’ is an insult more or less equated with corporate Hollywood’s worst impulses, for a middle-aged man to tell sympathetic stories about teen angst is probably more difficult than telling them about children. Helmed by Christopher Doyle, the cinematography in Paranoid Park develops an ethereal, even pastoral vision of a Portland occupied by a group of skateboarders shuttling back and forth between high school and the eponymous skate park. The flat affectlessness of Van Sant’s young male protagonists this time around is countered by snippets of the lead’s letter to an imagined female audience in the form of a confessional, posing throughout the film as interior monologue. The dialogue has a clipped, perfunctory feel to it that suggests it too is a part of the written account. Unlike Elephant and Last Days, Paranoid Park takes a subjective, written document as its basis, rather than an ‘objective,’ sensationalized media event; also, this document is fictional, a novel. This results in a more conventional plot that allows for the most direct presentation of what Van Sant has been doing all this time — transforming traumatic events into visual and aural fantasias that, by distancing us from any logic imposed by adult authority figures (journalists, police, teachers, psychologists, novelists, etc.), allow the viewer to experience it in a safe space free of bombardment by media cliches, in some sense rediscovering objectivity. That this experience tends to be private and incommunicable is Paranoid Park‘s chief thematic concern. Alex, the protagonist/narrator, grapples with his involvement in the death of a security guard whose gruesome end splits the film in half, causing him to go about his life fractured, numbed, by a secret he can’t tell. Here we are confronted with the paradox of the internalized trauma — Doubling as a stand-in for the viewer, Alex is only able to maintain a real connection to himself (his emotions, his safety, his identity) in the face of horror by keeping his memory of it locked away from others, thus alienating himself from the rest of the world; and yet this secret grants him a unique fascination, the allure that makes him a subject for the camera and its audience. The fantasy of both the film and novel is that by expressing himself in writing, then destroying it (as he does in a bonfire near the end of the film), he can arrive at a sort of compromise. Van Sant exposes the truth of so-called adolescence here, at the point where its ‘immaturity’ presents us with what at times seems like the only practical solution to the mediasphere’s insatiable urge to erase every human tragedy with sensationalist platitudes. In the Q&A following the screening, Van Sant called Paranoid Park a “Young Adult film,” and this seems like the most appropriate genre heading to me.

3. Blade Runner, The Final Cut, dir. Ridley Scott

Blade Runner really doesn’t need anything else to be written about it. Probably the film most discussed by academics ever made, every crowded frame bears the seeds of a thousand dissertations. All the hot topics are here: free will, artificial intelligence, the postmodern city, noir and pastiche, psychoanalysis, the list goes on. It’s also Ridley Scott’s last really good film, after which he made nothing but overproduced shit with the possible minor exceptions of Black Rain and Thelma and Louise. It makes sense in retrospect that Scott’s one major innovation over the content of Philip K. Dick’s novel was to make dystopia sexy, a great service for future filmmakers/advertisers/propagandists who needed to sell people on a way of life that regularly produced violence, misery, urban blight, and environmental catastrophe. Dick gave us a comedy, Scott a tragedy, and it’s interesting to reflect on which treatment criticized its subject and which glorified it. A discussion of the changes in the final (?) cut can be found here, along with still more debate about whether or not Deckard is a replicant. The changes are minor and mostly cosmetic, the transfer to HD bringing out the vibrancy of the colors but the increased clarity making a few shots look a little empty (only in comparison to all the other ones). Is Deckard a replicant? I’m going to be boring and say the film is inconsistent, though I’ve always thought the answer lay in Goff’s memorable parting shot: “It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again who does!” We’re only human in our dreams (this is also works as an answer to the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi’s famous butterfly dream). At any rate, it was nice to see it at the Ziegfield.

