Seeing “Alice in Wonderland” tonight with Flor. The last Tim Burton movie I really remember looking forward to was “Big Fish”, also perhaps his last great movie. The Argentinean fascination for Tim Burton films has been a pet peeve of mine since I came to live here, but I understand the appeal. I’ve found I’m mostly annoyed by directors I perceive as being “too in love with” their own idiosyncratic style– Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino come to mind. I feel like brilliant movies are sometimes damaged by their little quirks and fixations (“Inglorious Basterds”, for instance. Dude, the spaghetti-western score works perfectly for Kill Bill and Grindhouse, but not a movie set in 1940s Europe, yannow? It just seems jarring).
(And of course I’m NOT saying all movies should be nameless and uniform– shit, I’m as much of a politique des auteurs advocate as any Truffaut fan– I’m just saying you sometimes sacrifice the integrity of the film itself, the story itself, by making these… I dunno… self-concessions?, to leave your stamp as it were, on a movie that’s already, for all intents and purposes, yours).
Anyway. I’m looking forward to “Alice in Wonderland”. Not having read the stories the movie is based on, I’m curious to see if the story is as dark and fucked up as I keep hearing about. Of course, it’s Tim Burton, so I really won’t know how much of that “darkness” is really from the source material or just his version of it. My coworker Florencia (different from the other Flor– god there are a lot of Flors in Buenos Aires, gosh) got me interested in the story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, his subject for the stories, and how there seems to be a public confusion about the extent of their relationship. From what I understand, Lewis was obviously quite fixated on her. By most accounts, nothing actually ever happened between them, and to Alice’s innocent perception, they were probably just “platonic friends”. Or maybe he was “like a brother” to her. That’s what they always say, right? How often is that actually true, though? Just think– how devastating a word like “friend” or “brother” to a guy who’s yearning for more.
Anyway, nobody really knows anything. Perhaps my perception is colored by the Tom Waits album, “Alice”, which is a dark story of feverish obsession. Tom’s album is probably my favorite album by any artist ever, a slow, trudging piece of baroque jazz, with Tom’s fractured “junkyard orchestra” in full European ballad form, giving these songs a somber, understated orchestration. It’s sometimes beautiful, quiet and desolate, sometimes deeply disturbing. The lyrics are absolutely heartbreaking and poetic. Listening to this record in full is like taking a swim in the dark of the night. Which of course I wouldn’t do due to my irrational fear of sharks but that’s what it feels like.
You know, I think it’s interesting how probably my two favorite records by my two favorite musicians– “Alice” and Elvis Costello’s “North”– are slow, sad, piano-driven jazzy tearjerkers. You’d get the impression I’m this insufferable emo douchebag. Oh wait.
I swear to God, this entry started off being about something and now I’m rambling about Tom Waits and Elvis Costello again. Jesus Christ.