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in a web of glass, pinned to the edges of vision

brief realization

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

mucha mosaic

brief realization

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mucha mosaic
This icon and a conversation with a friend who's hugely into a recently released film adaptation of a musical about New Yorkers (a musical which was an adaptation of an opera (an opera which was an adaptation of a medium-length story) about fin de siecle Paris) spurred me to finally sum up what it is that seems to rub me wrong about Rent.

Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow, or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
``That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.''

Sorry. Been there, done that. You don't sing songs about it, you don't do song and dance numbers.
It doesn't work that way.
That is not it, at all.

If you like the movie, great! I don't, for the same reason you probably don't meet many Japanese fans of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado.
  • I loathed Rent. I loathed it when we sang selections from it in HS, and I didn't even bother with the movie.

    However, I think your snippet from the esteemed Mr. Eliot is perfect.
  • Too many don't want to understand. They don't want to give reality strength.

    You and I talk about it all the time. As much as I adore mutual acquatainces of ours, most of them are in for a very rude awakening when the real world finally shatters the rose coloured walls they've surrounded themselves with. Walls, because glasses just aren't cutting it.

    They think real life is like high school and they nothing will change. And they don't realize it isn't changing because the blinders they wear keep them from seeing the truth. And I pity them, I truly doing. In hiding, they are denying themselves more than just the pain, more than just reality. They're denying happiness as well.

    One day, they'll have to see the truth in so much and... it's going to kill them. Break their spirit. Leave them as nothing more then shells walking about.

    They'll never see it until they're forced to. And then it's too late because they weren't prepared, they wouldn't listen to sanity and reason.

    And yes, I'm disturbed to refer to myself as even a remote voice of sanity or reason.
  • I don't know from Rent whatsoever, but I have enjoyed in the past musical numbers that were heinously out of place. (Consider -- I apologize for this comparison, I guess -- the musical Buffy episode, where the effect of the out of place musical number was actually used in the plot as an indication of wrongness.) I will say from what little I've seen of ads for Rent or whatever that it doesn't seem to be going for strangeness with the musical numbers, though, so your point is well taken, I guess. I just wanted to note that "you don't sing songs about it" doesn't always mean that there shouldn't be a musical number. :)

    • I don't think "there shouldn't be a musical number" was the point of the post. ;)

      I think it was more along the lines of "A heartwarming, feel good story about a guy with AIDS is wrong" was the point.

      Then again, I am sort of in the camp that believes that La Boheme is sort of tacky from a certain perspective anyway. :)
      • (no subject) -
        • Granted I have not seen the film, and I spent a good portion of watching the show gabbing with friends because it was forced on me by school...but the way the commercials and the selections we had to sing portrayed it, my perspective was a sort of different if that's the case.
        • I cryed sporadically all the way through and for a good ten minutes afterwards as well. I didn't see it as heartwarming. I saw it as trying to make the epidemic real for a mass audience. I definately thought of my dead as I watched; dead of all kinds. I think that's part of the power of it. If you can get straight couples weeping for a dead drag queen, that is a step forward, however you feel about the movie. They did wep in the showing I saw, not just the gay couples, but the straight ones.

          This is in no way to invalidate how you feel about it. I definately think the advertising trivialized the subject and I can see how the whole thing may hurt.
      • And I agree with all you just said, but what I had read was "if you were in this situation, YOU WOULD NOT SING ABOUT IT." (Which I also agree with. My point is merely that it's not impossible for that disjunct to be used artistically. I certainly am not claiming Rent does or does not pull that off as I have no way to know.) I admit freely I was responding to a specific piece of what I saw and not the final point of "I don't like Rent," which of course, is fine by me. :)

        • (I think I was arguing because I was low-blood sugar. Please forgive.)

          And yes, I can see the artistic merit in your argument.
    • Someone I know was just asking me 'what are your dislikes of Rent, Turner?' and I came back to the entry you'd commented on, looking for a capsule summary.
      As it turned out, I did come up with one:
      'I didn't like being fed a story I know intimately as though I was somehow a stranger to it.' The audience is treated as strangers to the story, rather than as participants. Having been on the other side of the 4th wall of Rent's narrative, it was assaultive and unpleasant cognitive dissonance to find myself treated like a stranger to the story.
  • Actually, the Japanese have done versions of the Mikado (theres an annual showing of it in one city, according to some friends and confirmed by wikipedia). The show was a satire of England more than Japan.
    • and today, I learned that they stage The Mikado regularly in Japan. :) Thanks!
  • My photo teacher hates musicals (esp. Rent) for the same reason.
  • Ooooh, apt analogy.

    I've no desire to see it.

    Party's still on, right? And do you still want to give away those curtains?
    • Yes and yes, to both questions.
      And thank you, to the compliment!
      • Good and good. Good and gooder? LOL

        After I saw your email address I realised we've met before f2f, at Yaoi-Con--I'm almost certain you and I were on panels (not the same ones) the same year.
  • God, hear fucking HEAR.

    But then, I have always hated Rent. Passionately. I always thought I was a pariah among my friends for my vicious hatred of that piece of crap; glad to see I'm not alone in my pariah-hood.

    But then, you and I often end up Stadler-and-Waldorf-ing the same things, don't we?

  • I'll be saving my bucks to see a much better musical this season: The Producers. I prefer my ridiculous stereotypes (er, sorry, archetypes, whatever) in comedy form.

