Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Romance of Working Together

Below: clip of Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore cutting a demo of a song they wrote together, from the movie Music and Lyrics--a movie I adore.
(I've met absolutely no one else who does--and the critics hated it. Still, 7+ million hits on youTube for the complete song, Way Back into Love, show I am in the company of many others, probably all girls under sixteen, which is not such a bad thing. The vocals on the full song are by Grant and Haley Bennett; but it's not the pop song I like, it's the relationship between the composer and the lyricist.)

[Note: The original video I'd posted here was removed from youTube because of copyright mumbo-jumbo--this version dubbed in French (sounds like its the actors themselves?) got past the filter--they still sing in English though.]

This is one of my favorite movie scenes, right up there with Erich von Stronheim cutting his geranium in honor of Jean Gabin in "Grand Illusion," though entirely different. [I'm exagerating, but it does give me a lot of delight.]

This movie blew me away when I rented it (for $1 from the Red Box at my local McDonald's) last summer, because it's about what I consider the most erotic relationship between people: not pure sexual attraction (nothing against that, of course) but the generative charge that comes from working in depth on something you love with someone else who loves it.
And that makes "Music and Lyrics" really unusual in the chick-flick Hollywood genre in which it is firmly planted.

(It's more normally depicted as the kind of nonsexual but intensely romantic "buddy love" between guys who, say, work as soldiers or policemen together. Like, "I would die for you, but don't tell anyone about that time in the trenches..." Come to think of it, I think slash is all about that one time in the trenches.)

In the movie, Alex (Grant) and Sophie (Barrymore) aren't attracted to each other at first: he thinks she's a space cadet (she is); and she thinks he's a has-been pop star (he is). They only fall in love after they are thrown into working together--she writes the lyrics and he writes the music in one 3-day rush for Shakira-esque Cora (Bennet), Alex's one chance at a comeback and her chance to redeem her failed writing career.

I was thinking about this kind of love as I was putting together the clips of all the girls Kirk ever kissed for my latest vid: Kirk: "To His Mistress...".
The only woman Kirk [in full possession of his right mind, anyway] seems to love as a person is Edith (Joan Collins!), the social reformer he meets when he (with Spock) travels back in time to Earth in the 1930s, in "The City on the Edge of Forever."
And I suggest he loves her because she DOES something, she works at something he too believes in: the peace of the world, (which supposedly will be achieved by Kirk's time).

Kirk is a sensualist who would never turn down any physical experience, but what all those slashfans are picking up on is that the person he truly loves is the person he shares his work with: Spock.
Whether or not that's a sexual relationship, there's no doubt it's an erotic one (in the sense of containing a ton of generative potential).
And it is Spock with whom Kirk comes forward again in time, not Edith, for whom he is not willing to make the ultimate sacrifice (as he later will for Spock). Which is why I chose the still of Kirk & Spock jumping through the time portal to illustrate the "two perfect loves" line of the Marvell poem--it's also currently my blog-profile photo.

Much as I love "Moonstruck" [post below], it's not for the central romance. I predict that once Ronny (Nicholas Cage) and Loretta (Cher) have been married a while and finished fucking their brains out, they will be in for a really crabby lifetime together. Just think about their personalities--would YOU want to be married to either one? Yeah, they are crazy mad for each other, and it's sexy and romantic, but I don't think they're going to work together. They should have an affair, not a wedding.
Naw, I love that movie for the theology.

Am I middle-aged, or what?
I guess what puts me in the company of the 15-year-olds is that while Alex and Sophie are colleagues, they are super cute movie stars (well, she is anyway!) who have the hots for each other and write an endearing sugar pop song.


Jennifer said...

I'd never thought of the reason why Edith Keeler seems to trump all other women for Jim, but I love your analysis of it. And a very big Yes on the appeal of slash in showing the love of people working for the same goals, something that of course should be possible with heterosexual romance but so rarely is. I'm reminded of the quote that "true love is not gazing at each other, but looking out at something together side-by-side." Most slash fanfiction works from that premise, and I sure would like to see more mainstream romances that do it too. God, how I loathed "You've Got Mail," which basically posits that once Meg Ryan falls in love she no longer needs to care about things like local bookstores being driven under by huge chains. Because she's in luv!


