The Wolf of Wall Street (part two)
Richard Brody just wrote a review of “Wolf of Wall Street” where he began by discussing “Inside Llewyn Davis,” showing how anything good—he really liked both films—is “about pretty much everything.” Specifically, referring to Llewyn’s catching a glimpse of Bob Dylan on a stage that he's sort of owned for years, he says that the film's about the “terrible, subtle blow that knocks a person from the vanguard to the sidelines, from the promise of youth to the nostalgia of age in a single moment.” He then gets to his discussion of “Wolf,” about the particular fashion in which it's about pretty much everything—or rather, the considerable part of the human that involves huge internal energies we tend to want to suppress or deny. I wished he had paused before rolling along, for it'd have been the right thing to have done, and inadvertently he had handed himself a solid prompt to have done so. For what Brody does not end up considering about some of those having problems with the film, is that they're in the position of Llewyn Davis—but worse, way worse; and it's humiliating, maybe traumatizing, to be reminded of it ... to have it paraded before them. That is, rather than confined to the sidelines after knowing at least some time as a carrier and discharger of significant energies, they were born there, and through no fault of their own, have since hardly strayed.
Brody really, really does know as much. He knows that the last couple of generations have been raised in less freedom, for repeatedly he's complained that “today's children [. . .] are, by and large, less free than their parents [. . .] were”; that “[c]hildren today channel much of their discipline into relentless academic and parascholastic duties and in their own circumspect mastering of a tightrope walk that's straighter and narrower than that of their parents ever was.” He has expressed great concern that people are being raised so that a lot of what is most enjoyable, most meaningful, even if also most “suspect” about being human is going to be unknown to them. He knows that there's at least one generation out there where it seems a bit absurd to talk about their “drives and urges, the[ir] pleasures and the self-indulgences, the[ir] power plays and manipulations, the[ir] ingratiations and deceptions, the[ir] allegiances and the compromises and the calculations on which human society runs,” and even more so when “upped” to the[ir] “luxurious and carnal, [their] [. . .] excremental, sanguinary, emetic, carnivalesque, and violent,” for it's way, way too long and substantial a list to seem adequate to those being rigidified. But it seems that his intent to get at those who object to the film so to “protest their immunity to its temptations” was strong enough that a whole generation he has shown admirable concern for was a little bit further waylaid here. For if everyone in the audience possesses in the universal he for this review loudly insists for all mankind, this “mighty unconscious of humanity,” this “central part of human nature [. . .] that we can't stop watching” … if brass tacks, the greatest truth about us cannot be stricken or sundered from us, then he'd seemed to have shuck the legitimacy about how very concerned we should be at generations being shortchanged—for it wouldn't be as if something absolutely essential would been stricken, now would it? They weren’t, after all, being lobotomized of their essential humanity … something that would demand an immediate re-think of even our most dead-set ways.
And so what do people who've been forced to grow up like this think when they see someone from a generation that really got to live it showing he hasn't lost a step, that he can transplant the excess he personally knew in the '70s, the liberation and freedom and carnal knowledge that expanded him and defined him forever, into whatever class of people enabled the most expression and excess in the decades thereafter, and thereby live it all again – riskily, but also quite gloriously? What do they do when they see someone identity himself with some pretty rancid people, waylaying others in an age, because post-70s the ones who got to live it weren't folksingers or his own group of great American film auteurs but wolves, enabled but to show just how much the times have begun to reek of decrepitude? They know this isn't their Bob Dylan, something that might jolt them a bit at first but then bedazzle them with a vastly less repressed and more expressive life that they're going to be completely party to. They sense, rather, and rightly, that regardless of what they do, their turn will be to like the Great Depression's lost, or the Japanese' recent lost—the tragic generation of freeters, who as we know were helpless but to be lead to become this junk:
The first freeters are now in their late 30s and early 40s. Almost one-third do not hold regular jobs, and some never have. One-fifth still live with their parents. This perpetual failure to launch has taken a psychological toll. Aging greeters file six or every 10 mental-health insurance claims. Japan's suicide rate rose by 70 percent from 1991 to 2003, and the proportion of suicide victims in their 30s has grown each of the past 15 years. (“What Americans should understand about Japan’s 1990s economic bust,” Ethan Divine, Atlantic Monthly)
What do they do when, as Richard Brody points out happens in last scene—the “sell me a pen” scene—after having lived excess they themselves won't get to know, someone mocks them for their "lack of imagination and fatal ambition [and] vacan[cy]"? What do they do when someone “gives us something we want, something that we need, and something that taps into dreams and ambitions that are both central to life,” and then accuses “us” of “compensating,” before going off again as one of society's favorites into a life of allowance while society marshals “us” straight back to the straight and narrow?
