Thursday, April 07, 2005


official todd solondz report

so instead of paying some ridiculous amount of money and wading through the crowds at harvard tomorrow night, i decided to skip my poetry class and catch the screening of solondz's new film 'palindromes' at the mfa this afternoon. unfortunately it was a pretty disappointing experience--the film wasn't very good and solondz wasn't the most captivating speaker.

so the most notable thing about 'palindromes' is that it's the story of one girl in her early teens, but the character is played by eight different actresses of varying ages, races, etc. sounds cool, except that in execution it's pretty dumb. according to solondz the idea comes from noticing that a lot of people identified with some of his characters, even though they might not be entirely sympathetic.

quote from the notes handed out at the screening: "The curious thing is how sex, age, race, etc. play so limited a part in determining the degree to which a character is sympathetic. Perhaps this is why a sympathetic character is one that all types of people can relate to... So I wondered what would happen if I cast a number of different types of peopel as one character, a character who is wholly sympathetic. My fear was that it would come across as too much of an intellectual exercise, a show-offy but pointless trick, and alienate the audience. But my hope was that there would be a cumulative effect that would be more emotionally affecting than had there been just one actor: more magic, and less sleight of hand."

so basically he's just trying to cast a wider net--include more actresses of various shapes, sizes, and colors, get more people to identify. of course, this doesn't really make any fucking sense when they all play the same fucking character. jeez. just because the sullen little girl(s) we've seen throughout the film suddenly becomes a fat black woman playing a sullen little girl doesn't mean i'm going to identify any more with a sullen little girl.

of course, i had other problems with the film--i just didn't find it that funny, and solondz also seems to be pushing this idea of the palindrome "as a kind of loose metaphor for the ways in which we DON'T change. Like a palindrome that, instead of developing in different directions, folds back on itself, the self is a part-static thing. It is our 'palindromic' nature that the film explores, that part of ourselves that does NOT change, and that serves as one of the film's central themes: change vs. stasis." unfortunately this comes off in the film as just plain not being able to change, being stuck with your lot in life, because it's shoddy philosophy both conceptually and in execution. if you're going to talk about the 'static' part of the self, then you need to point out how that is not necessarily a defeatist viewpoint, otherwise you're just being morbidly depressing. i'm not some optimist who thinks 'anything is possible if you just try! even unicorns!' but by making the film itself palindromic (this isn't a spoiler, it's the title of the film for fuck's sake...) you're implying that change is impossible. and, if i may be blunt, fuck that.

ok, so i'll talk about what nicole and jess REALLY want to hear about, mr. solondz himself. i should start by saying that he's not as evil or even as stupid as i'm making him out to be here; it was pretty obvious that his heart is in the right place and his ideas for what 'palindromes' was supposed to be weren't so bad (unfortunately his sloppy filmmaking didn't get it across very well). as for his demeanor: imagine a slightly more nervous/awkward woody allen with a very soft, almost feminine voice. he seemed pretty uncomfortable and he stutters a lot, but he actually fielded the questions pretty well once he got into it a bit more, and he had a nice deadpan sense of humor. pretty unexciting, overall. like a jumpy uncle who has to deal with speaking to crowds fairly often but still can't get used to it. he almost fits that "you'd never expect this normal-looking man would make such crazy movies" cliche, which, now that i think about it, is also used in reference to pedophiles and rapists. go figure.

if you have more specific questions, hit dat comment box.

[ps. this would have been up sooner but blogger was pretending it didn't love me anymore.]
I'm a little bit sad that this wasn't a good film! at least you didn't have to deal with it at the HFA.
thanks for the detailed report. what, you can't identify with a fat black girl? oh yes, those "normal looking guys" usually all turn out to be paedaphiles, take micheal jackson for example.
i can feel empathy for a fat black girl, but i'm pretty sure i'm a skinny white guy so identifying with her is pretty out of the question. i think it's more the term i have a problem with... i had a whole rant about how 'identifying' with fictional character is kind of a ludicrous premise in the first place, but i decided to spare everyone the long-winded torture.
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