Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eating their own

Some juxtapositions can't be sluffed off.

And what could be more intriguing than the convergence of a cinematic and real-world eating of one's own.

First, to the film, The Road, which I saw last night. This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's dark novel about father-son survival in a post-apocalyptic world is a must-see, but I don't recommend doing what I did---seeing the late-night feature and then trying to go to sleep with a twisted stomach and vivid recollections of scenes I (and you) will never forget.

Though there are occasional vignettes of warm, compassionate, even hopeful human interaction---sufficient, at least, to prevent the audience from heading for the exits in total despair---the film was a near-perfect rendition of "bleak" and "terrifying" in a way that no horror film comes close to matching. In the novel, and the film, the graphic treatment of the hordes of survivors, many of whom have resorted to cannibalism, and their dungeons and killing fields accompanied by nightmarish off-screen sound-effects of screaming and hacking, well, need I say more? It's not just a gore film, though; it's actually a stunning visualization of the end of civilization as we know it.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the French. Oh, la la! what is it with those people? Today's NYT updates us with notes from their latest identity crisis. I've traveled to enough countries in the world to be able to bestow first place honors for the most self-referential people on earth to the French, a people I adore, living in a country I adore. (Second place goes to the Singaporeans, by the way.) Now, however, they've done it---again. Formed a commission to study the question of what is the French national identity. And everyone is weighing in---philosophers, educators, politicians, labor leaders, comedians, et al. Mix in a cauldron and stir, I s'pose.

Paris, like New York, is one of the most multi-ethnic, diverse, fascinating cities on earth. Largely, of course, due to colonialism in Africa and elsewhere during the 17th-20th centuries, Today, France boasts an intriguing mix of people, but they have subjected themselves to searing--and I think harmful--self-examination and enforcement of social norms that we would find intolerable. Case in point: the controversy over Muslim girls wearing traditional head scarves in public school classrooms. The entire country is polarized and taking sides on this 'earth-shattering' issue. Not too many years ago, the language police were out enforcing a taboo on Franglais: the use of Franco-English expressions in advertising, local parlance, and such. And now, this national 'conversation" that, by its very nature, leaves so many citizens feeling out of the mainstream, or even suspect. A less graphic version of eating one's own.

1 comment:

  1. Great posting! Now i want to see that movie.. i think ;)