November 5th, 2008

there!, Hello

Destroying Narrative Expectations: Burn After Reading

hntrpyanfar and I went to see the Coen Brother's most recent flick Burn After Reading last night. The trailers had billed it as straight comedy, a couple of reviewers labeled it belonging to the screwball vein of comedy, so I had constructed a whole series of expectations about what I was going to see.

Needless to say, those expectations were trounced. The movie is not a laugh a minute thing. Not really a comedy at all. Sure, there are comedic elements -- stemming from the Coen brother's typical attention to the behaviors of human beings, our pettiness and foolishness and moments of odd nobility -- but the movie actually draws from quite a few genre pots. There's espionage, there's humor, there's more than a little bit of effective horror (not supernatural based, by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly shocking moments of "holy smokes, is that disturbing!")... Needless to say, it's a potpouri of elements, but the underlying current running through it is a favorite of mine: this is a film that hearkens to the best elements of Absurdist Theatre.

My introduction to this particular mode came from reading Sam Shepard's True West (wherein two brothers undergo a slow personality transformation into one another, and the stage fills up with stolen toasters and clutter), which has all the elements we find here: it provokes, it makes us laugh, it disturbs, it breaks narrative expectations and leaves the viewer with ambiguity, leaves that viewer to try and make sense of disparate, incongruent pieces (much as the Coen brothers' film does, both to its characters and audience). From True West, I naturally went on to read Shepard's entire oeuvre, and the superb, mysterious Buried Child (which I wrote my Master's Thesis on) remains one of my all time favorite works (along with Adams' Watership Down, Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Shakespeare's Macbeth, &cetera)...

Needless to say, I rather enjoyed Burn After Reading. Slaves to plot (particularly to plots that find resolution) will find themselves flummoxed, alas, which probably explains the bad reviews I had heard. I, however, was absolutely delighted.

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Yesterday found me delightfully productive on the book. I had 1000 words down before going to work (hooray for waking up at 6:00 am), and I got still another fair share done before going out to the movies. While I had entertained the (perhaps foolish) notion of cracking 10,000 words yesterday (20% done by day 4!), I expect to see that done today. The book is turning out to be a fun write, and while there is little room for actual revision as you go in the NaNoWriMo plan of things, I find myself taking the time to write as well as I can (and do minor adjustments) to speed up the eventual editing of the manuscript. I already know it will not be complete at 50,000 words (that's actually an approximate halfway mark for the beast as intended), but this is doing what I wished: it's tightened up my writing schedule, after a couple of months of slacking-off (oh, I was still writing; I just wasn't doing as much as I might have preferred)...


Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
8,398 / 50,000
(16.8%)

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    amused amused
there!, Hello

Remember, Remember...

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow

For those with effigies, burn or hang them!