Appendix: Eastern Promises dir. David Cronenberg


This wasn’t at the NYFF but we saw it shortly afterward, and this rather presumptuous post could always use more filler. Following a dispiriting trend, much has been written about this film as well, so I will instead pick out a few elements that played to my interests. Or rather, the point where all elements converge: Viggo Mortensen. Why so fascinating? Because, as in History of Violence, the film is so structurally and aesthetically neat by virtue of Mortensen’s character, his performance, his incredible presence, and yet at the same time he is the one thing that remains out of place. In Promises, Cronenberg/Mortensen start us off with the familiar archetype of the good soldier. Preternaturally competent, the good soldier has no history, no personality, no ‘inner life.’ He seems to exist only to obey the commands of a given organization, even though the reasons why he might do so, if given, are always arbitrary. That organization is usually shown to be corrupt, and by reflecting its betrayed ideals in a purer form he provokes a conflict between them. A fairly recent example is Forest Whittaker’s character in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, whose unexplained adherence to the samurai code first brings him into submission to the Italian mafia, then turns them against each other. What Cronenberg seizes on in Promises is that the good soldier’s blind submission to corrupt authority in some mysterious way both feminizes him and intensifies his power/attraction. Nikolai (Mortensen) is the object of desire for everyone in and outside of the film. The closeted Kirill wants to fuck him, his father the mafia boss Semyon wants to use him, and it seems like everyone except Naomi Watts’ female lead wants to see him naked. Nikolai’s body is a mirror, though an idealized one, as its images are seared into his flesh in the mafia’s own language (much in the same way as his sculpted physique reflects an ideal masculine body image to the audience), as a symbol of his might (marks on his knees signify that he “will kneel before no man”) and his subjection. In the initiation scene, he is forced to renounce his parentage; he will have no history, no identity other than the one written on his body. Comparisons can be made to Cronenberg’s other male heroes, both empowered and enslaved by technological remaking. In Promises, masculinity itself is a technology. Every man is a kind of cyborg. But when Nikolai is revealed to have ulterior motives, we see how his very presence subverts the traditionalist, patriarchal order of the Russian mob at every turn, turning son against father, etc. When we learn he is an undercover cop, this at once valorizes all the suffering he receives (and distributes) and puts the lie to the shared fantasy of technofetishists and manly men: that the whole truth of a man/machine can be reducible to his apparent actions and physical form, that he can be wholly externalized, turned inside out. A real man, like a real machine, should be a reliable (predictable) tool. The seduction of this fantasy and Nikolai’s mastery of it brings about the mafia’s downfall. As soon as Semyon thinks he can mediate his conflict with his son through Nikolai, he opens the way for Western moral authority to reassert itself. What is often interpreted as the feminization of the male hero in Promises and Cronenberg’s earlier work consists of two properties: an appearance that suggests he can be rewritten at will (the power of seduction), and the mysterious way in which his motivations exceed all rewriting (the power of deception). This actually brings it closer to Marx’s definition of money than any traditional notion of femininity. Like money, Nikolai dissolves the old rules of the Eastern mafia subculture and restores the rules of money’s true owners, Western civil society. The single, sterile woman (Watts) is given an orphaned Russian baby and restored to motherhood. Semyon is removed and Nikolai (apparently) put in his place. But in the ambiguous final shot, the recurring motif of Russian peasant authenticity — the voice over diary narration of the baby’s dead immigrant mother — is repeated again, reminding us that all the main characters are still of Russian origin and keeping alive the tension between East and West. Like many, I found the diary to be the weakest aspect of the film, but it does highlight the point at which the film’s ‘inner’ logic — what I’ve tried to outline here — exceeds its narrative and aesthetic rigor. Along with motherhood and the dominance of the Free World, conflict too is restored, if only for ambiguity’s sake.

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18 Responses to “my life at the nyff”

  1. steandric Says:

    sweating about just one actor and one character of the film and ignoring all the other equally well performed actors and their characters like naomi watts in particular, armin mueller-stahl (both oscar-nominee), and to a lesser extent vincent cassel. another over-the-top worthless review.

  2. traxus4420 Says:

    jesus, chill out. i like to focus, ok? all those people were great. “Naomi Watts the Oscar Nominee and Armin Mueller-Stahl the Oscar Nominee and Vincent Cassel the Veteran French Thespian are great and were also great in this movie.” just imagine that line in the review and go be happy.