I might be a bit passionate on this subject.

fresca said...

Amazing: You named EXACTLY the movie I was thinking of as the counter-example: "You've Got Mail," which seemed to me the most insidious propaganda for Big Box stores--Meg Ryan falls in love *with* the actual guy who drives her small bookstore out of business, remember? because, you know, he's really a good guy who means well.

I can think of interesting real-life male/female couples whose common work was central to their love: Ray and Charles Eames, who just got US postage stamps in their honor; Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz; even in a weird way Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (problematic example, maybe, but interesting)...

How 'bout in popular culture? Um... "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" comes to mind--a married pair of spies (assassins? whatever they are).
Howard Hawks movies had some such pairs--"To Have and Have Not"; "His Girl Friday"...
I'll try and think of more. Do you have any ideas?

I'm interested that you think that this all is an element in slash. Thanks for writing about it--that world is pretty new to me, and I'm really intrigued what draws me and others (mostly women) to it.

Jennifer said...

"You've Got Mail" made me so angry! "That's a happy ending? She's lost her store, her mother's store, but it's okay because she's been hired by her boyfriend to work at Border's??" I wanted to cry...

I really enjoyed "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," for that reason--how their relationship improved when they were able to share their work life, strange as it may be. :) I'm distressingly stumped on others at the moment, but I'm sure they're out there. I shall rifle through my movie collection when I'm near it.

On the topic of slash, if you're the kind that enjoys academic discussions of such topics, have you found "Textual Poachers" by Henry Jenkins or "Enterprising Women" by Camille Bacon-Smith? They're both a little dated now (written pre-Internet boom, which changed fannish interactions a lot), but they were the first books to really take fans and slash seriously and as such are fantastic.

fresca said...

Hi, Jennifer!
I'm guessing it must be morning in Japan--funny we are both online at the same time!

Oh, good, I'm glad you agreed about the Mr & Mrs. Smith, as I thought it was sort of a weird example.

Yes, the ending of Mail made no psychological sense at all. In real-life psychological terms, their relationship will have a fault line underneath it the size of the San Andreas fault and one day it will crack it apart.

I have posted a couple links to Henry Jenkins's articles on GuGeo--a few posts back, I quoted from him what I thought was the best simple description of slash: (it's what happens when you remove the barrier between Kirk & Spock, the barrier represented by the glass wall in Spock's death scene), and recently I checked the library for "Textual Poachers" and they don't own it, which surprised me.
I'm going to see if I can find a used copy online (right now, in fact, so I don't forget!).

But I haven't heard of "Enterprising Women" before. Thanks!
I will look for it.
Are there any websites you particularly like?
I'm very wary of reading any slash stories, as I know there's a lot of stinkers out there and I don't even want to get near them. I'd love to have some suggestions.

fresca said...

P.S. Why yes, since you ask, I very much do enjoy academic anallysis--or intellectual, rather, as I have deep reservations about the world of academe, having had professors for both a father and a boyfriend--maybe I could just say thoughtful, deep reflection.
That sounds good, eh?

Jennifer said...

It's almost lunchtime here in Japan--the patterns of my online communication are always busy in the morning and evening, then dead in the midday when most people I communicate are asleep.

That's right, of course you quoted the Jenkins previously! *facepalm* I think I actually preferred the Bacon-Smith, although for the life of me I can't remember why.

Recs...yeah, you have to weed through a lot of chaff now. That's one of the major ways the Internet shifted the dynamic of fandom--when there were only zines there was more editorial control--for both better and worse, of course. Now a writer can put just about anything up and get at least a little positive feedback...or none at all but just keep going for the love of it. Which...has its drawbacks when "the love of it" might mean "the love of writing characters in ways that make other people cry with agony."

A lot of fandom action can be found on lately. The communities and journals there are structured so feedback is fairly easy, conversations are handily threaded, and you can have a "friends-list" of people you keep track of. Even then there's still a huge amount of badfic out there, especially for the Big Fandoms. Besides Star Trek, what would you be interested in? Your best bet is usually to find pages with recommendations by people whose tastes you've come to trust, especially with such a long-lived fandom as ST.

