Art and Other Crap

I had been meaning to write sooner about my arts-filled weekend, diversions meant to keep me busy during my first days of solitude (“60 Days of Solitude” – hey, that could maybe work as a book title some day, huh?). But the play and work and other Crisis concerns got in the way, so here’s a belated roundup.

Kate, Kate - what does Sam Mendes have that I don't, besides talent, fame, money, looks...

Kate, Kate - what does Sam Mendes have that I don't, besides talent, fame, money, looks...

On Friday was The Reader. Now, Kate Winslet is one my cinematic darlings, has been since I first saw her back in 1994 in Heavenly Creatures. Talents and looks in one package. But some of the review of The Reader put me off, and at times I do end up thinking, “Yup, we just have not had enough Holocaust films/plays/TV movies.” But once Kate cinched the Oscar, I had to go. So, the capsule verdict: liked the film more than I thought I would, didn’t think my honey deserved the award. I think her fellow actors honored her more for a willingness to play a character who is unglamorous and ignorant and ages horribly (and spends a good bit of time naked – thankfully before aging horribly – which was not a bad thing, mind you) than for blistering acting chops.

Next up:  Saturday I saw 4Pinter, a series of, I think, largely unstaged Harold Pinter shorts. I read a good review of the show in the Chicago Reader, the theatre is in our neighborhood, and the ticket was only 9 bucks, so I figured it was worth a shot. It was a good show: well acted, funny – in a Pythonesque way at times, in a more pointed satirical stab at others – and quick moving. As with any theatrical omnibus, some shows were better than others, but most were so short that nothing really numbed or frustrated. The night reminded me – yes, again – of what I am giving up with the move. Sure, there’ll be a small theatre right down the street of our new Connecticut suburban home doing obscure Pinter. Of course!

Not a happy family

Not a happy family

Finally, on Sunday I went to see the Japanese movie Tokyo Sonata, about the effects of economic downsizing on a Japanese family. While the issue is global, I’m sure there are cultural particulars relating to personal honor/duty and gender expectations that give it added weight at home. I thought it was good, not great, though it has done well on the festival circuit. One of the producers was there to pick up an award the film won when it played in the Chicago International Film Festival last fall (it won at Cannes as well).

One scene from Tokyo Sonata stuck with me, as much for the audience reaction as the scene itself, and for how it brought back memories. The laid-off father is reduced to doing janitorial work at a mall to bring in some income and not feel totally useless. Early on in the job, he opens up a stall in the bathroom and of course finds a very shitty situation. People gasped to see it, or else to contemplate what it would be like to clean up strangers’ excrement. But I know. My 30 years of cleaning offices in my dad’s part-time janitorial business sometimes brought that duty to my door. Cleaning bathrooms was not a huge part of the job, and the volume of patrons is surely lower in an office building than in a huge mall. But still, a dirty toilet not your own is a dirty toilet few people want to clean. The doctor’s office was the worst, when you had the occasional sick patient who couldn’t quite hit the target with semi-liquid substances emerging from one or more orifices.

Yeah, good times.

Oh, there were much worse pictures to choose from, I assure you...

Oh, there were much worse pictures to choose from, I assure you...

But as gross as the job could be, I was always thankful for it. I spent more time cleaning offices with my father than doing just about anything else with him. We shared a bond, with our shitty job. It reminded me that, to quote Carlyle (and I only know this cuz I used it in one of my plays), “All work is noble.” And cleaning up after others has fueled more than one scene in some of my plays. The look of pride and recognition my father had after attending a reading of one of them, GIGO (for “Garbage In, Garbage Out”), was not just because I was his son. No, I had captured some of the hidden details of a world few people will ever know.

Not like too many of them feel deprived for that.

So, the weekend’s entertainment led to what good art always brings: reflections on our own lives, experiences, memories. Nice. And seeing Kate Winslet’s oft-naked body wasn’t too shabby either.

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~ by mburgan on April 14, 2009.

One Response to “Art and Other Crap”

  1. you crack me up.

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