July 2, 2007

Movie Conversations In the Middle of the Night

Cinecultist hearts Haruki Murakami, and we recently finished reading his new novel After Dark about the subterranean world of late night Tokyo. Interestingly, Murakami has two characters reference in conversation two wonderful movies, Alphaville and Love Story. Even more interesting our heroine, Mari, a college student with a mysterious sleeping sister, knows a little something about Godard, while Takahashi, a law student/musician who befriends Mari, has a terrible memory for plot. How could you forget the end of Love Story? "Love means never having to say you're sorry," and other such platitudes. Duh, it's practically movie gospel. The moral of the story then is: watch lots of movies and later, understand subtext in gorgeous, brilliant modern literature. We always knew this cinema studies stuff would come in handy for something.

"Mari says, "You know, I've been wanting to ask you. Why do you call your hotel Alphaville?"
"Hmm, I wonder. The boss probably named it. All love hos have these crazy names. I mean, they're just for men and women to come and do their stuff. all you need is a bed and a bathtub. Nobody gives a damn about the name as long as it sounds like a love ho. Why do you ask?
"Alphaville is the title of one of my favorite movies. Jean-Luc Godard."
"Never heard of it."
"Yeah, it's really old. From the sixties."
"That's maybe where they got it. I'll ask the boss next time I see him. What does it mean, though—"Alphaville"?
"It's the name of an imaginary city of the near future," Mari says. "Somewhere in the Milky Way."
"Oh, science fiction. Like Star Wars?"
"No, it's not all like Star Wars. No special effects, no action. It's more conceptual. Black-and-white, lots of dialogue, they show it in art theaters..."

"Whaddya mean, 'conceptual'?"
"Well, for example, if you cry in Alphaville, they arrest you and execute you in public."
"'Cause in Alphaville, you're not allowed to have deep feelings. So there's nothing like love. No contradictions, on irony. They do everything according to numerical formulas."
Kaoru wrinkles her brow. "'Irony'?"
"Irony means taking an objective or inverted view of oneself or of someone belonging to oneself and discovering oddness in that."
Kaoru thinks for a moment about Mari's explanation. "I don't really get it," she says. "But tell me: is there sex in this Alphaville place?"
"Yes, there is sex in Alphaville."
"Sex that doesn't need love or irony."
Kaoru gives a hearty laugh. "So, come to think of it, Alphaville may be the perfect name for a love ho."

Takahashi asks her, "Have you ever seen Love Story? it's an old movie."
Mari shakes her head.
"They had it on TV the other day. It's pretty good. Ryan O'Neal is the only son of an old-money family, but in college he marries a girl from a poor Italian family and gets disowned. They even stop paying his tuition. The two manage to scrape by and keep up their studies until he graduates from Harvard Law School with honors and joins a big law firm."
Takahaski pauses to take a breath. Then he goes on:
"The way Ryan O'Neal does it, living in poverty can be kind of elegant—wearing a thick white sweater, throwing snowballs with Ali MacGraw, Francis Lai's sentimental music playing in the background. But something tells me I wouldn't fit the part. For me, poverty would be just plain poverty. I probably couldn't even get the snow to pile up for me like that."
Mari is still thinking about something.
Takahaski continues: "So after Ryan O'Neal has slaved away to become a lawyer, they never give the audience any idea what kind of work he does. All we know is he joins this top law firm and pulls in a salary that would make anybody envious. He lives in a fancy Manhattan high-rise with a doorman out front, join a WASP sports club, and plays squash with his yuppie friends. That's all we know."
Takahaski drinks his water.
"So what happens after that?" Mari asks.
Takahashi looks upward, recalling the plot. "Happy ending. The two live happily ever after. Love conquers all. It's like: we used to be miserable, but now everything's great. They drive a shiny new Jaguar, he plays squash, and sometimes in winter they throw snowballs. Meanwhile, the father who disowned Ryan O'Neal comes down with diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and Ménière's disease and dies a lonely, miserable death."
"I don't get it. What's so good about a story like that?"
Takahashi cocks his head. "Hmm, what did I like about it? I can't remember. I had stuff to do, so I didn't watch the last part very closely..."

Posted by karen at July 2, 2007 10:16 PM
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