An Open Letter to Andrew Wakefield, the Man Behind the Autism-Vaccine Controversy


Dear Mr. Wakefield:

It is well established that you are a quack and a liar. I believe you are even worse than that.

It should not take much scientific thought for a layman to be doubtful (to say the least) of your claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism. That claim operates under the implication that it is a lesser evil to risk having a child come down with a potentially fatal disease than to have a child on the autism spectrum. As someone with Asperger syndrome, I consider that predication diabolical to the point of inducing vomit. It perpetuates the highly insulting idea of autism as an incurable disease—an irrevocable catastrophe that we can only respond to with forfeiture once a child is diagnosed with it, and that we should aim to eradicate, in part by eradicating the MMR vaccine. It is thus that you are not just a quack and a liar. You are also a eugenicist and a bigot.

Autism alone is not a catastrophe. How we are treating autism is a catastrophe.

I’ve seen it all. I’ve had classmates and peers call me stupid, retard, weird, oblivious, sperg-burger, to my face. I’ve had people who I thought were friends deliberately disrespect me, in ways that well-meaning teachers interpreted as “nonverbal cues” that indicated it was I and not them who ought to adjust behavior. I’ve been to summer camps that were not much more elaborate than storage facilities, where kids were kept on insane drug regimens (breakfast, lunch and dinner) that not only didn’t work but seemed to make their behavioral and social problems even worse; where invasive and abusive methods of physical restraining were viewed as appropriate punishment; and where one counselor—a total jock—responded to my legitimate charges of undernourishment by diagnosing me with a “sugar addiction” and spending the rest of the summer making fun of me over it, to my face. I’ve seen the stereotypes propagated by the media—the magical savant, the helpless target of bullies, the nerd who doesn’t know how to act around women, the violent psychopath who vents his anger by gunning down first-graders in Connecticut. I’ve read literature depicting autism as a disorder that impedes one’s understanding of who people are and how they think and act—so even if I am being bullied and neglected, then why should my perspective have any validity? Why should even I trust my own perspective?

Autism is not a disability or a disease that we should aim to “cure”. That notion is offensive and disgusting. (You think I’m wrong? The scientific consensus once thought the same of homosexuality—look how that turned out.) Autism is a unique state of being that needs to be channeled towards yielding accomplishments that are productive to and influential in society. Several biographers propose that if W.A. Mozart, Isaac Newton, Henry Cavendish, Emily Dickinson, Stanley Kubrick, W.B. Yeats, Herman Melville, Patricia Highsmith, Kurt Gödel, Alan Turing, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Nikola Tesla (and more) were around today, they’d have a case to visit a neurologist. I have heard of valuable research into how therapies involving music, writing and other aesthetic pursuits can assist persons with autism in focusing their hyperkinetic minds, and in communicating articulately and freely with others. And yet, our educational system at large is suppressing and pathologizing the unique and positive qualities of autism, mainly as part and parcel of its large-scale and disastrous efforts to suppress creativity in favor of an industrial regime that enforces memorization and test-taking above all else, and that streamlines kids into unskilled labor and—in the case of minorities—into the U.S.’ disgraceful prison complex.

Some of the most common misconceptions about Aspergerians, it bears repeating, are that we can’t read tacit social cues and that we struggle to show empathy. Let me speak for myself: my emotional intelligence is very strong, and I empathize with as many people in difficult situations as I can. What makes me different is that I am not always sure how to respond to social occurrences and advances that I don’t anticipate. This is because I have a distinctly firm, intense, serious way of carrying myself, and it’s hard to shake me out of it and get me to react to things in a way that’s socially expected but also kind of dishonest and contrived. This, I am willing to attribute to my neurology, and I can understand why some may interpret such tendencies as a sign of emotional blindness and being slow on the uptake. All the more why the misconceptions demand correction. Once I figured this all out, I was glad to be able to stop treating my peers’ social interactions as a foreign language that I had to learn and translate. It seemed like that was the case; of course it’s not. If anything, social interactions have a more palpable and more complex aura to them when they occur among peer groups who are bonded by specific shared memories. This, I’m okay with, as long as those groups permit social mobility and don’t act exclusive and stuck-up about themselves. Aleida Assmann wrote of sociologist Maurice Halbwachs’ concept of collective memory: “[M]emories are intrinsically social and constitute a group’s communicative and emotional glue. […] [P]eople do not develop an individual memory at all but are always included in memory communities. […] [A] person who is completely alone cannot develop a memory at all.” Aspies are more reserved than average, and this is our right, yet this thought has given me impetus to become more involved in social groups, and has made me wonder what influence my ideas risk losing when I develop them in solitude.

Alas. Western society seems less appreciative of intellect and integrity than it is of social sophistication and charisma. One need look no further than our current political media landscape, where genuine ideas to develop economic opportunity and fix pervasive social issues mean nothing if you can’t describe and enact them quickly and smoothly, while bigoted trolls with nothing useful to offer the country routinely catapult themselves to high office with catchy soundbytes and manipulative spectacle. “Inertia over innovation” is how I’ve read one describe it. This is a system built and designed to break Aspergerians. In both its definition and its French-Latin etymology, the word retard—which ought to go the way of the N-word, a term of Black enslavement when used by whites—carries connotations of slowness and delay. In the consumerist age of the Internet, speed, impatience, narcissism, attention-seizing and superficial pleasure are what’s in vogue. The grand irony of this in my childhood was that while schools purported to prioritize education above all else, its efforts to socialize students like me involved an attempt to wheedle us into conforming to the overall social standards and expectations of our peers as a primary means of overcoming our autistic insularity. This is invariably a recipe for disaster. The tribalism infecting most U.S. public schools—with its emphasis on competitive sports and physical prowess, its preference for snark over candor, and its willingness to ostracize, not to mention the ubiquitous place of drugs within it—is a direct byproduct of the Western culture of inertia, and a damaging environment for the clumsy, methodical, academically passionate, down-to-earth, law-abiding Aspie student such as I was.

