Monday, May 23, 2011

The White Stripes - "The Union Forever" from the CD White Blood Cells

White Stripes White Blood Cells CD coverMy experience is, it's more likely that a new song about an old movie will be worthwhile than a new movie about an old song.

Not that "The Union Forever" is new, mind you, but please understand there is in general a time lapse involved when considering my picking up on things known to most others. . . .

You might say I had no idea what this song was about until I saw what it was about.

I still remember when I met Donna, she was incredulous that I hadn't seen The Godfather. I was like, Jeez Louise (I was like, Jeez Louise, with her a lot), it's not such a big deal, I watch what I like and this is how it's turned out, my canon or whatever. Apocalypse Now and A Clockwork Orange and Chinatown and Meatballs and Where the Buffalo Roam, what the fuck's wrong with that?

Nonetheless, I made sure as soon as we were settled in to mosey on down to the Blockbuster and rent the trilogy, which we took in order over some long mid-nineties weekend.

From then on, I tried to make sure I'd seen the movies I should be seeing, a Vertigo here and a 12 Angry Men there, and by the time I met Melanie, whose film knowledge borders on the encyclopedic, I'd seen most of the movies you need to see, seen most of the ones Melanie would have expected me to see, most of the American ones anyway.

But somehow I'd missed Casablanca, so a few weeks back Melanie got her Netflix account to send us the Bogart-Hepburn thing, and it was, I have to say, a pretty great film.

Well, I then thought, what other 70-year old movie hadn't I seen?

Citizen Kane sat around the house for a couple weeks before we finally watched it Saturday. That's because it--the idea of it--is intimidating. The weight of its supposed greatness, the heaviness of that Rosebud jazz, the last words and the innocence-symbol, all the film snobs who go on and on about it, all this stuff preceeds it, and makes it hard not to infer that the film might be juuust a tad dry.

And while now that I've seen it I can say that Citizen Kane isn't dry, and is for the most part a pretty enjoyable film, it's no laugh riot. And it's not stainless, either. "Rosebud" as a plot device, the last words dripping with import, and the reporter's intrepid search for their meaning, isn't quite pulled off, and the film feels torpid in spots where it fails. And it, to be honest, isn't carried inexorably forward by snapping great dialogue, the way Casablanca is.

There is a great script underneath it all, but it consists mostly of monologue, characters talking at each other rather than with each other. Some of that is merely a reflection of the way that Charles Foster Kane conducts his business, but some of it speaks to the film's didacticism, its penchant for lecturing us about Charles Foster Kane at the drop of a hat.

Now, you might argue that the film invites conflicting opinions of Mr. Kane, as did its promotional materials, and you would be correct. But it doesn't change the fact that the viewer sure does get lectured multiple times. . . .

But anyway: back to said great script. You have to pick through, but parts of the movie sound so very good, and Jack White has noted this fact well for us with his song.

Not that I knew he had until after I'd seen the movie, though.

Towards the beginning of the movie, the young Charles Kane is cavorting onscreen in the snow, when I hear him shout "The Union Forever!" And instantly I think of The White Stripes, because, you know, you don't hear that phrase very often elsewhere. It even seems out of place in the film.

I chalk it up to coincidence, however--until I hear Kane upon his 25th birthday tell Thatcher that he's sorry, he's not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate.

And I realized--loudly as it happened, so that Melanie would know too (this might have been rude)--that Jack White had written his spooky song I already quite favored about Citizen Kane.

In tracking this down on the net after the movie was over, I came across quite a few who said that their appreciation for The White Stripes had increased now that they knew the band had written a song about Citizen Kane.

Well, I'm here to tell ya: my appreciation for Citizen Kane has increased, now that I know the White Stripes have written about it!

Given the, um, certain varying stated and actual relationships that Meg and Jack have had, it's tempting to try and parse the snippets from the movie that White has used in his lyrics for meaning.

It's very tempting. Leland says that all Kane "wanted out of life was love...he just didn't have any to give." And Kane in flashback toasts "to love on my terms." But the movie doesn't employ much of its space on the word love, and I don't believe that the movie when it comes down to it is all that much about love or the lack of it.

Personally, I think the movie's about how one man can gain the power and the freedom to do fuck all whatever he wants, and how the natural consequence of so doing is that he will be forced to endure a thousand different unpowerful and unfree little people as they weigh in with a thousand different unfree opinions about just what it was he was trying to do. That, in the old parlance, opinions about a man's life are like assholes; everybody's got one.

But let's never mind what I believe, because it is more intriguing to think that Jack White--whose most famous relationship had been broken and then clumsily repaired before anyone even knew who the fuck he was--might see the film in terms that nullify the possibility of true love.

The White Stripes - White Blood Cells - 07 The Union Forever.mp3

File under: Celluloid Heroes

1 comment:

TAD said...

R: You've been awfully quiet here lately -- taking the summer off?