How about feel taunted, teased, humiliated—by assholes. How about angry—legitimately, angry?
I think so.
I think so.
Scorsese lived the libidinal part of the life he knew in the 70s once again through this crew, but if he was re-living the goodness that sourced him that life that was freer and better he'd have looked elsewhere in the 90s (and post) for it. Where for example are today's who insist on bucking everything that is attempting to narrow them and insist on the kind of education and life for themselves that a couple of generations before got to know? William Deresiewicz argues they’re not in the top-twenties, are probably in state schools, because their records will not spell perfection born out of sublimely deliberated initial germination. And they won't be greeted like Richard Brody imagines Lena Dunham was in high school—as endearingly quirky, that is … unless of course their parents are as well-placed as hers. For our age wants mostly to see people as members of one class or another, so her “wonderfully quirky” would prove just “disobedient,” “unmotivated” and “adrift.” Doesn't matter if they're actually Dylanesque-brilliant. It simply won't be seen unless it was somehow communicated that this person actually was very connected, for the mind right now in our fallen age is going at people top-down, and with a heavy press, to satisfy an immensely powerful, all-determining emotional need, which leaves little hope for misclassified bottom “quanta” to reverberate back dissenting feedback. Our collective mind wants to see types of people rather than variance, for it humiliates what is essentially human in people, and makes them perfect for being enacted in rituals the best of them will feel it’s hopeless to resist. And, it’s in a bullying mood.
They're not as likely to be recognized, and they actually probably won't be Dylanesque—for it's easy to shine when people are eager or even about to be ready for you, but tough when there’s no piercing their inability to deem you significant. But nevertheless I—
Actually, let me actually go at this proposal by first referencing another splendid film of Scorcese’s—“Shutter Island.” This film features a very good psychiatrist, a very good man, who’s willing to put his reputation on the line to help one man regain his sanity and avoid being lobotomized. The 80s through ’til today have spelled the near total defeat for people like him, as after a brief period where things like electro-shock therapy were being dropped for their being sadistic and inhumane, today it’s back to the drugs and physical assaults on the brain this psychiatrist was trying to defy—only at the time before he’d gained the strength-hold to green-light his substantial and expensive, hugely radical and daring challenge to brutal but accustomed ways. These days, people like him may not even be psychiatrists, been able to make their way on up there, for that kind of independence isn’t as likely to have thread its way on through—too much tightrope-walking for a personality built out of goodness but always wanting to take on the world, to be able to contain himself to. He might still be one, but not one in a position to have much influence. And he might just as easily as have balked out of institutions altogether, sensing how their purpose more than ever was to delimit your interests and limit your range—even those glossed up to make you think you couldn’t possibly have any legitimate reason to find them objectionable, like progressive Berkeley. And those with such great spirit would find themselves, where, exactly? Waitering, retail, even. Very well could be.
Still, even if mostly there—about at the bottom—they’re constituted so that they’d show energies that would make other people uncomfortable—that is, of the id. And I think a case might be made that filmmakers like Scorsese or Fincher (who chose facebook’s Zuckerman as his next-generation vehicle for living through his own invigorating life) should consider parking more with them next time—or in fact, for all times subsequent, until we’re no longer in fallen times but in times where the most libidinous are once again the likes of flappers and hippies. Like Scorsese admirably did with this film, he should just as much show every “fleeting desire or base thought that can flicker through” their minds. And Brody should attack-dog anyone who’d want it to be adulterated to make us less uncomfortable about our full human range of desires. But let’s not betray the likes of our “Shutter Island” good doctors living in our times simply because it’s the worst “geniuses” this time round who sense they’ve got the green light. At some point it really is germane to ask if it’s not crushing your soul to have chosen the demons over the greater but befallen and likely rattled, simply because right now they happen to be vanguard. You’ve given yourself range, but in a putrid body.
And, there are our friends out there, who've we've chosen to pass by.
And, there are our friends out there, who've we've chosen to pass by.