Marc Horne is one of the most exciting writers I know. Well his writing is exciting. But that’s what makes a writer exciting isn’t it? Can you imagine Charles Bukowski being dull? Or Michel Foucault? Sylvia Plath? No nor me. This is his latest story. It really is worth taking the time to read.
America. At one time, great films accidentally leaked from the great machine. Until the leak was noted, contained, industrialized. And then one day they found Quentin Tarantino fucking some little tube round the back of the machine that was still moist. And then they sealed that up too.
So, I don’t think I am going to be able to pull some miracle off for my new assignment. No second Cahier du Cinéma.
The great editor called me in his office. He got straight to the point. His first point, that I was a destructive shit who was unaware that the developed world was almost out of money and that vomiting champagne on models’ toes was no longer titillating decadence: it was tantamount to lying on our backs with our arms splayed wide and waiting for the Chinese to bayonet us from groin to gullet.
Then we started drinking.
I was looking at the paintings on his walls. They did not resemble him, or oppose him or intersect with him in anyway. Smudgy things at right angles to him. Then I remembered he was screwing his office assistant for a long time. She was in her forties but a hell of a machine. Now she was smeared all over the walls. She moved to the countryside a couple of years ago, suddenly passionate for cows.
“Chef, why no photographs or film posters in here?”
“They do not pay me to look at walls, Stéphane. Nor I you. I pay you to drink with me, fuck around with cameras and gently cover movies.
“And so I am sending you to America.”
And suddenly he is sweating. Because he is not an emotional man. And whatever lies he is going to use now are lies around an emotional topic.
And then I remember Mireille playing piano in our apartment. Never delicate, each note as big as the apartment. Our old apartment. Our apartment is parted. Part is an empty box, part is a big pile of crap that her parents have taken. Part is my books, my cameras that René insisted on looking after for me. The final part is my suitcase. As for the people, they no longer remain.
“Yes. I can’t trust you around sensitive French artists. You have become too… I don’t know. Too rock and roll. So I need you in America, to expose the heart of American filmmaking.”
The drinking has brought the night too early and too close. The buildings burn bronze below.
“I should visit a spreadsheet if you want me to go to the heart of American moviemaking.”
I do t have too much to add to the corpus of opinion on the subject, except to add that the only type of person who could ever live here is the kind of person who genuinely believes he is never going to die.
I have meetings.
“Yes, I am a little offended.”
I walk around his office looking for signs of eccentricity. A small fully functional sex-doll made of toilet roll cores or something in that genre.
Instead, I find an office so simple, plain and tasteless that it is a pose or not his real office. Perhaps in a Gondrian conceit it’s all made of papier maché or can be cleverly reassembled into a messy, artistic mechanism.
He puckers his bulldog-like face a little. I can imagine him having a tolerance to alcohol of a very low level, like a Japanese. And so I might be swirling molecules all around his room that taunt him. Or maybe he’s just irritated, but I don’t think so. The twitch is too weak to fight me and too queer to melt my heart.
“What… because I ‘Frenched’ my way past your P.A. even though you said no? C’mon, M. Gondry! Camera Magazine is the perfect magazine for your work. It’s all about light going in boxes then out. That’s Gondrian, I say. No?”
He sits down and starts tapping a little pen. Some anonymous Bic…not a cheap but immaculately crafted thing from Shibuya.
I look at him hard…suspecting an imposter, a mask. His face is rubbery, that’s true. But that tells me nothing. Gondry is a rubbery little guy. So I’ll just write up my suspicions, set the scene and let my readers decide which way they want it to be.
“So…The Green Hornet…”
“Yes, I was fascinated by this project. On one hand he is a figure that has been existing in the U.S. for…oh…many years. Since before we were born.
“But on the other, he has made little trace. And I think it is his name, y’know. It is slightly wrong, slightly miscalculated. It has no alchemy. It is like a cracked vase that can hold no meaning.”
I nod. He’s right. But still making his pitch? You made the movie already man! Let’s talk movies!
