I finished the weekend gone by with a dreadful sense of having pissed it away. In an effort to make my life seem more exciting to myself, I will now list the things I did when I was not staring into space or looking at shite on the internet.
On Saturday afternoon, I went to see a 1950s film called Gun Crazy in the IFI. It is a B-Movie about this guy who is obsessed with guns yet unable to hurt a fly. Sadly for him, he falls in with a bad girl who is also crazy about guns but perfectly able and willing to kill anyone who gets in her way. They embark on a life of crime. You can guess how it ends. The film has a very noir feel to it – great use of shadows and general noir shady-lady action, even if the plot is not really noir as such. For all that the story was maybe a bit slight, it was really well filmed, with some striking shots taken from the back seat of a car (one long tracking shot building up to a bank heist in particular). There was also a lovely tracking shot of the guy walking through a meat packing factory (past endless rows of cadavers) while on his way to do a job. I reckon the film is worth seeing just for the look of it, though I wish they had been showing The Big Combo, the originally advertised film by the same director.
On Saturday night, I watched a DVD of film Aguirre – Wrath of God. This was Werner Herzog's breakthrough film, and it starred Klaus Kinski as the eponymous conquistador. Together with Fitzcarraldo and The Making of Fitzcarraldo it forms a loose trilogy of films about nutters boating up and down the Amazon. In this one, Aguirre is taking part in an expedition to find the fabled city of El Dorado, which the Spanish believe to be located somewhere down the Amazon. The opening scene communicates the folly of this endeavour, as we see an army of conquistadors humping loads of crap down the side of a mountain into the jungle. It is easy to tell that this will not end well, and indeed it does not – by the end of it, Aguirre is trying to conquer the world with an army of squirrel monkeys. That is an odd thing about this film – it is a tale of madness and delusion, but it is oddly humorous. It also has one of the great spooky film soundtracks of all time, by the Krautrock sensations Popul Vuh.
On Sunday afternoon I went to visit the Dublin Jewish Museum, one of the great local attractions I had never hitherto made it to. Where I live is broadly speaking the heart of what was once the Jewish area of Dublin (with the Jewish community reputedly now concentrated out in Terenure). The museum is a great old-school museum, largely just a collection of random bits of stuff. At times I got the impression that this was a museum primarily aimed at the Dublin Jewish community, with the preponderance of old photos being so that people could see what their neighbours parents used to look like. There is some wonderful detail in it. The first mention of Jews in Ireland comes from some monasteries annals, where it records several arriving from abroad on a boat and then being sent away again*. I also liked the photographs of all the taxis some guy owned.
I have tended to think of Ireland as somewhere largely untroubled by anti-Semitism, for all that there were some unsavoury incidents**. The museum made me think again about this, as it has a section reproducing some rather crazy pamphlets produced the odder end of Irish life. I was also struck by several reproduced advertisements from the Dublin Tweed Company, who proudly boasted that no Jews were in their employ. That said, you do not really get much sense from the museum that Irish Jews led or lead now a sadface life of endless persecution.
One thing I thought the Jewish Museum could have done better would be to give out (or sell) some kind of local area map that would guide you to what were once Jewish community centres or businesses in the area. They could probably get sponsorship for this from the Bretzel, this being a local bakery, no longer owned by Jews but still making kosher bread and thus, apart from the museum, the only functioning link to the area's Jewish past. Sadly, the Bretzel's treats have been outsourced and are now non-kosher***, so eat them at your peril.
That evening I finished reading The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin's novel about weirdo androgynous aliens and their funny planet. I will talk more of this subsequently, but the many Le Guin fans reading will be pleased to hear that I enjoyed this book a lot.
*It seems like that was a particularly exciting time for the monastic chronicler. One of the four other noteworthy things that happened that year was the local bishop having a rest somewhere.
**of which the Limerick pogrom is the most notorious. Although nothing like the kind of pogrom you would get in Tsarist Russia, this early 20th century boycott of Jewish businesses did see many Jewish people flee from that city; given that this is Limerick we are talking about, some may say that the boycott was indirectly doing them a favour.
***what do you do to confectionary to make it non-kosher?