  3. That Viggo’s character turned out to be an undercover cop I thought was an unfortunate decision. How often have we seen this ploy by now, where the anomalous kind gestures of the thug turn out to be attributable to a deeper good-guy persona, and he’s being a badass in service of this higher good. If the undercover angle had been left out of the final cut and we saw Viggo do his good deeds entirely in Russian Mafia character, what then?

  4. traxus4420 Says:

    I thought about that too. The cop thing is definitely a tired genre cliche, but so would be the russian mobster who picks a different form of loyalty to his russian heritage than belonging to the mafia (protecting the baby, etc.), which I think also comes across as a possible underlying motive for his actions (especially given the final few shots). If he were just a ‘nice guy’ the movie would have to indicate why, but the whole point of the character is his mysterious past. In both genre and meta-genre plots, character motivation always comes from some structural entity — archetype, profession, national identification, psychological category, etc. Anything else is played as a ‘mystery.’

  5. traxus4420 Says:

    i got linked to my ‘manliness today,’ LOL

  6. So we have a tough-guy Russian mobster whose heart of gold is attributable to his participation in Western law and order and the underlying morality (be nice to women and whores and babies) that it encodes. What happens if we’re left with mystery — he’s nice in some way that’s anomalous in the Western good/bad territorialization? Does it point to some sort of inscrutable otherness in the East, and is that too a cliche? But it’s not entirely inscrutable: if Viggo had, say, killed the baby himself it would have been even more strange. But we see that even the mob boss’ son didn’t want to kill the baby, so that bit of morality is presented as universal. Without the undercover cop business you’re an observer looking into a parallel Eastern reality that intersects with the West, that in its valorization of loyalty and kindness to babies isn’t completely other, but that works itself out in some way you’re never quite sure of. And Viggo: is it his other structural commitment to this foreign code or his personal agency and his autonomy from the code that motivates him? I think I’d prefer these mysteries to remain unresolved. How about you?

  7. Regarding the feminization, even though the mob boss is the biological father, by saving the baby Viggo becomes its father in reality — which is the masculine accomplishment par excellence. Likewise Naomi, though barren, becomes the mother by saving the baby. I don’t think it’s so much a feminization as it is a castration: a subjugation of pleasure to the Other and an inability to (pro)create. The tattoos aren’t feminine, they’re territorial markings, a renunciation of family in the name of a more powerful other. The knife slashes aren’t an invagination but a removal and a remarking, an alternative castration by another other. Even the baby of the boss is subject to castration. Both Viggo and Naomi are able to resist complete castration and so they can bear fruit, even if they aren’t biologically the reproductive agents.

  8. traxus4420 Says:

    I think ‘Eastern-ness’ is used in the movie as a way out of genre determinism, even as the narrative follows those rules. It is the ‘other place’ that allows for the ambiguity you’re talking about (including the freedom to insert personal autonomy as a possibility). If there wasn’t also a genre explanation (i.e. undercover cop) you couldn’t have that effect, there would just be confusion. There is a structural motivation that is set up to be unsatisfying, and an alluded to motive ‘beyond’ the clean, machine-like surface of the film. That the substance of the allusion is itself unsatisfying (Tatiana’s voice over was really really cheesy) does not I think diminish the effect.

    It’s actually sorta similar to what I was getting at in the post on Princesse de Cleves a while ago, if you’ll pardon the vast historical stretch.

    Castration works too, and I think also works in older Cronenberg, including Videodrome, but then I think there’s an overlap between castration and feminization at work in these films. Viggo has power and fascination because he seems to accept subjugation so willingly, almost as if he were a…woman? Bottom? This is what I was getting at with this breakdown:

    “an appearance that suggests he can be rewritten at will (the power of seduction), and the mysterious way in which his motivations exceed all rewriting (the power of deception).”

    The Cronenberg hero is able, usually only for a limited time, to ground a very masculine, phallic power — physical ability, social dominance, etc. — on what in Lacanese I think would be called feminine structuration. In the sci-fi movies it’s done through submission to technology, here it’s done through submission to masculinity as technology (as opposed to simply submitting to a single masculine code). I think with Promises and History of Violence Cronenberg is drawing analogies between his other work and more conventional genre pieces (these two are for-hire jobs, whereas his other movies are all from his screenplays I believe), by submitting to genre, or staging his submission to a conception of genre that is in some sense technological.

