Wednesday, May 04, 2005

That's Not Funny.

The usual technique, among the literati, is to pretend like absurd events aren't absurd at all, by making one's characters accept them as if they're everyday happenings. The idea is that when juxtaposed with the otherwise normal behavior and a detached narrative, bizarre events become even more unsettling.

What Louis Malle does in Le Souffle au Coeur, which I found interesting, is make the characters fully aware of the ridiculousness of their situations. Yet the characters, instead of evincing the usual corny mouth-agape/wide-eyed/whatever expression of shock, just laugh. Oh, my older brothers are molesting me. Hahaha. Oh, now we're comparing penis size. Hahahaha. The final scene shows the entire family sitting in the hotel room, dissolved into laughing fits. It's probably important to point out that the laughter is just normal, easy laughter - it's not hysterical or affected or uncomfortable.

So what does this mean? I am reminded of this excellent quote by Dave Barry, even though he really doesn't do it for me as a comedic writer:
A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how we express the anxiety we feel at this knowledge.
Like it's okay to get all worked up about love or sex or religion, and read Proust and Camus and Goethe, but sometimes events are just too big and too vast, and at that point it's helpful to be able to just laugh at how ridiculous it is, how ridiculous you are, how utterly unimportant everything actually is in the scheme of things.


I don't mind sounding like a pretentious ass in order to admit that I've fallen head over ears in love with French film. Within the past month, I've watched Amelie, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, and Le Souffle au Coeur. Despite being vastly different, they all seem to share a peculiar tenderness/reverence for their subject matter that tickles me in just the right way.

A trolling of my tracker has revealed the following:
- Tito Perez relates this to a really interesting Umberto Eco quote. One day I will sit down and read an Eco book, I swear.
- Patricia of BookLust writes a really swishy post about the true nature of humor. Far from being a defense mechanism, a shying away from reality, perhaps it's only through humor that we can accept the bleakness of reality. Her talent to amuse might just be a talent for telling the truth.