Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dream Dragons

I've never quite understood compulsive liars. It seems obviously hollow to garner any praise or develop any relationships based on lies. But such people certainly exist, and on the internet the methods a compulsive liar can use to feed his or her compulsion are numerous and easily achieved--unless they're seeking to elude someone who can track IP addresses, one needs simply a different name and they can become a different person, and there are ways of evading even sophisticated means of detection. So I take it as a fact of life that someone I've "just met" may in fact be an alt of someone I've already met. Now and then I even fancy I can detect some hint of someone who I might have known under a different name trying to reforge a relationship with me while ignoring all the baggage we might have or using a different name to spread trash about myself or my comic in different forums. I don't particularly care if that happens--I don't easily become invested in friendships online, and if something more than casual acquaintance builds through a genuine exchange of ideas--which really can't be faked--I wouldn't mind, though I suspect that can never happen as unspoken issues and resentment have a way of restraining people whether they like it or not. And my comic speaks for itself for those willing to read it properly. Those who can't figure this out on their own would probably have trouble understanding a lot of works of art. I'm more annoyed by the idea of people posing as me, or other people being taken as alts of mine, which is why I periodically like to stress here that I don't use alts with the intent to deceive anyone. If I'm posting somewhere under a different name and I'm talking to someone who knows me here or elsewhere, I like to make it clear I'm me. Though, unless it's Second Life or WoW, I always register myself as Setsuled.

But I enjoyed Billy Liar, which I watched last night. At first I thought Billy Fisher, the character of the title, was simply a completely deluded young man, dreaming of himself as the ruler of a country while stuck in a small town, not getting anywhere with the novel he's supposedly writing beyond deciding how his name ought to appear on the first page. I quite sympathised with the characters around him, exasperated by the self-absorption that prevents him from helping anyone else, doing his job, or being true to one girl.

As the film progresses, though, it becomes evident how the environment and people around Billy have contributed to his psychological crippling. He goes out with two girls, neither of whom he seems particularly to like, because he hasn't the guts to break up with either of them, all but begging them both to break up with him. He day dreams about being dictator of a fictional country called Ambrosia, about gunning down people who irritate him. When his grandmother dies near the end of the film, he pictures an enormous military funeral where he delivers a eulogy mentioning how his grandmother had discovered penicillin. It's the only way he can articulate to himself what she meant to him--he can only see value in himself and others in fantastic extremes--his daydreams are a way of escaping from the impossible real life. The smaller steps necessary to attaining success are far more frightening.

He tells his friends and family that the reason he's quitting his job at a mortuary is that he's gotten a job writing scripts for a famous comedian named Danny Boon. When Billy manages to speak to Boon in a hotel, I expected Boon to totally brush him off, but instead Boon tells him he doesn't employ scriptwriters, though if Billy's in London Boon would be happy to hear ideas he might pitch to him. Which sounded to me like an incredibly generous thing for an established comedian to say to guy who'd just come in off the street, but it's not as grand as Billy had wanted so it seems an impossibility to him.

When at a dance hall later Billy tells his third girlfriend, Liz, that he wrote the song the band starts playing I assumed he was lying but it's later revealed to be the truth. So Billy isn't all surface. Liz, played by Julie Christie, comes across as a remarkably wise and intelligent young woman who sees through Billy and wants him to succeed. She represents one force pulling on him while the other is the one holding him in his small Yorkshire town, given voice by the adults in his life who constantly berate Billy for his uselessness and above all for his lack of gratitude. It's a world of people seeking validation by crushing the ego of the weakest link.

In a way, the movie can be seen as Star Wars if Luke Skywalker never left Tatooine. It was a good, English New Wave film. With the French and Italian New Wave films I've been watching, it occurred to me last night that New Wave really is the cinematic answer to the beat literary movement--they have the same gritty, episode feel of a Kerouac novel, of a protagonist moving from place to place encountering new characters.

Also yesterday, Tim showed me the new trailer for Skyrim. I'm looking forward to it, even though the graphics only look slightly better than Oblivion. The Oblivion engine would be good enough for me, anyway. And something about the Elder Scrolls visual style I like is that the people generally look like they're wearing real, credible clothes and armour instead of the lingerie of most fantasy games nowadays.

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