Because there on the French screen the future stood like a circus clown about to juggle improbabilities--but scary and lost, the poor little handyman--poised somewhere between Emmett Kelly and a small frog (no insult intended)--fattened up for the post-apocalyptic menu. And just like my basement the little man remains, his rhythm as perfect as his lithe frame and pushed-in face--and I remember him as the thug who hated everything in Diva--except now he is the closest thing to love in this hilarious and cruel movie, Chaplinesque without insulting Charlie. Each cartoon bounce and Keystone Cop skitter warmed me against the cold of the world he had to live in--darker than the corner where our first-born's crib stood in neat pieces suitable for kindling and spiders.
I have a vague childhood memory of hiding under the bedcovers to weather some household storm--and it must have been a big one because I never fell for that kid cliché--especially when it came to monsters: How could I plan my escape if I couldn’t see them? But that time I had seen enough, I suppose, and gave in to the impulse to turn everything into pale thin cloud cover, a blank nothing to keep out Something.
Raise the Red Lantern billows a sheet against the world--but it’s the world that’s made safe--or at least blind, so that the lush slavery and personal politics within can push on without a sound, the snow and sun and black night the second set of bedclothes, a double cocoon where beautiful things with short lives and stingers can lie and crack open and spread wings--not to fly away, but to hover over one another, the concubines circling like queen wasps, too many for the hive.
And off in the distance is the rich man who spit out golden wax and built it all: the closed indulgent empire with its unnatural rules followed like laws of nature by queens who believe they rule. The young college student we follow beats her wings against the soft walls--and I watch her from my own little cell, years ago--not so many, I guess, the moment still in my head as I sit and read subtitles and watch beautiful Women in Chains plot and scheme and despair, cons whose pleas of innocence are neither denied nor heard beneath muffled silk.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 9/19/2011 08:54:00 AM
What else is there, though? They all live there, one time or another, and have to walk where they all walk--and I have to follow them--and it's more than the same old Anglophilia that I jump into feet first, eager to follow the old woman as she moves one more time through the tall grass--mowed at the end of the picture, her ghost as welcome as the rich man’s humbled face, Anthony Hopkins holding his head and clearing it--yes, a little befuddled at the end, no longer a Lion of Commerce (too many losses, too many failed houses); but the sun makes an appearance and the clouds’ shadows seem cheerful as they glide on the field, the alternating light and dark natural and reassuring.
Again, it's more than those reassurances: While the ironies of the novel (at least I think they were ironies) are softened a bit, the new century does its hard work, watches the old class system not merely fade but reinvent itself as a man sitting on the grass and being forgiven by the freer spirits of the twentieth century--to whom Howard’s End is still promised. And while Romantic sunrises never work out, I confess I walk toward them, like poor Leonard Bast, because after all the two families behave as they should, whether we like it or not, with just enough foolishness and fond love to get them and keep them together.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 9/16/2011 03:32:00 PM