There are priests who take speed. There are priests who drink a lot. And there are priests who get involved in bar-fights in Verona (you’ll have to trust me on this). And yet still, actors prefer to play hit-men. The ratio of leading-men-playing-priests to leading-men-playing-killers is laughable. The killers win out, categorically. Even though… priests look good in black; priests live outside normal society; priests are often present at the moment of death, like hit-men. Actors – like most people – tend to confuse priests with those cardboard, thin men who work in libraries: the ones who shush life. But priests seem estranged from us because we hide from reality. Who knows death better than a priest? Who else prays for murderers?
What does it feel like to say “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”…and to be heard by the President? When Kanye West inflamed an otherwise anodyne telethon by saying those words, it was like seeing the Death Star explode at the end of Star Wars. Complacent white America, so amply represented by the limp face of Mike Myers, was suddenly blasted by unpleasant truths…and revealed as powerless. Black America had, for a moment, halted the flow of bullshit. As Myers stood by helplessly, looking like the personification of every well-meaning liberal milquetoast in the world, Kanye West decanted America’s sins. For that moment, the rap-star became a sullen prophet. Now he’s made his first movie.
Australian movies are full of camp: the vulgar shriek of real life. The cast of most Australian movies wouldn’t get work playing gargoyles in America…and yet, in the movies of P.J. Hogan, Baz Luhrmann, et al, aesthetic ruin is celebrated, even beloved. The comb-over, that three-legged dog of a hair-style, is to Australian movies what a baseball cap is to America; it tells the viewer: here’s life, beat up…and yet, weirdly, resplendent. In Australian movies, men and women are festooned with flagrant collapse. They dress like they are trying to confuse satellites. They advertise imperfection. As the latest in this long and bumpy line, the new movie Mary and Max proves that even Australian animation is besotted with grotesques.
Young love is like dying: a total, blissful, elegiac sense of the world. Youth itself is a finite state; unlike adulthood, which drones on and on. Youth – like pop music – is emphatically present. It crackles: “Now”. And that boldness of feeling floods young love. To be in love at sixteen is to be awash with feeling: filling up and up and up. Again, it makes for that death connection: the tsunami-life, where living surges so fast that death seems like the only possible corollary. Shakespeare didn’t kill off Romeo and Juliet because he set out to write a tragedy; he killed them because young love can only die…or else it cools… or else you grow up. Josh Beattie’s short, To Claire; From Sonny, is a small masterpiece on the subject.