December 25, 2008

"Harold Pinter's dead... No, wait, he won the Nobel Prize."

That's a line in the movie "Synecdoche, New York," which we saw at the Sundance theater last night:
[In] Schenectady, the working-class city near Albany where Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a theater director, lives with his artist wife Adele (Catherine Keener) and their young daughter Olive (Amy Goldstein). Caden, who's had a critical success staging Death of a Salesman with young actors in the middle-age roles, is himself a premature old man; he hears mortality gargling at him everywhere. In the first scene, he wakes to a radio talk-show report about how the coming of autumn is a harbinger of death; from then on, Caden's life is one long fall. Reading the newspaper, Caden sees a headline about a playwright. "Harold Pinter's dead," he muses aloud. "No, wait, he won the Nobel Prize." He glances at the TV and sees his own animated form as part of a cartoon show, accompanied by the sing-song lyrics: "Then he died / Maybe someone cried / But not his ex-bride."
Today, I open the newspaper and see that Harold Pinter has died. He died yesterday, perhaps at the very moment when we heard the death-obsessed character in the movie say "Harold Pinter's dead." The movie is, in fact, all about death -- and life, too.... for contrast -- as Philip Seymour Hoffman shuffles through scene after scene, depressed, headed toward death, but working feverishly on his seemingly never-ending play -- his play and his life -- life being a big play and all the men and women merely players.
Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence made him the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation, died on Wednesday. He was 78 and lived in London.

The cause was cancer, his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, said on Thursday.

Mr. Pinter learned he had cancer of the esophagus in 2002. In 2005, when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, he was unable to attend the awards ceremony at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm but delivered an acceptance speech from a wheelchair in a recorded video.
Here's the video.
An actor, essayist, screenwriter, poet and director as well as a dramatist, Mr. Pinter was also publicly outspoken in his views on repression and censorship, at home and abroad. He used his Nobel acceptance speech to denounce American foreign policy, saying that the United States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq but that it had also “supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship” in the last 50 years.

His political views were implicit in much of his work. Though his plays deal with the slipperiness of memory and human character, they are also almost always about the struggle for power.
I wrote a post at the time: "The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them." I don't like that, but I will pass over it on this occasion. Back to art:
Mr. Pinter said he thought of theater as essentially exploratory. “Even old Sophocles didn’t know what was going to happen next,” he said. “He had to find his way through unknown territory. At the same time, theater has always been a critical act, looking in a broad sense at the society in which we live and attempting to reflect and dramatize these findings. We’re not talking about the moon.”

Speaking about his intuitive sense of writing, he said, “I find at the end of the journey, which of course is never ending, that I have found things out.”
Which of course is never ending... which of course is....

31 comments:

EDH said...

I'm from the Boston area.

The way many locals would pronounce Harold Pinter's last name makes it virtually indistinguishable from the name of Columbus' second ship.

Let him carry that imperialist, Eurocentric “crime” to his grave!

Maguro said...

Another boring anti-American intellectual bites the dust - no need to worry, there's plenty more where that came from.

How was the movie?

Original George said...

Timothy Leary's dead....

No, he's on the outside looking in...

Michael said...

Maguro said..."Another boring anti-American intellectual bites the dust - no need to worry, there's plenty more where that came from."

And yet another classless illiterate creep rears his ugly head.

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john said...

Michael - Maguro was not calling you an intellectual.

Did you not get what you wanted for Christmas?

Michael said...

John, I have no idea what you're trying to say. It makes no sense at all.

Think before you post.

Oh, and suck my dick.

Chip Ahoy said...

* opens door *

* looks around, sniffs air *

* slam !

AllenS said...

Well, since Santa is all knowing, I don't think it would be all that hard to figure out that Michael did't get an Christmas presents.

You've been a bad boy, Michael, and it has been duly noted.

Michael said...

Chip Ahoy - You love that sniffing thing, don't you?

Always up somebody's ass.

Michael said...

Allen - I don't believe in Christmas.

I worship Bill O'Reilly.

Cedarford said...

Pinter? Another enemy of America and the West is dead. I feel the same "sense of loss" (nothing)- I did hearing Saddam went to the gallows or when esteemed Man of Letters Erza Pound finally did the world a favor and died.

In the "Its a small small world!" category, Pinter shacked up with shiksa Lady Antonia Fraiser, about the finest piece of upper crust British trim there was at the time, in 1975. A month after an IRA bomb nearly blew her up and she reached an "inflection point" about her life, husband, and 6 kids:

Naturally, it involved Princess Caroline:

On 22 October 1975, Hugh and Antonia Fraser, together with Caroline Kennedy, who was visiting them at their Holland Park home, in Kensington, West London, were almost blown up by an IRA car bomb placed under the wheels of his Jaguar, which had been triggered to go off at 9am when he left the house with wife and guest. The bomb exploded prematurely when it was examined and inadvertently set off by the eminent cancer researcher Gordon Hamilton-Fairley (1930–1975), a neighbor of the Frasers, who had been walking his dog, noticed and inspected the device under the car, and died as a result of the blast..

michael farris said...

In other news, Earth Kitt just died.

That makes me very sad.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1101766/Sultry-singer-dancer-Eartha-Kitt-dies-cancer-81.html

michael farris said...

Eartha, too.

Beth said...