  9. traxus4420 Says:

    though seduction and deception should really travel together here, not be split up and assigned to different things like I have them

  10. Thanks for the post and the discussion, Traxus — it’s helping me clarify some ideas both about Lacan and about story structure.

    Continuing my script-doctor fantasy… Without the juxtaposed cop genre I think you wouldn’t have confusion, you’d have unresolved ambiguity or enigma. Put it this way: I wouldn’t find it confusing if Viggo exhibited some human decency which wasn’t reducible to his being under dominion of the Western higher authority. The whole story could have played out exactly as is, where Viggo justifies his actions to Naomi by telling her he wants to get the boss out of the way so he can take over. It’s a story that holds water, but you’d get a sense that there’s something else motivating him without ever knowing precisely what it is. Is it “old school” Russian values to which he’s alluded and that allies him with the curmudgeonly uncle? Is it some sort of Nietzschean will to define his own code of ethics? Enigmatic, unresolved, but not confusing, it preserves “the mysterious way in which his motivations exceed all rewriting.”

    You speak of submission to technology, but it’s a distinctly low-tech movie — except for Naomi’s bike, which is a traditionally masculine machine. Viggo kind of competes with her machine, parking his limo practically right on top of the bike, and also repairing it in a manly fashion. And the tattoo apparatus is mechanical. So yeah, I can see the industrial power tools at work here, but the two “heroes” demonstrate a certain mastery of the machines. I’m not sure I see “a clean, machine-like surface of the film.” It’s professionally executed for sure, and I think beautiful. Maybe it’s the photographic hardness of the images?

    I think you’d agree that Cronenberg is under no obligation to make a doctrinaire psychoanalytic movie. I’m no Lacan expert but my sense is that he degenders Freudian castration. Everyone, male and female, is subject to the master signifier. To stay alive in the game one has to renounce a measure of pleasure and power, of jouissance and puissance. To be castrated is to be neutered, whether you’re male or female. There is perhaps a movement from Freud to Lacan in the movie, from feminization to impotence. We start out with the feminization motif — the knife slice, the whorification of Viggo, the queering of the boss’ son, etc. But in fact we see the son mostly as a voyeur. He can’t seem to do anything; he can only watch others do. He can’t even kill a little baby for Christ sakes. He has been neutered by the Big Other, which very definitely takes physical form in his father. The tattoos are the symbolic order being inscribed in the body, replacing father-mother of one’s birth. The knives are an alternative symbolic order. The cops are another order, of course, to which both Viggo and the boss bow down. In obeisance to the legal order the boss even needs to chop off his own jouissance/puissance by excising his own baby. But he’s already shown that the Big Other doesn’t exist by falsely tattooing Viggo, marking him off not as a “made guy” under the boss’ protection but as a sacrificial victim to protect his own degenerate and impotent son.

    The film pretty clearly establishes Viggo and Naomi as parents. Viggo wants to take the biological father’s place in the order, while Naomi by possessing the diary becomes identified with the biological mother. That they succeed in “parenting” the child is I think a further move toward what’s already been happening in the movie, redefining castration in terms of Deleuze & Guattari’s territorialization. Deterritorialization frees the flows of desire toward (pro)creation and (re)production, which we see in the last scene, with or without voice-over.

  11. traxus4420 Says:

    i’m trying to expand ‘technology’ to include ‘social technology,’ to say that cronenberg treats ‘social forces’ and genre rules in a technological way. So the tattoos, the knives, etc. but also ‘phallic power’ and genre codes are social technologies, like the VCR was in Videodrome or the cars in Crash. doing this de-essentializes gender as well as genre, even though the progress of the film’s narrative reinforces all the related cliches.

    i still think deleting the cop explanation makes the narrative at once too direct and too strange. like it would appear so conventional that from the traditional Hollywood standpoint there would seem to be no point in the story at all, especially since the movie doesn’t focus on him as a psychological person, but as a body (naomi watts is really the center of audience identification). Structurally it would be: mysterious anti-hero wants to take over mafia, struggles, succeeds and saves a baby, the end. or, without the cop thing there’s no second turning point, if you want to use the basic screenplay logic.

    based on what i said above, i think cronenberg relies on the cop thing as an unsatisfying explanation that pretends to resolve the narrative — it has to be unsatisfying aesthetically as well as logically.

    how do deleuze/guattari have anything to do with reproducing traditional gender roles and biological reproduction? all these symbolic parenting gestures? by the end everything is reterritorialized, this is the point, there’s just a mysterious, ambiguous excess floating around, suggested by contradictory codes.