“Hold on!” you might say. “Do you mean to conflate Asperger’s with classical autism? Because classical autism is the catastrophe! And that’s what the vaccine is causing!” That is not an excuse. A few years ago, the APA made the somewhat controversial decision to scrap the label of “Asperger’s” from the DSM-V and subsume it into the umbrella diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder”. At the time, the decision pissed me off because I feared that as a result, Aspies would receive the same “treatment” as those with more severe autism. (That, and to be frank, I kind of got a kick off having a condition with a German name.) I now understand that overall, the APA did the right thing, and that what they may have actually, effectively been implying was the converse: that therapies used to treat Asperger’s needed to be extended further down the autism spectrum, in the hopes that classical autists can be unlocked, develop faster, and show what intellect they may contribute to society. I have a confident hunch that this is possible, thus it is essential. If Aspies can break out of their shell, then so can low-functioning autists, whom I consider my neurological brethren, and with whom I am united in solidarity against you. Classical autism does present a greater challenge than Asperger’s, but it is not a sign of doom, and it is unacceptable to perceive it as such, call for its eradication, and give up on those born with classical autism as hopeless cases. The easy thing to do and the right thing to do are hardly ever the same thing; often, they are opposites. Dismissing a challenge because one finds it insurmountable is the mark of a truly pathetic man.

And that is what you are, Mr. Wakefield—pathetic. Enough has been written about your fabrications and financial motives, your disregard for the most obvious fundaments of scientific procedure, and your mockery of the Hippocratic Oath; I don’t need to remind you of that. I do find it telling, though, that in your experiments, you have violently restrained and performed unwarranted colonoscopies on autistic children. That right there is really all anyone needs to know about your character. Autism to you is the perfect bait, a convenient means to an end, an easy tool to exploit for profit, a disease that you can thoughtlessly lump in with colitis or whatnot to promote the medieval anti-vaccine hysteria that you wouldn’t live a day without. I’m not writing to disprove or discredit you blow-by-blow; that’s already been done. I’m writing to tell you about how you stand to profit less from science than from culture—a culture, namely, of the phobia of autism—and fear is as elemental to bigotry as hate. And while I’ve tried to skirt around the notion of you perpetuating an attitude that a sick or dead child is better than an autistic child, some of your supporters have spoken to that effect. Jenny McCarthy has said as much. How can these people be so wanton and so cavalier with their kids’ health? Do they take for granted that their child might die? Or would they rather their child be vapid and socially popular than gifted and socially awkward? Autism can be meaningful to society. I think I have much to offer society because of autism. And yet, some people would dare to convince me otherwise because they won’t listen to anything that threatens, as opposed to confirms, their ossified belief that autism is purely a horror story.

I will never watch your documentary Vaxxed. I refuse. I’m not even remotely interested in it. I am boycotting it in perpetuity, as should every other filmgoer, and I am considering boycotting all theaters showing it, including the usually reliable Angelika Film Center in New York City. (What the hell are they thinking?! What the hell was Robert De Niro thinking bringing this to Tribeca?!) You will not get a penny for it from me. My guess is that it’s as odious a piece of eugenicist propaganda as Triumph of the Will, and humanity would do better without it. Justly and rightly revoked of your medical license, you are now hijacking the power of cinema to continue your demonization of autism and to thus make a profit, which is all you give a damn about. How dare you. The subtitle of your film is From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. Curious. You say that the catastrophe is the increase of autism rates worldwide, yet you have nothing to say about the real catastrophe, which is that over nine thousand children are dead because of the outbreak of measles, mumps and rubella caused by your fear-mongering bullshit, and you are intellectually incapable of offering any alternative to the MMR vaccine to remedy the insane tumult that you have caused. I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about those deaths. I dare you to address them and take full responsibility for them. You probably won’t because you’re a psychopath and I take it you’ve fallen for your own lies as a defense mechanism, but I dare you nonetheless.

I don’t allow myself to be defined entirely by Asperger’s, and I’ve hardly ever used it as an excuse for anything. At the same time, it is an important part of my identity, and I am proud of it. I believe that autism should be respected and celebrated, and that neurodiversity is an essential good. It’ll take some work to push for it—given the autistic proclivity for solitude and the need to form large groups to create an effective movement for sociopolitical change—but it’s doable, and it’ll be done. It has to be done, with the stakes this high. I believe that autism is mostly genetic. It may have some environmental causes, but the basis of it is hereditary. Audre Lorde has an excellent essay, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”, in which she, to quote Sarah Schulman, “takes us through the process of realizing, when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, that—had she been silent about her truths: about her homosexuality, her racial position, her experiences as a poet and as a mother—she still would have had cancer. That her silence would not have protected her. This is the strongest argument I have ever seen for telling the truth about experience, understanding and social perception.” Likewise, not getting your children vaccinated will not “protect” them from autism—and I feel sorry for the parents who are so afraid of autism, they feel like they have to risk their child’s death—which no parent wants—to “protect” him or her from something that protection-from is unnecessary and perhaps even counterproductive because autism is good. Without Asperger’s, I wouldn’t be the Haverford graduate and the intellectual, driven bookworm and film buff that I am today. And I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

If I have children, and if they have autism—whether classical or Asperger’s—I will love and accept them, and I will know how to raise them. And I will get them vaccinated. And you, Mr. Wakefield, can go fuck yourself.

An Open Letter to Andrew Wakefield, the Man Behind the Autism-Vaccine Controversy

Great Film: “Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould”, An Essential Meditation on Film as Medium

Should film exist? Is film an antithesis—if not a destruction—of art? It has threatened painting, theatre and literature with obsolescence, just as recording technology has dragged us away from classical music towards the (I admit) less refined genres of rock, pop, etc. Some would argue that film democratizes art, that it allows for an exchange of perspectives across space and time without the barriers of discipline, privilege and well-educated condescension; others, that film preserves what ought not be preserved. Theatre has shown essential disdain for filming technology because it is meant to be a life experience among actors and audience—ethereal, singular, unrepeatable, not entirely memorable, what Mikhail Bakhtin called a “once-occurrent Being-as-event.” The late great playwright Sarah Kane proclaimed, “Theatre has no memory, which makes it the most existential of the arts.” By contrast, cinema is memory—perhaps a memory too perfect for man. It makes history laughably easy; it has turned actors from skilled laborers into celebrities. If we contrast “existence” with “essence” (never mind whether one precedes the other), then film may purport to be an “essential” art in the sense that it is man’s greatest opportunity to be immortal, to attain the height of nature, yet film may as well be a mockery of nature, a conceit, a cheat. Theatre stabilizes narrative in one place and time, and there you have to be to view it. You can see a filmed narrative anywhere at anytime, but at what cost?

