Friday, September 30, 2022

The Talented Miss Ripley

“My envy turned to hatred and my hatred to contempt.” “I am married to my mother I shall never wed another.” “I never write a mystery, I write a story.” Eva Vitija’s Loving Highsmith, which recently completed a run at Film Forum, is full of lines culled from filmed interviews and diary entries from the author of novels like Strangers on a Train (famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in l951). Perhaps the most succinct and unforgettable is what she says about the iconic character who appears in five novels starting with The Talented Mr. Ripley written in 1955. “He kills only when he thinks it’s right.” It’s the kind of locution that’s a head turner, one of those esthetic statements that’s powerfully value free. Loving Highsmith deals with both the life and art of Patricia Highsmith, but does one necessarily inform the other? Highsmith’s voracious sexual appetites and the fixation on a mother who never reciprocated her love are one part of the story (along with Drag Kings and hermaphroditic snails).Then there’s the art. Highsmith is candid about her desires and comes off in the clips of her varying interviews as a mix of a dour Fran Liebowitz and yes Susan Sontag in terms of both her unrepentant franglais and almost predatory sexuality. However, can we say that the characters she created and what she had to say about them are more interesting than any of the details of her life and loves. Is Ripley for example, Highsmith’s alter ego or in his psychopathology something more? On the basis of the two personae the film portrays, the artistic creation might prevail.

read "Le Cercle Rouge" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Caveat Emptor Camp Lejeune

Are you suffering from PTSD hearing commercials from liability lawyers trying to profit from the suffering of soldiers stationed at Camp LeJeune between 1952-87? Have the preponderance of these mind-numbing jeremiads made you want to turn off CNN, even amidst the juicy reporting about the latest suit filed against Donald Trump? No sooner do you hear about the top secret files pilfered by the former President and his goons then you listen to yet one more law firm plugging their services. It’s probably fair to say ads aimed at victims of Camp Lejeune sandwich in most television programs. Those who sell ad space to law firms are now simply asking “do you want a Camp Lejeune sandwich?” by which is meant a double whammy that comes before and after the reporting of the latest Trump debacle. Camp Lejeune btw has completely knocked Mesothelioma, St Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Ice T’s Car Shield commercials off the air. Few other complaints can compete unless you want to include Trump lover Lee Zeldin’s futile attempt to run for governor against Kathy Hochul. But here’s the deal. How will those who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune get their day in court when all their lawyers are interested in doing is advertising for new clients?

read "The Final Solution: Caveat Emptor" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Rescue Me"by Fontella Bass

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Collective Forgetting, Individual Myopia and Selective Guilt

What creates collective forgetting, individual myopia and the kind of “selective guilt” that facilitates the creation of “the other?” Tyrants like Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot all undoubtedly had their soft spots. Wagnerian romanticism was the anthem of The Third Reich. The psychic process of compartmentalization is a common defense mechanism that allows many people to continue on with their lives in the shadow of otherwise traumatic events. Is it possible however to excise large chunks of happenstance on a mass scale? The first female Italian premier, Georgi Meloni, is also a neofascist whose Fratelli d’Italia has direct historical ties to Mussolini. Remember that famous photograph of Il Duce strung upside down on a Milan street? Antigone defied Creon to bury Polynices; in a perverse rendition of the myth, Mussolini's remains were stolen by a follower from an unmarked grave. During the Bosnian conflict historical grudges going back hundreds of years ignited the murderous rage between Bosnia Muslims and Serbs who had been previously living peacefully side by side in embattled cities like Sarajevo and Srebrenica. The mind itself is naturally selective a la Neural Darwinism, the title of a tome by the biologist Gerry Edelman. The Stockholm Syndrome is, in this regard, a survival mechanism. George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But isn’t that the tragedy of consciousness? The much vaunted trait, that purportedly separates humans from animals, employs every trick in the book to excuse what’s too hard to face.

read "Died Young" by Francis Levy, The Brooklyn Rail

and listen to "Police State"by Pussy Riot

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Hi There! Looking For a Date?