“Ok, mec, I like it. So then you made the movie. Is it ‘awesome?’ Will it ‘kick ass?’”
Gondry wriggles in his chair. I make a mental note to say “ass” a few times more this afternoon and if he wriggles consistently this will be a major theme of my article.
“The script was constructed to…have those effects, yes. I kept the humor and the action. And I have added mainly a system where there is a new kind of fighting. They don’t fight to kill –not in the traditional way – they fight to steal each other’s time.
“And since time in the world of the Green Hornet…the world this guy is going into…time expresses itself as action and jumping and moving so when one guy beats another guy’s…face in, there is not blood but instead there is a time fluid that passes between them. One speeds up, the other slows down.”
“So…no one dies.”
“It’s impossible to tell. Time stops. Possibly this is true in our real life.”
“So you have…this is…time stops…”
“Exponentially decreases. So actually never stops.”
“But even if it was agony Mr. Gondry? Even if it was agony it would just become infinite while everyone was contenting themselves that you were at rest while they drank and didn’t even keep their neckties fastened?
“I removed agony to maintain comedy. I put shame in instead.”
“And you don’t drink?” I ask.
He shakes his head.
“Only a little with my mother sometimes.”
The Green Hornet (dir. Michel Gondry)
A playful caper that sadly will not explode the Superhero-movie boom. Gondry delivers his most sublimated work to date, and reveals that perhaps it is best that he has moved on to his Hollywood period. Watchable.
John Cusack is surprisingly old. He dips crackers in his soup in the big deli in Santa Monica. He does it like a homeless man would do it…with a lust for life that fades every time one breaks and then rekindles because there is something inside this person which indefatigably prevents them from becoming a corpse.
I join him at the table and he doesn’t read. Doesn’t try and charm me. His typographic eyebrows look on me and his metallic eyeballs flick up and down from his shitty-looking soup to my face.
“So. Le Camera de Magazine! Slummin’ it at the coal face. Come to write about our decadent old biz, eh?”
I smile weakly.
“I liked High Fidelity, I think,”
The weak smile. This is a new thing I am trying over here. It drives these fuckers crazy, like when you sleep in a hotel room with a slightly broken fridge and it almost wakes you up all night long.
“So…you are an accomplished film-maker in your own right: was it your conception that your cop be ‘grizzled’?”
“The Goddamn French, man! OK, order yourself a coffee to bitch about and then we’ll talk about hookers, serial killers and the like. Yeah and the hookers too, that was me.”
I get the impression he is happy to talk like this. He wants me to drag him in the mud, content that this will only appear off in France somewhere. Like a celebrity doing a commercial for tiger balls in china.
“So do you consider this film…Important in some way?”
He pauses and looks over his shoulder. The wood panels of our booth hide most of what we are doing, but I am guessing there is a certain skill – a certain way you can tilt your head so you can spy on your neighbors.
“What…like…to the world?”
A lot of emphasis on the last world. He’s going on the offensive against me now.
“In any way. Important to your career. Important to Hollywood. Important to the New Zealand competition winner guy who is directing it. Important to hookers. I am leaving this completely open to you.”
He pauses – ice cold. Then the OMG half laugh. Then the conspiratorial lean in. It’s surreal talking to these Hollywood actors. The French guys… you can tell when they are acting, because outside of the movie there are basically only two ways that French actors address the press and so you say – ok this is the press voice. OK, then also they have their drunken lecherous personas which click in eventually but by that point I am drunk too, so it is academic.
But the Americans. Is this the Gross Pointe Blank character with me now? Or is this the real Cusack. I don’t know. It’s unprofessional. It is too intimate.
“You haven’t even seen this film but you think you can come over here, reeking of Cointreau and tell me how I should be living my life or something? I mean couldn’t you be giving Daniel Auteuil the third degree now. That fucking gay farce thing that I came THIS close to having to do the remake of.”
I suggest we go and get a drink. He suggests a dive bar full of Mexicans. He thinks it is a challenge to me to get real. He is showing his authenticity. But to be truly authentic we would be having this discussion in front of English speakers who give a shit about the Cusack oeuvre.