The life, work and philosophy of Glenn Gould are indispensable hand grenades to this discussion. Gould (1932-82) was a Canadian pianist best known for his Bach interpretations. In April 1964, he made the still-controversial decision to retire from concert performances for good and distribute his music only through recordings. Overtime, he expanded on this practice, limiting his communication with fans of his music entirely to the media—film, print, radio, telephone. He was a recluse, but not to the extent of shunning the masses as Salinger did and as Pynchon does. In fact, his rapport with the media was voluminous. He was candid and sincere about his approach to music, he demonstrated a broad academic mind in a brainy but relatable way, and he showed a wry self-awareness towards his unusual work ethic. The fifth of François Girard’s Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould shows two Goulds; the pianist Gould fields questions from the interviewer Gould. (This is based on a real-life self-catechism that he wrote for High Fidelity in 1974.) In this soliloquy, he justifies the most critical decision of his career thusly: “The ideal audience-to-artist relationship is a one-to-zero relationship. […] The artist should be granted anonymity. He should be permitted to operate in secret, as it were, unconcerned with or better still unaware of the marketplace’s demands, which […] given enough indifference on the part of enough artists will simply disappear. Given that disappearance, the artist will then abandon his false sense of public responsibility, and his audience or ‘public’ will relinquish its role of servile dependency. […] They’ll make contact, but on a much more meaningful level.”

That’s a dynamic bit of writing, and it takes talent and cojones for a filmmaker and an actor to translate it to filmic dialogue—and translated as brilliantly as it is here, it’s fraught with meaning and deserves scrutiny time and again. Where most artists have seen technology as a threat, Gould embraced it. (It’s a shame he didn’t lived to see the Internet; it would’ve fascinated him to no end.) It would be plenty to say that he saw recorded sound as the equalizing force by which mentor and protégé, old and young, rich and poor, and giver and receiver could “make contact” on the same “level,” yet the film goes further than that. The soliloquy suggests, with much chutzpah, that the ways in which technology is often suspected of ruining art are not abuses of art inasmuch as they are abuses of technology—that tech not only has the potential but is meant to defy arbitrary standards of marketability, not to facilitate them. In characterizing the media—and hence the film—as “zero” (viz. zero-dimensional), it confesses the solipsism inherent in having a man interview himself, yet that alone hints at that man’s willingness to question every one of his own beliefs, to butt heads with his own alter ego, to cancel himself out and make that “zero” feel authentic. I’ve seen few films confront the paradox of their medium—the tricks of the eye; the defiance of history, memory and their decay; the ability to do the impossible and reflect nature in all of its zero-like intangibility—as meaningfully as this film does. The genre of the biopic has not produced that many good films—as life is often too broad and complex to perfectly fit the focus and commerciality of cinema—and 32SFAGG is often brought up as an example of how to do a biopic, and rightly so. This is how Gould would’ve wanted to be depicted: in cinema, told without convention. Look at how proudly the film wears its cinematic badge in its title. It earns all of that pride.

The film is exactly what its title says: thirty-two vignettes in the life of its subject. It never tries to cohere as one uniform narrative because the rhythm of life does not work that way. The structure is a riff on Bach’s Goldberg Variations, of which there are thirty, bookended by two arias. Indeed, the film is keen on fleshing out cinema as a corollary of audio editing, on which Gould was able to (re)construct his piano interpretations to his liking—in a way, to mime reality and temporality, to copy God’s essential-natural creation, not just in His apparent perfection but also in His (let’s face it) random, arbitrary lunacy. (I’d add that Gould and God are only two letters apart, but that’d be a stretch.) In the sixteenth episode, “Truck Stop,” Gould listens to three mundane conversations at once at the title location, his ears rearranging the voices into a Bach-like cantus firmus. By the next episode, he has developed this concept into his radio documentary, The Idea of North, which juxtaposes nostalgic Northern Canadian voices into similar polyphonies; this was a prelude to musique concrète and thus to electronic music. Language here is not as important as the innate musicality of human voice—the basic, unreadable God-like beauty of sound. Robert Altman is considered the forerunner of melding voices in cinema, yet I’ve always found his hodgepodges of dialogue shallow and self-indulgent, even patronizing, rushed in their execution, jam-packing too many half-baked characters and plots, expecting the audience to follow them all and insulting its intelligence in the process. Girard’s (read: Gould’s) use of this method is far superior: he eases us in with one voice, lets it carry on for a while, then adds another, then a third, and he makes their words casual enough to be poetic yet ethereal; they can afford the mishmash. Bear in mind, too, that this is all in the service of not the speakers but rather the one silent figure—the listener, the conductor, the musician. It uses language but does not depend on it, as its focus is on the music.

Colm Feore’s performance as Gould, in my book, is arguably cinema’s greatest portrayal of Asperger’s syndrome, which Gould is speculated to have had, and which I’m convinced he had. I have Asperger’s and have studied it, so I know what I’m talking about. The depiction of those on the autism spectrum in film at large has most of the same horrendous issues as its depiction of all minorities. Chiefly, films tend to define our identities entirely within the prism of our being autistic; stereotype us as socially inept geniuses; and view the central experience of autism as essentially tragic, marked by bullying and doomed to seclusion, if not redeemed by an all-too-easy Hollywood happy ending. Rubbish. Having said all that, please forgive me for branching out to portraits of potential Asperger’s—to work on which the lens of autism theory can be extrapolated—and risking a misdiagnosis. The fact is: I connect with Feore in this. One of the most common misconceptions of Asperger’s is that us Aspies don’t understand social behavior. We do; it’s how we behave in response to it that makes us different. We don’t often jibe with the tacit social rules that people rely on to act, react and interact. This attitude has its pros and cons. Feore’s work proves that Gould truly knew the role that music and sound took in society—namely, the way people interacted with their aural selves—and he reveals this in long, circuitous, literary passages of mono- and dialogue (of which the above is a useful example) that he makes accessible and riveting. His line deliveries are firm, forthright, rapid, verbose, a little aloof—as is natural with Asperger’s—yet also inflected with enough mystery, stoicism, and (when appropriate) playfulness to hold the audience’s attention, even if not everything is grasped. Such work demands and rewards multiple viewings.

