In the run-don’t-walk cultural category of my new short-form recommendation postings is the BBC One 6-part miniseries, River. (available in the U.S. on Netflix.)
It’s hard to describe succinctly how brilliant this series is. It’s an addictively compelling whodunit with layers of social, economic, racial, historical, and psychical significance. The sad thing is that I cannot imagine such a series being written, produced, or acted like this in the U.S.
I’m beginning to think this country is just too “young” to produce such work. Not that the U.S. is that young a country. But its deepest and longest history is of native population extermination-which this country is barely willing to acknowledge in its school curricula, or its public – or private – discourses. And with that repression goes nuance and subtlety in representation. Now, nuance and subtlety are just plain old entertaining (for many of us). But they’re also essential to digging ourselves out of the political mire that we in the U.S. are now drowning in. This moment of political demagoguery and economic exploitation cannot be comprehended in simple terms. Don’t be fooled by consolingly ironic tweets to the contrary.
The unearthing of repression, and the American amnesia around its founding violence, are reasons why Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, LaRose, is also so important. Both River and LaRose, worlds apart in many ways, are similar in many regards. They understand that events are never absent of psychical histories. And that the past will always return – for good or bad, depending on how we deal with it.
Postscript, 10/6/16- The wheels of my unconscious grind exceedingly slowly. I just realized that the temporal structures of River and LaRosa are very similar- always through a montage of past and present. River can make more clear- with visual devices to its advantage- that, as Alain Resnais pointed out in regard to what critics called possibly the first use of flashbacks in film, all memories and “flashbacks” actually exist in the present. But LaRose has its own literary way of bringing the past directly into the present, through distinctly Native American storytelling traditions.
Another recommendation: The Argonauts, the highly-lauded memoir by Maggie Nelson. I have yet to read anything that better captures the un-identifiable nature of sexuality. For me, this brilliant page-turner is perplexingly marred by the way that Nelson raises straw men in order to summarily strike down various theoretical arguments about sexuality and subjectivity – Freudian and other – single-quote by single-quote. But it’s still such an important book.
It’s been about two and a half years since my first blog post, and I’ve decided to take a break from posting regularly. I started the blog because I felt the need to find a platform for some of my everyday thoughts on culture and the world in general. And the scroll layout of a blog lends itself to the montage of words and images, a format that I’ve always found compelling. But sometimes new demands on energy and time present themselves…For those who are just finding the site, there are many still-relevant posts to peruse by clicking on the partial list on the side, or by the month below.
Every so often, I’ll post something. And once in a while, I’ll post a reference to some kind of “do not miss” text, movie, art show, book, podcast, t.v. series, etc.
Do not miss “Occupied,” the Norwegian t.v. series available on Netflix – it takes place in the near future; Russia has occupied Norway for the European Union, because Norway has decided to independently stop producing oil due to the dangers of climate change. The oil hits the fan as the Prime Minister attempts to avoid suicidal military confrontation, the occupation breeds some militant resistance, and everyone else tries to come to terms with a contemporary definition of occupation.
It’s got a brilliantly terrifying script that has an intense contemporary urgency, but is not written, directed, or acted in a broad manner. It’s got the kind of acting that no longer exists in the U.S., where our obsession with starlets and leading men robs us of real talent. And it’s got a matter-of-fact inclusion of various types of characters that also don’t populate our t.v. series – starting with, they’ve got real complexity, not just 2-dimensional brooding temperaments, for god’s sake…
Enjoy – if you can!