Sunday, November 18, 2007

I swallowed a bug

When I lived in the apartment at Fifty-seventh Street and Sixth Avenue, someone began making anonymous telephone calls to me that always followed the same pattern: the phone would ring, I would pick it up and say "Hello," there would be silence and then the caller would hang up. Then a few minutes later, the phone would ring again and the caller would listen intently while I kept repeating, "Who is this? Why don't you say something? Look, I think it would be advisable for you to see a psychiatrist at your earliest convenience."

After about three months, the caller, a woman, spoke for the first time in frightened, tremulous low tones. I asked her who she was and why she kept calling me, and finally wheedled some answers out of her; she said she had been fixated on me for years, ever since A Streetcar Named Desire was on Broadway. I asked her what she did for a living and she said that she was a hold-up artist -- that is, she masterminded robberies, mostly of liquor stores; she planned the "jobs," as she put it, while a deaf-and-dumb friend who drove a motorcycle did the dirty work. After a three-hour conversation, she revealed that for months she and this friend had been making plans to kidnap me and take me to Long Island, where she was going to imprison me and cannibalize me.

--From the best book in the history of life, on this or any other planet

Let me tell you something: no one will ever touch Brando when it comes to sheer, inspired lunacy. He is the platonic ideal of the nutjob. Ninety percent of the crap you hear about him was complete fabrication, but it doesn't matter because the remaining ten percent is so desperately awesome in its absurdity that you want to travel back in time and kiss Brando right on the mouth.

Francis Ford Coppola had observed Brando on Bertolucci's set and hoped for something that momentous from the actor as Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979). He even hoped that Brando could pull the character out of himself. But as I wrote after the 2001 release of Apocalypse Now Redux:

Focused improvisations on sex and food—both of which Brando knew intimately—are one thing; lofty ruminations on the meaning of Good and Evil are something else. In the outtakes included in [the documentary] Hearts of Darkness, you can see Brando scraping the bottom of his own banality. When Coppola prompts him to improvise on the theme of why humans are the only living things that kill for pleasure, Brando chews on a nut and says: "The human animal is the only one that has bloodlust. … Killing without purpose, killing for pleasure. … [Pause] I swallowed a bug."

-David Edelstein

I promise you, people: if you don't go pick up this book, I swear I will imprison and cannibalize you.

1 comment:

thptpth said...

Awwww, don't deprive all us desperate Ebony fans of The Get Down!!