unhappy love stories, mostly

Kamikaze Heart

Longtime readers (there will be a test) may recall my delight in Sweet Can Productions’ marvellous show Habitat; Kamikaze Heart, from the performance arm of local urban circus school Acrosports, draws on many of the same traditions, including the brilliant and eye-popping art of aerial silks.

The plot of Kamikaze Heart is pretty much a wry tall tale on which to string a bunch of feats. My favourite bit was where the swan-who-was-the-ghost-of-the-beautiful-grantwriter was flying over the b-boy competition on her way back from Iraq (long story) and the performer did a dance with two bungees fixed to her hips from opposite sides above the stage.

As she bounced and swung the rhythm of the elastics really did seem like great wings, beating: a primal archetype for the harbingers of death, or birth. It reminded me of Grant’s description of the first production he saw of Tony Kushner’s Millennium Approaches, where the Angel came down from on a wire above the heads of the audience, screaming.

Where Acrosports won my heart for ever and always, though, was as we came out into the lobby. The whole cast was there, and the instant that Nancy Kate “Fancy Legs” Siefker, in full costume and makeup, laid her eyes on my Claire, she recognized her from Acrosports spring camp, went down on one knee and held out her arms: Claire flew into her embrace.

The Girlfriend Experience

I enjoyed this film as I was watching it. I like Steven Soderbergh’s laconic, respectful direction, his subdued palette and his attention to his actors, and his films have, for the most part, treated women as human – Sex, Lies and Videotape, Out of Sight, The Limey, Erin Brockovich, even the completely unnecessary remake of Solaris. I never bothered with the Oceans films because with few expections I find celebrities boring and the prospect of watching them have a circle-jerk is deeply unappealling.

The best thing about Girlfriend, by far, is Sasha Grey’s performance as the expensive escort. Grey’s a porn star looking to diversify, and she’s brilliant at showing how an escort needs to be a sort of social chameleon, giving every client what he thinks he needs, while keeping her important part locked away where no one can get at it. (She’s also rapturously, implausibly beautiful.)

But Girlfriend left a bad taste in my mouth. The script is from the same team that brought us the Oceans films and while it tries to satirize that clubby, rich-men atmosphere of Hollywood and Wall Street pre-crash and the kinds of people who use wildly expensive escort services, it’s a bit inescapably of that world itself.

Most damningly, the only sympathetic male character, David, a client who actually listens to the escort and who of course she falls for, is played by one of the writers. His name is, guess what, David. The character is a Mary Sue, a Mary Sue of a rich john, and that makes me feel ill.

As another character points out, the only reason anyone is shelling out thousands for the girlfriend experience is because this woman is so improbably gorgeous. No one would care about her inner life if she weren’t so radiant, and by the same token, it’s not really her inner life, her thoughts and feelings and desires and hopes, that everyone is trying to drag out of her. What her greedy clients (and by implication we as the voyeuristic audience) really want is to break down her defenses and possess her.

Yuck. And what if she were just ordinary-looking? I was teaching Julia Marxist chess the other day. “These are the pawns. The point of this game is that the pawns all die, and nobody cares.”

Marie Antoinette

Kirsten Dunst is adorable. I have a new theory about anachronistic period films like this one and A Knight’s Tale; the music is of our youth, and as we age it all gets wound up in generic yardage of Pastness imported fresh from the Past fields of darkest Past-landia. Our high school dances are so long ago now we might as well have been wearing corsets and bustles and have had absurd beehive hair. Winona is Spock’s mother! We are old.

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