Yesterday was not much better, as I entirely forgot to add in the bridging paragraphs between Adam Adamant and the Life on Mars quotes. Basically I was going to remark on how both Sam and Adam, washed up in foreign decades, decide there's nowt to do but continue their respective crusades for truth, justice and buttered crumpets.
Honestly, how insanely driven of them. I suppose their crime fighting careers are all they have to hang onto, but still. If it were me, I'd be off down the pub, or engaged in any of the many wicked scenarios we offered as an alternative to Sam going into the office (and was a 1973 bank account waiting for him? Did he have to wait six weeks to get paid as the transfer paperwork moved slowly? Does he have any sick leave accrued? And why should I care?).
I mean, personally, I wouldn't show up at bureau de bullshit if it happened to me. Can you imagine? "I might be lost in time but by god, there is still PR to be spun! To the PropagandaMobile! Away!" I think not. That's me, betting on Melbourne Cup winners and off to live the high life, ta very much.
Obviously, some fellows are a little more driven and righteous and defined by their career choice than muggins here. Anyway, interesting response, that the first thing both seize on is that there are still wrongs to be righted, no matter what the decade. And they're right of course, it's a pretty universal constant.
Which brings me to the lovely exhibition of zenga art I saw last night. It was lovely. I particularly loved the fat old monk, and the one with the fat monk drawn like a flat bottomed toy, ie he gets knocked down, but he gets up again. My kind of dude.
Each of the paintings are meant to be instructional with advice, commands, stories, parables, etc. and the usual impenetrable ciphers of deep and obscure meaning, though some were easily grasped and others left themselves wide open to interpretation, which is half the fun, I think. I also loved the irreverance and the bawdy comedy of their pieces. More Chaucer than, well, think of the thin lipped and desiccated stuff they pass off as high art in the fine china cup circles.
There were a few bits and pieces that made me have thoughts. I liked the ensos, the big open circles, possibly meaning that each of of contain a universe, which is one possible meaning , and I thought, for some reason, Sam's inner universe looks like 1973 :)
"Every day is a good day" also means every day is a bad day, which is definitely something worthwhile to carry around in the noggin (there's a near matching thought about good luck following bad and so on and it's best just to shrug and get on with it) and it reminded Sam and his best of times/worst of times kind of life, where he's stuck in a nightmare, yet having more fun, is more open and is more alive than he has ever been before.
"Falling in love is dangerous, for passion is the source of illusion; yet being in love gives life flavour and passions themselves can bring one to enlightenment." - Sengai
Well, I liked that one for fairly obvious reasons. Gene might be illusion, but he rocks Sam's world, and makes the world a better place and Sam a better person.
"Always remember" - Hakuin
This is supposed tomean always remember virtue, etc, but it made me think about Sam and his inability to forget 1973, or 2006, both warring for his attention. Ever notice how 2006 will come smashing in when he gets too comfortable or happy in 73? Whatever is going on, there's something in Sam that stops him choosing one or the other. Fear, probably.
"You cannot bribe your way into nirvana with good works; you must first awaken your mind!" - Juin
And this sort of ties into what I was saying before, re workaholic Sam, and could also explain (as much as anything could) episode eight. Sam might run around trying to put right what once went wrong, but obviously, and he's had two really blatant attempts at it now, in eps one and eight, and seven to some extent. Sorting out the villains, or attempting to, isn't enough to set him free. He needs to connect with whatever is keeping him there in 1973. It obviously goes deeper than deserting daddies and rescuing damsels in distress. So far, Sam's only grabbbed at red herrings (keyword: red). The real key has yet to be found. Until then, he won't wake up. And really, it's just too easy to draw a line between Sam's need to wake up and free himself and the zen idea of enlightenment. Sam has yet to have that defining moment, that lightbulb, that flung open doorway.
And that was my brief trip into Zen and the art of Sam.
And, of course, now I've babbled about Sam grabbing at false keys, all I can think of is this, from Interior Desecrations. Oh dear.
And, since everyone's out but I lack the tools for mischief, it's just me, my addled brain, and a keyboard.
