Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm trying hard to be brief and IVAN THE TERRIBLE PT. 1 (88)

I was talking with Alex last night about this idea I've been having of changing the format of old Criterion Quest to make it a little more light-hearted, a little more humorous (humor always comes in to play when I'm slogging through Russian classics) and most importantly, a little more brief. I come to the end of some of these posts and I look back and just see mile after mile after mile of text billowing out behind my not-so-blinking cursor. It daunts me sometimes, worrying about you sweet readers, trudging through my verbosity.

But, seriously, I can't help this shit.

In the moments where I try to be brief I nearly always find myself paragraphs deep in text, just rambling on some tangent that's poked its way through my gray matter. The times where I try to be a little more long-winded? Jesus, it's like I'm writing The Bible or something, except Jesus is gone and in its place is just my breathless exhale of filmic goo.

When talking to Alex, I discussed making this more of a bullet point sort of blog, just rail off a few ideas (again bullet points always come in to play when I'm thinking about how best to get past old Russian films) and then move on - a daily bump of Criterion Quest to get you moving throughout the day. But Alex, sage that she is, made a solid point: my inability to be brief is part of my writing. I mean seriously, I'm currently on paragraph five of a post about my own verbosity and I don't even feel bad about it, just plodding along, filling the page with words. This is how I am, literally, I'm hard-wired from birth with a daunting inability on page and in life to not just chatter. Looking back, I've been happy with my output in terms of this blog, and I think people are enjoying it, so guess what verbosity haters, you're going to have to find a new pond to float in.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this matter? Didn't think so.

Ivan the Terrible Pt. 1 (88) is currently blaring through my headphones right now, a similar one inch by one inch box of black and white Russian film floating at the edge of my vision. I mentioned earlier that Russian films make me want to be funnier (as they're so damn bleak) and briefer (because they're so painfully long) and Ivan the Terrible Pt. 1 (88) isn't changing that much. I'm going to rattle off some bullet points and let you good people get back to, uh, doing what you do:

- If Alexander Nevsky (87) was Eisenstein's ode to the people, the fighters, the love of Mother Russia, then Ivan the Terrible Pt. 1 (88) is Eisenstein's subversive portrait of both Stalin and the feeble-minded royalty of Russia in the past and the then-present. There isn't a character in the film, Stalin, er, Ivan included, that isn't some sort of ninnying twit. There's a scene at the beginning where Ivan declares himelf the Tsar of a combined Russia, and Eisenstein's camera dances close to the faces of the gathered onlookers (various royalty from various clans) and in each eye you see some look of subterfuge of murder of betrayal. And the rest of the film follows suit, with Ivan trying to find ways to squish down his visible opponents while exposing those who pose as his friends.

- I'm damn sure Eisenstein made this film in almost constant fear. Making a movie about a shady dictator in the shadow of Stalin must've left him with a pair of soiled knickers each and every night before he retired. Seriously, this is pretty much Stalin the Terrible, and I can only imagine the literal bullets Eisenstein had to dodge in making this and the sequel.

- This is a dark, weird film. Ivan the Terrible, Tsar of all Mother Russia, spends the entirety of the second half of the movie, faking his death in classic melodrama fashion to expose the undermining evil of one of his minions. He just lies there, fake dead, while his cohorts jostle for his new throne. Before this Ivan goes from pretty boy up-and-coming Tsar to long-haired Disney villain - hell, I guess being a Tsar isn't so nice on the skin and fu manchu beard. Nonetheless, Russians of the 16th century, not to be trusted.

It's still playing in the background, taunting me with its stern language and darkened corners, and after this I'm powering on to Ivan the Terrible Pt. 2 (88). Wish me luck, oh so much luck.

Friday: Ivan the Terrible Pt. 2 (88)


wescoat said...

Speaking as a fellow rambler, I say "why fight it?" Write what comes out. Nobody's holding a gun to your readers' heads.

...maybe it's hereditary.

Benjamin K said...

as a somewhat frequent skimmer of your blog, i say trim it the fuck down! also, you should incorporate more Lebron into your writing... you can't tell me there aren't a ton of NBA/Criterion parallels you could be exploring...

Mark said...

I also vote for more Lebron-based can't go wrong with LBJ! Bullet points are fun. So are numbered lists. Just because it's a list doesn't mean you can't write longwindedly (best word ever + double negative!). Don't pigeonhole yourself, my friend.