Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Night at Maud's, My Dinner with Andre

There are certain timeless moments that mean a lot to you and no one else. In early adolescence, these take the form of overheated exchanges in which the tiniest hint of interest from a fetching member of the opposite sex creates volcanic eruptions of meaning, which are the first of what will become a lifetime of misunderstandings. Essentially, human beings are totally isolated from the moment they emerge from the protective lining of the uterus, which may be the reason why shooting heroin—one way of trying to recreate the oceanic symbiosis of gestation—is called mainlining. There are times when conversation may actually create a reciprocal feeling of connection, as exemplified in the films of Eric Rohmer, in particular My Night at Maud’s. (My Dinner With Andre is another example of this connecting-over-dinner genre.) But the Pascalian wager at the heart of Rohmer’s film, which infuses the discussion with the notion of faith, is precisely what is absent in most interactions between human beings, which are usually defined by urges that lack the conviction of the higher purpose in which they are masked. Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream may be a vestige of an earlier era of trendy psychiatry, which expressed the value of emoting (often within a group context), but it is curiously accurate in epitomizing the condition in which we are born and in which we die—which is to say totally alone. Life is bookended with the traumas of birth and death, but in this sandwich of despair are numerous little tales, of lust and love, of friendship and remorse, in which the harsh truths of the human condition are gift wrapped and placed under the Yule tree, along with Santa’s other spurious gifts. 

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