Photograph by makeshiftlove, via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY 2.0,
This week, we bring you reviews from three of our issue no. 240 contributors.
The documentary Rocco, which follows the Italian porn actor and director Rocco Siffredi, feels like a hundred perfect short stories. We learn that Rocco carries around a photo of his mother at all times. We watch Rocco and his teenage sons chat in their cavernous and starkly lit climbing gym/weight room in Croatia. We discover that Rocco’s hapless cameraman of many decades, Gabriel, is actually his cousin, a thwarted porn star. During one virtuosic shoot (Rocco Siffredi Anal Threesome with Abella Danger) Gabriel accidentally leaves the lens cap on, which they discover only after shooting the entire scene. There’s a surprising sweetness in Rocco, a man in the twilight of a certain era. “They used to focus on the women’s faces,” he says, sadly. He’s decided to retire. The final scene finds Rocco carrying a giant wooden cross on his back through the hallways of the Kink.com Armory. This tableau is the brainchild of Gabriel. “Because you die for everyone’s sins,” he tells Rocco.
—Emma Cline, author of “Pleasant Glen”
Goodbye, Dragon Inn is about a lot of things: the last ever screening at Taipei’s Fu-Ho Grand Movie Palace; a ticket-taker who wants to gift half of a steamed bun to the projectionist; a young man cruising the theater for sex; and that lonely, amorphous feeling of THE END—not so much death as the cinematic mood of loss. When I heard about Goodbye, Dragon Inn, which was directed by Tsai Ming-liang and released in 2003, I could neither see it in a movie theater nor stream it anywhere. At the time, my brother was quarantining in a high-rise apartment building in Santiago, Chile. He found an illegal copy of it on the internet and sent it to me. I liked the criminality of this exchange. No character in Goodbye, Dragon Inn breaks the law, but it feels like there’s a crime going on. Part of this is due to the rain and the shadows and the grimy brokenness of the Fu-Ho Grand, but it’s mostly because Goodbye, Dragon Inn is a stripped down melodrama of longing. The ticket-taker is the film’s star. At one point, she goes behind the movie screen. The light hits her face. We seem to know nothing about her, but that’s not true. We know how, in the light of the screen, despite the forces that would stop her, she hopes and dreams. In this way, we know her exactly.
—Dan Bevacqua, author of “Riccardo”
I’m currently reading INRI (published in William Rowe’s translation by NYRB/POETS), a book-length poem in which Raúl Zurita remembers the “disappeared” in Chile: those who vanished in the seventies, especially those who were thrown out of planes and helicopters into Chile’s ocean, volcanoes, and deserts. My dear friend Norma Cole gave me the book—her wonderful, learned preface provides an account of the different forms Zurita has used to address Pinochet’s murders. When the trauma of mass death replaces the rich complexity of the lives that have ended, it may take a generation or two for the richness of those lives to reenter the culture, in the past tense, as a memory. But what of a trauma whose existence has been suppressed? Zurita initiates this work of mourning by turning the world upside down, creating a new reality with a place for the knowledge of the dead. As William Rowe writes, “This poem seeks a place where the wound can be included inside the making of a different reality. That place requires a particular type of space, where what has been concealed, expunged from history, can appear.”
This is the kind of book I love—a book that is ambitious for literature itself. Zurita goes as far as he can, he goes to the limit. Sensation enters through the ear, because the victims’ eyes were torn out with hooks before they were thrown into the air. “I can hear the rabbit stunned by the headlights.” The dead are bait for the fish, snow for the mountains. The author enters the poem: first the murdered are “they,” then Zurita appears as himself. Then he joins the murdered “we.”
The Pacific breaks away from the coastline and
falls. First it was the cordilleras and now it is the
sea that falls. From the coast to the horizon it
falls. In an enemy country it is common for
bodies to fall, for the sea to break away from the
coast and fall like the daisies that groan as they
hear the cordilleras sinking where love, where
maybe love, Zurita, moans and weeps because
in an enemy country it is common for the Pacific
to collapse face down like a broken torso on the
INRI is unsparing and sometimes ugly. When dealing with catastrophe, tact can be repellent. The strange title INRI is a salute to Christianity, but Zurita detaches love from the Christian narrative and recognizes it in the Chilean landscape. He proceeds by accretion and repetition of images that go through variations as a fugue, “from horror to love,” as Norma Cole says. There is no consolation, or if so, it is the conviction that life has value even when squandered in holocausts.
—Robert Glück, author of “About Ed”
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