Saturday, 10 November 2007

Change, Zen and Politics


While I was writing that last post, I couldn't help but think of Grant Morrison's favourite movie, O Lucky Man!. Directed by Lindsay Anderson and starring Malcolm McDowell, it's an absurd satire punctuated by musical performances by Alan Price and his band (who end up wandering through the movie for a while during its later stages... yeah, it's that sort of film). One of the best songs, 'Changes', starts with the following lines, which ring through my head every time I think about The Wire:

Everyone is going through changes
No one knows what's going on.
And everybody changes places-
But the world still carries on.
I should note that I'm not comparing The Wire to O Lucky Man! in any concrete way -- when considered alongside the grounded, steady build of The Wire, Anderson's movie can't help but seem totally fucking unhinged. O Lucky Man! makes its points about the destructive greed of unfettered capitalism and the naivety of humanist optimism through broad farce and surreal, rambling adventure -- whether you like the film or not, you can't judge it by the same criteria you'd apply to The Wire.
Me, I like it, but then I would. The film's last scene sticks with me: is that look on McDowell's face a look of beaten obedience, or does it suggest a zen acceptance of the nature of existence? I know Anderson intended the zen interpretation, but I like the ambiguity. And I can't help but wonder about whether there is such a clear distinction between these two readings. An exchange from Grant Morrison's The Invisibles comes to mind:

JACQUI: 'We don't have to "do" anything. Surely you can see you've ended up needing your enemy to make you who you are. You couldn't live without them now...'

KING MOB: 'Bollocks! Zen for "I just can't be bothered." Maybe you can happily sit there and watch out freedom and our souls being taken away, hoping some benevolent nonentity from the sky's going to save us all at the last second... I have to do something.'

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