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Monday, April 05, 2004
"A THING OF BEAUTY IS" AN ETERNAL SUNSHINE

I am going to take a hiatus from blogging for Holy Week, but because I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind this weekend, I am going to push the start of the hiatus until just after I can write a rave here for this film. I'll be quick because I have to get to the stupid gym which I hate before work.

The film - which will achieve cult status for its style and insight - slams the cinematic coffin on the Sexual Revolution. I was thinking to put together a talk based on three films from three different periods of the Sexual Revolution. (Good grief! Can't we come up with a more apt name for the last forty years of this hedonistic nightmare? How about the Sexual Devastation? Or if it has to be "revolution", how about "The Sexual French Revolution"? I mean, it was as big a mess as that travesty in the name of liberte egalite fraternite... "Monsieur, eh, can you make, eh, the amor and not the guerre, s'il vous plait? Or, eh, we will, eh, cut off your head, oui?")

Love Story starts the cycle with its sham requirement that "Love means never having to say you're sorry." The legacy of that piece of dialogue idiocy, is that a generation and a half of people went around killing their relationships whenever the inescapable need for "being sorry" came in to it. The deformed thinking seems to have run like this:

A) "Love means never having to say we're sorry." That is, when you meet "your perfect soul-mate" (ewwwwwwwww retch! retch!), it will be the person who never really offends you (such that, you know, repentance would be required), and whom you never offend (such that, you know, you should have to ask forgiveness).

B) My lover and I do nothing but end up sinning against each other.

C) We mustn't be in love....Let's end it.

The next movie in the cycle is The Ice Storm. This movie takes a look at people who are ravaged by being in the first decade of the Sexual French Revolution. Even in just ten years, it is already a failure, leaving people stripped and isolated, with nothing certain except their own isolation. The people in this movie are trapped like in an addiction - loving it and hating it, but basically not seeing any other way to live. So, they drug themselves and end up deadening every emotion except cynicism.

Flash forward to 2004, and we have Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - a new cinematic thesis for the folks who are stolidly rejecting the anti-life-style of the Baby Boomers. Prof. Mary Ann Glendon (HERO! HERO!) at Harvard has noted that the "Y" in Gen Y could stand for "Yearning." Played perfectly by perennially underestimated Jim Carrey, and the so much better than Titanic , Kate Winslet, the film follows a Gen Y couple who make it through the following syllogism:

A) I love you.
B) You hurt and bore me sometimes.
C) Maybe being hurt and bored is part of love? I forgive you. Let's stay together.

It's really, really astounding. The culture is working its way out of the pit, folks! I almost couldn't believe my eyes.

The film is about a couple who - taking their cue from thier Baby Boomer elders - futilely attempt to use a material method to root out/fix something in their spirits. How stunning is that?! Is there anything that has exemplified the Selfish Generation more than the way they have engaged and worshipped the material and ignored, subjugated, discounted and fled from the just as real reality of the spiritual?

All through the film I kept hearing in my head a line someone said to me once in high school, that because of my particular wounds, just stuck: "If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn't, it never was." I think this line is ultimately one more of the many stupid selfish creeds of the Sexual French Revolution. It is compelling because we are all infected with this age, but it is really a lie. Another way to say it is, "Hell, if somebody hurts you, screw them. Certainly don't make yourself vulnerable by going in search of them." Eternal Sunshine, instead, asks the question, is letting go of love even possible? Once it has you, you can't escape it...

There is a lot of great technical stuff in the film: great structure, emart writing, beautiful cinematography, wonderful acting. The supporting characters are also great - and all add something to the central theme. So, Kirsten Dunst, plays a Gen Y'er who, uncovering the lies and selfishness of her Boomer former boss and lover (played by Tom Wilkinson,...because, I guess, Bill Clinton, was unavailable to play himself), ends up rejecting nihilism and cynicism and makes a heroic truth-affirming choice.

It's a very smart and encouraging film, without any noticeable quantity of the crassness in which Boomer filmmakers generally couch (and so, obscure) their insights.

Two thumbs up for Eternal Sunshine. A must see for those who wait expectantly for the better Day.