Hi there! Do you hate yourself? Are you the kind of person who constantly feels that everyone has outdone you and left you in the dust? Here’s a tip. You can easily stop pointing the gun at yourself simply by turning it in another direction. How about going after the person closest to you under the theory that anyone who would like a failure like you must have something wrong with them. “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with,” sings Steven Stills. Actually, the lyric can be rephrased. “If you can’t hate yourself, hate the one you’re with.” Or put in a positive light, you have to want what you have. It’s no fun to hit bottom and look around you at a world of shinning lights only to find yourself left in the shadows. All your life it’s been this way and as life winds down , the nightmare is to find it happening all over again. Once you had all of life ahead of you, but now you’ve reached that dead end called "the end" with no time left to dream about rising from the ashes and showing all those who always doubted you (who by this time are probably dead anyway). Take the low road! Enjoy that moment when all the contempt falls away and you can breathe a sigh of relief as you blame someone else for your sorry state of affairs.

read "The First Law of Emotional Thermodynamics: Longing is Directly Proportional to Self-Hatred" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Love the One You're With" by Stephen Stills

Monday, September 26, 2022


Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Can you kill two stones with one bird? At the heart of everything is a fart of harkness? Yevtushenko or not to Shenko? Is there a difference between silliness and absurdity. Beckett, Ionesco and Genet were termed the "theater of the absurd." Certainly, Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus which posits suicide as the only important philosophical question describes a universe that defies meaning. Consider  Sisyphus attempting to roll the stone up the hill. Existentialist philosophers like Sartre now seem more apropos than ever since they pose the notion of comic indifference or the cosmic yawn. If nothing means anything, the whole end of life lies in meaning making. Alberto Moravia wrote The Empty Canvas. The first stroke any artist makes is an attempt to establish a beachhead and claim a piece of barren land. God is literally a father figure, but when you deny his, it or their existence, meaning and necessity recede. You're left with no more than a series of pronouns. Those who believe there's a meaning and purpose in everything are damned to burn in the hell of disillusionment.

read "God Bless Pig Latin America" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

Friday, September 23, 2022

Here and There at The New Yorker

Half of The New Yorker’s readership subliminally or not so subliminally dreams of being in the magazine and the other half suffers from the delusion that their names have already appeared in the august periodical’s table of contents. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty could well have been an allegory for the prototypic subscriber. If you remember the story was written by James Thurber who was a famed New Yorker contributor. Sure, the fantasies in Thurber's fable    tend to center around wartime heroics, but the singular imagination of adulation experienced by anyone who submits a story, poem or Shouts & Murmurs piece could easily compete with the Purple Heart. The meaning of the word “submission’ has literally been transformed, at least for a part of the educated populace, by the stature the magazine has as an arbiter of talent. "Submission" is tantamount to approaching the gates of this Inferno. Remember Dante’s famous lines “lasciate all speranza voi ch’entrate?” If there were an ultimate “picker” who called out “saved” or “damned” with each petitioner carrying their old-fashioned SASE, it would be represented by the faces of David Remnick, Tina Brown, Robert Gottlieb, William Shawn, Harold Ross--all legendary New Yorker editors.

read "Ultimate Rejection!" by Francis Levy, The East Hampton Star

and listen to "This Old Heart of Mine"by Rod Steward (with Ronald Isley)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Freedom, Now!

The 60s were owned by the Left. The military-industrial complex and the war in Vietnam were the targets along with segregation. You marveled at William Buckley’s verbal pyrogenics as he had it out with Gore Vidal on Firing Line, but you didn’t find either Young Americans for Freedom, the Daughters of the American Revolution or the John Birch Society marching in the streets. In fact, the very idea of protest was contrary to the conservative ethos, until the Tea Party came to town. Today, the tables have been turned. It’s the base, the deplorables, the lumpenproletariat or whatever you want to call the mass of white men and women who find themselves dispossessed by modernity, who populate rallies. Naturally the apex of this was January 6, but the rage at injustice expressed at Trump events finds no reciprocal component on the Left. "The deep state" is to today’s Retrumplicans what the military-industrial complex was to SDS, speaking of which the notion of "participatory democracy" argued by student radicals does bear some resemblance to the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys since it was not participatory at all. If you’d ever occupied a college campus in the 60s, you quickly realized it was a relatively small cadre who were running the show. The vociferousness of Trump’s supporters may to some extent explain the pervasiveness of The Big Lie (at least among MAGA Republicans). Where’s the Left? You need a crowd to impress the opposition with the fact that the biggest lie is The Big Lie.

read "Final Solution: Apres Coup" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Subterranean Homesick Blues" by Bob Dylan