saw the Gatsby film last night having read the book for the first time.
- the film is merely an attempt to recreate the experience of reading the book, to the extent that sometimes you will have the words literally floating on screen in crusty typewriter font. i always thought that while a book tells a story a film is meant to show that story. that’s what all the screen-writing manuals tell you anyway. it certainly does this film no favours to have Toby Maguire clumsily reciting extracts from Fitzgerald’s original at every turn. for instance, we all remember this:
“I thought you knew, old sport. I’m afraid I’m not a very good host.” He smiled understandingly - much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal re-assurance in it, that you come across four or five times in life.
this is ravishing prose but when that scene arrives in Luhrmann’s adaptation Leonardo DiCaprio (very competently) raises his glasses and blesses Nick with that special smile and we hear Maguire reading out it’s description in the book in a stilted hammy fashion. that moment is supposed to be a very subtle moment. only in a book can you spend so long dwelling on someone’s expression. in a film we are meant to see the expression and draw our own conclusions.
i mention that scene in such detail because this sort of thing happens an awful lot throughout the film.
also, there’s this whole wraparound flash-forward where Carraway is a recovering alcoholic telling some doctor the whole story. just a really pointless allusion to the fact that it is based on a book yet a departure from the structure of the actual book. such scenes seem to come at the expense of any depiction of Gatsby’s father towards the end. whilst reading the book i felt that those scenes were the most cinematic so i was disappointed to see them omitted in the film.
the music is brilliant but totally incongruous. were i not such a devotee of Jay-Z i might have more easily seen this coming when i first heard about the soundtrack.
and 3D is not appropriate for any feature film. i can imagine it being a worthwhile medium for certain pieces of video art but it’s far too distracting if one is attempting to communicate a narrative. also, 3D is not actually 3D. if you move your head left and right in the presence of any 3D object you will see more or less of it’s sides and what is behind it. in 3D cinema this is not the case thus it is merely an optical illusion contrived to combat piracy and push up ticket prices. bring on hologram Tupac!
many would argue that Gatsby is a universal tale of decadence and shallow artificiality and that 3D and hip-hop bring this out further. there were moments when i half-believed this but then i realised that putting jazz trombone over some Flux Pavilion doesn’t make it any more authentic and just shows the dangers one inevitably faces when trying very ostentatiously to make an old classic appeal to younger generations.
when i listen to #novarafm or these new philosophy lectures my friend has got me into i need something to do with my hands that is productive but not distracting. clearly knitting is the answer. i am not very good yet because i keep thinking that i’ve made an error. my mum can knit while the tv is on but during have i got news for you she misses all the visual jokes and paul merton’s facial expressions because she is busy turning wool into scarf. “it’s like riding a bicycle”
delightful times en parc au soleil. j’adore mes amis. we are now free from the squalid confines of the college cafeteria. i can roam, and roam shirtless with said amigos. writing on the body is both alluring and profoundly liberating. i saw it in a film. don’t forget the bottle opener. i look out of the windows today with dismay that normal service is resumed. the party is over, or at least it will have to move indoors.
took this today. since i started reading more i worry that i don’t take in landscapes like i used to. the truth is that landscapes still have the power to distract me from books. i’m going to start reading shorter books and short bits from longer books so that i can focus more on the passing landscape again.
new video. stained glass collages that i made when i was five illuminate me as i enter adulthood. the juvenilia cut-off point looms, i always thought it was in the past. who knows who cares. ambitions contracting.
i have noticed recently how ambiguous the self service checkout is. politically, that is. a few years ago shoppers at my local supermarket were being encouraged by staff to try these new self-scanning machines. there were big queues for the main checkouts so the subtext was “look! you can get out of here quicker if you cooperate with the robot, why not?”. one old lady sardonically highlighted the effect such machines have on employment by responding with “do you want to be made redundant?”.
this Luddite perspective is, of course, based on fact. the intended result of widespread self-service checkout use is the redundancy of more checkout staff and the further proletarianization of a proportion of residual employees. very few people wish to be made redundant in a country with such an ungenerous welfare state, yet the drudgery of dragging other people’s groceries through the big red laser, smiling briefly and mumbling something about nectar is no ones idea of fun either.
the sort of Marxists i have the most time for are those who acknowledge the tedium of menial labour. those who oppose the wage relation itself and not just the extreme injustices it encompasses. which is why i support increased automation if it is in the service of shorter working hours and increased prosperity for all. which, i hasten to add, it never is (coz capitalism). this is a key area where the predictions of Keynes have proved delusional whilst Marx’s theories have enjoyed much confirmation.
a noticeable source of irritation within the self-service checkout experience itself is that when the machine’s complex weighing system fails to digitally correlate with what is happening in the real world one immediately becomes the accused. we’ve all been subjected to that “unexpected item in bagging area” refrain and it leads to up to several minutes waiting before a flustered shelf-stacker comes to the rescue with their magic card. if this happens repeatedly the shelf-stacker becomes increasingly flustered and the stench of bored distrust is palpable. professional Guardian gobshite Suzanne Moore recently described SSC’s as “the shoplifters’ friend” but it’s my considered opinion that the over-compensatory algorithms put in place make casual theft more difficult than ever.
the weighing system also prevents flexibility. i had my most harrowing self-service checkout-related experience when i changed my mind about how many spring rolls i wanted to get (partly because the sell-by date was fairly imminent but also because the 2 for £4 offer wasn’t manifesting itself on the on-screen receipt). to cancel an item requires unwittingly hassling that poor proletarian with the magic card but further problems arise with the weight of the remaining items and so on, etc, etc, it was just so horrific i had to go to the old fashioned human checkout. this experience posed a serious challenge to my autonomist post-work dogma.
nevertheless, as SSCs proliferate, any dogma, Luddite or otherwise, will have to be usurped by a general desire for efficiency. i only hope such innovations will one day be led not by profiteering capitalists but by the people using the #wrongtowork hash-tag on twitter.