Home / Are You For Real/Real? (a Paean To Pastiche in Punch-Drunk Love, Lost in Translation, Minnie & Moskowitz and Cerebus)

Are You For Real/Real? (a Paean To Pastiche in Punch-Drunk Love, Lost in Translation, Minnie & Moskowitz and Cerebus)

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In the Swords of Cerebus introduction to Cerebus #19, Dave Sim explained, a propos the ontological status of his characters: “I class Cerebus as fantasy/fantasy, Elrod as fantasy/real, Lord Julius as real/fantasy, Filgate as real/fantasy, the Moon-Roach as fantasy/real…and Perce as real/real”.

This quotation ran in loops through my head yesterday, as I read The Forager’s essay on Lost in Translation, the responses to the piece (in the comments-thread & here), JW’s sequel–which links LIT to my other favourite film of the young millenium, Punch-Drunk Love, and Bruce Baugh’s excellent assessment of his relationship to Cerebus itself…

The thing is, I think there’s a connection between all three of these works (sure…sure Fiore, big talk from a guy who still hasn’t read the last 150 issues of Sim’s opus, and hasn’t read the first half since 1991–I know, I know…) What people are objecting to is exactly what I love! I think JW is dead right when he traces the roots of LIT/PDL to Old Hollywood, and specifically, to my favourite genre, (yes, I like it even more than superheroes–much more, actually!!) romantic comedy… Cassavettes’ Minnie & Moskowitz also fits perfectly into this conversation…

All of this craziness takes place, as Hawthorne would put it (in the preface to The Blithedale Romance), upon the stage of a “theatre, a little removed from the highway of ordinary travel, where the creatures of [the artist’s] brain may play their phantasmagorical antics, without exposing them[selves] to too close a comparison with the actual events of the real world.”

Thing is–in Simian parlance, the closer you get to “real/real”, the less relevant you are! As we know, Cerebus is the “still point of the world” generated by the 300 issues of Cerebus. And he’s “fantasy/fantasy”! The characters who matter are able to interact with him on the level of “fantasy”, not the “real”. “Reality” brings in a host of social complexities and other worldly forces that water down the purity of the relationship between one and another. The works under discussion here (not to mention my own creative work) must ignore certain things in order to concentrate upon “relationality”–and this just ain’t looked kindly upon in the Chomskyan/Foucaultian intellectual climate in which we find ourselves these days…

Seems to me that, as a society, we’ve gone off the rails with this “real/real” stuff… Even our “fantasy worlds” (like Tolkien’s) are so carefully planned out that they might as well be “real”. But that’s just not what’s happening in Lost in Translation… Bob & Charlotte don’t “sneer” at the people in their neighborhood, they simply exist on a different frequency… Each of them goes into that bar looking to pick up a broadcast that will make them laugh, or smile, or think… and most of it comes in as gibberish… Not because it really is gibberish, mind you–it just so happens that it’s in “real audio”, it’s “social static”… you really have to fiddle with your mental tuner if you want to interact with a person on the “fantasy level”, and that’s what Lost In Translation and Punch-Drunk Love show us! I just don’t see the “sneering” and “haughtiness” in LIT that people are talking about… You can’t give detailed psychological profiles of every character in a film/novel/comic book, and it’s a terrible mistake to try, a hangover from naturalism/realism… The fact that we do seem to expect this explains why mainstream rom-com has declined so precipitously in the past fifty years–and it also helps to clarify why hollywood no longer places the premium on “character actors” that it once did! All “naturalism/realism” (I sound like Dave Sim on “Marxism-Feminism”, somebody kill me now!!) does is show us where various far-from-unique individuals fit into the social matrix anyway. What’s the point of that?

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