‘Voyeurs welcome’ went the advertising campaign. It wasn’t a spoken agreement. It was a look. In the theatrical trailer for Eyes Wide Shut, the defining image is of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, naked, making-out in front of a mirror. Tom has his eyes closed to what he’s doing. He can’t see himself in heat. But Nicole’s eyes are open, she’s watching herself in that mirror, and her look is fearful, hunted. Tom’s hand is round her throat. It’s as if she sees his brute desire in that mirror. As much as she enjoys it – and, rest assured, she does enjoy it too – catching desire is dangerous. He’s in the grip of lust: right where we are. By looking in the mirror, Nicole dares us to admit: we want to see. She snares the voyeur.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously once wrote: There are no second acts in American lives. What he meant was that for him there was to be no second act. Because he was capable of shame (and he was an alcoholic). Compare his life with the life of, say…Mickey Rourke, and it becomes quite clear that there are second acts in American lives, provided a) you have no shame, and b) there’s a funny story to your initial downfall. F. Scott, poor lamb, felt guilt and shame that Tender is the Night wasn’t better. Mickey Rourke scarcely regrets making Another 9 ½ Weeks. That’s why one of them died, broken, aged 44, and the other is playing the villain, aged 58, in Iron Man 2.
Did you ever play cowboys and Indians? Did the cowboys ever rape and mutilate the Indians? I thought not. You were with me up to the second part, right? Like most of Cormac McCarthy’s readership in the 1980s, you like Westerns, just not the whole “rape and mutilation” hootenanny. The trouble for prospective readers of McCarthy’s 1985 magnum opus Blood Meridian (and for any potential movie adaptation) is that the atavistic violence starts on page one and continues, roughly one act of violence per page, throughout the novel. If you took the words “they rode on” and “blood” out of the writing, you’d be left with a gibbering description of a desert.
You know how, even if you know a Springsteen song is rote, it doesn’t matter? Like when you hear the first verse, and it’s about how “[Joey] lost his job at the [docks/car plant/box factory]” and “[Mindy] got pregnant” that same week and “[Joey’s] smokin’ a cigarette and [embodying blue-collar America]… dah dah dah.” And you know it’s just Bruce slapping all the clichés together… that all his songs sound the same and you really should’ve quit listening after Born to Run. But you well-up anyway. That’s what watching The Wrestler is like. It’s not the song; it’s the voice. We’re all suckers for Bruce.
Would someone hurry up and write a Hold Steady musical? It surely couldn’t be a worse idea than Tim Burton’s decision to keep the blood in Sweeney Todd (not that that was a bad artistic decision, but commercially… not so much) The Hold Steady (for those who don’t cling desperately to popular music) is a bar-band from Brooklyn. They play the kind of music Bruce Springsteen would approve of, but the losers in Craig Finn’s lyrics seem lost by choice, not victims of circumstance. In bar-light, she looked alright/In daylight, she looked desperate… So goes one chorus. Who wouldn’t want to see a musical based around that?