May 10th, 2005

Palindromes

I went to see Palindromes Saturday with Jillian. kdotdammit has already written extremely smart and interesting entries on the film that you should check out if you are interested in it or simply want to figure out what I'm trying to say here. Also, there is an interesting story in the San Francisco Chronicle about his recent visit to the City in which he discusses the making of the film.

Strangely, though Palindromes is intense, it came as a relief to me after the memorial service for Julian Boyd that afternoon and the excruciating conversation I'd begun to have with Jillian at Jupiter prior to the film. I think I liked the film better than Jillian did and less than Kim did. Even though I know that director Todd Solondz is out to push everyone's buttons, I had a very hard time with the way the two African-American actresses were used.

I imagine that Solondz was trying to make a point about racism's legacy in American filmmaking but the stereotypes he had to perpetuate to make that point were so hard for me to take that I wish he'd taken a more subtle approach. Indeed, memories of Crispin Glover's horrifyingly visceral What Is It? kept flashing through my mind as I watched Palindromes. On the other hand, I also thought of Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place, which makes a similar point about girls desire to have babies, so perhaps I'm being too harsh.

One thing that troubled me about Solondz's film Happiness and even his debut Welcome To the Dollhouse was the distance he maintains from his characters. I recognize the ideological merit to implementing some version of Bertolt Brecht's "alienation effect," but felt that Solondz too often slipped from making the audience stand apart from his characters to inviting them to make fun of them. Oddly, though I expected to have a similar response to Palindromes, my concern with the film's tone was muted as I watched it and has faded to insignificance since.

Regardless of my reservations, though, I think it's a film worth seeing. Even the parts that Jillian and I found boring were boring in an interesting way. Had we been less tired and preoccupied, they might have engaged us more. I'd love to hear what you have to say about it, so blog away upon seeing it.

Friends Till the End

My trip to the San Francisco Bay Area was extremely tiring but good. I'm very glad I was able to attend Julian Boyd's memorial service and honored that I was one of the speakers. Overcoming my fear of speaking in front of a full house in the Maude Fife room was hard, but I managed. Everyone was so eloquent. And I really felt like Julian was there with us, not only in spirit, but in a more bodied form. It was also great to sit next to my dissertation director, who was supportive and sweet.

batdina and leela_cat heroically picked me up at the airport late Friday night and showed me enormous hospitality and kindness during my pre-ceremony stress Saturday. Steven and Robin made me feel right at home as always, adding to the effect by taking us to Juan's. Jillian stayed up till the wee hours of the morning to let me vent. Doug made me pizza Monday when I was preoccupied with a deadline and drove me to the airport nimbly so that I could make my flight.

And Joel spent most of his Sunday treating me to the best Amoeba experience of my life, not to mention an intellectually rich stop at the anarchist bookstore on Haight. It's great to be reminded that one has friends who will be there until the end.
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