Friday, April 10, 2020

Living With Limits: Dancing With Rita Hayworth

Just as psychoanalysis reconstructs the original traumatic situation in order to release the repressed material, so we are now being plunged back into the archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have been dormant for epochs . . . Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory. (J. G. Ballard, The Drowned World, 1962, p. 41)
The recent passing of my friend, the writer, broadcaster and co-founder of Critics At Large Kevin Courrier, prompted me to engage in some spontaneous and unexpected speculations about mortality and the finite nature of our charming little sojourns here on this odd earth.

Westerners who live in either Europe or North America don’t really like to talk about death, or even to think about it if possible. It’s a foreboding subject that fills us with fear and dread, probably as a result of our trained expectation of punishment for sins of one kind or another, of retribution in hell rather than a blissed-out vacation in Shangri-La heaven. This is unlike Easterners from any numbers of places, such as India, Japan or Tibet, let’s say, who don’t follow the same template of a deity, or a messiah, or some supernatural figure sitting on a throne in space who resembles Charlton Heston handing out post-mortem candies.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Off the Minnesota Strip: Searching for Reality

Mare Winningham in Off the Minnesota Strip (1980).

There wasn’t an ounce of pretense or melodrama in Mare Winningham’s portrayal of the sheriff’s wife in the recent HBO miniseries based on Stephen King’s supernatural thriller The Outsider. Winningham has stayed on the periphery of fame for four decades, but her work has been consistently superlative, whether in movies (like Georgia, where she’s a folksinger who has to deal with the neuroses of her sister, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), on television (she’s the rare touch of reality in Todd Haynes’s misbegotten adaptation of Mildred Pierce) or on stage (mostly recently in Girl from the North Country at the Public). You have to check Youtube to see how stunning she was even at twenty-one, when she starred in the 1980 TV movie Off the Minnesota Strip, as a girl from a small Minnesota town who runs away at fifteen and winds up hooking in New York City – until her insistence on pressing charges against the pimp who beat her up lands her back home in the untenable situation that made her flee to begin with.