“Have you ever seen the human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood!”
An inherently held belief about art is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. On a large scale, this is true, but primarily because beauty and quality are not necessarily the same thing. You may not like The Eagles, but the quality of harmonies and production is undeniable. That is well-made art that just happens to not beautiful to you, the consumer.
This idea was on my mind this past week when I caught the movie Closer on Cinemax. I first saw Closer when I was 19 years old and had never been in a relationship longer than a few months. I found the dialogue interesting, especially when Clive Owen was verbally dragging erotic confessions out of Julia Roberts (“It tastes like you but sweeter!”….bleh). But all in all, I didn’t get it. The movie’s only lasting impact on me was that I would be in love with Natalie Portman forever after watching her walk down a New York Street:
When I selected it from my Time Warner guide, eight years after my original viewing, I expected it to be background noise as I did some typing on my laptop. That’s not what happened. I was riveted. It was the exact same movie that I was viewing completely differently, and it was more beautiful. It was kind of funny:
Alice (Natalie Portman): Don’t eat fish.
Dan (Jude Law): Why not?
Alice: Fish piss in the sea.
Dan: So do children.
Alice: Don’t eat children either.
And it was kind of brutal:
Anna (Julia Roberts): Why is the sex so important?
Larry (Clive Owen): Because I’m a fucking caveman!
But what really hooked me (I had put my laptop down after getting about 15 minutes in), is how aggressively the movie pursued the value of truth. All the characters tell lies, but the one character that actually says what he wants and gets what he wants, Clive Owen, is competely at peace with the deceptions he takes to achieve those desires. He is the only character that refuses to lie to himself about what he is, and because of that, none of his outward actions (including infidelity) are a betrayal of his purpose. After sex with his openly unfaithful wife, played by Julia Roberts, he advises her on how to address her boyfriend, Jude Law about the tryst. “Best to be honest about this sort of thing.”
Loving yourself is the greatest love of all.
Jude’s opinion? “What’s so great about honesty? Try lying for a change, it’s the currency of the world.” As you’d expect, Jude fears that people are lying to him. Clive expects it. The difference in that self-honesty is the difference in our characters: strong and harsh versus kind and weak.
All in all, I’d recommend that you give this watch, a recommendation I wouldn’t have felt strongly about eight years ago. The movie hasn’t changed. I have. And while I don’t completely like what that says about me, I think it’s pretty obvious.
Larry: [on a photography exhibit] What do you think?
Alice: It’s a lie. It’s a bunch of sad strangers photographed beautifully, and… all the glittering assholes who appreciate art say it’s beautiful ’cause that’s what they wanna see. But the people in the photos are sad, and alone… But the pictures make the world seem beautiful, so… the exhibition is reassuring which makes it a lie, and everyone loves a big fat lie.