  12. traxus4420 Says:

    “Thanks for the post and the discussion,”

    right back at you! (re: the discussion, obv. not the post)

    How the East-West dynamic works out by the end is something i still don’t quite get. maybe will work it out later, maybe not.

  13. Okay, I may have been unduly optimistic in assigning the ending to Deleuze & Guattari. D&G envision a kind of utopia where reterritorialization isn’t imposed from the top-down by structure but bottom-up, with individual agency intersecting the immanent flows and continually re-marking them in an endless cycle of creation, dismantling and difference. So I was seeing the reproductive, procreative immanence flowing first through the boss and his rape victim and then redirected through the agency of Naomi and Viggo.

    However, I’m rewriting the last scene as if Viggo wasn’t a cop. But Cronenberg frames the story inside of structuralism, so the last scene has to be interpreted that way. And it is a very traditional-looking scene, with mommy and baby placed inside the extended traditional family. But daddy is missing — both daddies actually. Is this emblematic of the vaunted decline of Symbolic efficacy, where the master territorializers have all gone away? No: Viggo is top dog now, having somehow figured out a way either of getting the uncle back from exile or moving the whole family out of harm’s way. Viggo’s control of the symbolic order becomes transcendent — he doesn’t even have to be there to embed his little family inside the structure he has established.

    The story is directly Oedipal. Viggo isn’t just competing with the boss — he is the doubled son of the boss, doing the work of the son, his body marked with the son’s tattoos. That the father sacrifices him to the Chechens is partly to protect his real son, but also to protect himself. Viggo-the-son is the threat to the king’s authority, so the king needs to get him killed off. But Viggo returns from seeming death to displace his father. He becomes the symbolic father of his father’s child, thereby surpassing the incest taboo. And in this regard it is a mythic rewrite by Deleuze & Guattari, who see Oedipus not as primal but as a micro-machinic producer of the larger symbolic order. When the social order changes, so does the Oedipal order.

  14. traxus4420 Says:

    but i think D/G would not just re-present this oedipal tale with added scare quotes. cronenberg just reframes this structure that we’ve described, and so defamiliarizes the audience from it, but also the pleasure of the narrative comes from this defamiliarization. so it’s more like a parody of the oedipal myth that is at the same time sort of worshipful of it. an ironic paraphrase, maybe, at the new hip level of irony, where you play it perfectly straight but with just a subtle hint of ‘weirdness.’

  15. traxus4420 Says:

    the last bit with viggo sitting on the chair has already been described as ‘dreamlike’ by critics — or like Freudian wish-fulfillment, in other words.

  16. Well Traxus, last night on my blog I almost surely misrepresented your man-as-money thesis from your post, since Parodycenter agreed with it and so (sort of) did Jonquille. I even dangled a brief Debordian Arpeggio regarding misogyny in the American moviegoing collective unconscious, exploited consciously by filmmakers and their money men.

  17. I haven’t seen American Gangster, in part because of the discussion we had about Eastern Promises. My expectations are low. On the other hand, I am interested in seeing No Country for Old Man. Today I wrote a short post about the book, but the movie isn’t showing locally so I’ll have to wait. It could be bad — genre fiction with a humanistic good guy chasing down the inhuman bad guy. But this is the Coen brothers after all.

    I think I’ll stay away from AmStranger for awhile. I probably should have left your second utopia installment alone, inasmuch as it was coded for a more communistic treatment than I could summon. But at least the denouement this time wasn’t as volatile or toxic. It was actually kind of funny this time — I hope you got a kick out of it.

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