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I lived with a child of snow when I was a soldier

2013-05-07 ~ 9:35 p.m.

I got my first chapter of my dissertation submitted last week. Still not heard anything back. I think I've a fairly good idea of what was wrong with it, and don't want to hear anything even more negative than I can already imagine. Still, lots more to write - got to look forwards not back till I've got 15,000 words, and then worry about quality. Learning German is a big failure, though.

I've abandoned hopes of doing the photo a day thing, which I seem totally incapable of (I'm not sure why) but I'm attempting to actually do some more or less creative writing every day. Generally around 2 paragraphs. I also sent off a particularly ridiculous story to a literary magazine, but chickened out of sending another which I think is better but is also very sexually explicit, because I'm polite sometimes. When I finish my current studies which are giving me such anguish, I think I will be studying more but maybe I'll slip down to slightly lower level like evening classes again, torn between literature, history, or creative writing.

Filmwise. I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild, which is very good, although I thought it was going to be more horrific and poetic, more like Klimov's Come and See crossed with Terry Gilliam's Tideland, and instead there's bizarre special effects and an odd mix of realism and the more poetic and lots of catfish. The acting is great, and visually it looks very impressive - some very cool art direction, nice CGI, etc.

I also watched McCabe and Mrs Miller. I have more of a problem with Robert Altman than with just about any other critically acclaimed filmmaker. Time and again he seems to rely on glib misanthropy, misogyny, intentionally incomprehensible dialog, and general awkwardness filmmaking. For example, Short Cuts is an epic piece of filmmaking, but it's also a travesty that rips up Raymond Carver's sad humanism in favour of grafting the apocalyptic onto the ordinary.

McCabe and Mrs Miller isn't very interesting in many ways - the plot is perfunctory, the characters are sketched in without any attempt to explain their pasts, it's just another Western allegory about big business and "civilisation" destroying the frontier. And as such it lacks the moral complexity of Red River and The Searchers or the romance and sense of heroism of The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid. It's hardly tragic. It's not even revisionist as such in the way of Ulzana's Raid or some of Peckinpah because it doesn't really take much of a viewpoint on history, other than that it was dirty and brown.

It does have a lot of wonderful incidental detail, with a steam traction engine, a primitive carpet sweeper, a primitive jukebox/music box, nice bridges, all the gadgets, plus the men wear amazing fur coats. In fact, since the final shootout takes place almost unnoticed, while the townspeople have something more important to worry about, you could suggest that's the point. It's a film about bodies in the snow, it's a film about things being passed over and rediscovered. It's hardly a film about human beings, so much as it's a film about historical detail.

It's an awesome piece of filmmaking in that it is a film that so totally refuses to be a heroic western, that refuses to elevate its characters, that captures the details of money being made and the practicalities of running a brothel. The characters are unsympathetic, but that's the point. They don't do very much. There's just a lot of wood and snow and fire and ice breaking over water.

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