The challenges of playing Gould are formidable. How can one evoke so much intellectual passion from such Aspergerian rigidity and peculiarity? Feore accomplishes it through old-fashioned acting—through the deployment of his entire body and his absolute commitment to the role. The third chapter, “Forty-Five Seconds and a Chair,” is just that: a forty-five-second slow zoom in on Gould sitting in a chair, his posture perfect for a pianist, while an excerpt of his recording plays on the soundtrack. Curiously, Feore is not seen playing piano once in the film, which makes sense: who could command a piano like Gould? As it is, Feore doesn’t need that embellishment. In that one take, we can feel him conjuring the exact mood of Gould at the piano. All that’s lacking, really, is his fingers on the keys, but we can imagine that, and the brief scene—pointless in lesser hands—is made gripping by the inconspicuous force of its lead actor. 32SFAGG embraces its fragmentation, its perception of life in separate spheres as opposed to in wholes. In chapter nine, “The L.A. Concert,” we see Gould backstage preparing for what will be his final public appearance, soaking his arms in scalding hot water (as he did in life), and we trust that Feore made sure the water was that hot during filming. It’s only in the remainder of the chapter that we realize—in seeing Gould interacting with some fans, weirdly but with enough steadiness to demand esteem—that in those seconds cleansing himself, he silently reached his decision to shun concerts. The image and the thought, what is seen and heard, are often detached if not disharmonious in this film. The poignant tenth chapter, “CD318,” shows us the inside bridges of Gould’s Steinway as he plays his onstage swansong on it, and there’s an uncanny sense that we could add this visual neatly to that of him sitting ramrod in the chair from before. The film is a puzzle, made for us to solve.

It may be bizarre for me to use the word “disharmonious” in praise of a film about music, but Girard made his film that way to underscore the extent to which music and infinite other things are spliced up and reorganized in the media. The eighteenth segment, “Questions with No Answers,” is a series of shots, mostly from Gould’s point of view, in which interviewers ask him the banal inquiries of the easily digestible pop entertainment industry. Gould is off-camera; we of course don’t hear his answers, but the questions are so banal that we can assume he can’t answer the questions in any way that would appease the narrow-minded pop media he faces. The questions provide enough—plenty, even—for a narrative progression, which sees the interrogators getting increasingly frustrated and befuddled with their subject’s tenacity, to the point where one of them asks upfront, “Are you homosexual?” Multiple segments after show Gould on his own, answering unheard questions on his own terms, but generously. Question and answer don’t depend on but rather complement each other, and their clichéd structure is jazzed up and given new life. There’s something else, though: the audience here sees private moments that no one in the world really ever saw, of the pianist alone in his home or in one of many nondescript phone booths, as secluded as he wished to be, bundled up in his cap, jacket and gloves. It feels like we’re watching something sacred—a genius mentally at work—but it doesn’t once feel like we’re intruding because the film and Feore are so warm, so inviting, always intriguing—and because what is seen does not matter as much as how it all stems from and complements what is heard. With Gould gone, all that remains of him are his sounds and ideas, and some images, which I’m guessing are not as valuable as the sounds. The research that Feore must have done for this role is baffling, and it pays off because of how much trust he and Girard place in the voice, music and oral wisdom of Gould to blossom into cinema.

There’s much more—so much more that I was considering reviewing each one of these thirty-two short films as sovereign standalone works and may yet still do that. There are vivid, appropriately abstract animations—including one that depicts, succinctly and hauntingly, Gould’s growing dependence on prescription drugs; a mystical death announcement; moving reifications of Gould’s dream to see the Arctic; a vibrant reading of a personal ad; a startling, out-of-left-field mini-stock market drama involving a Saudi oil tycoon that Gould gets mixed up in by accident; and documentary recollections from those who knew Gould in real life, of which this is my favorite: “Today, I had a customer phone me up and say, ‘Can you come tomorrow to tune my piano?’ Glenn Gould used to give me two or three months notice, and I respected that. And I’m very thankful for knowing him.” The film concludes with Feore’s voice-over stating that the Voyager Golden Record, which NASA sent into outer space in 1977 to communicate the existence of Earth and humans to potential outsiders, includes Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier as played by none other than Gould. It’s a fitting honor for one of music history’s greatest men and most inspirational Aspergerians—to be able to connect, through recording, to life forms we may not yet know of; to make them an audience and an equal to man; to communicate what earthly life and nature are like in all of their imperfections and colliding fragments. And if we make another record like that, this film better be on it.

Great Film: “Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould”, An Essential Meditation on Film as Medium

31 Days of Cinema, Days Twenty-One, Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three: “The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums” | “Nostalghia” | “Beau Travail”

In The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums, an early film from Japanese legend Kenji Mizoguchi, one of the title flowers is Kikunosuke Onoe (Shotaro Hanayagi), the presumed last in a long line of kabuki actors. He works in 1880s Tokyo and is thought to be an artistic-genealogical cul-de-sac because, besides being adopted, he has no talent. The onstage performance in the opening scene and the subsequent gossip make that clear. When the family’s wet nurse Otoku (Kakuko Mori) makes an improper—perhaps romantic—advance on Onoe to encourage him to improve his acting, both are shunned from the family, and Onoe flees to Osaka to follow Otoku’s advice, and to consummate his love for her soon enough. The film is tinged with nostalgia for an era lost and an art form dying amid unspoken historical change. Theatre is very much a common man’s art, a communal experience shared between actors and audience. Cinema is more privileged for its performers, more accessible across time and space, but not as ethereal and distinct, and lacking—as Walter Benjamin reminds us—the “aura” of theatre. Mizoguchi knew that film technology risked making theatre, kabuki and otherwise, obsolete—and that risk is still present today—but he accepted film as the up-and-coming storytelling medium and used it to tell a motive story that theatre in its stasis could not. What else besides film can appropriately reveal and convey such backstage dramas, or such insights into how theatre is prepared and received? Thus, Mizoguchi expertly plays on the contrast between film and stage, and the ironies of their interaction herein. Also a source of much profundity is the ironic and tragic injection of privilege into the universe of kabuki. Another contrast occurs between the refined, popular upper-class theatre of Tokyo and the poorer, more amateur traveling troupes of Osaka. This is one of the film’s many elements that are still relevant in today’s world, in which popular stage productions are confined to our greatest urban metropolises (New York, especially) and forsaken everywhere else—an astonishing universalism, given the isolationism of Japanese culture and cinema. Paralleling this is the film’s mixture of static (i.e., theatrical) and panning (i.e., traveling) shots, which were long and impressive for the time, 1939. (My favorite part of the film was likely a juxtaposition between a search for a major character on a store-filled street and a similar search, years later, across a row of train carriages.) The long takes do get ponderous at some points, but reducing them might have diluted the impact of the ending, in which the story culminates in a classical tragedy executed to near-perfection. This was my first Mizoguchi, and a splendid introduction to his vast body of work.