Santa, baby and Catwoman. Eartha's going to be missed.

Steve said...

"Another boring anti-American intellectual bites the dust."

Better than being "another boring American anti-intellectual." This site is full of them.

Crimso said...

"And yet another classless illiterate creep rears his ugly head."

Odd. I thought your type were all in favor of a classless society. And to think that your means of achieving it is through the illiteracy of the sheeple...

Michael said...

Steve - "Better than being "another boring American anti-intellectual." This site is full of them."

Perfect examples: Crimso - Maguro - Cedarford...and of course, Chipper the "sniffer."

For a site that is run by an attorney and frequented by so many who fancy themselves as being intellectually inclined...most of the comments here about Mr. Pinter exemplify just how shallow and poorly educated so many of you are.

Crimso said...

"For a site that is run by an attorney and frequented by so many who fancy themselves as being intellectually inclined...most of the comments here about Mr. Pinter exemplify just how shallow and poorly educated so many of you are."

Actually, I think it's a site run by a law professor. An intellectual would understand the difference.

heywoot said...

Christ on a fucking flaming krispy kreme - Michael, I thought you were banned from this site. Why do you keep coming back and laying your stink all over it?

Comments here are unreadable due to the troll Michael. Back under the bridge with you, you bizarre person.

Palladian said...

Good riddance to Harold Pinter. A miserable, loathsome person and an overrated, irritating writer. He deserved his Nobel almost as much as Algore did his.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

A bomb meant for Pinter instead killed "eminent cancer researcher Gordon Hamilton-Fairley (1930–1975)". A man who worked against one cancer died at the age of 45, depriving the world of his gifts decades too soon.

...meanwhile Pinter continued a long, pampered life raging against the civilization that ensured he needn't fear the ghetto, the gulag, or the death camp.

Pinter was right: there is no justice in the modern world!

Phaedrus said...

Americans are more anti-PSEUDOintellectual than anti-intellectual, despising pretentious rubbish posing as art. Europeans, however, are notoriously susceptible to the chicanery of such frauds as Ezra Pound and Harold Pinter, attibuting merit where there is none, much as the Royal Academy judged a random plinth and stick to be a deliberate sculpture. Immerse yourself in Dickens, Bernard Shaw, and Stoppard; perhaps then your critical faculty will be sufficiently developed to distinguish quality English prose from the random keystrokes of a monkey like Pinter.

Eric said...

Better than being "another boring American anti-intellectual." This site is full of them.

I think I became anti-"intellectual" when membership in the intellectual club was granted to anyone willing to bash my country.

I don't usually speak ill of the dead, but in this case I'll make an exception. Pinter was slime.

Joaquin said...

Good ridance!

Michael said...

This site is the ultimate gathering ground of uneducated, uninformed and thoroughly ignorant fools on the entire internet.

Just look at 95% of the comments here:

A renowned and respected writer dies, and whether you liked the man himself or even his work...because anyone who actually reads knows it's entirely subjective...and all you hear is drivel relating to him being un-American.

It's the same childish bullshit anyone who visits this site has heard for the past 8 years whenever anyone had the audacity to criticize Bush and Co.

It would be funny if it weren't so downright disgusting.

William said...

Just recently in a used bookstore I picked up a copy of Bernard Shaw's Autobiography. I read the section where he visited Russia and interviewed Stalin. He was as moist and starstruck as a teen age girl in the presence of Elvis....I can never reconcile how some artists can be so perceptive about the pains and dislocations of bourgeoise democracies and so blind to the vileness of the societies that oppose them....I have seen some of Pinter's movies. The only one I remember was Betrayal with Ben Kingsley. It was excellent. It was like watching a scorpion turn inward and sting himself to death....I get the sense that Pinter directed his considerable wit and intelligence outwards to attack America as an alternative to the infinite self loathing that came with introspection.....Pinter was an unhappiness machine. He would have been just as unhappy under Sharia law or Communism or Tibetan theocracy as he was under Margaret Thatcher. Only in a democratic state, however, would it have been possible for him to receive such honor and fame for celebrating his unhappiness.

ricpic said...

Talk about all style, downbeat style, and no substance -- that was Pinter.

Oligonicella said...

Micheal --

"This site is the ultimate gathering ground of uneducated, uninformed and thoroughly ignorant fools on the entire internet."

Pot -- Kettle

"Just look at 95% of the comments here:"

You're currently at over 20% of today's posts. Including this one.

"... and all you hear is drivel relating to him being un-American."

Not so. Several have called his work "boring", "overrated", "irritating", "no substance".

Me? I didn't care for his work all that much. Found it tedious to sit through.

Palladian said...

"A renowned and respected writer dies, and whether you liked the man himself or even his work...because anyone who actually reads knows it's entirely subjective"

A real "intellectual" does not believe that art is "entirely subjective". And a real "intellectual", one who is well-read and well-traveled, knows that there is a great tradition of negative obituary in Pinter's country, and doesn't expect soft-headedly obsequious obsequies at the death of a controversial figure. Pinter didn't mince words (except in his dreadful writing) so why should we?

Or is this sudden delicate emotionalism you're displaying simply another desperate cudgel you're using to bash us "right-wingers"? Try harder, Gene.

Hurley Boy said...

Harold Sphincter dead? Cancer of the esophagus? He truly had shit coming out of both ends.