Friday, March 14, 2008

American playwright David Mamet on why he is no longer a "brain-dead liberal."

Two wonderfully contemplative films I love were written by Mamet - The Edge and House of Games. Great dialogue, great exploration of stripes of humans behaving badly, playing mind-games and generally going all pear-shaped on one-another. If you haven't seen The Edge, you really must, and you will thank me. The script is amazing, the Canadian Rockies are beautifully filmed, and there are occasional images of Alec Baldwin suffering. It's a win-win-win.

One of my favorite passages of dialogue is near the end of the film (okay, here I go, giving it all away) and the smarmy high-fashion photographer Baldwin and billionaire Hopkins are stranded in the wilderness and Baldwin asks what he'll do when they get back to civilization.
Hopkins: I'm going to change my life.
Baldwin: You'll be the first.

Isn't that the way of it? People vow to change, to be formed and shaped and go forward with new information to improve their own lives and those of the folks around them, and yet, almost always people revert to their hard-wiring, their default setting. It's therefore funny to think that perhaps Mamet will himself be the first to change his life. Matter of fact, what he is exploring in this bold essay (read the neurotic critics in the comments for a few giggles) is that he came to realize that the beliefs he always has held dear are more conservative in tone than liberal.

One constant in Mamet's plays is the idea of experience and observation reflecting in some way moments of self-actualization of his characters. The characters in The Edge are not learning about the brutality of nature (although she makes great show in the film), but are brought low by their very human flaws and peccadilloes, dropping off the edge of the flat earths of their inner demons. There's a lot about internal survival and adaptation in this film. To find that Mamet has the intellectual breadth to allow facile past beliefs to slip away and reveal something of truer and more profound substance does not surprise me.

Because I love film, music and art, I learned long ago to separate the politics of their creators from the object itself, else listening to Chrissie Hynde or watching a film with Alec Baldwin would be torture indeed. I am fairly open-minded, and I can respect that someone might come to a different conclusion to mine, even if I don't respect the conclusion itself. Life is better this way, and I find I am less bitter and judgmental. Chrissie Hynde is a kick-ass rocker, and Alec is actually very entertaining to watch. Everybody's happy.

Because I've loved David Mamet's work as long as I've known of him, it makes sense to me that his very logical mind could come 'round to a sensible and sane approach to the concepts of economics and how much or how little government we need to function and make the world work properly. I was not expecting this transformation, and I am delighted. Further, my adoration of him grows as he duly credits our men and women in uniform with ensuring the very freedom and safety of every last American, and may he be eternally blessed for having the brass ones to say so in so hostile a theater as the Village Voice.

h/t to FatHairyBastard


Joe Allen said...


Every once in a while I think there might just be hope for the future after all.

Thanks for sharing that - I never in a million years would have read a column in the Village Voice!


NotClauswitz said...

The peanut-gallery comment criticism is hilariously, deeply, smotheringly, scenery-chewing angry. Heh. :-)

phlegmfatale said...

joe allen - it WAS surprising, wannit?

dirtcrashr - Yeah, and THEY are the open-minded ones. I did find it rather delicious.

Lin said...

You can sure weave out a silky but strong synopsis, you know.
And I really liked that part on learning about the brutality of nature for some reason - we still find those pecker-dildoe whatchamacallits around here ourselves.