Monday, March 24, 2014

The Crying Game


Norman has recovered from his disappointment at the delay of his new film project, an adaptation of The School for Scandal set in a modern day trailer park, and from the hangover that accompanied the drowning of his sorrows. He and Nurse Tameka sailed out of Chateau Maine this morning, along with his pills, his breathing apparatus, his port-a-potty, and his emergency defibrillator to go to a meeting with his agents about other potential projects during this unexpected hiatus. They returned, five minutes later, as Norman had, once again, forgotten to put on any clothes. Nurse Tameka thought it would be very unwise for him to stroll through Century City in the nude. He is so susceptible to respiratory infections. We found a nice Versace ensemble for him and they were again dispatched. I spent my morning going through the new pages of Toxy Foxy , Troma Studio's new musical sequel to The Little Foxes , in which Regina moves to Chicago and pairs up with the Toxic Avenger. I'm still not sure about this project. Norman thinks I should do it but I am uncertain about the scenes in the Union Stockyards where I lead five hundred head of beef cattle in a slaughterhouse ballet.

The VickiWear project appears to be on schedule. Mr. Carducci called and said the first cargo container of Indonesian seamstresses had arrived at his New Jersey manufacturing plant and had started on the Sound of Music and Tobacco Road collections. I'm thinking about adding a Samuel Beckett look based on Waiting for Godot and Endgame to the line; a sort of timeless clown look, only with more bugle beads. Bob Mackie hasn't been able to come up with the right idiom yet, but anyone who can make Barbie look stunning at fifty, should be able to handle modern existentialist comedy. Wal-Mart and Pic-n-Save executives are so delighted with the VickiWear concept that they promise major displays in their apparel departments when the first designs are released. K-Mart may even axe Martha Stewart for me.

Feeling satisfied at having done a good days work, I retired to the home theater where I stumbled across a film I had not seen for some years, Neil Jordan's The Crying Game from 1992. The film created a furor when Miramax first released it to theaters due to a celebrated plot twist (which is now well known but which I will not spoil here). This particular plot element dominated cocktail conversation for weeks. (Have you seen it? Did you know? Were you shocked? Blah, blah, blah...). This one scene and its revelation, somewhat shocking to American standards of film decorum, tended to overshadow the films many other merits and it was interesting to approach it with fresh eyes, knowing how the plot would work out. The famous plot twist is not the only major shocker in the film, there are least two other moments that are equally harrowing and send the film spinning in a fresh direction. Hollywood should learn a thing or two from this. Audiences are not as dim as it would like to believe.

The film sets its tone during the opening credits sequence, a slow pan, looking out from the shadows under a bridge, at a traveling carnival on the further shore while Percy Sledge's When a Man Loves a Woman plays in the background from the carnival PA system. This is a film about alienation, relationships, and ultimately, what it means to be human, independent of the labels we wear due to ethnicity, gender, ideology and the like. At the carnival we meet Jody (Forest Whitaker), a black British soldier stationed in Northern Ireland to combat the troubles there. Jody is seduced and then captured by Jude (Miranda Richardson) and her IRA allies Fergus (perennial Jordan favorite Stephen Rea) and Peter (Adrian Dunbar) and the other members of their cell. If the British do not release an IRA figure they are holding, they will execute Jody in retaliation. Fergus makes the mistake of being an honest and decent man in an uncaring environment, befriending their hostage. Jordan shoots these scenes in an autumnal, elegiac tone, so we sense that this relationship is ultimately doomed, no matter what happens. The growing friendship, frowned upon by the other IRA members, consists predominantly of conversation and seems to have started life as a stage play, rather than a screenplay, as it quietly and effectively sets up all that is to come. The hostage situation is ultimately resolved, in an entirely unexpected manner, but absolutely true to the nature of the characters as defined, and Fergus finds himself on the run. He hides himself in London where he tries to enter Jody's life, meeting and eventually falling for his beautiful girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson).

A complex web of relationships with unexpected turns and dangers is set in motion with these developments. Jordan lets us explore the nature of humanity, both individually and collectively and touches upon some remarkable themes in the subtext of his screenplay. Most of the more interesting ideas are not explicitly stated but to be savored later, in reflection. I left marveling at how much I was thinking about the human connections between individuals and how we tend to muck them up with preconceived ideas and prejudices. Neil Jordan won a well-deserved Oscar for his effort. The superficial (The IRA, the flight, the hiding in London) are really of no importance in this film and it could have been made with any setting or background.

Stephen Rea, who vies with William H. Macy in the Huckleberry Hound look-alike contest on an annual basis, is a soulful hero. His job as protagonist is not so much to act but to grow and learn, which he does, ultimately making sacrifices that not even he completely understands. Rea must be given credit for making the character transformations completely believable, even during somewhat artificial moments. Miranda Richardson is compelling as the villain of the piece. With an ability to transform herself and a soul of ice, she is the antithesis of Rea's Fergus. One sees that she ends up in the IRA, as she is not capable of making a human connection and has to make political ones instead. Jaye Davidson brings quiet grace, to the pivotal role of Dil. Her character is undereducated, down on her luck, and emotionally needy but we recognize her as being human and worthwhile, despite all her faults. Forest Whitaker, as Jody, suffers some by comparison. The fault being primarily in the script, which calls for him to be a static victim. We have little sense of him as a man outside of this role.

I thoroughly recommend this film to thoughtful adults and older teens. It's not eye candy, but nourishment for the mind and soul. And can be the fodder of many an interesting conversation on the human need to pigeonhole the uncategorizable, especially other humans.

Carnival games. Canvas hoods. Gauzy drapes. Christmas wreath dress. Multiple haircuts. Cricket batting. Slimy construction company owner. Friendly bar tender. Assassination plots. Boy George song.

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