I was going to post something on Dante and The Divine Comedy, based upon the theory that Sam is dead and the rabbit hole he's stuck down is actually some sort of purgatory or limbo, but, alas, I lack the scholarship to really dig down deep into this argument, other than to suggest it's one possible reading, and Sam must therefore be on an outer ring, being neither wholly good nor bad, nor is he constantly having red hot pokers thrust up his jacksie. So unless you want to count the odd kidney punch from Gene as suitable punishment, we'll consider Sam a minor offender.
So if Sam is in purgatory, and it seems that the purgatory of his mind is 1973, he must have something to atone for, or some inherent vice he needs to overcome before he reaches paradise or whatever, which rather neatly ties in with the whole concept of enlightenment, only this is the enlightment that one seeks to attain in the afterlife when one dies a sudden and violent death. At least there's a philosophical second chance for those caught short, as it were.
I wonder at what vices might inhabit Sam. Lust? Actually, though he likes to talk the talk, Sam is actually strangely reticent around girls (good manners or morbid dread of girl germs?). Wrath? He does have a temper on him. Violence? Oh yes, not afraid of getting stuck in, our Sam. Treachery? Episode seven. Avarice? He does love his mod cons, possibly as the result of a deprived, single parent childhood. Envy? I think so, just a bit. Pride? Oh yes. "I'm better than this." Sam holds himself above everyone in the CID, and, as Gene constantly tries to remind him by pricking that ego of Sam's, pride goes before a fall.
This is not to say Sam is a bad person. Far from it. Sam's mix of good and bad, wrong and right make him human, interesting, believable and real. Several virtues our Sam demonstably possesses include: liberality, a willingness to give. Sam does give of himself, esecially in deed, knowledge, time and work. He tends to give less of his heart, though, but all those abandonment issues make that understandable, and he is learning, little by little, to open up and trust. Still a ways to go, though, especially as he reagrds the 70s folk as figments (you'd think pissing blood the next morning after a tangle with Gene would persuade him of reality, but not our hero).
Diligence: All those late nights, that anal attention to detail. Sam's work ethic cannot be faulted, except for the fact that he uses it, or it uses him, as a shield against messier, emotional issues. When the going gets tough, Sam throws himself into his work.
Kindness: Without a doubt. He can be snitty, sharp and ungrateful, but he can also be very kind and sweet, foolishly, even, to those whom he thinks deserve it. Several times, Sam's kindness has landed him in trouble (rather like Percival, he picks his quests poorly), but, by and large, he's a nice boy (though I wouldn't ever want to cross him).
Valour: Oh yes. Whether it's running into a brawl sans weapons or protective gear, stepping into the line of fire, standing up for what he believes in or just showing up for work in the morning, Sam is bravery, loyalty and courage personified. He fights the good fight.
Humility: Just to show that our Sam is indeed yin and yang, lightness and dark, he holds the reverse of pride as well, willing to yield to Gene's opnion and experience, occassionally, in action if never in word (Sam never gives up the high ground arguing with Gene), in his quiet moments, Sam does acknowledge, to himself at least, when he's effed up big time.
So there we have it. Whatever rabbit hole Sam is down, possibility there's a bit more personal growth required before Sam can find the door marked exit. And I think I'll leave it there, because, to paraphrase, when I hear the words "personal growth" I want to reach for a revolver.
And now I was hoping to turn to a discussion of Warren and gay gangsters in British film and television, no doubt inspired by Ronnie Kray, but, alas, the email must be back on and there's work piling up like those damn bucket wielding mops in Fantasia.
Warren, in case you've not seen Life on Mars yet (and if not, why not?) is the big nasty fish in the Manchester pond. I think I'll include these quotes here, from the Annotated Martian, just to show how law abiding Life on Mars is when it comes to portraying the British gangster:
You think you know everything, don't you.
I know the stench of rotten apples.
And I know your slag is lying through her teeth, and you wanna know why?
