Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Through A Lens Darkly
I just saw the Joan River's documentary, A Piece Of Work. I've always liked Joan; her brutal honesty about social conventions has always appealed to me. Now she turns the camera on herself to great effect. The documentary is painful and funny like all great comedy. There's a reason that comics say they killed an audience when successful. No other art form makes the demands of comedy; no other genre is as unforgiving or exacting. Joan excels in this arena. Her real addiction isn't plastic surgery; it is work and the Dewey Decimal filing of her jokes shows an epic system of effort. She lives for the road, for the thrill of the audience, her need for money to maintain a both lavish and giving lifestyle and for movement. Like a shark, Joan does not sit. Sitting is death. And she's not going gently into that goodnight. Nor should see. No woman has been so sharp and smart or fearless in the arena of comedy.
The film starts with her bare face in process of being made up, bringing to mind Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler in the fierce determination she brings to the enterprise of becoming herself. The butt of her and many other comics' jokes, her looks have both created and vexed her life. No man has ever called me beautiful, she says. We feel her pain. It is my contention that no woman feels beautiful, no matter what face we create to create the faces. As she poses for the cover of her book, Men Are Stupid and They Like Big Boobs (a line she stole from Marilyn Monroe), she reflects a distortion in a society increasingly dependent on plastic surgery. I know people who don't like Joan's humor. It's not, as they say, for all tastes. Her world, harsh and brutal, makes me squirm and laugh. It calls to mind the days when the word abortion wasn't uttered (women got an "appendectomy" remember that?), a world where you might not be beautiful, but you could still be a star, where an average-looking woman with a sharp mind could charm Johnny Carson and rise and fall and rise again, a life where you must burn yourself up to be born again.
Michelle's Spell of Day
"All photographs are accurate. None of them are the truth." Richard Avedon
Photography suggestion: Nan Goldin Costa Guido
Benedictions and Maledictions