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He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I enjoyed presenting Crimes and Misdemeanors. Back when teaching was my full time gig I tended to have unrealistically high standards, striving to interest every single student in the class and inevitably being disappointed. Tonight I walked on stage with the thought that if I could reach just one student then it would all be worthwhile. In fact about half a dozen or so out of the thirty who showed up listened attentively to my 15-minute talk and hung around afterwards for discussion--ah, the joy of low expectations! I was also worried that Allen's nebbishy shtick might not fly with the white-bread pure-bred Texan kids, but they laughed at most of the one liners. One good backhanded critique of the movie: a student said without a hint of irony, "This movie sucks because it is just like real life."

I first saw the movie when it came out in '89. Waco, where I got my B.A., wasn't exactly an art-film magnet, so I caught stuff like Crimes and Misdemeanors or Unbearable Lightness of Being at the River Oaks Theatre during my infrequent trips to Houston. As much as I enjoyed seeing Crimes and Misdemeanors then, the benefit of 15 years has made it even more interesting. First, I now know the subtext of literary references Allen is consulting: Republic, Crime and Punishment, Macbeth, Primo Levi, Ayn Rand, etc. Also fascinating in a creepy way is Cliff's on-screen affection for his prepubescent niece, given later revelations about Allen's off-screen relationship with his quasi-stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn.

Anyhow, it was fun to combine two of my main interests, philosophy and film, for the benefit of a few students and fellow faculty members.


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