Where’d the Van Gogh? At Eternity’s Gate

Ever since The Florida Project, I’ve devoted myself to be a life long Willem Dafoe fan, so unless the guy’s in an untra-violent film, I’ll be at his cinematic door step. And At Eternity’s Gate proves again that his acting talent should be rewarded in the industry. He won’t win the Golden Globe for which he’s nominated and if it’s anyone else but Rami Malek, popcorn will be flung at the tv. If Bradley Cooper wins, I may throw the entire bag.

Speaking of Golden Globes, former winner Julian Schnaebel (for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly-probably one of my top 20 of all time) directed At Eternity’s Gate and while it didn’t affect me as greatly as shortened title “The Bell” did in 2007, At Eternity’s Gate evokes the true spirit of a a sensitive and misunderstood painter.

If the French teenagers were portrayed accurately, there were some mean kids back in the 1890’s bullying poor Vincent. The French are stereotypically not your friendliest group, and this movie certainly further contributes to that idea. Additionally, like Mike Meyers did in Bohemian Rhapsody as Joe Record Producer (have to get to my Christmas retail job, otherwise I’d look that up), many a man and woman questioned and discouraged poor Vincent, going as far as calling his work ugly and disturbing.

The film makes me want to look up more about his demise and I will do so once the holiday mayhem slows down. At Eternity’s Gate is another acting ‘masterpiece’ for Willem. Oscar Isaac, while I’m not a fan, does well as a self-absorbed Gaugin and in a Mike Meyeresque semi-caemo, former The Diving Bell and the Butterfly star, Mathieu Amalric plays bemused VanGogh’s doctor.

At Eternity’s Gate might garner Dafoe a Golden Globe in an alternate intellectual society and is definitely worth appreciating for its philosophical age old question; what is art? Likewise, just as it was mesmerizing to watch Day-Lewis as a living breathing Lincoln, watching Dafoe walk, paint, run and even urinate (yes you read that right) as a living VanGogh is highly entertaining.

Venus in Fur: Piled High

In the most recent AARP newsletter, the author Nicholson Baker inferred his indifference to the hubbub regarding the naughty aspects of 50 Shades of Gray and I have to agree. Meaning, sex is extremely enjoyable in its basic form which is also why I’m pretty naïve to sexual fetishes. So I was surprised and intrigued by the psychological theories surrounding Dominatrix roles, specifically those of heterosexual women in the premise of Roman Polanski’s latest Venus in Fur.

Venus in Fur was originally a French novel from the late 1800’s that American David Ives adapted into a play. The basic plot is a play within a play, where an exasperated drama director reluctantly auditions a woman who ends up questioning the motivations of his story.

The ultimate hypothesis is that women who dominate are still ultimately submissive to men because they are fulfilling the role a man desires.

This had me thinking about women and feminism in general. Women have worked so hard to be equals of men, yet may have inadvertently allowed men to stop striving and caring about work and relationships . In relationships for instance, men may still ‘win’, when women control all aspects of that dynamic, especially because as a rule, men care less about the details of life.

I do not have statistics on this next thought, just experiential accounts, but my guess is that more women initiate divorce than men because men are more likely to go with the flow and realize the grass might not be greener on the opposite side. Marriages I have observed where the man is mistreated (verbally abused), may tolerate the situation due to any combo of the following: conditioning (meaning his mom was mean to his dad, too), the shame and disgrace of ‘quitting’, protection of financial status, or perhaps knowing the benefits of stability outweigh the risks of finding yet another cuckolding situation.

In the film Venus in Fur, Mathieu Almaric (a wonderful actor I first saw in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) plays Thomas, the writer and drama director. While I don’t personally think he ‘wins’, it’s only because I wouldn’t want to be abused. If indeed he was conditioned as a child (which is the back story, that as a youth he was sexually abused by his aunt involving spankings and fur)to associate pain with pleasure, then he does win. But does that necessarily mean the female Dominatrix ‘loses’ if she enjoys being superior?

At the risk of oversimplifying, I can’t help but think that the premise is just another indication that women are never satisfied. They don’t want to be inferior, yet as superiors, they still feel less than empowered. Hence, my aforementioned point of why men must just shake their heads and acquiesce. I am really glad I’m not a man, yet this is why I certainly do not understand many of my own gender.

I did thoroughly enjoy Venus in Fur and have to wonder if posing these interesting psychologies doesn’t help Roman vindicate himself from his sexual transgression from long ago still keeping him in asylum. Certainly marrying someone almost half his age (the female lead in the film is his real life wife Emmanuelle Seigner) shows his natural desire to connect with youth. The only difference being that once he became an older man, youth was no longer adolescent and illegal.