Sunday, 4 March 2012

Drive, the Artist and Annie Hall

A week ago I decided my daily afternoon naps were getting a bit weird and that, for the sake of my PhD at least, I should start drinking coffee again. Since then I've been reading journal papers like Johnny Five, mumbling 'Innnnn-puuuut' while dribbling through my gurning chops.

Caffeine hits me hard, I've been off it since 2007. Back when I traded European stocks, I started work at 6am. This meant getting up at 5am and downing 2 coffees by sunrise just to jolt me into coherence. Then I moved to the US shift (12-9.30pm) and due to an abundance of sleep, I just kind of gave up. Ever since then, the merest whiff of caffeine has had me rocking back and forth in sweats. So, this week, some of you may have noticed a higher than normal tweeting frequency, an added adamance to the crap I usually talk and an all round more intense demeanor.

Or maybe you didn't. Who knows. I'm told I go on a bit, but that all in all, it's part of my charm. I've always wished I was a quieter person, but it's not in me. If I'm enjoying conversation, I'm happy for it to go on for hours. I insist people watch my favourite documentaries like Hoop Dreams, (or Senna, or Hands On A Hard Body) or listen to Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden. I think drinking coffee has intensified this behavior this week, but then I'm not too sure, I've been too wired to reach a considered judgement.

Sometimes, I wish I could be more reserved, more silent, and leave everyone else wondering what I'm thinking. But I'm not that kind of a guy and most of the time, I'm fine with that. A week ago, I was especially reassured by my second viewing of Annie Hall. Now, obviously I am not claiming to be as witty as Woody Allen, but it was great to see a beautiful woman like Diane Keaton fall in love with a skinny neurotic guy who can't stop talking.

Alvy Singer... here's a guy I can relate to. He doesn't really know what the hell he is doing, makes jokes in inappropriate situations and gets wound up over nearly everything while carrying an air of genuine "damn it all we're all gonna die anyway" irreverence... and he can't park for shit either. A friend of mine said she thought I was just like him. I was tremendously flattered. After that, I had a good week.

Last night (also for the second time) I saw Drive, a magnificent film with a beautiful soundtrack. But good grief, I say more in my sleep than Ryan Gosling does in the whole film. I'm sitting there watching it thinking, "Is this what women want?" He more or less just sits there, bulky-chested, wonky-jawed and boss-eyed, like a roided-up Rodney Trotter that's just munched an ice cream tub full of Valium. Gosling, referred to as 'The Kid' is basically exactly that, a child. At least the actual kid next door (that Gosling befriends) occasionally proffers some sort of cartoon based view on the world. Gosling's only response is to knowingly clench his jaw. I wish I could do that, carry that air of strong silence, but I'm scared if I just stared dead ahead, saying absolutely nothing, people would just think I was plain weird.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the film. I like a doomed love story. I like a protagonist that bears his cross with a silent dignity. I love all that shit. But I'm not too thrilled about the current love for men who have nothing to offer but their bodies. Gosling says nothing, while occasionally smashing someone's face in with a hammer for the sake of the woman he loves.

 "Don't worry. We can walk to the curb from here."
Meanwhile, everyone goes batshit crazy over the Artist, a 90 minute tantrum from a recently redundant performing monkey. We no longer watch silent films for a reason. Yeah, there's a novelty to it, I grant you that. But it's just a novelty. Serve me a bacon sandwich with no bacon in it at all and I will temporarily reconsider my conception of the sandwich. But once is enough.

There's more to being a man than violently protecting women and nodding sagely at fatherless children. We're not here for the benefit of other people's amusement and the tortuous process of understanding our existence is not one giant slapstick performance. Sure, some things are better left unsaid. Sometimes a silence can be deafening. But just staring wistfully into space shouldn't necessarily imply that someone is thinking something profound, or that there is something profound to be thought. Sometimes, I suspect filmmakers are just using the ambiguity that such silence provides as a substitute for actual ideas.

Give me a sandwich with actual bacon in it, any day of the week.