Grade: A


There’s an infographic somewhere online—I can’t find it but still hope to—showing and interpreting one still from each shot of Nostalghia, the late-career film that Russian great Andrei Tarkovsky made in Italy. The very concept of such an infographic should tell you how refined a style of filmmaking it is, to weave just a handful of long takes into one story as Tarkovsky made his specialty. With films like these, I have made it a pastime to count—or at least attempt to count—the number of shots. Here, I counted 117 shots, give or take a few, in just over two hours, making an average of just over a minute per shot; that math of course neglects to convey the story’s climactic crux, which plays out in one nine-minute-plus shot. Frequently, Tarkovsky tricks us into thinking that a particular shot will end quickly, as it starts off with some falling action—a character or two walking away; a face, place or fact being established; the camera of Giuseppe Lanci zooming out. Yet, far after these falling actions have made their points and dissipated from their pinnacles, the camera lingers, yearning for more, conjuring life beyond a constructed false end. There’s a sense of winding down to the whole project that becomes all the more poignant knowing that this was Tarkovsky’s second-to-last film. He was dead three years later, due to cancer that he contracted working nearby nuclear ruins on Stalker, which he made before Nostalghia. The plot itself is threadbare and a little bloated: a Russian biographer Andrei (Oleg Yankovsky), clearly modeled on you-know-who, and his Italian guide Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano) head to a Tuscan bathhouse where a late Russian composer whom Andrei is researching spent a brief but crucial sojourn. A local madman (Erland Josephson, a muse of Ingmar Bergman) gets involved, in ways on which I won’t elaborate. The narrative is stodgy and confused, and it’s going to take me a second viewing to comprehend it all, but the film works as a tone poem because its mood is innovative and assured and comes from a genuine, wise and palpable sense of mortality. And it is more than worth watching for two brutal scenes at the end, which involve different degrees and uses of fire. One of them is the nine-minute take I referred to, and it shows Andrei trying to make it across a bath while keeping a lighted candle aflame. It sounds banal, but trust me: when it happens, you will understand why it is happening, why Andrei is doing it, and it will be suspenseful, and you will be rooting for him to achieve his goal. What a beautiful scene.

Grade: A-


Beau Travail was the second film in a row I watched that with a somewhat flawed body and a perfect ending—a wobbly routine that somehow sticks the landing. I hope to write more on this film later, because I want to re-view it in the context of its source, Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, once I’ve read it. I’m aware it’s a loose adaptation, but it’s still a curious one. The director Claire Denis moves Melville’s tale of British naval impressment to a modern-day brigade of the French Foreign Legion being trained in Djibouti, a city-state on a strategic point of the Horn of Africa. The narrator is one Sgt. Galoup (the subtle yet versatile Denis Lavant), who for reasons unexplained develops an intense hatred for one of his group’s most popular and charismatic soldiers, Gilles (Grégoire Colin). The film is sublime as an ethnography of the Legion’s training regimen and interplay with the surrounding African color. The inclusion of Muslims into the Legion receives much focus and delivers much insight; observe their stamina in how they refuse to nourish themselves during Ramadan, even in the desert. Yet, as a psychological drama, the story feels quite vacant, too open to interpretation for its own good. Even in the hands of an actor as strong as Lavant, Galoup is all action and little if any motivation or context; he’s a muscled walking cipher, a stoic—appropriately, for the military—but a bizarre and blank one. His one-man war against Gilles comes out of nowhere yet gives the whole film its impetus. It works on the level of poetry, but how? Much is staked on the music of one Charles Henri de Pierrefeu, which samples Benjamin Britten’s opera of Billy Budd, and I worried at some points that I was being manipulated into showing interest and provocation at this thin plot.

Alas, here is my interpretation, and it is a subjective but valid one: Melville is thought to have had Asperger’s, and his works come up often in discussions of autism theory. Denis’ female gaze on the male body is said to lend the film a heavy homoerotic, homo-social subtext—a feminine takedown of masculine lust and aggression (which Kathryn Bigelow later riffed with The Hurt Locker) that bluntly uses feminine sexual interest to turn casual masculine/martial camaraderie on its head. The motif of oft-topless male bodies moving in harmony in the desert, performing grueling exercise, ought to make no secret of this, even to the layman viewer. Not to go out on a limb, but I as an Aspergerian have always felt a strong kinship with and esteem for LGBTQ persons and their human rights. That is not least because they grow up in a heteronormative world that refuses to contextualize their homosexuality, and that confuses and conditions them into a warped, dishonest heterosexuality. Not to mention, that same conservative world impelled the young me—a literal-thinking Aspergerian, too trusting of authority—to think that it was wrong to be in touch with myself on any sexual level, while everyone around me was throwing their virginities to the wind. Enough has been written about Galoup’s repressed homosexuality. Would it be fair to view him as an Aspergerian—cold, stealthy, loving of firm military routine, jealous of Gilles’ social aptitude? Or is Gilles the Aspergerian—compassionate in a tactless way, prone to abrupt violence, too obedient towards Galoup to protest his castigation? My reading of Billy Budd may decide how I answer these questions. Suffice it to say: I began this month’s challenge with The Rover, which had one abrupt use of pop music that was too jarring to work. The sudden soundtrack choice that concludes Beau Travail, on the contrary, is a stroke of genius, and wraps up the film on a big emotional high. Man, that song’s stuck in my head now.

Grade: A-

To Do: Reviews of Tsotsi and Eternity and a Day are imminent. Off to watch In the Name of the Father.

