January 9: Booing the tenor

I read an interview of Pavarotti many years ago. In it, he told stories of his youth in Modena. One of the best was about the joy he got from sitting in the back row of the opera house just for the opportunity to boo the tenor. He said it didn’t matter whether the tenor was any good or not he and his friends simply liked booing him.

It’s a little strange but not all that unexpected. The tenor is the hero of every opera so how could a budding star like Pavarotti resist the urge to take the guy down a notch? Apparently, he couldn’t. Me? I try to resist the temptation to take anyone down just for the warped joy of doing it. I keep the words of one of my own heroes taped to the side of my monitor.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “It’s not the critic who counts…”

So, I do try to refrain from criticism for the sake of criticism. When I do criticize I hope I do it in the process of learning from what I regard as the mistakes of another. The Power of the Dog was an interesting movie to watch so I admit to a discomfiture at what is fundamentally a western being directed by a Kiwi. Worse, while the story was set in Montana the movie didn’t appear to be shot there. If it was, the director made it appear that it was shot somewhere else.


What got me about the movie, and even later when I read the book by Thomas Savage, was how I was left feeling a little bit empty. There is simply too little of the malevolent brother Phil Burbank for the audience (and the reader) to chew on. You sat there hoping, yearning almost, to learn why he was the way he was but you never have the chance to find out.

In The Lost Daughter we are again left to bathe in tepid waters of ambiguity. Why is Leda such a bad mother? What is the foundation of her self-professed selfishness? Why, in the end, does she make the ostensibly bad family seem not so bad especially compared to her? What drove her to become who she was? Of course, some might thinks that ambiguity is a kind of freedom that’s bestowed on a thoughtful and imaginative audience, but I’m not so sure. If I have the time I may be moved to read the novel by Elena Ferrante. It’s hard to imagine writing such a potentially interesting character in a way that ends up blanching away the intrigue the character could bring to an audience. That’s why I want to read the book. Quite simply, novelists have time to make their case at their leisure. That’s a luxury few directors enjoy. Still, I’m left with the feeling Maggie Gyllenhaal could have gone on shooting and cutting forever and still never gotten to the essence of the story or its characters. If she failed where the author of the book succeeded another director should have been entrusted to the task of bringing the book to the screen. Too bad you can only watch the movies they made rather than the ones they didn’t.

It is, again, 11:48 and I still suck at getting my journal done during the day.

You’re forgiven for having never heard of tonight’s writing soundtrack. It’s Tim Curry’s 1978 Read My Lips. I gave up on finding a decent replacement LP since I tend to recall it was a lousy pressing anyway. The record finally got remastered and reissued and Amazon has it (like they have everything else). Let’s just say that it’s stylistically diverse and that Curry has a very interesting way with a song. I liked it in 1978 and I still like it today. I believe it was the last LP I ever bought from the long-gone but not forgotten Adam’s Apple in downtown Van Nuys.

January 9: Booing the tenor