Saturday, December 13, 2008

MILK Post One

I saw MILK two weeks ago. I knew MILK would be one of the few movies I saw in 2008. As the father of a two-and-a-half year old boy, my wife and I do not get out to the movies much. When the movie’s forthcoming started a buzz around the S.F. Bay Area, with Sean Penn (a Bay Area celeb) playing the once San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, I knew this one was necessary. And because of Milk himself.

MILK. It's important for now and future generations. I was a kid when he was shot. As someone from the east coast, I knew more about the “Twinkie defense” than Harvey Milk himself, somewhat and until now.

Sean Penn’s MILK was equally as much a compliment to Penn’s skills as an actor as the characterization was a testament to the fullness of being that Harvey Milk embodied. You got the sense there was enough Milk for Penn to climb up into and populate.

In the film, there could have been more about Milk’s philosophy, more about his love life or more about his abasement or spiritual transcendence. Penn’s portrayal was moving, human, sparse and complete to the very confines of the film. He filled the box. So too was the movie itself expansive and contained.

I can’t get The Little Mermaid off my mind, mainly, because with a two-and-a-half year old at home, it is often on.

The Little Mermaid is a simple story about a girl, a sea witch, an absent mother of four and a benevolent, bumbling patriarch who relies on a crab to rear and to admonish his daughters.

The movie follows one linear track, but all that it suggests of importance:

- Mother, daughter, father relations at a time of sexual awakening
- Issues of identity and assimilation
- Alterity
- And the truly remarkable degrees of invaginative (*) imagery in the Disney animation

are never dealt with directly, by choice.

(* - A stunningly evocative term introduced to me by Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe’s Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime that proposes a counter point to the phallic, “A space before it was a figure, whether or not the figure then becomes a reason for the space and thereby its retrospective origin."
Gilbert-Rolfe, Jeremy. Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime. New York, NY: Allworth Press, 1999. p. 64.)

O.K., I digress…I guess, I just had to get that off my chest.

But I was struck by the strategic, moving and thoughtful manner with which Gus Van Sant and his team chose to deal with certain subjects by omission, namely the AIDS epidemic that decimated the souls that populated MILK and only a few short years after the films historical culmination. (con't)

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