We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

_Me and You and Everyone We Know_: To generalize is to be an idiot · 12 July 05

Dear Miss Vane,

This is a follow up to my review of Miranda July’s unsavoury film.

At IMDB I read a defensive review. The man (it seemed to me a man) defended it as having made him "laugh" & "giggle." He never said what was funny or why he giggled. He characterized those who left apparently well before the film ended as having simply rejected a "soft-core porn" scene.

What is soft-core porn? As I understand this term, it is any explicit sex scene which excludes any photos or explicit graphic involvement of a man’s penis. On that criteria, Yvette and I have seen so many soft-core porn scenes over the last 4 years I couldn’t remember them all.

That there is explicit graphic sex and no penis is what is least interesting & important about such generic scenes. Examples of soft-core porn scenes that come to mind: in "Comme Une Image" one sees a prosaic rendering, a tired couple who are trying to show affection but haven’t the energy or interest; in "Cinq fois deux," the pain and misery of the wife and the desperation of the husband; in Sous la Sable, the loving tender affectionate companionship and regard of the husband for the wife and wife for the husband. In a film I saw in the 1970s about the Vietnam war (I believe it had Jane Fonda in it but wouldn’t want to swear to this), the awkwardness, difficulty and sheer embarrassment of a man crippled by war trying to make love to a young woman whose task is to be patient and pretend. In Before Sunrise, we saw wonder and joy in inner souls as well as outer bodies having found congenial humane perceptive imaginative spirits. (I do recommend both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Miss Vane.)

And so it goes.

Intimacy (2001, directors Patrice Chéreau; writers Hanif Kureishi, Anne Louise Trividic, with Mark Rylance and Susanna Harker) was hard-core porn. Mr Drake and I went to see it when we were in Paris one summer. He said he wanted to leave at the end of about 20 minutes. So we did. When we got out, he said the relationship as set up made no sense and the film was utterly incoherent. I agreed and now add that this was part of the anti-humane theme about all human relationships as animal. I thought perhaps the film was making visible the anomie of modern life, but it was also sheerly exploitative & brutal.

I fled Me and You And Everyone We Know before the film had reached any soft-core porn scenes. All was vile talk and notes as yet. Indeed a soft-core porn scene was about to begin. But it wasn’t the literal sex, but the horrible attitudes of the young girls to the young man, his leering acquiescence, and worst of all, the invitation to enjoy this.

My header comes from William Blake. He said "to generalize is to be an idiot." It is to erase content, to cover up. It is to use generalities which are euphemisms which replace actual discussion.

I bring this up strongly. I come across such erasing & justifications of complacency all the time on lists where people discuss books. It’s a curtain between us and the shit we should expose and deplore as desperate agony. It may be that the young boy about to be shallowly humiliated is too dopey to be agonized. All the worse to laugh at him.

What does this say about those laughing? When I was a teenager, I suffered intense emotional pain from analogous experiences and bullies. July turns the audience into driveling leering voyeurs. In the sense that Intimacies also invited mindless voyeurism, Intimacies and Me and You And Everyone We Know are a pair. And both directed and written by women.

Miss Sylvia Drake

Posted by: Ellen

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