31 Days of Cinema, Days Twenty-One, Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three: “The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums” | “Nostalghia” | “Beau Travail”

31 Days of Cinema, Days Thirteen and Fourteen: “A Woman Under the Influence” | “Open Your Eyes”

The central question of John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence is similar to the age-old one of Hamlet: Is the protagonist’s behavior influenced by psychosis, by chicanery, or simply by natural personality? Does (s)he need treatment to make him/her more sociable, or does (s)he need esteem and valuing as a person with differences? The title character is Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands, a once-wife of the director), wife of municipal construction worker Nick (Peter Falk) and mother of three. She flirts with other guys to the point where she might give the wrong impression. She drinks and smokes more than she really ought to. She has a series of physical tics and vocal quirks that are too many to list here. Don’t we all? We never learn what or if there is anything wrong, at least on a neurological basis, with Mabel (though I’ve read that bipolar disorder is implied), and this is the correct approach. There is no diagnosing, no pathologizing, no grand solution to everything. We are forced to deal with Mabel as a human, on equal terms with us, without the soapboxes of medical expertise and clinical judgment. I’ll be blunt, though: I did at times connect with Mabel on the level of Asperger’s. One of Woman’s dominant motifs is socialization, or how we adapt and are coerced to adapt to standard rules and rituals of communication that often strike Aspergerians like me as unnatural, with unknown origins that appear beyond human creation and hence human reason. Long set pieces of fifteen to twenty minutes are devoted to people exchanging names, boasting talents, trying to push other people to act regularly as if the traumas affecting their lives had never occurred. The Criterion essay to this film makes a point of discussing performativity, and if you act or pretend to become sociable enough and to put on a performance of normality, you may well become sociable and normal. (Think of the Nathaniel Hawthorne quote staring down on Tony, at Bowdoin, in that famous early episode of The Sopranos.) A Woman exposes the falsehood of that socialization process, making it in fact seem impossible and dishonest, and it does so not least through its expert probing of relations between the generations, and I find that quite refreshing in hindsight. The two lead performances are slightly overrated, it must be said. Falk heaps on a few too many Italian-American affectations, while Rowlands’ work depends on micromanagement to the degree that the tiniest gestures are deliberate; most of her choices excel, but a few really don’t work. The editing is klutzy in some parts—especially during the pivotal scene when Mabel reaches her nadir; the series of false endings in the final act is tiresome. So, not a masterpiece, but worth watching for its novel take on mental health alone.

Grade: A-


One day, I’d like to write an extended essay—likely novel-length—about experimental cinema from between 1997 and 2002, a period of time I will here name the tour du siècle—the turn of the century. The tour du siècle era strikes me as the greatest in the history of cinema. That was the age of Amores Perros, Memento, Pi, Requiem for a Dream, City of God, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, 25th Hour, Before Night Falls, Sexy Beast, Training Day, etc. To that list, I am happy to add Open Your Eyes, the sci-fi-horror breakthrough of Spanish auteur Alejandro Amenábar. The first hour, save for an uncanny opening scene, tells an elemental, almost too-mundane love story. The artist César (Eduardo Noriega) is in a contentious relationship with Nuria (Najwa Nimri); when he meets the mime Sofía (a young Penélope Cruz), the date of his best friend Pelayo (Fele Martínez), he is smitten. Nuria’s subsequent impulse is to crash her car into a sound wall with him in shotgun. She is killed, and César is disfigured beyond repair and loses Sofía’s admiration. Isn’t it ludicrous sometimes how we base so much on our and others’ appearances? The term love at first sight in and of itself is wrapped up in the connotations of banal, superficial surfaces; their appeal blinds us to whatever is unappealing about them, sinks us in denial. César is attached to Sofía as a mime, so to speak, of his ideal woman, and Sofía in return only assigns meaning to César based on his handsomeness. (This much becomes clear in the scene where the two of them draw each other and interpret their drawings.) The film plays on the tragic notion that Sofía ought to have very little importance in the scope of César’s life, yet the way the circumstances play out, she is a primal need for him—not least because, as with Orpheus, she is lost, regained and lost again so quickly and so repeatedly, and that is how precious she is. The circumstances I mention, I will not reveal. This is not a film you want spoiled. (Okay, I’ll give you a hint: cryogenics get involved.) Suffice it to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film transition so smoothly and patiently from the by-the-book romance presented at the beginning, all the way through to the wild, innovative mind-fuck on display in the second half—while also staying firm in César’s perspective, which gets increasingly warped even though the logic of the narrative remains readable and seamless throughout. And most of the tour du siècle films I listed do achieve all that, too. As for the ending, it’s ambiguous, frustrating, and perfect.

Grade: A+

Tomorrow: I know I’m behind on my reviews, but at least I’m back on my original schedule and halfway through the month! I still have The Fast Runner and Dogville to recap, and the next film up to watch is Aguirre.

31 Days of Cinema, Days Thirteen and Fourteen: “A Woman Under the Influence” | “Open Your Eyes”

Great Film: “Heat”, A Tragedy of the Masculine

With this essay, I kick off what I’m planning out as a series of reviews of what I consider Great Films. In the tradition of the late great film journalist Roger Ebert, I’m putting together my own canon of films that have contributed significantly to my identity as a film buff, an artist, and a person in general. A designation as a Great Film indicates an A+ grade, which supersedes any and all prior assessments.

The Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger once characterized the condition that he called “autistic psychopathy”—and that we today name in his honor—as “the extreme end of masculinity.” I imagine that this is why—despite my growing concern for the representation of women in cinema—I still have an affinity for particularly masculine films, which take, as their primary theme, what it means to be a man, and the various pitfalls of testosterone: silence, isolation, obsession, temper. My awareness of these pitfalls is twofold, as I have experienced heightened forms of all of them; I register them as a man, and as an Aspergerian. There’s been discussion in my family of the Films Every Guy Loves: The Godfather I and II, Jaws, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, The Shawshank Redemption, The Professional, Scarface, Chinatown, Citizen Kane and various films by Leone and Scorsese come up often, and to that list, I would add Snatch, Training Day, Oldboy (the original), Seven Samurai and, of course, Heat. I am convinced, in fact, that Heat is the best on the list, in its encapsulation of who men are, and not least in how they contrast with women. I am tempted to go out on a limb and call Heat a sort-of Asperger’s 101 lecture, but that would be pushing it. For now, I will call it my go-to film for probing the essential extremities of masculinity, and the tragedy of them.

