Movie Sadism

A sure-fire way to get things into perspective when depressed is to hang out with a friend whose life is much worse than yours. I did that tonight, and was not disappointed. It helps if the friend also has a sense of humor, so that you both are brought nearly to tears with laughter at the so-horrible-and-unbelievable-it’s-like-a-movie things that happen to her.

Watching depressing movies often helps in the same way. I for one am addicted to Law & Order SVU–only SVU, because it’s the sickest and most depraved crimes–for this reason. There’s always a soothing undercurrent of “at least my life’s not that bad.” So with this in mind her movie choice for the evening was Born Into Brothels. How can you go wrong with a movie about depravity and despair of children living in Calcutta’s red light district? But when we walked out of the theater my friend was very disappointed. “Pfft, my childhood was worse than that!” she said. (And the scary thing is that she’s not kidding.) We become movie sadists, wanting to see pain inflicted so that we can at least commiserate, if not be moved to feel better about our own lives. Shame on us. But it’s more than just that–the film was truly not as upsetting as we assumed it would be, and I think it may be because the filmmaker held back out of some unconscious protective urge. Or it may be because she was there actively helping the children, which is not a luxury most of them are afforded, so they aren’t the worst, or even typical, cases. I’m no expert on Calcutta’s red light district, but having read the Tulasa Letters in an Indian Film class I T/A’d this semester, I went into this movie expecting the worst. But I suppose the film had different aims.

I personally had to cover my eyes while watching, but not because of anything disturbing onscreen. It was the shaky hand-held camera was making me nauseous. Not so good for a film with subtitles, because you have to see the screen to read subtitles, so I missed a good chunk of the last half quarter of the film. I’m really getting tired of seeing films with this kind of camerawork. I think this is a downside of the development of cheap and easy DV equipment–it’s so light and easy to use that filmmakers get careless, or novices brought in by the relatively low barrier to entry aren’t yet well-trained enough to know how to capture images on the fly without causing the audience to lose their lunch. There was plenty of hand-held cinema verite in the 60s and 70s and I never got nauseous watching any of those films. I think it’s because the cameras were heavier and much more expensive so the filmmakers took more care. And in so doing, their films are more artful. I just hope that DV camera operators eventually learn to get a steadier grip on their cameras, otherwise I’ll be skipping a lot of those films.


Also tonight I got a marriage proposal. From a homeless man. Yep, I’m popular with the homeless men.

Local Celebrity

One of my blog posts was cited in the Globe’s Blog Log today. Why don’t they include links to the mentioned blogs? Do they know what the internet is?