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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Curse of the Unspoken -- Part 2

       A film that I saw a few years ago (in fact, close to the time when I wrote the first draft of these two posts – these things take time, you know!), "Barney's Version," starred Paul Giametti as one such inarticulate hero, though I suppose that that bothered absolutely no one except me, especially because Giametti has such a big cult following that everything he does is greatly admired, though I couldn't see anything in this film that could have boosted his rep.  Giametti’s title character here, Barney, was a nasty, spiteful, and thoughtless slob through and through, and it was just not at all believable to me that nevertheless he had a succession of three dazzling women who saw enough in him that they consented to share his life in marriage.
       I guess we are supposed to think that Barney was somehow above the first two wives because they were unfaithful to him while overlooking the fact that he was no model of devotion to either woman, while, after pursuing the third woman relentlessly till she said "Yes," he nevertheless didn't make things too peachy keen for her either as time went on, which she testifies to when she isn't on the other hand unaccountably saying how great their years together were.
      Giametti’s character indulged in a lot of uglinesses that made no sense and that he didn't try to excuse, though there were plenty of occasions when he badly needed to explain himself – and audibly -- to his wives, to the viewers, and also to himself.  But the moviemakers saved a lot of work on the part of the writers who would’ve had to write more dialog, to say nothing of having also to be much more careful about the always sticky business of motivations, while the director and the actors had far fewer lines to have to deal with.  And so Giametti’s character had free rein to just keep slopping right along while saying nothing to justify himself or to enlighten others.
       One scene that illustrates this especially stuck in my mind.   In the beginning of the period when his marriage to that third wife that he continues to love so much is starting to go wrong, Barney is in the kitchen doing that favorite kitchen business of all film directors: using a very sharp knife to chop up an onion into expertly thin and uniform slices with lightning fast strokes while all the while the character is talking to someone, (at considerable peril, I would think, to the actor's fingers).   That beloved third wife tells Barney that he should freeze the onion first, because then cutting it wouldn't bring the well-known onion tears.   Barney says nothing, as if he hasn’t heard a word.
       Later, when the marriage is on the rocks, he comes home to find the house empty, and while he is looking in the freezer compartment of his refrigerator, he sees a lone onion sitting there unaccompanied by anything else in there that looks like food.
      He takes in that sight for some time before carefully closing the freezer door, still without saying a word or having touched the onion.
      What did he think that meant?   He must've thought something.
      That complete silence struck me as being very strange.   Did his character have no inner voice that was constantly speaking to him, loud and clear?   I have always had such a thing, and it talks to me throughout the day and in the nights, too.   I thought it was like that with everybody, and I have trouble believing that it's not.
       I can only think that it's taught at film schools that to leave things unsaid is the most effective way to go.   Let the viewers furnish their own words.   But I don't agree.   I think it would be a better world if people in all situations would explain themselves clearly and truthfully at certain, applicable moments, even in something as make-believe as a movie, and the fact that so many movie plots turn on things going wrong because so much was left unsaid that could easily have been said aloud backs up that contention.
       I guess that's why fate or my own inclinations never placed me even remotely in a position to be a screenwriter.  And even if I had been lucky enough to realize that dream, all the extra lines that I would’ve taken the time to write to convey a character's inner thoughts, even if I did that only occasionally, would still have been lopped off relentlessly by the arbitrary, hidebound committees that I am told make most movies.   In movies, as in real life, people just do things, and there is never any need to say why they did such and such, even if they knew why -- or were articulate enough to say why.
      In real life people often may not get the chance or the inclination to say why, or they don’t take the trouble to do it, but in movies the characters do get the chance, given a few extra seconds or minutes of running time, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be helpful if they availed themselves of that chance a time or two, or at least more often than in just one “House of Cards.”


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