Saturday, 30 May 2009

Dry-as-dust ivory-towerite comments on raunchophile film review

Steve Jacobs is making a film based on J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace. A risky business, where the ironic gap between the book's narrator and author is so carefully concealed. How do you do that kind of irony in film? I'm looking forward to finding out, or being gleefully disappointed that one of the best elements of the novel hasn't survived adaptation. Meanwhile, yes, yes, yes, I understand that a film borrowing a name and some plot points from a novel can't be expected to reproduce in facsimile the original text, and a good thing, and blah and so on, yes, I understand that, but still, Disgrace says some important things in a complicated way, and it'll be a shame and not very surprising if the film ends up saying the opposite of those important things for sheer want of subtlety.

What's twitching my digits right now is this, from Brian McFarlane's review of Disgrace and Philip-Roth-spawn
Elegy (which I have seen, and which is a very good film if you don't mind having to participate in its lascivious appraisal of Penelope Cruz's legs and its apparently unironic [?] theme song, "When you make love to a woman you get revenge for all the things that defeated you in life," which is the kind of sentiment that makes me want to sign up for a life stint in the local nunnery) – and now returning to my sentence – I am perflexed by this, from Brian McFarlane's review: "An ageing academic myself, I must say in passing how gratifying it is to see these raunchy protagonists as distinct from the dry-as-dust, ivory-tower image more often associated with the profession."

What? What, what, what, what, what? It's gratifying to see oneself represented by David Lurie – despite whose self-justifying narration seems to me to rape his student, Melanie – or David Kepesh, who by his own admission uses women's bodies, his students' bodies, as receptacles for his vengeance? And there's something pleasing, and "raunchy" (good lord!), and pleasingly, raunchily subversive about depicting academics as sexual predators? I've had a few too many friends propositioned by their course coordinators or dumped,
après shenanigans, by their supervisors, and seen too many of the consequences, to feel gratified by the Lurie/Kepesh depictions.


Pavlov's Cat said...

'How do you do that kind of irony in film?'

Cast John Malkovich. If he can do whatshisname (what is his name, dagnabbit?) in Portrait of a Lady that well, he just might be able to somehow convey David Lurie.

The rest of your post just depresses me to tears. Is that really still going on, in spite of everything?

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Gilbert Osmond. And that's a good point you make about JM. I don't have a very good cinematic vocabulary, but I'm sure there are techniques for eliciting the simultaneous trust and distrust of a central David Lurie character.

The rest of my post depresses me to tears, too. It's still going on, though sometimes the academic gets disciplined - or asked to leave, in one case I'm aware of - and sometimes s/he doesn't.

Really very weird, though, that B. McF., who must be a good reader at least some of the time, could so miss the narrative irony in Disgrace not to recognise that what David does is rape Melanie, and that he isn't a raunchy character, but a person incapable of effective self-analysis who misreads almost everyone he meets.