“…but it’s his own fucking daughter man. So he changes his detachment. It’s like…. It’s like a metaphor for Guantanamo bay. He’s all by the book, despite the sheer depravity of what he is facing. But then it touches him. And he is reduced to savagery…savagery with a badge.”
I face the depravity of this awful Dos Equis Mexican beer. Two guys in heavy plaid shirts are talking about some woman and their tongues are like eels. One guy is talking about what he did and the other is laughing and laughing. They both look like they have erections.
“Okay you talked me into it. You had to make this movie. And in the process, we have a new drinking game. You name a movie and I have to say why it is like 9-11. Ghostbusters is like 9-11 because by locking up the ghosts – which are Palestinians – we unleash massive destruction on NYC. “
He’s looking at his watch. Who has a watch these days? Fucking Cusack.
“Hey,” I ask, “what happens in Ghostbusters 2?”
The bigger Mexican guy punches the smaller one in the throat.
The Factory (Dir. Some guy from New Zealand FACT CHECK REQD.)
A grizzled cop tracks down a serial killer, who eventually targets the cop’s own family. Cusack summons emotion from unimaginable places to act in this film which supplied employment to many hard-working Americans.
I drive back from Santa Monica to Downtown where my hotel foolishly exists. The weather has collapsed. It is grey metal now, and looks horribly, horribly more real. Like a smooth IMAX dome onto which paradise had been projected. In HD.
And so it turns out that all it took was clouds to move us from heaven to the world left behind by God. God’s coke can. God’s cigarette end. Concrete like Chernobyl. Palm trees like you see at a newsworthy volcano. After a week of this, the rich would be gone. The left-behind hungry machinists and fumigators would drink from their pools, find sexual uses for their sculpture LIVE AS THEY BELIEVE THE RICH MUST LIVE including driving off a Malibu cliff alongside their battered wife, full of any drink with foil on the bottle, masturbating themselves with a vibrating blackberry.
How’s my driving? You are trundling forward admirably.
What was I doing? Also trundling forward admirably. My grief, my grief that was so physical that my skin and hair were peeling off, proved to me definitively that I was a primate, an animal, and that my thoughts were just the sweat of the brain doing its real work: finding bananas, trapping ants for protein and entertainment, clinging to another ape long after the mating ended just because the extent of my senses had gone too far and I was capable of understanding what the night meant.
Bad weather, this. And how dangerous the good weather was.
I am going to actually see this movie. A leggy young woman with American hair – pre-George-Bush, endless possibility hair – walks very fast down this red-carpet-red red-carpeted corridor. She hugs her clipboard with all the joy that fills her just by being ‘in’ Hollywood.
“Well – well you know – it was a big hit at Sundance 2010 and all we did…all that the director wanted to do, was just tighten up some of the conflicts and punch up some of the characters and maybe make a movie that would play a little stronger outside New York.”
I catch up with her at the screening room, a beige transition. I’m breathless, speechless, worthless. The screening room looks like a pit to me. I haven’t seen a movie since my wife died. But it is just a movie I am going to watch with this long blonde girl who would be delighted by me, the French guy at the top of the hill, not yet rolling down it. Haunted but still able to move around and be sardonic with her similar friends. So similar, that I could screw around on this girl and have total plausible deniability. ‘Look, we had a few beers, I was like why are we going to this strange apartment but whatever and then I apparently fucked Trudi but, you know, it was your decision to go to he same stylist as her.
So then we sit down and she checks something off on her clipboard and makes a little gesture and the lights dim. Her fingers are long and they love these gestures
The film happens. New Yorkers fall in and out of love and wonder why and, like, where are they going and, like, is it already too late for them even though they are young and gifted? Was it too late for the, the moment they were born?
It ends and I feel like I had a script read into my brain. But he did achieve a few good images and maybe he managed to be closer to Woody Allen than to Friends so I look over at the longing eyes of the blonde and I give her a tired thumbs up that would set them roaring back at the café and which gives her the first hint of an orgasm.
I ask her if she is seeing anybody.
