Thursday, March 3, 2011

Where had cinema left us, after 'Brokeback Mountain'?

Inhaling bloodied shirts from closets in a trailer, desolation crushing through the credits: the survivor's destiny, so it said. Again I turn to my friend Tassos Paschalis for his creative vision, thinking of Colin Firth's awakening on the ink-stained bed in the opening scene of A Single Man, a film by Tom Ford from last year, based on an Isherwood novel of three generations ago.

Annie Proulx is no mean writer, and she had a point to make in Brokeback Mountain which was necessary. Isherwood, however, had persuasively shown that her conclusion represented a choice, appropriate to its predicates but not inevitable - for all her observant candour about the virtual incarceration of the rural underclass in America, to say nothing of the intransigence of the closet. Ang Lee, a very fluent director, had brought that story to the consciousness both of the street and of its own constituency, as an almost unanswerably depressing projection of the residual lives of single men who survive their partners.

This page has readers who adopt that fate peremptorily and uncritically, and Annie Proulx certainly understands why. Some of our friends sneak in for our deliciousness and upbraid us for indecency. Good grief, Charley Brown. One can understand the terror of having to blog to drum up business, one can understand the male matron's need to boast of outgrowing us. But one can't understand the misconception that conjugal felicity has the power to suppress the erotic gaze, much less the right to rebuke it. If domestic partnership or worldly position were the remedies for human nature that these readers pretend they are, we'd never have met them. At least, not here.

Far from it, says A Single Man. Isherwood's hero, George, stops for a chat with a colleague outside a tennis court, and Tom Ford captures his natural study of competing torsos on the court. George shares a cigarette with a hustler in the smog, and Ford shows his concentration on his face. George arrives for work and some cute kid, in androgynous white, offers him a wave, and it's the one greeting of many he acknowledges all morning. He's still plunged in a relationship that's real to him, but he's alive.

Everyone who reads this page has seen this movie, many have read the novel. I cite the advice of one of them, which was accompanied by a portrait of a model in Armani underpants:

I love pretty young men and mature boys and the ones you show are truly beautiful. A couple of your recent posts have been more suitable for a general audience but it’s fundamentally esoteric. I would feel the same way about a comparable blog that spotlights sexy and pretty young women; this is not a form of homophobia on my part. I do not presume that my blog readers would have a taste for [yours].

Have you ever thought of creating a second blog, one that will bring you more mainstream attention? I think it would be pointless for you to try to change RMBL at this stage in the game.

Thank heaven for clear thinking! I haven't seen a blog, yet, which goes out of its way to chat up habeas corpus, the International Style, Le Corbusier, racism, sectarian bigotry, blue roan English dogs, and really nifty Sauternes on the backs of sexy and pretty young women, but it's high time that they got started. The question is not whose back is pretty, it's whether any life is coherent, any vision sustainable, without reference to the irrepressible. The question is not the taste of somebody else, it's the tragic assumption that to declare a taste represents the slightest disclosure, the slightest deformity, the slightest insult.
I give you the surgeon, about to correct your vision. He's quite famously domiciled with his boyfriend, but in obtaining your waiver of liability he stipulates that he'll deny you any of his love for life, any of his treasurings. Is that knife one for your eye?

Deny the red mug, the blue linen's empty. There is no second blog, for acceptance's sake. We are exhibiting the tenacity of wonder in this world in every honest pleasure and principle of value to the mind. It is absolutely never absent, it is absolutely never defunct, it is absolutely never untrustworthy. Upon the proportion, for example, depicted in the previous picture, every feature of longevity, every feature of stability, every feature of elegance and balance in Vitruvian architecture depends. The figure is the living avatar of Western civilisation, and it is sad if a connoisseur can't admit it. 

This page, too, took a long time to get here, making all of the excuses and more, that its conscientious objectors put forth; but it cannot buckle to them, it cannot be just the place where they can feel safe to admire a tummy. The objection to this page is not to its taste. It's to its pertinence. Henry James declined that lunch at All Souls, to stroll among the hobbledehoys. We'll walk with him, and gratefully.


  1. Laurent, brilliant!

    How right you are when you say that the objection is to pertinence not taste. The individual voice, and yours is surely this, must not be censored - the Supreme Court said as much in its, to me, disturbing decision about the Westboro Baptist Church.

    I, for one, am glad your blog exists. I read it and value what you have to say.

  2. So frustrating finding bigotry dressed in a... cultural attire.

    by the way: your "ballet boy" should consider sex change!

  3. Dear BRH, I'm wondering how that Manhattan turned out that you promised yourself, on any distinction between snobbery and being sure of oneself. In blogging it is truly remarkable how we open access to communication with others on many of the subjects which leave us, by ourself, comparatively stumped. The net is almost like the corridor blackboards in a math department, imagined in "Good Will Hunting" and seen at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, although for me that comparison ends with sums.

    The purpose of this blog is to portray that pertinence, with enough diversification in subject and persistency of searching proof, to give confidence to people of any disposition and to exhibit their underlying community of feeling - by which I do not mean to say, similarity. I'm quite grateful for your exemplification of this at Blue Remembered Hills, and for your recurring patience here.

    As to Westboro, "hard cases make bad law" has seldom been more obvious than in this frivolous Opinion, and even in its single dissent. The problem is the Roberts Court's compulsion to reach for a cannon to dispose of a gnat, but one is sorry for the complicity of the Left.

  4. Bruce, I truly never do feel I deserve this kind of support, and I truly never deny that I need it. :) I'm always deprived of anything to say in the face of generosity.

  5. Your genius for levity, you incontinently sane creature, will endear you too much to one's readers to leave us any. Is this nice?

  6. I intended to be nice...
    still nobody understands me as much as you!

  7. Being nice, Tassos, is as little a manageable instinct in you, as understanding you is in everyone else.

  8. I feel immensely validated here, aren't you pleased? as to a back channelled email of L. that I did not respond-but let you know from my comment earlier-earlier-saying- there is nothing to say elsewhere that you can not and should not say here. This is where you belong. I continue to embrace your pertinence and any thoughts of being less so and less than is not an option.

  9. I have some questions about the blog "form" for oneself - as I would think, many do, at their own page - but that's no reason not to do what one can to shape it well enough. I appreciate your steadfastness in a project you were so instrumental in launching, particularly in view of any possible surprise along the way.

  10. "Henry James declined that lunch at All Souls, to stroll among the hobbledehoys."

    Cher Laurent, mon cher dulcissimo,

    "I do not sit with worthless men, and will never mix with hypocrites...I wash my hands in innocence...I walk in personal integrity; redeem me, have mercy on me!" Psalm 26

    This is why I read your blog. Light unto a world darkened by lies.

  11. "Judica me, Domine." At best, or at least hopefully not at worst, a blog can be less a species of autobiography than a place to clear one's own eyes, not the slate of one's experience. Where is the fire of the great university, at a Head Table groaning with Renaissance plate, or in open teeming nascency. On Show and Tell Day, where would you rather boast of spending that privileged noon?