Monday, February 27, 2006
56. Case Open
I realized this weekend that for years I had dodged a cinematic bullet by not watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) before now. I think at 15--or 25, maybe even 35--it would've killed me, a libidinal surge of tsunamic proportions. I have written elsewhere about Marilyn Monroe, and in terms of the volumes others have filled, I have nothing new to add--but still: I don't know if it is the glaring clarity of the DVD I watched it on, or my current state of near-dotage, or what, but--
All right, I confess: I'm not being honest. I know exactly why this movie stunned me: Monroe and Russell are monumental objects. I cannot write otherwise, as sexist as I sound. They are--and I am sorry if I state the obvious; this movie is nothing but obvious, in the most epic sense that word can have--"sex-objects": totemistic representations of instinctual urges. Of course, I knew this before watching, but in my defense I had never seen them onscreen together, fer petessake; it is a reeling combination, like Valium and vodka. Except it makes you wake all the way up.
I'm trying hard not to just sit here panting and howling, but that Tex Avery wolf refuses to leave my head, and I admit I am a bit embarrassed by him. But the facts remain, and I offer them as my only case:
1. This movie administers its Technicolor like an hallucinogen. The longer I watched its electrostatically charged lavender and burnt pink, its crushed velvet orange and hand-squeezed pomegranate, the less I could see anything else when I looked away, my retinas imprinted, the colors smearing across the living room, until I was forced to look back and regain my equilibrium.
2. Only to lose it again with the sight of Monroe and Russell in their spun-glass and melted taffy outfits--more than painted on, but seeming to grow from the slopes of their bodies like smooth scales, giving off their own flashing outlines, modern engineering in the service of body fetishes, stem to stern.
3. And closer yet: their eyes. I was thinking of Quint in Jaws and his unforgettable monologue--didn't John Milius write it?--in which he tells us that a shark has dead eyes, a doll's eyes. Marilyn and Jane, I'm sorry to say, are the complete opposite. Fifty-odd years later, and I know they are alarmingly alive--and can see me. These are perfect eyes, in terms of trans-spatial/temporal optic ability, finding me, cornering me. Maybe, then, the shark is apt. Denta dentatis, to be delicate about it.
4. But to what end am I cornered? Lucky me, often just for the sake of the songs. OK, they're fun, and irreverent, and, like every other moment in this movie, convinced that the only entendre worth knowing is double (see below). But at least the tunes distracted me from the search-and-destroy single-mindedness of the two of them, flouncing around just to trip me up. Every once in a while, when I thought I was going to do something I would regret for the rest of my life, right there in front of everyone--wife, kids, piano-top photos of parents--one or both of them would start singing, keeping her/them occupied just long enough for me to regain my footing and grab the handrail before the next wave broke.
5. Which was often. The language was suggestive--true, in the silliest sense (like so: Marilyn finds out that a tiara is worn on the head, and gushes, "I just LOVE finding new places to wear diamonds.")--but if this kind of thing goes on all the time--which it does, both verbally and visually--then the movie's world shifts, until everything is about the Marilyn-object and the Jane-object, and the only expression possible is the anticipatory leer. At least on my face.
Of course, this evidence is more than prima facie, but downright inculpatory--the movie ends, more or less, at a trial (they want Marilyn to give back the tiara--and Russell shows up dressed as Marilyn--a lubricious melding of both, the final burden of proof). Hence my juridical flights. I stand accused, as the song says. And again, I am grateful I waited as long as I did to watch Gentleman Prefer Blondes. But the First Law has the longest arm, and still threatens to call me to the dock. I think you already know how I'd plead.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 11:48 AM
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