...being the observations and navigational extracts
from the ongoing expeditions of San Francisco Piano Pop trio
True Margrit

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Strawing at Grasps

**Spoiler Alert for moviegoers** so sorry!!

Oh my dear readers, I have more coincidental occurences (see various coincidence blogs below) to relate to you from this week with its high level of coincidence.

I went to check out the new film, "Into the Wild" (Sean Penn directed this one, based on the life and death of tragic/ triumphant youthful wilderness adventurer Chris McCandless) at the Metreon. I had read the book by Jon Krakauer long ago, so I had really been looking forward to it--although it's a sad tale. Ten minutes before the end, the screen went black and whirly lights lit up the theatre and a prerecorded man's voice informed us of an unspecified emergency that required our evacuation of the premises. It was surreal--especially whilst watching a guy out in the middle of the Alaskan bush--to lurch back into quotidian urban realities without much reentry time. I headed up to Market and took BART home, puzzling on perils of moviegoing and mooses.

A few days later, I went to "Across the Universe"--I can't resist a rock opera. I had seen an interview on Charlie Rose with the director, Julie Taymor and the clips looked prety damn psychedelic and cool. And I LOVE her version of Titus Andronicus. So off I went. And once again: cinemus interruptus! And once again, it happened near the climactic moments of the film. This time the projector stopped showing pictures, so we belted out some lines from "Hey Jude" while the music played on (as it does--oh, it does), and then went to collect our free movie passes. But hey--weird, right? Two aborted movies in three days. Whoa.

A few days following that, I got to see the final scenes from "Into the Wild". Now that I have seen the whole film I can say it is funny, grim, beautiful, intense, gross, and sad. With quite a cast. And! It features a wonderful piece of music by the Bay Area's own Erik Pearson! Yay! Oh yeah and songs by Eddie Vedder--who seems to be channeling some 1970's Cat Stevens vibe-- so much, that I wondered: why not just go ahead and use "Miles From Nowhere" and have done with it? Emile Hirsh does a hell of a job evoking the bravado, thougtfulness, and charm of the enigmatic Chris McCandless. Worth checking out. Aside from the tedious voiceover narration, I do recommend it. I shed a tear or ten & it kept me up at night thinking on it.

As for "Across the Universe". Well. I still haven't seen the end, so I must save some space/energy for further commentary, but.... I will say that rock opera films tend to get vitriol heaped upon them. And some of the bad rap is deserved--where's the rock? The only truly perfect rock opera film heretofore is "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (because it's hilarious, tragic, subversive, and a little demented--and that rocks). "Across the Universe" has an added wrench in its cosmos: it's all Beatles songs. One must suspend disbelief about remakes of Beatles songs-- cuz, how can you improve on perfection? However! Not so fast, haters! There are some unquestionably transcendent rock n' roll moments here. Not so much from the music--I mean the songs are sublime, of course, but the renditions here, in a way, just reference the originals without bothering to really rock out. In fact the drums and guitars are kinda low in the mixes (or nonexistent) and the vocalists aren't consistently all that incendiary. But it's another kind of rock. Not the kind you can listen to-- NO, it's the pictures, stupid! Director Julie Taymor is expressing rock visually-- go to the cineplex for the big screen just to check out "She's So Heavy". Holy SHIT: it's set in a military induction center with hallucinogenic Uncle Sams popping out of posters, scary giant "toy" soldiers dancing , and inductees toiling through a Vietnamese swamp with the Statue of Liberty propped painfully on their shoulders while the lyrics "she's so heavy" are sung. OH my god. And the "Happiness is a Warm Gun" scene with spinning hospital beds, twirling caped ninja nurses, and little imaginary ladies dancing in syringes. Yow. It is rock for the eyes.

Oh sure, there's some bad stuff. I particularly felt detached from the film's version of "I am the Walrus". The original song just can't be matched. No way. Not with Bono--not with nobody. On the other hand, the scene utilizes every color in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, so that it is absolutely psychoactive and will in fact cause LSD flashbacks for some viewers who have at some point partaken of such substances.

So, the storyline isn't Dickens, Shakespeare, or Annie Proulx. But! It has at least a wee spark of that insistent yearning for the unreachable the elusive the ineffable that makes one NEED, and HAVE to rock. Or to burn your cash in the desert and hitchhike to Alsaka and shed your identity and face perils. You must reach try strive, and grasp at the straws strewn as best you can. That is the stuff rock is made of.