1. “Tracking Shots are a question of morality.”
2. “Morality is a question of tracking shots.”
Optat’s killing was just as tortuous.
Optat, a soft sort of individual, with a chronically pallid if not downright pasty skin and such a sickly body that it invariably had a contusion or a concussion or a dislocation, was fond only of alcohol, drinking jars and jars of it all night long. So what Maximin did was pay a postman to bring Optat a gigantic jug of 100% proof alcohol and inform him that it was from Hainault, as Optat had bought at Mons, by mail, a schnapps that aficionados said was out of this world. Naturally thinking that this was it, Optat would swallow a good third of his jug at a gulp, finding it so tasty that within half-an-hour not a drop was still undrunk.
But it had a fatal sting in its tail, so to say. In this jug Maximin had put an inflammatory product, which, innocuous if soaking in alcohol, would light up if brought into contact with air, so producing Optat’s carbonization. Optat, who, by his total saturation in alcohol, was a natural for such instant combustion, burnt as quickly as touchwood, diffusing a curious but savoury aroma of roast agouti all around him.
Maximin was passing by just at that instant – not, I should say, haphazardly – and grasping a lasso, caught Optat, a living matchstick, a burning coal, a flaming twin of Joan of Arc, and sought to drag him off to a public fountain not far away.
And what Maximin did at that point was compound his iniquity by dunking his writhing rival as nonchalantly as you might dunk a toasty hot croissant in a cup of cappuccino – an iniquity, I might add, that was soon to profit his country (it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good), as it was found within a month that an oddly acidic liquid, bubbling up from that fountain, had a strong antidotal quality, particularly against catarrh, but of application also to asthma, arthritis, bronchitis, gout, psoriasis, muscular dystrophy, malaria, lockjaw, syphilis, constipation and chilblains.
-from Georges Perec’s A Void or La Disparition, translated by Gilbert Adair.
For Part 1, here.
While telling this story, haltingly and clumsily, the movie runs from burdensome through heavy and dull to bad. It stutters and stumbles as Welles submerges Tarkington’s story in a mess of radio and stage technique. The radio comes in those stretches of blank screen when the only thing present is Welles’s off-screen voice mellifluously setting the period and coyly reminiscing, talking and drooling, while you sit there muttering let’s get on. And at the times when something is on the screen and Welles tells you what for. Meanwhile, for something to do, you count the shadows. Theatre-like is the inability to get the actors or story moving, which gives you a desire to push with your hands. There is really no living, moving or seeing to the movie; it is a series of static episodes connected by narration, as though someone sat you down and said “Here!” and gave you some postcards of the 1890’s. The first ten have to do with costume. Then some on the many-gabled architecture. Then the first automobile, the second, the third, and you wait for somebody to say “Get a horse,” and finally somebody does. Eventually the main people come on and act mostly on a dime (Welles, off-screen, says Isabel Amberson is rejecting a suitor and you see the suitor rejected). Then, cut, and you’re on Main Street with the average man. Now back for another fond look at the Amberson mansion with the camera ostentatiously snailing its way into coiners and crevices until finally a face turns in out of the stage-muddy murk, looks or talks or walks upstairs or, if it’s Agnes Moorehead, has hysterics. The pace of the camera (Stanley Cortez’) is too slow for movie eyes, and the pace of the story (Orson Welles’s) too labored to create any emotion but boredom.
Manny Farber on Orson Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons.
Read the rest here.
His first victim was Nicias, a dwarf, a runt, towards whom, though a bit of a jackal, Maximin had no particular animosity. Nicias wasn’t too bright, though, and killing him, by comparison with killing a jackal, was akin to taking candy from a baby.
Thus it was child’s play for him to worm his way into Nicias’s villa by proposing to instruct him how to draw a bow-and-arrow according to Buddhist philosophy. And whilst Nicias, who found such a proposal mystifying if also gratifying was struggling with his books, Maximin, brandishing a pickax as hard as a rock and as slim as a rollmop stick, struck him down with a mortal blow, fracturing his ischium and provoking a constriction in his inguinal ganglion, which brought on a suffocating contraction and, almost instantly, a bout of dizzy fits that would soon turn into a total blackout, a blackout that was to last for as long as six days and that would at last kill him off in a local hospital, much to his country’s sorrow, with crows of curious, gawping Turks milling about in front of his hospital window, hoping to catch sight of him spinning around, an unusual kind of funfair attraction, you might think, but satisfying a local partiality to physical monstrosity, particularly as Ispahan had its famous ‘whirling’ Fakir.
-from Georges Perec’s A Void or La Disparition, translated by Gilbert Adair
"Kincaid and Francesca are not so much the victims of fate as the puppets of an unyielding sentimentalist. Not all of us would agree with the French theoreticians who proclaim the disappearance of the author, but sometimes one can’t help wishing that he would disappear more. Robert James Waller is the literary equivalent of Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—he won’t leave his characters alone for a second, preferring to harry them through the landscape and whip them into line with his own point of view."
—————————————————————————————————————————--Anthony Lane, “Best Sellers I” from Nobody’s Perfect. The rest below: