Mar 20, 2013

Cosmopolis


Cosmopolis — David Cronenberg 2012, see the trailer — is the film adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel (Scribner, NewYork, 2003).
“Money has taken a turn,” says Eric’s chief of theory, Vija Kinsky (Samantha Morton, a mesmerizing, droning delivery system), one of the handful of visitors who pop in and out of Eric’s limo, dispensing bad news and aper├žus. The Greeks had a word for the art of moneymaking (“chrimatistikos”), but now, she continues, “all wealth has become wealth for its own sake,” and money, having lost its narrative quality, “is talking to itself.” From the way that Eric’s business is quickly spiraling downward, money appears to have stopped talking to him. This may be why he wants a haircut, but only from his father’s old barber, a yearning that summons up family, tradition, simplicity and those old lost days when money bought something tangible, something you could touch as effortlessly as the bristles of newly shorn hair (ManohlaDargis, Master of a Shrinking Universe,New York Times, August 16, 2012).
You can watch here two clips from the last scene with Benno (Paul Giamatti) — "You have everything tolive and die for. I have nothing and neither. That's another reason to kill you."; You're not against therich. Nobody's against the rich — and read below the excerpt from De Lillo’s Book, 83-92).
"You worked for me. Doing what?"
      "Currency analysis. I worked on the baht."
      "The baht is interesting."
      "I loved the baht. But your system is so microtimed that I couldn't keep up with it. I couldn't find it. It's so infinitesimal. I began to hate my work, and you, and all the numbers on my screen, and every minute of my life."
      "One hundred satang to the baht. What's your real name?"
      "You wouldn't know it."
      "Tell me your name."
      He sat back and looked away. Telling his name seemed to strike him as an essential defeat, the
most intimate failure of character and will, but also so inevitable there was no point resisting.
      "Sheets. Richard Sheets."
      "Means nothing to me."
      He said these words into the face of Richard Sheets. Means nothing to me. He felt a trace of the old stale pleasure, dropping an offhand remark that makes a person feel worthless. So small and
forgettable a thing that spins such disturbance.
      "Tell me. Do you imagine that I stole ideas from you? Intellectual property"
      "What does anyone imagine? A hundred things a minute. Whether I imagine a thing or not, it's real to me. I have syndromes where they're real, from Malaysia for example. The things I imagine become facts. They have the time and space of facts."
      "You're forcing me to be reasonable. I don't like that."
      "I have severe anxieties that my sex organ is receding into my body."
      "But it's not."
      "Shrinking into my abdomen."
      "But it's not."
      "Whether it is or not, I know it is."
      "Show me."
      "I don't have to look. There are folk beliefs. There are epidemics that happen. Men in the
thousands, in real fear and pain."
      He closed his eyes and fired a shot into the floorboards between his feet. He didn't open his eyes
until the report stopped vibrating through the room.
      "All right. People like you can happen. I understand this. I believe it. But not the violence. Not the gun. The gun is all wrong. You're not a violent man. Violence is meant to be real, based on real
motives, on forces in the world that what. That make us want to defend ourselves or take aggressive
action. The crime you want to commit is cheap imitation. It's a stale fantasy. People do it because other people do it. It's another syndrome, a thing you caught from others. It has no history."
"It's all history." He said, "The whole thing is history. You are foully and berserkly rich. Don't tell
me about your charities."
      "I have no charities."
      "I know this."
      "You don't resent the rich. That's not your sensibility"
      "What's my sensibility?"
      "Confusion. This is why you're unemployable."
      "Y?
      "Because you want to kill people."
      "That's not why I'm unemployable."
      "Then why?"
      "Because I stink. Smell me."
      "Smell me," Eric said.
      The subject thought about this.
      "Even when you self-destruct, you want to fail more, lose more, die more than others, stink more than others. In the old tribes the chief who destroyed more of his property than the other chiefs was the most powerful."
      "What else?"
