Friday, March 7, 2008

An oriental picture palace and a chinese box (Film - Tristram Shandy)

Sheila was showing off Chicago's lovely 1920s picture palace - The Music Box - yesterday, where we spent many a happy evening. In addition to her fun reminiscences on the evening we went to see Harold and Maude, I remember two great festivals, one that introduced me to Pedro Almodovar's work and the other to John Casavettes'. Prior to living in Chicago, I lived in Milwaukee which boasted an equally impressive picture palace - The Oriental. The Oriental drugstore, complete with its lunch counter, was still also intact. As the Oriental was right around the corner from my theater, I saw many many films there including Drugstore Cowboy, Koyaanisqatsi, Torch Song Trilogy, and The Dead Poet's Society.

Staying with the theme of cinema, I saw Michael Winterbottoms' adaptation of Tristram Shandy last night with The Ragazzo at ye olde living room couch theater. As someone in the film says, this book did post modern before there was modern. It is indeed astounding how contemporary the framing devices seem, on how many levels the piece comments on itself, and the good laughs it delivers in the process. The book is an ode to the impossibility of ever writing a memoir that does its subject justice. This film, however, does its subject great justice. Winterbottom wisely decides to add yet another frame to the already cluttered gallery - he makes a film about the impossibility of making a film about a book that is about the impossibility of writing a book.... He doesn't try to literally stick the book on to the screen, he discovers the film equivalent and one-ups the book, in a spirit I could only imagine that Laurence Sterne would have admired.

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