Gotham Diary:
Canines
11 June 2012

Well, I’m up bright and early this morning! That doesn’t comport with diagnosis of Remicade run-out. It’s a bother talking about this (reluctantly rather than coherently), but I seem to have been experiencing some sort of physiological disorder that has gotten in the way of my work here, and I don’t like leaving the disturbance entirely unexplained.

I realized the other day that it is summer once again, and that I promised myself last year that I would “take the summer off,” or at least lighten the work load. It seems that I’d already done so: where’s this month’s Beachcombing entry? The strange fact is that I haven’t encountered anything worth linking to. This is clearly a reflection of my abnormally detached state of mind, but I do feel that the sites that I follow are settled into rutted pathways from which nothing new can really be seen. Not that I claim to be different.

Over the weekend, I think it was, Thomas Friedman bloviated on the inadequacy of Facebook and Twitter as substitutes for political action. (I didn’t read the column; I never read Thomas Friedman anymore. But Kathleen read the remark aloud.) The astuteness of this observation is exceeded only by its fatuousness. I think that everyone is aware that liking something on Facebook or posting a link at Twitter isn’t going to change anything. I’m not sure that anybody wants to change anything. Everyone would like a good job, and everyone would like to owe less. The rabid idealists among us would like everyone to have a good a job and to owe less. I don’t see a call for change in that, but an order for more-of-same. Once everybody has a job and owes less, then we can start worrying about making the world a better place.

Such is life in an age utterly devoid of capable leadership.

***

The movie that Ray Soleil ended up seeing on Friday — well, we wanted to see Shanghai, a cool-sounding movie, set in Shanghai “on the eve of Pearl Harbor,” starring John Cuasck and Gong Li and made, according to IMDb, in 2010. What happened? And why was Shanghai opening in one Manhattan theatre only? I wonder if it ever did open. We gave up after fifteen minutes, having arrived in plenty of time only to be told that the showing had been canceled — a status that was almost immediately changed to “working on it.” I was in no mood to be standing on street corners waiting for shambolic cinema exhibitors to do their job. As it happened, I was carrying the Arts section of the Times — which, it turned out, contained no mention of Shanghai. Too good to be true, I suppose. We decided to go uptown (back uptown in my case; and did I mention that I’d gotten my act together for a ten-o’clock showing?) to see Bel Ami, a picture with two directors.

I could make sharp and nasty use of the “two directors” aspect of Bel Ami, wagging that it would explain the very different levels of competence exhibited by the three ladies in the cast, on the one hand, and the jeune premier, on the other. But I don’t have do anything of the kind. I can simply paraphrase a speech delivered by Uma Thurman, in the role of Madeleine Forestier, to Robert Pattinson, in the title role. “I tried to teach you how to think, how to write, how to be a man of substance, but your emptiness surpasses anything I’ve ever seen.” Ray leaned over to me, when she was done, and whispered, “She’s talking about his acting.” It was never clear, in this opulent romance set in Belle Époque Paris, what sort of monster Mr Pattinson was supposed to be playing. His canines remain his strong suit, but the only blood in Bel Ami is coughed up by a consumptive. 

Robert Pattinson does have a great face for the movies. In one scene, he slowly descends a staircase after having been humiliated. You may not feel particularly sorry about the humiliation — who does this jerk think he is, after all? — but you will probably be riveted by the sense of menace submerged behind his impassive face. It’s almost enough to make you forget wondering if Bel Ami is supposed to be about revenge, or if it’s just a lot of sumptuous twaddle with boffo performances by Ms Thurman, Christina Ricci, and Kristin Scott Thomas. (Also Colm Meany.) Almost, but not quite. What were they thinking — those two directors?