"You have everything to live and die for. I have nothing and neither. That's another reason to kill
you."
      "Richard. Listen."
      "I want to be known as Benno."
      "You're unsettled because you feel you have no role, you have no place. But you have to ask
yourself whose fault this is. Because in fact there's very little for you to hate in this society."
      This made Benno laugh. His eyes went slightly wild and he looked around him, shaking and
laughing. The laughter was mirthless and disturbing and the shaking increased. He had to put the
weapon on the table so he could laugh and shake freely.
      Eric said, "Think."
      "Think."
      "Violence needs a cause, a truth."
      He was thinking of the bodyguard with the scarred face and air of close combat and the hard squat Slavic name, Danko, who'd fought in wars of ancestral blood. He was thinking of the Sikh with the missing finger, the driver he'd glimpsed when he shared a taxi with Elise, briefly, much earlier in the day, in the life, a time beyond memory nearly. He was thinking of Ibrahim Hamadou, his own driver, tortured for politics or religion or clan hatreds, a victim of rooted violence driven by the spirits of his enemies' forebears. He was even thinking of Andre Petrescu, the pastry assassin, all those pies in the face and the blows he took in return.
      Finally he thought of the burning man and imagined himself back at the scene, in Times Square,
watching the body on fire, or in the body, was the body, looking out through gas and flame.
      "There's nothing in the world but other people," Benno said.
He was having trouble speaking. The words exploded from his face, not loud so much as impulsive, blurted under stress.
      "I had this thought one day. It was the thought of my life. I'm surrounded by other people. It's buy and sell. It's let's have lunch. I thought look at them and look at me. Light shines through me on the street, I'm what's the word, pervious to visible light."
      He spread his arms wide.
      "I thought all these other people. I thought how did they get to be who they are. It's banks and car parks. It's airline tickets in their computers. It's restaurants filled with people talking. It's people
signing the merchant copy. It's people taking the merchant copy out of the leather folder and then signing it and separating the merchant copy from the customer copy and putting their credit card in
their wallet. This alone could do it. It's people who have doctors who order tests for them. This alone," he said. "I'm helpless in their system that makes no sense to me. You wanted me to be a helpless robot soldier but all I could be was helpless."
      Eric said, "No."'
      "It's women's shoes. It's all the names they have for shoes. It's all those people in the park behind the library, talking in the sun."
      "No. Your crime has no conscience. You haven't been driven to do it by some oppressive social
force. How I hate to be reasonable. You're not against the rich. Nobody's against the rich. Everybody's ten seconds from being rich. Or so everybody thought. No. Your crime is in your head. Another fool shooting up a diner because because."
      He looked at the Mk.23 lying on the table.
      "Bullets flying through the walls and floor. So useless and stupid," he said. "Even your weapon is a fantasy. What is it called?"
      The subject looked hurt and betrayed.
      "What's the attachment that abuts the trigger guard? What is it called? What does it do?"
      "All right. I don't have the manhood to know these names. Men know these names. You have the experience of manhood. I can't think that far ahead. It's all I can do to be a person."
      "Violence needs a burden, a purpose."
      He pressed the muzzle of his gun, Eric did, against the palm of his left hand. He tried to think
clearly. He thought of his chief of security flat on the asphalt, a second yet left in his life. He thought of others down the years, hazy and nameless. He felt an enormous remorseful awareness. It moved through him, called guilt, and strange how soft the trigger felt against his finger.
      "What are you doing?"
      "I don't know. Maybe nothing," he said.
      He looked at Benno and squeezed the trigger. He realized the gun had one round left just about the time it fired, the briefest instant before, way too late to matter. The shot blew a hole in the middle of his hand.
      He sat head down, out of ideas, and felt the pain. The hand went hot. It was all scald and flash. It seemed separate from the rest of him, pervertedly alive in its own little subplot. The fingers curled, middle finger twitching. He thought he could feel his pressure drop to shock level. Blood ran down both sides of the hand and a dark discoloration, a scorch mark, began to spread across the palm.
