I'm Younger Than That Now...
From a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, David Fincher has crafted a lovely film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. A post-Katrina film about life, love and mortality, a homage of sorts to the beauty of being human, offering dignity and worth for lives lived. I say, post-Katrina, because New Orleans is the setting for the tale and the approaching Hurricane is the context. In case you've been living under a rock, it's the story of Benjamin Button, played by Brad Pitt, a man who is born old and ages backwards, a sort of living Dorian Grey--but it is so much more than that. Here is a film that lovingly grapples with the struggles of life, the ignominy and grace found in aging, the beauty and pain of love, the necessity of loss and disappointment. It's a meditation on what it means to be human, and it couldn't be more lovely. At times it feels as though it could drift towards Forrest Gump territory, but it is saved by Fincher's marvellous, and darker approach to film-making and wondrous acting from pretty much everyone in the film (Cate Blanchett, Jared Harris, Julia Ormond, Taraji Henson, Tilda Swinton). Fincher loves water, and it plays a part in all his films--usually in the form of rain (Fight Club, Panic Room, Seven etc.), but this time it's river and ocean, washing us all along in the currents of life. I say us, because the movie gathers the audience in, we don't really just watch Brad, liked we watched Hanks as Gump, we find ourselves in the film, it's our lives that are the subject matter, and that is what makes this truly a magical film. The flimsiness of the story is more than supported by the richness of material the film wrongs from what it means to live. This film is also a meditation on living in a postmodern world, one in which the Protestant work ethic, the strive to be something, or someone, is replaced by the simple desire to accept who and what we are--the closing moments of the film lay this idea out much more poetically than I possibly can--suffice to say that Luther's drive is replaced by mindfulness and self-acceptance. I don't really want to dig too deeply into the film, just encourage one and all to go and see it .
Looking more like a high-end magazine than a book, The Bible Illuminated, is another attempt to put the Bible in a contemporary form. The accompanying website declares,
"Illuminated World seeks to introduce today’s audience to a revolutionary contemporary Bible, one that encourages dialogue and is culturally relevant, readily accessible and easily digestible for any reader regardless of religious, economic, racial or social background.
We have no religious agenda and support no specific faith. Bible Illuminated is intended to be a unique vehicle for reacquainting today’s reader with one of history’s most important texts."
There are some cool, and occasionally provocative images, and a surprising use of the King James text. It's funny that many contemporary versions (the Canongate Press Pocket Canons, also used KJV) use what is surely one of the more inaccessible translations. I guess it's the classic, poetic style that gives it a kind of gravitas? Anyway, this is more than worth a look, although I think that if the creators want people to reacquaint themselves with the Bible, they might want to explore using a more readable text.
One of my students in the class on Theology and Contemporary Spirituality did an art piece as part of her final project. The photo doesn't do it real justice but it's a kind of grid, connecting images, ideas and concepts with red strong. The piece is meant to capture the continuity and discontinuity of religion, according to the artist. She used grey tones to avoid the 'concreteness' of black and white statements, and the white spaces offer 'room to breathe.' I liked the piece and think it really captures much of the material we explored in class. It's always nice when a student rises to the occasion and tries for something. There are a couple of other pieces I'll post about later.
I have seen two films lately that have a similar feel--depressing! Revolutionary Road, the much-lauded Sam Mendes directed film, re-teaming Kate Winslett and Leonardo Di Caprio tells a tale of a 1950s suburban marriage, all lost dreams and displaced desires. There is lots of arguing, all of which feels stilted, and a tragic ending, what could be better??!! I really didn't like the film. Perhaps it was a warning for us all not to sacrifice our dreams on the altar of security and safety, maybe it was a meditation on imbalanced relationships, or maybe it was just a good idea that just didn't work. I have little desire to try and work out what it all meant, because I spent way too long trying to dig myself out of the emotional hole it put me in!! Seven Pounds is not much better. Although it is more confusing. It has been slanted as a feel-good movie, and there is undoubtedly an element of the film that leans in that direction, but the price of feel-good in this film is way too much!! Will Smith is making quite a career for himself playing broken, somewhat morose figures, who perform some kind of heroics--Seven Pounds follows that same arc, but again, I just didn't think the weight of the material lived up to the feel-good intentions of the film. Holiday time is always Oscar-time and films of 'weight and depth' are often released around now, but hopefully not everything out there is going to be slanted so heavily towards the melancholy and the morose!
Light/DarknesWilderness/Water/Endings/Beginnings/Probability/Impossibilty These are the tensions we have been exploring through Advent. Today we discussed Mary--Caputo says that her experience of the impossigle is her experience of God--everything else is mediocrity--living within the possible is mediocrity and does not bring the experience of faith--I talked along those lines anyway--we sang, ate mince pies, listened to poetry--nice way to spend a Suday morning.
We have been putting our new home together. New space, new design inclinations. I found this cool painting at the Fairfax Swap-meet for $20 and decided to use it for a little installation piece. I saw something similar in a design magazine a few months back and hatched a plan to do something like it. It's not quite finished, it will have another Raven by the time I'm done--one in flight. Why? You ask. I don't know, it just seemed the right thing to do with the painting.
Mince pies--most Americans don't get them, but there again, they have rubbish tea for the most part and little cultural connection with pies (except for apple and pumpkin of course, but these are the fruits if the New World!). The humble mince pie, once banned by the Reformers for being 'Popish,'--the pastry, often shaped like a boat, is meant to evoke the manger and the filling, that strange stuff called 'mincemeat' is representative of the gifts the wise men brought to Bethlehem--gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This was too much for the early Protestants, who viewed this sort of thing as altogether too close to idolatry. Fortunately, someone missed them and eventually they found their way back into favour. This is the folly of religious partisanship--little things like mince pies become the source of idolatry!! I baked some today for our gathering tomorrow, always trying to bring blessings to the savages!!!