Stephen Warren is a bum-bandit. Do you understand? A poof. A fairy. A queer. A queen. Fudge-packer. Uphill gardener. Fruit-picking sodomite!
As a bloody Christmas tree! Mind you, he is a little touchy on the subject, being a twisted Catholic with an elderly mother at home, so I wouldn't go mentioning it to him. You challenged his authority, so he stitched like you up like a kipper. Pretty girl appealed to your vanity as the only decent sheriff in Dodge City. Slipped you a mickey, tied you up and bounced on your ding-a-ling.
Ah, I don't think I'll ever tire of Gene Hunt in full flight - grin.
And then there's this scene (and I do so wonder if it'll make the BBC America cut):
GENE bursts into the room. There is moaning. WARREN is kneeling in front of a young man, against a wall.
I'm not a Catholic myself, Mr Warren, but isn't there something about "Thou shalt not suck off rent boys"?
The two look up startled. The boy flees. WARREN stands up, doing up his trousers.
How dare you come in here!
You could've said that to the boy.
But, just in case you think I'm creating a genre of gay gangsters where there is none (or just a couple of scenes in Life on Mars), I'll leave you with these quotes from various sources I uncovered in a quick google:
Judging from McDowell‘s fate, to go for the big bankroll, the Italian suits, free ‘n‘ easy ‘birds‘ (though, like many British gangster films, there‘s a broad gay streak) and the respect that comes with sitting in a mess of someone else‘s blood and guts is to choose death.
The same airbrush logic obscures another hugely significant landmark of the gangland vista - the prevalence of homosexuality and homoeroticism, as glimpsed in Mojo, Performance, The Long Good Friday and now Gangster No. 1. To be fair, Love, Honour and Obey could claim one of its cast as openly camp, yet a marginal comic bit part flapping over wedding dresses is a pusillanimous gesture when a figure as pivotal as Ronnie Kray was - to quote Barrie Keeffe - "as legendary for his gayness as his violence". White, straight and basically cuddly: you couldn't wish for a more fallacious photofit of London's crime scene than that of Lock, Stock and its progeny.
You might call it the gay gangster movie, only that doesn't quite cover it. There are no gay characters in Hodges' picture; just the vague suspicion of homosexuality that is cast on Davey (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a wide boy who has killed himself after being raped. It makes the men around him very nervous. If dashing Davey, with his spivvy suits and his two blondes on each arm, could be penetrated, then it's open season on heterosexual males everywhere.
...I think of the British crime picture and I see runty men with pockmarked faces bent over cheap revolvers in low-ceilinged rooms. Where gay men are tolerated in these situations, they are likely to be regarded as jazzy mascots. Think of Colin (Paul Freeman), the poor stooge knifed in the public baths at the start of The Long Good Friday (1980) just as he is getting foxy with a stud played by Pierce Brosnan (who would, of course, go on to play the gayest heterosexual man in cinema). The grief felt by Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) over the death of Colin is palpable, but there is a sense, too, that this gay chum was an accessory, a keepsake, that served only to enhance Harold's heterosexuality, much as Rod Stewart seemed even more straight (if that were possible) for having a gay best friend - also murdered and martyred - in his song "The Killing of Georgie Part 1".
It is from such dank, sad scenarios that the most authentic portraits of British criminal life have emanated, rather than from the faux-cockney burlesques favoured by Guy Ritchie. It was no leap of the imagination, for instance, for the makers of Villain (1971) to conceive of Vic Dakin, a vicious mummy's boy characterised by repressed homosexuality and psychotic outbursts: that little charmer, played by Richard Burton, was based on Ronnie Kray. You can find sex and violence stirred up together in the vulture-like mob boss Sam Ross, played menacingly by Harold Pinter, in Mojo (1997): he molests the boys under his wing, while every man in the film is in thrall to young Silver Johnny, the virginal pop idol who stands to make them a fortune. Big, tough men cooped up in a room with this pretty slip of a kid - there's an image to embody British gangster cinema for you.
But before I go, here's what Wiki has to say about the symbolism of the colour red: Usage, symbolism, and colloquial expressions.
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