I’ve just made some weighty claims—I’m nothing if not a contrarian and a devil’s advocate—so let me outline a distinction I like to make between a “perfect film” and a “masterpiece.” The two are not interchangeable. I can recognize The Godfather, for instance, as a perfect film, in that the construction of its narrative strikes a kind-of Nash equilibrium that would be ruined if any part of it were altered or rearranged. But I cannot recognize it as a masterpiece, in that on every viewing, it appears to me as too callous and hubristic, too self-aware and self-important, even too simple for its own good. Similar goes for Citizen Kane, which to this day demands immense credit for its formal innovations, but which nonetheless has its dated, awkward beats, such as Kane’s rushed-over first marriage and the outrageous conceit of the frame story. (There’s no way she could’ve heard him whisper “Rosebud.”) I thus understand why many call them the Greatest Films Ever Made, but I cannot join in that consensus because those films do not connect with me on a personal level as deeply as Harold and Maude and Persona do. Heat is not a perfect film; it has its flaws, and I will get into them. But it is a masterpiece because of the magnitude of what it accomplishes in terms of theme, story, character and artistry.

Heat, directed by Michael Mann (whose second-best is nowhere close to this), is a cops-and-robbers epic, but is it good versus evil? Al Pacino, who plays LAPD R.H. detective Vincent Hanna, and Robert De Niro, who plays main thief Neil McCauley (a real-life figure), share first billing and are clearly meant to be co-protagonists. Is there more focus on Hanna? Are we meant to root for Hanna? Perhaps, but I’m on my fourth viewing and the focus seems to be more on Neil and his crew. Of the police characters, only Hanna is given substance, as well as a crucial love interest, Justine (Diane Venora). Most of the rest of this vast ensemble is on the other side of the law. What’s more, Neil is of the classic antihero stock. Most if not all of cinema’s great antiheroes live by a personal code, and Neil’s is my favorite: “You want to be making moves on the street?” he quotes an old cellmate. “Have no attachments, allow nothing to be in your life that you can’t walk out on in thirty seconds if you spot the heat around the corner.” The film critic David Thomson has praised De Niro for playing Vito Corleone with “Asperger’s-like distance,” and Neil’s social asceticism is too emblematic of that to be called merely masculine. Friendships to him are unstable, volatile, guilt-inducing, too vulnerable; Neil may be a villain, yet I feel like I know him.

Masculine films are often criticized for falling into the trap of designing their female roles to serve the central male-dominated stories. Most of the women of Heat do exist as love interests, but they are not without their own senses of agency, self-interest and self-preservation. Witness how Justine, Hanna’s third wife, puts up with her first husband’s total absence and the emotional toll it takes on her daughter, Lauren (a young Natalie Portman), and how calm yet brutal she is in the way she counteracts Neil’s frequent absence, in the film’s most blackly comic scene (“You do not get to watch my fucking television set!”). Also witness how Charlene (Ashley Judd), late in the film after shit has hit the fan, uses her wits to maneuver herself, her infant son and her husband—Neil’s henchman Chris (Val Kilmer)—just barely out of the LAPD’s grasp. If both women are doomed to see their lives through the prisms of the men they marry and fuck, then at least they have the knowledge and chutzpah to work with and against those men to their advantage. Can we agree, too, that men often construct their lives around the women in them? Recall the bartender in The Shining and his toast to women: “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.” Un-P.C., yes, but here, it’s apt. Hanna is a workaholic, forced by duty to alienate wife and stepdaughter, yet he’s still trying to make at least one marriage work. Chris lives to pull off heists and gamble all his earnings away, at the expense of a family he loves to death. They need the very women that they desert and betray the most. They are the quintessential male parasites.

Neil understands that he’d be the same if he was involved with a woman, and that’s part of the reason for his code. He exists to steal, whether he targets bearer bonds in an armored truck, jewelry in a shipping container or cash in a bank vault. He’s a criminal; he doesn’t really trust anyone, much less a woman, to trust him. Yet, not even he can escape the lure of romance. Not surprisingly for such an XY film, Heat is not always secure in how it portrays its women, who are at times given clunky dialogue. Much of what Justine says would work okay as poetry but comes off as pedantry when spoken: “You don’t live with me,” she tells Hanna. “You live among the remains of dead people. You sift through the detritus, you read the terrain, you search for signs of passing, for the scent of your prey.” Charlene, in the meantime, is often used as a vessel for clumsy exposition. “You’re a child growing older,” she gripes to Chris. “We’re not making forward progress like real grown-up adults living our lives because I married a gambling junkie.” (Not that Venora’s and Judd’s deliveries hurt.) It is thus all the more intriguing that Neil’s woman, a bookstore clerk named Eady (Amy Brenneman), is written without flaw. Casual, blunt but rather cool, appropriately ephemeral, she meets Neil by accident and initiates the conversation, and Neil reciprocates out of courtesy, if not out of pity. He has to; hell, it’s what I would’ve done. Ubiquitous as it is, love is too demanding a subplot for cinema; not even the three hours of Heat are enough to encompass the development of a romance. Amidst its glimpses into marriages striving and fracturing, Heat gives us one genuine love story in Neil and Eady, and it gets away with it because it is clear that those two are just dating, mutually interested but taking their time—and that’s plenty risky for Neil.

The care and precision with which Neil and Eady are created and linked is further evidence that Mann’s script identifies more with Neil as an antihero than with Hanna as a hero. Yet, theirs are not the only strong characterizations. Heat earns its running time in spades not least because small roles that lesser filmmakers would have written as lazy ciphers are fleshed out, given dimensions and, when necessary, their own love interests. The film here transcends the crime drama to emerge as a panorama of L.A. criminals, in various stages of life, falling deeper into their trade and dealing with the consequences. Donald Breedan (Dennis Haysbert), an ex-con out on parole and trapped in a fast food joint, hints the audience to what could be in store for Neil and company if they do time in prison and try to redeem themselves afterwards with a legitimate job. It’s not much; the appeal of thievery is the access to fast cash and the potential for a life that’s better than Breedan’s. He has a woman to encourage him to stay straight, but the powerlessness of his workplace gets to him in the end, and a chance reunion with fellow Folsom vet Neil is all it takes to lure him back into crime and initiate his downfall. Trejo (Danny Trejo), Neil’s driver, is at the center of one of the film’s most raw, agonizing moments; stuck to the floor of his house by his own congealed blood, he learns that his wife is lying murdered (likely raped, too) in the next room and decides right away to throw in the towel on life. The film’s most vile presence, Waingro (Kevin Gage), is depicted as a trigger-happy opportunist and a serial murderer of underage prostitutes—a misogynist in the worst sense. Critically, he operates as an antagonist not to Hanna but to Neil; his actions greatly assist Hanna’s investigation and are the key impetus of Neil’s tragedy.