    Nice of Mel to work a Christmastime release. Chinese food and the late show of The Producers... what a nice Hannukah present ;)
    • And now I know what movie is the 'let's go to the movies on Christmas Eve, eat chinese food, and pretend we're Jewish' movie for this year.
      Thank you.
  • Thanks for putting your finger on one of the things (probably the main thing) about RENT that's been bugging the hell out of me. I haven't seen it and don't intend to, but it's nice to have the reasons more articulate.

    It's too damn happy. And trite.

    The Mikado was always intended as parody, but your point is valid.

    Opera cliches aside, most dying people - especially those dying of lung diseases - don't SING, ferfucksake. Even tragically. They cough and hack horribly, choke, spit blood, and take forever to die.

    Mmm, the sugar-coating of the sick and disabled. This might cheer you a little:
  • I haven't seen Rent (screen nor stage). Your opinion of it interests me... I guess because it feels like it'd be at least similar to singing and dancing about end-stage renal disease; I probably wouldn't find it all that uplifting or watchable either. Of course, I doubt we're going to see a musical called "15 Gauge Needles!" any time soon.

    Wish I could make it to SF for the New Year's shindig; have a great time! :) I swear, next year, I'm making a road trip up there with actual time to do fun stuff.
    • 15 Gauge Needles, with the show-stopper 'THEY DRAINED MY KIDNEYS WEEKLY'...

      Honestly, part of it is my own FUCK YOU WORLD AND THE WHORES YOU RODE IN ON about the modern attitude to HIV (which is epitomized by putting one's fingers in one's ears and going LA LA LA LA LA about anything like, oh, FACT), and part is the fact that having been there- it just... wasn't... like that.
      Frankly, I'd've fucking killed for a good song and dance routine.
      • It's a dicey proposition to write musicals on something that... vicious is the word that comes to mind. I think I'd be annoyed right off the bat that someone (or a whole bunch of someones) would be making money off of it, but maybe that's a simplistic view to take. I just wouldn't want someone speaking for me in a happy, bouncy, dancey sort of way unless there was something much, much deeper in the production that sort of, I don't know, evened out the whole thing. I somehow get the impression that Rent does not have that; sounds like it's all fun and games, song and dance. Does that really make people aware that something which was big fucking news in the 80s is STILL big fucking news now and sadly will continue to be in the foreseeable future?

        I can handle laughing at death, at mortality in general. But stuff like this, when it gets specialized and pointed, I don't know, even if it's something I personally have no experience with. My feathers get ruffled every time I hear a "damn, I could've made so much $$$ selling my kidney on the black market!" line, or derivatives of such on TV/movies/comedy, but I suppose I do a good job of blowing it off.
        • Actually, Rent is very little fun and games, and tons of angst. It's about a group of friends who are starving artists and musicians, and suffering from various problems (disease, addiction, failure ...). The only fun and games parts are when the rare good thing happens and they try to make the most out of it.

          Though I resisted it for years and years it was finally pushed on me by someone I respect about 4 years ago, and IMHO it's not bad at all.
  • Hmmm...

    Interesting points that I really am in no position to support /or/ pull apart because I tend to have some rather split views on the late Mr. Larson's work myself.

    I haven't seen the movie, so really can't speak to it, but I have seen the production in NYC.

    It's very idealist... oh who the hell am I kidding, it's very insistent on blowing sunshine up everyone's ass, yes, agreed.

    At the same time, since Johnathan Larson bore witness to quite a few friends suffering from the disease, I'm not really sure I can comfortably say that he was far-removed from the destruction of AIDS, the plight of homelessness, or the darker, selfish side of neo-bohemianism. (Which really isn't an accurate descriptor for the sub-culture at all, but since it's how "Rent" itself refers to it, I don't particularly see a need to re-invent the wheel...)

    My guess? In a lot of ways the core work {which was, admittedly, re-workshopped for years (LITERALLY) so god only knows what remains of the original drafts..} was a plea to try and deal with the fact that a lot of his HIV-positive friends had holed themselves up and were not really allowing themselves to be helped by him. I get this mainly from the Roger character (particularly his interactions with Mark and Mimi) and, more importantly, the fact that the entire climax of the play centers on a change of lyric from "When you're dying in America... you're on your own" to "We're dying in America... we're not alone". It's really because of that "realization" that the denouement of everyone getting back together and supporting eachother can happen.

    In light of this, I tend to see Rent not so much the work of someone who was blinded to the harsh realities of the situation, but a work by someone who was unable to process their emotions of wanting to help others, of grief, etc. in conventional means, so turned the focus on to their chosen flavor, musical theater.

    Granted, there's a few points I don't deny.

    1) Just because maybe Johnathan Larson understood the gravity of the issues, this doesn't mean that the people watching his work are provided access to these thoughts of his, and so we can't really laude the play as being innately complex. The choice of interpreting a desperate energy underneath the writing rests solely on the shoulders of the viewer. I readly admit it does not exist in the script at all.

    2) Musicals do tend to have a certain happy ring to them. A very strong argument could be made that musical theater provides an excellent place where the media is the message. At the same time, I think this was because Johnathan Larson was both interested in this specific media, and had experience in writing in it before (Tick, Tick, Boom,) so.. well... I don't think he gave much thought to Bauhaus-inspired philosophy when he was deciding how to artistically express himself. He went with what came naturally. Can we fault an artist for having enough hubris to believe that their work can defy the conventions and baggage of a long-existing media? Admittedly, we probably can, yeah.

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