…and the quest to see everything

Scene: Shortbus and Mitchell


ph. Fortissimo

New Yorkers are permeable, you know what I mean.

Yeah.

Yes you are.

Mm-hmm.

Yeah. Therefore, we’re sane. Consequently, we are the target of the impermeable and the insane.

Yeah.

And of course, New York is where everyone comes. To be forgiven. Whatever you’ve done. Tell me, how have you sinned? I’m sure it’s nothing serious.

How would you know?

Well, I’m sure you did your best. But imagine, if you grew up here like I did, home can be very unforgiving. It’s true. People said I didn’t do enough to help prevent the AIDS crisis because I was in the closet. That’s not true. I did the best I could. I was, I was scared, and impermeable. Everybody knew so little then. I know even less now.

As part of the CINSSU Fall Academic Seminar, University of Toronto Professor and breathtaking taskmaster Corrin Columpar let us in on a new book she’s working on – one about the collaborative process of filmmaking that directors like John Cameron Mitchell use. She also talks about this scene in context to 9/11 and Judith Butler‘s “Frames of War.” She discusses the duality of permeability and impermeability, how both 9/11 and the AIDS crisis is framed by other media so that America prefers a to attack instead a better alternative, mourning. Vigilance, unfortunately, is more destructive than mourning. And Dr. Columpar, please don’t sue me.

Only in this scene, this emotional rich scene does Rabbit Hole make sense as a part of Mitchell’s career trajectory.

It’s gonna be difficult not to talk about how this scene affects me and enlightens me. I know it’s a bit stereotypical to have a septuagenarian representing the 1970’s or the 80’s while some of the people I’ve met and talked to who were around ‘back then’ are virile men in their forties or fifties, who don’t necessarily open up to their experiences then and then I didn’t wanna pry. I can only imagine what they’re thinking, especially with their loss and the carelessness that the new generation has adapted. But then the AIDS generation are the men between sixteen to sixty in those days. And the character was closeted during the time, although I’m not sure how much he participated in the scene in its heyday. And that’s as much as I would like to discuss on that note.

There’s a lot going on here – the voyeurs like Sophia (Sook-Yin Lee) and the Jamies (Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy), the conversation between Ceth (Jay Brannan) and the former New York Mayor (Alan Mandell), the band on stage singing about secret handshakes, the condomless orgy where one of its participants sneaking a glance at the couple. There are thus two kinds of shot-counter shot relationships. Shot – older man, counter shot younger man. Shot – the couple, counter shot voyeurs in three different places within the room, and I don’t think I’ve seen a shot-counter shot relationship like the latter, unless correct me if I’m wrong, I suppose. To the voyeurs – and to me, honestly – it might have looked like a grandpa trying to pick up a rent boy. However, the scene, ending on a close-up of two of them, makes sure that we see a connection between them that’s beyond or even outside love or lust.

And now to eventually see the rest of the movie. Can someone put this back on a rep theatre again? Because as you know, I stubbornly see films mostly in the theatres.

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