Friday, February 9, 2018

Suppose it were Friday cxlix: Never a dull moment

In the new American parlour game
of contradicting a promise never
to take, lying down, the latest
thing the American President has
done to trigger it, we allow no
revulsion to obscure those mer-
rier occasions for this posture,
with their validation of a self-
regard remembered from democracy.

And when better than Friday, to
haul them out of the repertoire
of spinally spirited antics, and
relish their interesting effect?
Surely others are bound to recur
to one; these are but a start ..

Any suggestion of a sequencing,
temporal or hierarchical, is pos-
sibly unintended, although one can 
never be sure about intention now-
adays. So many vows, so little con-

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Do we laugh for poor Margot, or with her?

Poor Margot Mary Wendice, how few of us
are ever tempted to think, given her un-
canny incompetence. Having failed to be
strangled the first time, by garotte pro-
cured by her husband, she slithers out of
the knot the Crown's arranged as her pun-
ishment. And yet, to watch Dial M for Mur-
der with the mirth with which it was made,
these days, seems to call for an almost
Presidential scale of denial, of doing any
such thing. Still, how many survivors of
two such accidental acts of justice do we
know, in our unanimously censorious times,
who have the sang froid to accept a con-
gratulatory highball of Scotch from the
loser in these trials, a spouse culpable  
of both of them? Yet who, apart from a
very ugly American, would ever interpret
her acceptance, I suppose I could do with
something, as proof she had asked for it?

Poor Margot's incapacity to satisfy the
pangs of affront she excites, arising
first from her adulteries before a mer-
rily neglectful husband, and next from
the inadequacy of bruising about her
quite elegantly tempered neck, in the
eyes of the law, is suspiciously allied
to certain felicities of genetics, cou-
ture, deportment, carriage and voice
without which the British craft of com-
edy would sink like a stone, if she ev-
er were to bolt the corral for a casino.
It isn't enough to deliver a line per-
suasively, which Margot seems never able
to do; one has to make the line go away,
or rather to sink its hook in disbelief.

For this sleight of hand Hitchcock
floods the set of a West End London
drawing room with eight blue eyes,
and they all belong to Margot. Two
are her husband's, two her beau's,
two for the inspector, and two il-
luminate a face that absorbs them.
Their job is to subject her to in-
fractions. Hers is to play nice.
At last (one can almost hear the
screen call out), in his first of
three pictures with this Margot,

Everyone allows the director his
boast of taking it easy with this
picture, of simply lifting a hit
play from the stage and celebrat-
ing its own structure with his
inspired camera angles. But when
in doubt, one goes with Truffaut,
who confessed to Hitchcock, in
their famous interview in LA, he
might allow that the film lacked
importance, but he could not re-
sist revisiting it with pleasure.

It will do nobody any good these
days, to publish a kind of approv-
al of this picture or its methods.
Ah, but for those to whom doing
themselves some good makes for a
superfluous conversation, we re-
member Margot's advice to Tony,
before her first strangulation -

Don't make the martinis too watery.

Alfred Hitchcock
Frederick Knott
  and Alfred Hitchcock
Robert Burks
Dial M for Murder
Warner Brothers, 1954©

Monday, February 5, 2018

Some time back

I can not pretend to remember
my brother's birthday; I ar-
rived in the family some four
years later. It quickly became
one of the few calendar dates
I would memorize, and antici-
pate always as one of one's
happiest days. I would ignore
it for months, even though the
sound of it would always touch
a nerve, only to welcome its
proximity with particular in-
tensity, and its arrival with
suspended anxiousness. Even 
now, with abundant practice,
it always comes to me with ex-
traordinary sympathy. I notice,
the American JD McClatchy cap-
tures an ironic aspect in this,
while considering friendship --

          Friends are fables for our loneliness.
          If love would live for hope, friendship thrives
          On memory, the friends we "make" made up

          Of old desires for surprise without danger,
          For support without a parent's smarting ruler,
          For a brother's sweaty hand and a train of crumbs.

We extol the details some-
what differently. I do not
feel the hand as sweaty, 
but sometimes damp, changing
places in the bathtub, ris-
ing from the pool, passing a
condensing cocktail. It is
strong, even clenched from
time to time, but primarily
it is calm, as in closing
gratefully upon a golf club.
I prefer not to pronounce
upon that hand in any way, 
because it does not yield.

Friendship certainly does
thrive on memory, but not 
on this, and is made up of
inconsistent subtractions
from brotherhood, whose ev-
every surprise harbors an 
element of danger. This is
the edge we keep between our-
selves, and is ever present.
It changes nothing, even us;
and it changes for nothing.

J.D. McClatchy
The Rest of the Way
  An Essay on Friendship
    viii  1 - 6
Alfred A. Knopf, 1992©