Monday, November 14, 2016

Times Like This...

It was hella maudlin and trite, the way my FB feed and Twitter filled up in the hours after the US election results with statements like, "In times like this, art is more important than ever," and other similar sentiments exhorting people to write, make art, pour themselves into some creative expression of their shock, disbelief, anger, and hurt at the results.  And yet.  

Monday night I went to see Colson Whitehead interviewed by Desmond Cole at the Bluma Appel Salon.  The talk was fine.  I wasn't familiar with Whitehead's work.  The only thing of his that's crossed my radar was his Zone One book, which is about some kind of zombie apocalypse, so I just assumed that he wrote elevated genre fiction.  TURNS OUT: he's actually hella literary.  The interview was okay.  Desmond Cole (one of the Toronto Star's only saving graces) was being very earnest and Colson Whitehead was being quippy and snarky and ungenerous in the face of earnest questions, which I find somewhat unforgivable and classless.

I chased the talk by seeing Moonlight with Dr. Rei. I mean, if I had known what was coming, would I have reveled in the beauty and stillness of this film, more?  I doubt that's even possible.  I watched this movie with my heart in my throat the entire time.  This film is heartrendingly beautiful. It's a film of moments, moods, shades of stillness, timbre of gazes. Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue and written and directed by Barry Jenkins, it's a quiet look at three stages in the life of Chiron, a boy growing up impoverished with a drug addicted mother in Miami, coming to terms with his sexuality and masculinity in an unforgiving pocket of America (exceptionally unforgiving? That I can't speak to.  Maybe just standard-issue unforgiving.)

Image result for moonlight movie

The movie is widely lauded. Perhaps overmuch?  It's hard to say.  I think after so many pinned hopes for Nate Parker's Birth of a Nation [interlude: my sister messaging me in the summer saying, "I just can't with Nate Parker after what's come out about him" and me responding, "Is it because his wife is white?" and her being like, "Uhhh, no...about the fact that he raped a woman!?!?"] to ameliorate the 2016 #oscarssowhite debacle went up in flames, Moonlight could not have been better positioned.  It's difficult to disentangle the timing of Moonlight from it's near-universal effusive reception, but I kinda DGAF - it's not perfect, but we (read: I) try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the very, very, very good.

I watched this with my heart in my throat. It is so achingly beautiful - the bleached brittle light of Miami in the day, the humid interplay of shadows and ocean at night, black bodies lit properly. Each act of the film is a collection of tones and moods and impressions - this is not a film that bludgeons you with exposition, character development, plot.  It's a collection of moments, some so tender that I could feel my heart breaking the way glass does when you fill it with something hot...a tiny pop and then radiating hairline fissures etching fine across the surface. It's a movie about looks, the weight of what's unsaid, pauses and spaces with the mass and presence of mountains. It's about masculinity, fatherhood, parenthood, sexuality, confusion, violence, performance, class. It's about what happens to a person when external pressures cause them to fold in on themselves, when the impossibility of their material conditions renders them guarded, mistrustful, wary, fearful of betrayal.  The main character, Chiron, is so still and reserved, all his emotions in his eyes, and his small tics.  The performances are almost all uniformly great...except for Janelle Monae who is a touch stiff in her role as a surrogate mother to Chiron.  Naomie Harris is an excellent actress but her role is overdrawn and is the only one that nears-caricature.  

Considering what a giant, terrifying, saddening s**tshow the rest of the week ended up being, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to revel in something beautiful and quiet and sweet, with someone I love.

I mean, I don't know how to sum up my feelings about the election.  I have a lot of thoughts.  I felt sick to my stomach.  I feel stupid...I mean, whiteness advertises itself on a daily basis.  It tells us EXACTLY what it is...and I still thought he wouldn't win.  I thought the imperfect alternative (HRC) would prevail.  So I feel duped.  I also feel like you can't underestimate the power of economic disenfranchisement and class and the effects of smug left-leaning politics.  

The night of the election, one of the scariest things I read, was a tweet where someone said, "a lot of white people kept their heads down, their mouths shut, smiled at their neighbours, and marched into those booths and marked Trump" and the truth of that gave me goosebumps.  The insidious banality of self-interest.  How left-leaning media have engendered a situation where people know enough to hide their reptilian, base selves.  

More thoughts on this to come.

For now, there is beauty. In spite of, despite, in the face of...everything else.


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