Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Poem for Wednesday, The Hours, Red Leaves

From Leaves of Grass: "A Word Out of the Sea"
By Walt Whitman

Now in a moment I know what I am for -- I awake,
And already a thousand singers -- a thousand songs,
          clearer, louder, more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life
          within me,
Never to die.

          O throes!
O you demon, singing by yourself -- projecting me,
O solitary me, listening -- never more shall I cease
          imitating, perpetuating you,
Never more shall I escape,
Never more shall the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent
          from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was
          before what there, in the night,
By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
The dusky demon aroused -- the fire, the sweet hell
The unknown want, the destiny of me.


A miracle occurred on Tuesday at about 10:45 a.m.! I arrived at the Motor Vehicle Administration, took a number, and before I could even pull out my book, my number was called! Immediately! I went to the window, expecting to be told that this was only the waiting room for space in the real waiting room, but the woman behind the counter took my photo and my eye test and had me sign a couple of things! In less than ten minutes, I was out of there with my new driver's license, good till the end of 2016!

It was drizzling by the time I got home, but since it was not even 11:30 yet and I'd been anticipating being an hour longer, I have no complaints. My laundry-folding movie for the day was The Hours, which I'd never seen before; I never read the book, and while I mostly love Virginia Woolf, I mostly don't love Nicole Kidman, so that had been a deterrent. And while I didn't particularly love Kidman's performance, which seemed constrained by her makeup -- a prosthetic nose does not a characterization make -- that wasn't what I really disliked about The Hours.

For a film that's supposed to be about three women's experiences, it sure comes off as a story of the poor men who love these crazycakes chicks. Poor Leonard, his entire life devoted to stopping his wife from killing herself! Poor Dan, surviving the war so he can marry his dream girl, only to discover that she doesn't want him or their children! Poor Richie, abandoned by his mother, then forced to stay alive to keep Clarissa sane! The only woman I really appreciated was Clarissa's partner Sally, but she's a sacrificial wife figure; I know nothing about her except that she adores Clarissa and has a job somewhere that we never hear anything about, that doesn't stop her from doing everything to support Clarissa but conveniently gets her out of the house so Clarissa can sob about her mid-life crisis to someone else.

Julianne Moore -- the queen of movies about women in ostensibly heterosexual relationships where one or both partners are really gay -- makes Laura sympathetic to a point. But given what we see of Laura's husband, who's self-absorbed but not cruel or unsympathetic, why couldn't she try saying, "Hey, your domestic fantasy isn't working for me, how about I stop baking cakes and get a job outside the house and we agree not to have any more babies?" We have no reason to believe he wouldn't try to help her find happiness. Leaving her children isn't her only option, and it's presented as abandonment rather than finding herself, considering that a generation later, Clarissa's daughter who never met her own sperm donor father is calling Laura "the monster."

I might forgive all this if we got some insight into Woolf herself -- how her mental illness manifested in her youth, how her parents' early deaths or her childhood sexual abuse influenced her psyche, how much of her genius was drawn from her supposed madness. We hear Richard as a writer as much as we hear Virginia; mostly we see her domestic crises, just as we see with Clarissa who believes that her own life is trivial except in service to Richard's genius. For a movie about women, The Hours feels excruciatingly sexist to me.

Adam brought his girlfriend home to do homework before tennis, where unfortunately I can no longer walk in the woods because it's dark now that the clocks have gone back. My greatest entertainment of the day was seeing Colin Firth naked in a bathtub courtesy Sandra. Glee was on but I only really paid attention when Idina Menzel was singing and when Santana was onscreen; Ringer was much more entertaining but is so convoluted at this point that they better start unraveling their plots ASAP. I am running behind tonight so have some autumn leaves from Calvert County:

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