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Silence Exile and Crumpets
 
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Tuesday, November 20th, 2001

Time Event
10:37p
More morbidity
really don't cry in the movies very often.

This evening, though, I saw 'IvansXTC' and cried. A lot. Some of it was for the characters adn some of it was for dead friends and much of it was entirely self-pitying and selfish. A Hollywood player suddenly finds himself mortally ill at the height of his career - which is itself a fairly shabby business of persuading psychotic actors to stab other agents in the back by promising them control of movies which young writers have set their hopes on. He betrays his lover with various ambitious young women, in the sure and certain knowledge that she is doing the same whenever it seems smart to her to do so. He takes drugs and crashes cars and wakes to pillows soaked in his life's blood.

A family dinner turns into a grotesque row between him and the self-righteous artist sister we have already seen mourning him at his funeral while actors and directors bicker in the back rows about incompatible promises he made them. He gets joy from the unconditional love of the dog for whose welfare he has not made any provision - music matters to him too and if he finds any consolation at the end it is in remembering Wagner. But not much.

The film is based, loosely, on Tolstoy's 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich' and is a colossal rebuke to the way we live; it was shot on a low budget - the director and writers have come out of mainstream Hollywood, but they are practicing what they preach, partly because of the new digital technology which makes it possible to do so. I will watch lots more big blockbusters and large budget films, but I don't expect to be as moved.

Obviously part of the issue was dead friends - in January, my friend Andy died pretty much as shown in the film only without lingering for a day in hospital, and the deaths of two other even closer friends in the spring has left my heart vulnerable to rebreaking. And part of it is my own health crisis of a couple of years ago - I wasn't dying, but I might have died.

And yes, you do look at your life at such a time and I was not entirely displeased with what I saw. In the great scheme of things, you can only say you tried to be kind to the people you had to deal with and were at least aware of people you happen not to know. You never do all the work you might have done, but you get stuff done nonetheless. You try not to be a schmuck and mostly you succeed. And that is the best you can hope for.

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