I’ve spent so much time and words focused on gender that I’ve neglected the other pair of codependent opposites bandied about in this film: cops and robbers. One of the great strengths of Heat is its purity, its functionality. The criminals gather in L.A. They make some noise, drop some bodies. They get Hanna on their trail, and from there on out, it’s cat-and-mouse. The scope is broad and complex, but the story itself is primitive. The characters’ motivations, their raisons d’être, do not have—nor do they need—much more depth than the film reels and screens manifesting their story in pixels. The famous scene, with Pacino and De Niro having coffee, is intriguing in this regard. The more I think about it, the more this scene strikes me as a curious anomaly, not unlike Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy, in that it doesn’t really advance the plot but rather provides a poetic interlude in which actors can show off. What’s Hanna trying to do during the scene? Get inside Neil’s head? Talk him out of risking lives in his exploits? Give him fair warning? Grandstand in front of him?

Let’s face it: the scene is a conceit, one expressly designed to coddle the Godfather fanboys who sat through the film to see Pacino and De Niro duke it out. It’s an actors’ pas de deux, an upstaging match not unlike what comedians do all the time. Watch closely, and here and there, you’ll catch a glint in the eye and a small smile cracking when Pacino and De Niro can’t help but slightly break character and sit in awe at the fact that such an encounter is at last taking place. Yet, the film gets away with this, too, because it displays a refreshing honesty about how banal these archetypes are, and how tragic the people who follow them have become. There’s no glamor here, just testosterone. I mean, just listen to this dialogue. Neil: “I do what I do best. I take scores. You do what you do best: try to stop guys like me.” Hanna, reiterating the sentiment: “You know, we’re sitting here like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do.” And this exchange: Hanna: “I don’t know how to do anything else.” Neil: “Neither do I.” Hanna: “I don’t want to, either.” Neil: “Neither do I.” The Pinteresque economy of this is indelible. It’s almost as if Mann is thumbing his nose at the audience, trying to make them rethink the worth of seeing these two actors in the same scene for the sake of it while the ensemble also boasts Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, William Fichtner, Hank Azaria, etc., etc.

I wrote my Haverford senior thesis on the author John Dos Passos and in part on how his masterpiece, the U.S.A. trilogy, operates as a Cubist text, sacrificing depth to study and mimic the interplay of textual and filmic surfaces. (Props to my old classmate Charles Birkel for helping me in this regard.) Heat is a similar text. Thomson writes, in a qualified review, “Heat is a skin—taut, alert, buffed—like the look of a great athlete or a new car.” And what a skin it is. The cinematography of Dante Spinotti here is beyond criticism. Every shot in this film—every single arrangement of strobe light and night sky, interior shape and exterior expanse, minimal emotion and acute stoicism—ought to be a painting in a major museum. Simple, mundane details stick out to me on every viewing: the blue ribbon that slinks back to the ground after the armored truck is knocked over and careens through the car lot; the glass of water in the napkin that Neil leaves Eady after their first night together; the brutal cut from Waingro pulling a girl’s hair to him snapping a cap off a beer; Hanna’s ally Drucker (Mykelti Williamson) staring into space for a solid second after issuing a command to an uncooperative informant; Neil sneaking up and balancing on the edge of the backyard pool of a man he is about to murder. The film also has the distinction of having candidates for the best opening shot and the best closing shot in all of cinema.

The editing does justice to the photography. Observe the central bank robbery set piece—and the thuggish, depraved, angering automatic-weapons shootout that follows it. It opens with a prelude of Charlene and Eady starting their average days while their men go off to break the law and terrorize L.A. After the sequence, two women watch the news break, on TV, of the massacre in which both of their men were slaughtered. This double juxtaposition is a haunting stroke of genius. Lastly, the music of Elliot Goldenthal—a blend of ethereal orchestrations and unctuous electronic rumbles—makes a perfect marriage with Spinotti’s imagery. This is a quiet film (at least, when guns aren’t going off) that demands to be listened to loud, to relish every iota and nuance of sound that comes coursing through Mann’s L.A. landscape.

I don’t agree with Thomson’s assessment that the film aims to promote or even idealize Neil’s code, nor that it views “cops and thieves [as] interchangeable.” There are parallels between the two, and there are moments—as in real life—when the binary blurs; case in point, the classic scene when Neil gets to do reconnaissance on Hanna’s team, just like Hanna did surveillance on him. But ultimately, the two are distinct. Hanna is pure Pacino: pure heat, always coked up, lurking, popping up in roads, from behind doorways and around corners, unhinged yet calculated. He’s an expert cop, with a superlative eye for detail, but he’s even more a force of nature. Neil, in De Niro’s hands, is the more distinguished, less typecast presence: youngish and brazen, sophisticated, with gristle growing on him everyday, aware he should quit while he’s ahead. He’s just as intelligent as Hanna (the only detail he really fails to account for is Waingro), and it’s part and parcel of his identity to spend his whole life dodging the likes of him. Though cat and mouse sometimes see how the other half lives, the food chain remains the same.

In its study of cops and criminals, Heat is superficial and intends to be so, but it is a deep film in terms of gender—in how it dissects the grace, wisdom and constant marginalization of the feminine, and the innate Aspergerian essence of the masculine—and the entire ensemble is absent of any trace of stock character. Even Waingro’s victim is given a grieving family to expand her profile. Everyone present is human, even when they are mired in über-masculine archetypes that lead to their destruction. As for Neil’s code, I think the film condemns it. Every character arc here ends in tragedy, but the worst one, in my opinion, arrives in Neil and Eady’s final moment, in which the code is called into play. That moment is the purest Aspergerian tragedy I’ve ever seen in film, and I’m not going out on a limb in saying that.

In memory of B.B. King, whose song “The Thrill is Gone” plays in this film, and the afore-credited John Nash and his wife, Alicia.

Great Film: “Heat”, A Tragedy of the Masculine