I want to ask her a drink and I know she w ill say yes and I don’t want to get her into trouble so that is why I am asking if she is seeing anybody.
She says no and I don’t even try and figure out what kind of no it is. So, out for the drink: I talk about everything in my life which is not about my dead wife and the moments we shared together. There is much to talk about, it turns out. Too, too much.
I am not sure what time people go to fuck in this town. I ask a guy in the men’s room and he looks at me in horror. I have just spawned an anecdote, and perhaps even permanently added to the reputation of the French people.
So I decide midnight, and at that time seduce her and we go home and I enjoy her youth and the physical and mental flexibility that comes with it.
“So what is the difference between French cinema and American cinema, then?”
“Well there are some similarities. In both countries, too many movies are made. In our defense, most of our unnecessary movies have at least the merit of being about humans talking to each other and not about robots destroying each other. But I think the biggest difference is this: French directors can make a good movie accidentally almost. They get their money from Canal Plus and they go away and find a guy with a typewriter who has been sitting and watching the Seine everyday to put some words down. And then they shoot, and the actors are truly top class, even the good looking ones. I think there is a government limit on how many actors there can be, to make sure they each get to make their five movies a year so the talent is really deep. Et voila!
“You know how it is here.? A guy like Aronofsky, a real talent. He has to fight and fight and fight to keep making good movies! Like they think they can trap him and tame him and get him to make some perfectly Great shit movie for them. He sweats years away fighting off bad movies coming from a focus group of retarded incestuous chimps. Then one day he slips up. They tease him with an Oscar nomination, he strikes back with a Natalie Portman lesbian scene. He has played right into their hands. Next thing you know he is bringing his own unique vision of THE WOLVERINE!”
She looks over at me. Her apartment is perfectly lit to make her radiant in bed. Perhaps intentionally so. She knows light guys, after all.
“But what about like…editing styles and mise en scène?”
Her longing…for something better, in me – and in the world – reminds me too much of Mireille and I am planning how to get out of here now. Cheating on her in death is harder than it was in life.
“Americans can’t do endings,” I offer her.
happythankyoumoreplease (dir. Josh Radnor)
First-time director and writer uses the millions of dollars he raised to chat to the world for a couple of hours about his life in NYC. We all need, from time to time, to top up our mental model of NYC and this film will serve that purpose well. Attractive female leads.
That looks normal. That looks like someone you don’t have to worry about, or immediately search for.
I’m done with L.A. I decide to head to Mexico. To the borderland. Call it a vacation, shall we, so that I can do it.
I refuse to accept that bodies hanging from freeway bridges mean that I shouldn’t go there. Although…these are decapitated bodies. Logically, therefore, they are hung by the ankles. So, when I get to San Diego I shall simply cancel my reservation for a convertible.
First, get out of here. I decide to walk to the train station. It’s only a couple of miles. But a lot of it, I’m walking high in the air over frozen red freeways. Too high, and time is too slow. Looks like a God-mode, like a Gondry gimmick. Like L.A. stops trying when she sees you are leaving. Freezes a megaton-of-gasoline river and waits for the young, rosy-cheeked, unstoppable German backpackers to come.
Well let them come and then turn the clockworks back on. And let the algorithms and the banks and the channels and the templates and the reflexes that twitch…that hold on…that remember…that were once human…that still think they are human… let them make movies.
And let the movies make lights.
And let two people – whose touching hands are enough – watch the lights and laugh. And later one will sneer. He’ll sneer more and more as the years pass and for no deep reason. Just the sneer of the man who didn’t win the lottery but he HAD A TICKET! LISTEN EVERYONE, HE HAD A TICKET!
Then perhaps the same movie, perhaps the same hands but one stiff with bones now. Giving more love than…than…anything that ever came from the sky.
And then after, the home.
The lights. Because the words had failed before, would fail again and anyway, they hurt.
So new year bring your movies.
Fill the boxes.
[This article appears in the latest issue of Gupter Puncher! There are a few left in that snobby architecture bookshop in Santa Monica]
[So did everybody]