‘Promising Young Woman’ (Emerald Fennell 2020) is a piece of work. The narrative charges into the china shop of Me Too, betrayal, identity crisis, obsession and revenge., leaving us to ponder if we really want, or need, to pick up the pieces. The visual style is redolent of Lynch, Verhoeven and Hitchcock – the framing lingers on its subjects, the colours are vivid, the domestic interiors belong to lives that are ordered, predictable yet somehow otherworldly. The contrast between comfortable certainty and uninvited darkness is Fennell’s playground. The first time director has a well chosen cast who manage their lines like thy were precious cargo. Carey Mulligan, most likely in the role of her career, delivers a character that fuses Joyce with Euripides. Loyalty beyond death conveyed without artifice but with a knowledge and passion that is astonishing. A must see.
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His question was impertinent
That is – it was not pertinent
But I answered it anyway, starting with a question of my own;
Maybe the question should be; Why is your hair not braided?
Do you think that what I have done is a tonsorial conceit?
Do you think that I seek admission to The Venerable Order of Hipsters?
Let me tell you that the Hipsters are not a war-like people
They will probably inherit the Earth
But my ancestors were indeed war-like. Bellicose. Martial
They were Celts, Gaels and Normans descended from Norsemen
They were Gallowglasses (Elite mercenaries. You can Google them up)
And they braided their hair for war
And my Caledonian and Hibernian forebears fought many wars
Not just, as Mel’s Wallace did, against Edward’s armies
But later against Hanover and the Campbells
And across the Irish Sea, against Henry and John Lackland
Elizabeth, Gloriana, sent her pretty Essex
Churchill sent the fucking Black and Tans
And so I told him; It has a cultural context. Historical hubris if you like
I could have said I’m a muso and there’s an expectation….
I could have said I’m losing it on top and compensating…you know?
But the poet in my Celtic heart needs a badge of some faded glory
It needs free passage along the limbic channel to collective memory
Well, that’s my story to stick to. And it’s me that’s paying, boyo.
I’m not painfully honest. I’m serenely dishonest. I have to be – there’s a lot riding on it.
Imagine what might happen if I told you the truth. Before I examine that ludicrous proposition – do you even know what the truth is? And before I examine that ludicrous proposition – do you even know what a lie is? An untruth; a mendacity; a porky; a fib; a load of cobblers. Or shades thereof? Obfuscation; dissembling; weasel words; deception; disinformation.
You see? Dishonesty comes in many guises. Dishonesty has evolved in a way Darwin would have understood. If you’re an advanced thinker, like me, you’ll understand that language is cognitive – a survival tool. Shielding others from harmful facts, for example, has become an obligation that may only be discharged by the most noble and wise amongst us. We’re willing, even content, to assume the burden of disapproval and rejection in order to ensure that you – yes, I mean you – are able to lay your head on the pillow at night and pull the wool over your own eyes. Suspecting everything but knowing nothing. Confident that your ignorance, your very unknowingness, will provide the fuel to light not just otherwise meaningless lives but entire industries. Every train-home discussion, every pub argument, every social media thread, every public service meeting has a symbiotic relationship with the radio, with the television, with the press, with the government, with the public relations spinners, with the marketing Buddhas, with the advertising creatives, with the Internet. And therefore with Bloggers like me. Can you trust me? Trust what I say? What I’m saying now? Is it true?
Which brings me back to where I started. What is the truth? Is it what you see, what you hear, what you smell – when you walk into a room? What about the others that walked in with you? They’ll all have a different agenda. They will all be liars. Maybe just mistaken. But that’s pretty much the same thing, isn’t it? And what if each one of them believes that their experience was the truth? And that your experience – and all the others – was untrue. A lie. What then?
Don’t worry. I can answer that.
The aggregate of all those untruthful, mistaken ideas, opinions, points of view far outweighs the one objective truth that can, by definition, exist only in the abstract. But there is a mutual dependency which is an immutable law of nature. We need the myriad lies in order to identify that singular truth. Entire economies, whole nations, established belief systems – our continued existence as a species – is dependant upon our ability, individually and severally, to lie at every opportunity. To strive to raise the levels of dishonesty in every facet of our lives. Not only lying to others but to ourselves. Even to our pets. The more successful we become at that, the more we will cherish that elusive, single truth. Not just the idea of the truth but the reality of the idea of the truth.
Dateline January 2036 – New York
So how does it feel now that you’re in your 60s or 70s to finally have thrown off the yoke of the Baby Boomers? Now that they’re all gone. Or mostly.