For more obscure and literary fandoms, you might want to look at, which collects stories each Christmas in "rare fandoms." Usually not slash, but it's there, and the general quality of stories seems to be high (not with complete reliablity, but people seem to put more love into stories for tiny fandoms). I've been going through this year's archive slowly and enjoyed some of the stories in Jane Eyre, Dune, The Worm Ouroborous, and Narnia especially.

And I much prefer the term "thoughtful, deep reflection" as well. :) Less PoMo jargon, more heart.

fresca said...

Jennifer: Speaking of *facepalm*, I forgot: you are a professor too!
But it seems you know what I mean about jargon and all (and the politics of mammoth institutions like universities and churches too, no doubt).

By the way, Krista of "Thinkery" on my blogroll is a PhD student of Rhetoric at the U here. You might like her.

So, no insult intended--I've been attracted to universities as practically the only American institution that deals in ideas, but I just don't do well in institutions...
(I gave the Catholic Church a real go, too, and that didn't work well either. Which is a bit too bad, since aside from sci-fidom, they are the only place I've found where you can talk in all seriousness about other dimensions! Plus they've got the best cool toys. Not phasers, but close.)

I wrote a long response about slash/fanfic last night--I was sitting at a coffee shop near the art college where your sis and I used to work--and the wi-fi went out, so I just deleted it in a fit of tiredness and annoyance--and also out of a sneeking suspicion that it was a loony rant, though nothing wrong with that on blogs, really, but I think I will write a full post about it instead soon.

The main point was, re fanfic, I realize I can't bear to read fiction these days, and that's the main reason I don't read it. It's like I reached a total saturation point with that form.

R. so highly recommended the novel "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" I tried that recently. At first I was thrilled with it (it is good!), but halfway through I just lost my patience for his characters.
(Tho to be fair, I do think it needed editing, at the best of times.)

Thanks for the tip about livejournal, which makes me realize I do know a couple LJ bloggers who talk about fanfic (including Story by Story, which I just added to my blogroll). I probably will stick with pix and vids for now though, due to the above mentioned problem with fiction.

I am a ton more eager to read more nonfiction about the whole thing--even the physics/astronomy of Star Trek interests me a lot.
I put an interlibrary loan request in for Jenkins's book last night (it wasn't cheap, used, and I'm kinda poor).

But the main thing I'm interested in is learning how to photoshop images and more about moviemaking. I'm even looking into the film/cinema program at the local community college (the art school prices are out of this world). In the meantime, I'll keep playing on my own. It's good!

You really should have a blog! I'd read it!

Anonymous said...

I thought right away of the 2007 film "Once" which has in it the most thrilling and to me tender scene of two young people who hardly know one another singing together. Marketa Irglova, sitting at the piano picking up the melody and then singing along with the young Busker(Glen Hansard)his song, "Falling Slowly" which he composed and sings as a street musician.

I just watched about a dozen video clips for the movie, but not one of them showed that beautiful moment when the two of them realise the pure joy of sharing and blending their voices and instruments in song.

It was frustrating search but at the same time thrilling also for me to hear again something that moved me so fact, to tears! But that's another story. . .

momo said...

"Singing in the Rain" is the movie that comes to mind: it's a movie about making movies, and the romance grows with the working relationship.

momo said...

The quality is crappy, but here's the number that I thought of: they've been up all night working together and they sing "Good Morning"--now she's integrated into the creative duo of the guys, and they riff off each other.

Jennifer said...

Ha, no problem about the professorial stuff. I mostly think of myself as a rather over-degreed teacher at the moment. :)

Re: fanfiction...if you aren't feeling up Murakami at the moment, fanfic is way out, lol. Transcendent love of the characters can sometimes--sometimes!--make up for the appalling writing. But not always.

And I have me a bloggy thing! It's at (Nisshin in the city I live in). It's hardly riveting but we must start somewhere. :)

fresca said...

Hooray, Jen!
And I already learned something new from you blog--the music site. (Music is usually the last thing I'm up on, barring finance.)
I look forward to reading more.