      He shut his eyes against the pain. This made no sense but then it did in a way, intuitively, as a
gesture of concentration, his direct involvement in the action of pain reducing hormones.
      The man across the table was folded over in his shroud. There seemed nothing left for him,
anywhere, that might be worth doing or thinking about. Words fell out of the towel, or sounds, and he held one hand over the other, the bent hand pressing the still, the flat, the other hand, in identification and pity.
      There was pain and there was suffering. He wasn't sure if he was suffering. He was sure Benno
was suffering. Eric watched him apply a cold compress to the ravaged hand. It wasn't a compress and it wasn't cold but they agreed unspokenly to use this term for whatever palliative effect it might have.
      The echo of the shot rang electrically through his forearm and wrist.
      Benno knotted the compress caringly under the thumb, two handkerchiefs he'd spent some time
spiraling together. At the lower forearm was a tourniquet he'd employed, a rag and pencil arrangemen
      He went back to the sofa and studied Eric in pain. "I think we should talk."
      "We're talking. We've been talking."
      "I feel I know you better than anyone knows you. I have uncanny insights, true or false. I used to watch you meditate, online. The face, the calm posture. I couldn't stop watching. You meditated for hours sometimes. All it did was send you deeper into your frozen heart. I watched every minute. I looked into you. I knew you. It was another reason to hate you, that you could sit in a cell and meditate and I could not. I had the cell all right. But I never had the fixation where I could train the mind, empty the mind, think one thought only. Then you shut down the site. When you shut down the site I was I don't know, dead, for a long time after."
      There was a softness in the face, a regret at the mention of hate and coldheartedness. Eric wanted to respond. The pain was crushing him, making him smaller, he thought, reducing him in size, person and value. It wasn't the hand, it was the brain, but it was also the hand. The hand felt necrotic. He thought he could smell a million cells dying.
      He wanted to say something. The wind blew through again, stronger now, stirring the dust of these toppled walls. There was something intriguing in the sound, wind indoors, the edge of something, the feel of something unprotected, an inside-outness, papers blowing through the halls, the door banging nearly shut, then swinging out again.
      He said, "My prostate is asymmetrical."
      His voice was barely audible. There was a pause that lasted half a minute. He felt the subject regard him carefully, the other. There was a sense of warmth, of human involvement.
      "So is mine," Benno whispered.
      They looked at each other. There was another pause. "What does it mean?"
      Benno nodded for a while. He was happy to sit there nodding.
      "Nothing. It means nothing," he said. "It's harmless. A harmless variation. Nothing to worry about.Your age, why worry?"
      Eric didn't think he'd ever known such relief, hearing these words from a man who shared his
condition. He felt a sweep of well-being. An old woe gone, the kind of half smothered knowledge thathaunts the idlest thought. The hankies were blood-soaked. He felt a peace, a sweetness settle over him.
He still held the gun in his good hand.
      Benno sat nodding in his towel shroud.
      He said, "You should have listened to your prostate."
      "What?"
      "You tried to predict movements in the yen by drawing on patterns from nature. Yes, of course.
The mathematical properties of tree rings, sunflower seeds, the limbs of galactic spirals. I learned this with the baht. I loved the baht. I loved the cross-harmonies between nature and data. You taught me this. The way signals from a pulsar in deepest space follow classical number sequences, which in turn can describe the fluctuations of a given stock or currency. You showed me this. How market cycles can be interchangeable with the time cycles of grasshopper breeding, wheat harvesting. You made this form of analysis horribly and sadistically precise. But you forgot something along the way."
      "What?"
      "The importance of the lopsided, the thing that's skewed a little. You were looking for balance,
beautiful balance, equal parts, equal sides. I know this. I know you. But you should have been tracking
the yen in its tics and quirks. The little quirk. The misshape."
      "The misweave."
      "That's where the answer was, in your body, in your prostate."