Friday, June 22, 2007

There's nobody near me, there never was

Years ago, I saw a film called Paris, Texas. It was dark and uplifting, morose and humorous, quaintly American and very European, and above all, unrelenting in its depiction of one man's struggle against his own private hell: the one inside his head. Harry Dean Stanton, a perennial of seedy Lynchian plots and one memorable role in Pretty in Pink, gave the primary character Travis heft with his leonine, gangly limbs and sunken brown pupils. Though the film concentrates on Travis' search for his missing family, it also questions the sanctity of convention and companionship when the hills within cry hollow, wispy, and sullen.

One even more paradoxical fact is how the real Paris, Texas is far from any of the desolate desert landscapes featured throughout the film, a coincidence mirroring the truth of intimacy for anyone struggling with personal demons far more demanding than loved ones.

Paris, France does not inspire the solitude and remorse awakened by the dry, dusty, bleached desert of the aforementioned film. Nevertheless, its nexus of historical bohemia appears to infiltrate every stone, and the reams of historical data suggest that even some of the more famous members of bohemia likely suffered from the inertia and cold of solitary standings. Being without any particular occupation or avocation at present (not to mention an actual home, but such mundane details will be covered in a later post) leaves me with ample opportunity to dwell on the details amidst the rushing stream of tourists and Parisien(ne)s sprinting against the tide at the Metro stations. (And yes, I realize that there are likely others who share my thoughts ever so briefly as well, clinging to the valences of stranded solitary musings before shifting levels.)

Yesterday afternoon, on the occasion of this bright and sunny summer solstice, I settled into the cool solace - mind and body - at the Picasso Museum in Marais. In addition to being one of the larger oeuvres of the artist's work, gathered in part through tax "forgiveness" by the French government from his last wife and later his daughter, the museum also boasts a special exhibition on the artist's incredible fascination with the legend (and opera) of Carmen. Given my growing fascination with all things related to those Spaniards, I interrupted the chronological development of the madman's work to peruse the thematic collection.

Mythmaking abounds with grand twentieth-century artists like Picasso. He was certainly no stranger to the grandiose speculations on himself, and indeed, contributed to his own mystique. I can hardly conjecture as to his own particular state of mind, though the exhibit did due justice to showing the symbiotic relationship between life and art. It could be said that Picasso pursued hedonism with the same mathematical precision as he did analytical Cubism (a term he never devised but certainly practiced). The little brochure I got with my ticket explains the artist's fascination stemming from a lifelong admiration and identification with the tragic femme fatale, as well as a tribute to his Spanish heritage: a fantastical hispanity derived from an exile's adoration of bullfights, corridas, and Moorish pasts. Fans, mantillas, toreadors, bullish men, and a few phallic bulls filled the dozens of sketches, studies, notes, and memorabilia collected by the master while contemplating his own epic dramas, all of which unfolded somehow into masterpieces like this.

How strange. Picasso's more famous works scythe the woman's body brutally into fragments with cruel humor for measure. To think that these cleaved works were a double image folded back upon himself threw all of my suppositions out the window as I perused the galleries. Blurbs speaking about his heady lifestyle added more questions to the plate: how could a lover become the enemy? Where was the line between adoration and pathological hatred, sensuality and blatant ugliness? In truth, such binaries had no place in his life, nor any other complex life far from the maddening heteronormative voices of historians. Each image furrowed my brow more so, and riding back home, I wondered how intimacy could be such a sad, scary place. For even his primary lover for nine years couldn't escape his torturous gaze.

Nevermind that I'd been there before. I'd seen that place before, and I knew how and where my memory cleaved the bodies of lovers point blank without even wanting to, a case of trigger-happy knifing that can best be described as the easiest defense. Or the onlinest tribute when far worse things tread upon one's sanity.

** Special thanks to brimful and Ganesh for introducing me to the title that sprouted from this little gem.

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