Friday, May 26, 2017

Doctor Zhivago

Vogue December 2016
Russia has been in the news a lot of late. And I'm not so sure that we should be so surprised given the storied history of a place that is expansive, cold, and snowy in my imagination of it. One of the sources for the romantic idea that I have of Russia is from the film Doctor Zhivago. Every year, on a cold winter's night, I find this film to watch, for it's beauty, idealism, and romance. This cannot, of course, erase the hard truths of  Stalin, the Ukrainian Genocide, and now Putin to name just a few of the hard line problems of what has held Russia in a lock for centuries. And as it turns out, Boris Pasternak, the novel's author, and his beloved Olga fell into the bear's trap. And as Pussy Riot will tell you (the all-girl punk rock band who performed songs against Putin publicly and sentenced to 2 years of hard labor), for the crime, women carry the burden of the punishment.

Although twenty years older than Olga, it was an immediate attraction between she and Boris. Just having starting to write the novel that would become Doctor Zhivago, their love affair certainly influenced the expanse of the romance of Zhivago and Lara, the novel's lovers. The book isn't only about ill-fated love, it also addresses the sweep of political change during the turbulent early 20th Century in Russian history. And for that, the author was closely watched to determine how closely fiction was written as a mirror of the times (from the article): "In his writing life, the sense of pressure mounting on Boris was heightened by egregious  oppression and political forces. He was under constant surveillance due to the anti-Soviet nature of his work, while contemporaries who were not seen to serve the interests of the new Soviet system executed, exiled, or tortured."

And Olga? She met with the same sexist bias that Putin threw at Pussy Riot: "Little did Olga know that due to widespread knowledge of her affair with Boris, and her unflinching support of his book, it was not Boris who would be "hung, drawn, and quartered" but she herself who would shortly receive unwelcome visitors. On the the evening of October 6, 1949, the secret police arrived at Olg'a home with summons that held terrifying ramifications. The authorities had hatched a plan that would strike right to the heart of the "cloud-dweller." They would send his mistress and muse to a prison camp, and torture her instead."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Twin Peaks

Director David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan (Agent Cooper)
The TV thing can be really frustrating, especially when a beloved program returns to a station for which one does not have access. I have been quietly excited for the return of "Twin Peaks," and when I saw that it was to air on Sunday, I was expressively excited. I was visiting my mother and was sure that she had the Showtime cable station. Settled into her sofa with glass of wine ... what? Mom doesn't have Showtime? Jeez. She has HBO? What good does that do me!

"Twin Peaks" is my show. Of course, others have come along since, but it was the first truly captivating network television show that I had ever seen, and I am not so sure that there has been anything like it since. Typically, I'm not a fan of horror, and I would categorize it as such because the underlying thread of pure evil that courses through it is undeniable, which is horrifying. Bob, the evil that is the show's murderer, is quite easily the scariest character ever created in my mind because he represents what lives, quite possibly, in each of us. He is Freud's Id- the part of our personalities that is instinctual and driven by sexual and aggressive drives that can only be tempered by the ego  and superego. Bob lives in an ordinary box, but when he gets out? Watch out.

In the town of Twin Peaks, David Lynch creates a bizarre world that supports strange. And if everyone is strange, or has a quirk, it is normal. He takes a happy collection of characters, like in the sitcom "Happy Days," for instance, and Picassos them. That's it. The show is a Freudian Picasso: complex, instinctive, exaggerated, and blue.

While I was watching the series every week back in 1990, I had a "Twin Peaks" friend in a very dear friend. We did not live in the same city, so we weren't able to see it together, but we always talked about it afterwards. And for Christmas one year, he traveled to me and surprised me with VHS tapes that he had used to record the entire series. Before there was even a word for binge watching, we spent an entire weekend locked in and binging on Agent Cooper. I baked a cherry pie (Cooper's favorite), we drank lots of wine, and at some point in the middle of the night, we decided that it was a good idea to give David Lynch a call. We were not happy with the idea that Bob had released himself from Agent Cooper psyche. How could good go bad? It makes sense, I suppose, but we didn't want anything to do with it because, ultimately, we didn't want to believe in instinctual evil. I dialed 411 and asked for the Los Angeles listing for Lynch. got We nowhere.

I am sure that there is some way around the Showtime conundrum. Sadly, my buddy has gone to the Blue Room. I wonder if I can buy VHS tapes anymore? If the series ends up on some type of platform that I can tape. , I want to be ready. Then I will somehow transport myself to the Blue Room with a bottle of wine and a cherry pie. Hopefully, behind the curtain, I'll find my friend. I'd like to watch it with him. And I'm sure that we would have something to call David Lynch about.