LOSING CANINE TEETH: IDEAS SPURRED BY A MODERN GREEK FILM THAT IS NOT ABOUT MODERN GREECE

Posted by @ 5:04 pm on July 27th, 2013

dogtooth

A DISTANCE FELT

I have a friend who I like spending time with but rarely end up seeing. The friend is a good person whose time means a lot, especially when it is shared with me. We call each other difficult, but what that means is that we like to hang out when we really want to, and refuse to negotiate our visceral wants for the other. It is a circumstantial friendship, despite its organicness. A major issue that arises frequently and poses Herculean efforts on both of our ends is that the friend lives in Brooklyn. [1] Despite the physical distance, it was the friend’s turn to come to me, because last time I went to Brooklyn, and I walked the Williamsburg bridge back and forth without ever seeing the friend, because the friend was asleep and never woke up and stood me up, and for that reason the friend would have to come to me this time and this was a non-negotiable term in an unwritten legal contract.

We decided to go to an East Village staple called “Sidewalk,” which is on Avenue A, and my friend grimaced a lot with my decision, because “how 90s grunge.” What the friend was going to witness would be a surprise, because this space was renovated ala gentrification in 2011 and there were no grimey aspects of my tall burger the very attractive (in a 90s way) waitress served me as she spoke in the familiar raspy voice that exuded bits of smoke here and there. [2]

What is interesting about where we chose to sit–which of course was the eastern side that functions as the smoking section of the outdoor seating area–is that it is located exactly near a gay bar called “Eastern Bloc,” which some people say belongs to Anderson Cooper’s boyfriend. [3] It was during our meal, or actually my meal since the friend was only drinking, on the smoking sidewalk that we witnessed a peculiar verbal fight in the street, the kind of fight that is violent only because of the words involved and how they were spat by people: aggressively and malevolently. It ended with someone calling a gay person a faggot, but the shock value was only increased when the assaulter and the gay person who stepped on his sneakers because he was too distracted by his phone were separated by a larger distance. It was then that the assaulter widened his eyes and tried to cajole his audience–us–with his empowering statement as he turned around and declared to bystanders of this incident: “It’s okay. I am gay, too.”

A TRUER DISTANCE

There is another friend I have, and our segregation [4] is truly real. Ismini is always in Europe and usually in Greece. She is a writer, and so we talk about things a little more abstract we feel lucky to be able to appreciate. Sometimes we touch on how this refined appreciation might be a privilege and there are things more animalistic that we encounter or observe, things that we either try to not let dominate our consciousness, or if we do at least succumb to them in a private manner.  When I talk to her, our communication is a weird mixture of Greek and English, and I am not sure if the English is something I have added by accident or if she brings it in intentionally, because she knows I think in this language primarily now.

There is a writer Ismini admires who I will read, because everything she has introduced me to culturally has been profoundly appreciated, but I cannot decide what language I want to read him in. His name is Vassilis Alexakis, and he is a Greco-Franco writer who does think about language as a shaper of emotions. Alexakis has stated that organically the words of French songs and the words of Greek songs touch him differently, and this idea about the way different melodies have been catalogued in his memory is one that makes me melancholically nostalgic. [5]

When I think about David Mitchell’s assertion: “A writer can be bad, but never wrong. A translator can be good, but never right,” I wonder how he feels about the fact “Cloud Atlas” exists as a film. The reader can never see it the way he wrote it, but what is even worse is that the viewer will only read it the way it has been seen. That is the betraying nature of our stimuli-abundant memories, memories that are more visual than susceptible to our selected consciousness.

THINKING DISTANCE

Yorgos Lanthimos directed a film called Dogtooth in 2009, and to a large extent the basic ideas controlling my selected consciousness in the recent past were reawakened by watching this modern Greek film which is not about modern Greece, but also is not not about it. I have discussed it thoroughly with some of my friends over in Brooklyn and beyond, but I try to stray off-topic when it comes to close vicinity, unless it is with people who understand the word “cunt” to mean nice things primarily. [6]

When I try to interpret the meaning behind the film, along with trying to understand why I not only enjoyed it, but welcomed it as a subject I would be thinking about for an extended period of time, I idealize the lack of contrived authoritative control Lanthimos placed in it. The Greek director has rejected the opportunity to provide a cohesive explanation that would explicate why his mind is so sick, and that is liberating for us, the members of the underground organization Sick Minds Universal.

To a female friend who is considering indulging in a monogamous relationship with someone who gifts her feminist texts because monogamy is a social construct, Dogtooth was about literary theory. To me, it seemed clear the primary subject was the lack of Internet. I think we are both not right, without being wrong either.

“Wrong” is when someone tells you how words should make you feel, or uses them because there is an anticipated response you are expected to have to them.

There are other people who don’t like knowing that minds that can birth Dogtooth exist, and such people are not wrong for not liking the film, as long as they realize the sea is not an armchair. Some wrong is universal, and it exists in Greek, English, Czech, and definitely in Russian.

NOTES

[1] This means that geographically we are segregated by impediments hard to describe, impediments that shall not be categorized according to time length per distance not traveled, because in reality they comprise a social construct. In reality, what I mean to say but only get around to jocularly here because it is utterly ridiculous is that we joke about how much we hate each others’ chosen borough so much because we do actually mean it. The objective value of the travel costs in combination with how annoyed either party will be for his surrounding milieu conclude in limited timed shared for this friendship.

[2] This blonde waitress is very attractive, truly, but she likes to wear weird shoes that look like boots with little things that hang from them like they would from ugly moccasins. The voice still appeals, certainly, but I do like the not superattractive heavier waitress who is meaner a lot more there, for many reasons, such as her witty responses to my cries for additional help when confronted with too many options and possibilities. Here is a recent dialogue we once had about the side of my medium-rare burger:

“Regular fries or sweet potato fries?”

“Should I get regular fries or sweet potato fries? Which ones do you like better?”

“Depends on what you like. Make up your mind, I am not that  kind of fucking waitress.”

[3] The very same boyfriend of Anderson Cooper’s who is supposed to own this other not gay bar, which is pretty gay regardless, called “Bedlam,” on Avenue C. The interesting thing about “Bedlam” is that you never know what days it will be open, it is like a little small universe of its own in that way.

[4] A separation with geographical dimensions, but rarely spiritual.

[5] Would Vassilakis learn Czech to read Kundera’s intended draft of The Unbearable Lightness of Being? I know of someone who learned Russian so that he could read the original Anna Karenina, and to me that is an inspiring saga of dedication.

[6]  This approach stems from objectivity, because a qualified and practicing audist would acknowledge the “cunt” is good, because unlike the word “faggot” it sounds filling in a good way, but not violent in a complicit punitive way.

 

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