Monday, 22 November 2010

Midnight. One more night without sleepin'...

... actually it's 2.33am. I wake up, restless and wide awake. Blast. That's the third night in a row. When my back was really bad a couple of months ago, they prescribed something tetrapazam-based called Myolastan, a muscle relaxant. For weeks on end I took it last thing at night and slept perfectly and without pain. There were some declared side effects that I won't trouble a lady or gentleman like you with. Also it might become addictive, the notes in the pack said. The notes didn't say anything about total suppression of the creative imagination. Not good. Now that things are improving, three nights ago I felt it was time to wean myself off it. Easier said than done.

I get up, go downstairs and make a cup of tea, take a couple of chunks of F & N and turn the television on, but without the sound. One does not wish to cause household disturbance at quarter to three in the morning. Our TV package has hundreds of Europe-wide channels. Our regular channels have closed down for the night, but there's still a vast choice for the nighthawk and the sleepless. I try channel 30 at random.

Channel 30 has bought in some Venezuelan all-in wrestling. Various muscle-bound muchachos, some hideously made up and costumed, descend a flight of stairs to the ring amid strobe lights and swirls of coloured smoke, accompanied by adoring hip-swaying chicas in spangled bikinis. There are no rules. The wrestlers just throw each other about the ring as they feel like it. Presently a blonde bloke appears, classically beautiful, could have modelled for Michaelangelo, with a slight hint of camp about him. He has 'Marco' in sparkly letters across the front of his codpiece-tight shorts and 'Ocram' across his bume. A wit, evidently. The muchachos set on him. No swaying chicas accompany his stretcher back up the stairs. The crowd waves and stamps, delirious, ecstatic with pleasure.

I move on. Maybe a film will fill the wakeful hours? Our package groups films between channels 100 and 112. On 100 there's a film about Eric Tabarly, the epic French solo yachtsman. It's mostly black and white and depends on sound, so I move on.

On 101 a terrified girl with a torn dress is being threatened by grinning demons. On 102 some poor woman is being viciously attacked by some bloke in the toils of anguish. (I should recognise this film, but I don't.) On 103 a young couple are having a violent argument in a hotel bedroom. When a knife appears I move on to 104, where a gang of unlovely youths is arguing about a girl, pulling her this way and that. On 105 a not very beautiful woman is being raped. I go back to Eric Tabarly, who has just lost his mast. Is this a sly metaphor for our condition?

It occurs to me that 102 is in fact The Piano Teacher, a very fine film - tho' very Austrian - starring Isabelle Huppert and featuring some sublime pathos-ridden Schubert*. I return to it, but it's the sacrificial end, Mlle Huppert has just stabbed herself and is wandering away into the Viennese night to bleed to death.

I give up and go back to bed with much to think about. There's a thesis claiming that any cultural product, film, play, painting, novel, whatever, can only exist to fulfil or reflect a sometimes subconscious social need. What kind of people are we?

Maybe tonight I'll sleep better. I deserve to.

*Piano trio in E flat, Op. 100. Here's the slow movement. (If all three players don't appear, click on the image. The original You Tube excerpt should come up. Thank you, Vicus, for pointing this out.)

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