It started 20 years ago with Bowie. And since then, Spielberg, Scorsese, McCartney, Dylan, Queen Elizabeth and King Charles, (Although I acknowledge the cruel irony of Chazza surviving only until the day after his coronation. Still, Wills makes a fine representative of modern monarchy as he cycles each morning, clad in blue overalls, to his job at the Recycling Plant.) the Clintons, Putin, Letterman, Clapton, Cameron and all of the Murdochs in that attack on Chequers in 2020, (That brought about Corbynism of course, the dissolution of the Upper House and the abandonment of hereditary titles and the Honours List. That is why, dear readers, I must now address you as plain, humble Wilson Parking, my knighthood having been rescinded.) Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Fry, Germaine Greer, Meryl bloody Streep, Bob Geldof and, finally to much relief and global celebration, Bono.
So they’re all, more or less, gone. Keith Richards remains in suspended animation at the Brian Cox Centre for Immunology Research in Weybridge while scientists investigate the strand of alien DNA that was found after a routine examination following yet another accident involving Keef and a palm tree. (More irony. To think that Keef may be the source to the unravelling of that most impenetrable of mysteries; the meaning of life.) There’s a few sports commentators such as Ian Botham, Vince McMahon and, in New Zealand, Keith Quinn who are still hanging on. But mostly they’re gone.
I’m still here of course. Just. As I’ve got older, I have to admit to turning gradually into my opposite. Corbynism was not for me. So I came Stateside. Individuality is still respected and following President Trump’s assassination at an NRA rally in 2018, wealth and privilege are virtues that inform every aspect of life here. Particularly as the NRA is now, by far, the largest political party and Barack Obama is but a distant memory.
That’s our legacy you Gen X questers. You can have it. And when those that remain finally meet the conqueror worm, you can explain it all to Generation Y. Good luck with that.
As relevant now as it wasn’t then.
Things have gone too far and I don’t know if I can get them back to where they should be. But I’m going to try because there’s an awful lot at stake. We all know about ‘the elephant in the living room’ and the desire not to disrupt the status quo, however gross the anomaly may be – sat there – right in front of us. We don’t want to be ‘conspiracy theorists’ or ‘idealists’ either but we do so want to be ‘realists’ and ‘toe the party line’. Right?
No. Wrong. It’s got to stop. The falsifications, fabrications, outright lies – right down to the shaded nuance that undermines us and leaves us on uncertain ground. Calumny and manipulation of information have become institutional sacraments. It all has to stop now before we become characters in a Kafka novel. But where to start?
Thomas Alva Edison is where I’ll start.
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So what did you expect?
Were you optimistic about the prospect of love and affection? Did you really believe the door bell’s tone? Like a herald announcing the imminent arrival of your Prince? Not just some day – but today – your Prince had come. Or was that simply Purple Rain on Classic Hits releasing some of those snap-frozen procreative juices?
Just what was it you expected, eh?
Was it someone who might listen to understand? Might give more than take? Might read to you from The Sonnets? Compare you to a summery, mummery day at the Maypole? Introduce you to The Planets? Sweet upholstery indeed.
Did you hope for joy?
An die Freude? A bit of the old Ludwig Van? Choral comfort leading you to Paradise? Blind John Milton conducting Oliver’s Army on the road to the First Republic? Let’s get metaphysical, metaphysical. Don’t want much, do you?
How much is enough? Enough is never enough, you say?
The Philosopher’s Stone? Is that it then? Base metal into precious metal? Led Zeppelin into Golden Earring? Waterloo into Red, Red Wine?
Now I see it. The Mona Lisa smirk; the Enigma Variation; the Shadow of Your…
Why didn’t you say?
Bullets, bayonets and fixed charges
Billets, skillets, troops in barges
RSM, clenched teeth are hissing
God knows the number that are still missing
Mules and wagons, mud unyielding
Who won the toss and are we fielding?
The mortar shells are getting nearer
The entry price is getting dearer
Put your masks on! Here’s the gas!
Keen as mustard, attack en masse
Have to re-take that position
Eyes shut, running, on a mission
Zip! Shoom! Kerrmp! And then a scream
Not a nightmare, nor a dream
But treading water – last few yards
Firing, thrusting at the guards
Kamerad! Their arms held high
A bunch of kids, about to die
To die for what? The Captain said
So Englishmen may rest well in bed
No greater love is there than this
To give your life for Empire’s wish
And at the setting of the sun
Believe it’s ended – yet just begun