Sunday Morning! “The Seventh Victim” and “An American Tragedy”

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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  1. Avatar Aaron David
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    I seem to be reading a polar opposite, The Razors Edge. Wherein a man of society, after the war, starts to throw his position, both that of birth and of finance, away to find, possibly, god. Due to some personal issues, this is really resonating with me, but in a way that it would not have if I had read it in youth. I am not able to read it in large gulps, as it is making the ol’ noggin work. That is quite nice.

    Also, and I thought of you when I came across this, but I found an English website that lists for sale a huge number of early eastern bloc movies on DVD. It is great because so many of them are also on YouTube, although untranslated. But that doesn’t matter, as you can pick up a lot of what is going on just by context clues. So, I found Milos Forman’s very first movie, Cerny Petr (Black Peter) from 1963, and the delightful Daisies (Sedmikrasky) from ’66. Both are Czech, which I don’t speak a lick of, and my German doesn’t help but are fascinating to just sit and watch. https://www.secondrundvd.com/index.html

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    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Aaron David
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      I’ve seen Daisies twice and I still feel like I’m missing something. It’s funny, to be sure. But my understanding is it was a revolutionary movie that couldn’t have been made after Prague Spring and, well, it seems like a Marx Brothers movie to me. Which is not a bad thing, mind you.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Rufus F.
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        It could be that things get missed in the cultural translation. Things so… essential to the film and Czech society at that time that we cannot even grasp them. To go back to Black Peter, it is a sharp look at the totalitarianism that was thawing in the ’60s and moved through the Daisies period. Maybe this would shed some light on it? In other words, we cannot grasp the levels of repression they were experiencing and how they permeated every aspect of life. I would guess that an African American, who lived during that period, would have great and interesting things to say about it.

        And yes, many things were lost in ’68.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I’ve wondered before what failing we could call the ur-sin.

    I’ve read somewhere (and I can’t believe that this isn’t googleable) that the first prayer was “please make it not have happened”.

    The ur-sin is a short time horizon.Report

  3. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    I was three paragraphs into this post without checking the byline when I said, “This must be a post by Rufus!” I always enjoy them, though I might never see/read the works referenced.

    I recently rewatched the “Samurai Trilogy”, directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and starring Toshiro Mifune. This is film is an adaptation of a novel by Eiji Yoshikawa about the life of Musashi Miyamoto.

    I’m a bit underwhelmed by Inagaki, but very impressed with Mifune, not that he’s a stranger to me. But he has a way of letting you see everything about his characters internal process that makes the character completely transparent, even while he’s mostly stonefaced.

    The film is less an action film than the story of Musashi’s quest for spiritual peace, and a way to exist in the world. Because early on, he didn’t fit at all. A man made for fighting when the fighting all ended with Sekigahara. This battle changes everything in Japan, since it ushers in the Pax Tokugawa – there are no more civil wars, Tokugawa has conquered. Musashi (or Takezo, as he is known before becoming samurai) is incredibly willful and physically big and strong. So he does not have a place in the new order.

    At the beginning of the second film, he fights a duel with a chain and sickle master, in the end killing his opponent. Then, an old man – I don’t think he’s a monk, but he has that sort of presence – chastizes Musashi, with the words, spoken rudely, “You’re too strong!” Musashi is not mentally relaxed, and has little understanding of chivalry.

    I love this formulation of what Musashi’s flaw is: “You’re too strong”. Musashi did nothing “wrong” by the lights of the society. Yet he keeps doing things that get people riled up and alienated. But his reflectiveness and willingness to change and learn allow him to progress.

    One of the things that seemed significant this time through is how much Sekigahara changed everything. Multiple characters go from being rural peasants/merchants to rich city dwellers (though not all of them are of what we might call good moral character).

    This seems an apt subject for 1950’s Japan, but one we could stand to learn from right now: You’re too strong!Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Doctor Jay
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      Haha! Well, check out the Seventh Victim, if you can find it! I swear, if David Fincher did a straight remake of that movie, it would still work and we’d all be talking about how dark it was.

      Mifume is brilliant! The Samurai trilogy is in my queue.Report

  4. Avatar pat Willard
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    says:

    It’s so wonderful to read an appreciation of Dreiser. I’m always astonish how many people–English majors, writers, etc–who haven’t read him. Especially An American Tragedy (not to mention Sister Carrie). It truly strikes me as a WTF moment. So thank you for this! You’ve made my day.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    I’ve wondered before what failing we could call the ur-sin.

    The answer is pretty grizzly.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    The film The Tenth Victim was based on Robert Sheckley’s story The Seventh Victim. The film The Seventh Victim was not.

    I think they do this just to mess with me.Report

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