Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Literary Personals' Ads, Movie Comments: "Based on a True Story" and "American Ruling Class"

My friend Wigz alerted me to a blog entry about the personals ads in the London Review of books. They are funny. This conversation reminded me of how humorous I used to find the New York Review of Books personals, which all seemed to describe the same people. My recollection, without looking, is that they were fifty year olds with progressive politics, pets, and a penchant for the writing of Iris Murdoch/Flannery O'Connor, etc. Let's see, has anything changed? (just a minute). After checking this group, it seems that the hobbies are more outdoorsy, the age range remains the same, and the self-promotion seems to have increased. I notice a lot of the women describe themselves as "beautiful" - I don't think I would do that.
Yesterday I saw two movies: Based on a True Story, a documentary about the bank robbery and the robber upon which the movie "Dog Day Afternoon" is based, and "the American Ruling Class," a sort of star vehicle for Lewis Lapham of Harper's Magazine. (they have a very limited personals section).
I enjoyed, but was a little disappointed with "Based on a True Story," because I had remembered seeing fascinating clips from another movie juxtaposing "Dog Day" with the memories of Wojtowicz, which turned out to be Pierre Huyghe's film The Third Memorywhich I had seen pieces of at the Guggenheim's big "moving image" show a few years ago. Unfortunately, no mention was made of this 1999 film in the newer one. However, since the focus of Stokman's "Based on a True Story" was a set of phonecalls with Wojtowicz in which he demanded increasingly large sums of money for the privilege of his visual presence in the film, I can hardly blame Stokman for not doing what Huyghe did, and I wonder how Huyghe managed to work with "the Dog." Stokman's was more of a documentary because it did involve interviews with other people in Wojtowicz's life, many of whom came to the screening. Because of this film, I noticed when later, at Yaffa, Wojtowicz's ex-wife, Sharon, walked in the door with some friends. I felt great sympathy for her, as she failed to see who her husband really was, and still wanted to "get back" with him in the early 70s despite his marriage to a transsexual.
More disappointing was "The American Ruling Class," an arch film which really needs a major edit. There seems to be a bit of a conflict within the film about its meaning, as this New York Times piece suggests. The film, which my friend said was a big "apology" by Lapham for being a member of the ruling class himself, does have a little of that flavor. It is not filled with the same bizarre self-congratulation and self-hatred that you see in David Brooks' "work;" it is a lot more funny and more true. The best pieces, (oh future editor...Hear me) were the interview with Babara Ehrenreich in the IHOP, the rock video of workers singing "nickel and dimed." (I had so many friends who didn't like that book because of the idea of someone "playing working class," instead of just interviewing working-class people. The interview reveals Ehrenreich's sympathies and her interest in the people she works with) - the party scene with the trust-funded public defender arguing with her investment banker college friends, the moment when the naive Goldman Sachs hire was asked "where were you educated?" by Walter Cronkite, because of his shocking naivete, and the interviews with James Baker and other members of the power-elite. I noticed that as Jack went through the levels of the ruling class that people highest on the ladder denied the reality of the ruling class, while liberal intellectuals such as Kurt Vonnegut and Cronkite had no problem belieiving in it. There was a lot in this film worth keeping, but it should probably get shorter by about 30 minutes.

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