/ Institutions /
Jules and Jim hit theaters in the early 1960s. I was in the army, drafted, stationed in NYC. I loved that movie: and something somebody said about it (it could have been me) stuck. It’s been bouncing around ever since, particularly the past couple of weeks, particularly in relation to other movies: movies in which mostly conventional people get broadsided by things being more conventional that even they realize.
Jules and Jim are unconventional. And by the end they get it in the neck.
with their friend, “Thomas”
They think they can reinvent society, reinvent marriage, bend the rules. Here Jeanne Moreau, surely one of the great roles ever, pretends to be a boy: and cheats to win the race.
Let me announce some of the novels (and movies) I have in mind, then use them as it suits: War & Peace, Anna Karenina, Daniel Deronda, The Forsyte Sage …
In Daniel Deronda rich son-of-a-bitch Henleigh Grandcourt woos fair-haired imbecile Gwendolen Harleth. He gives her horses, jewels: leads her to believe that the showers of luxury will continue. She thinks she’ll have her own way. The minute they’re actually married, Gwendolen realizes she’s been had: the worst sort os swindle: she’s been cheated with her eyes wide open: she knows English law, she knows the Church of England: she thinks she’s the cheater: Oh, no, my dear: you allowed yourself to become chattel: now you’re being used: as chattel.
In War & Peace Helene, married to Pierre, talks openly about who she’ll marry: huh? she is married. Oh, no: Christian law doesn’t apply to Helene. In Anna Karenina once Anna falls for Vronsky, she treats her marriage to Karenin as an unfortunate inconvenience: her husband is the scoundrel she loves: Vronski; not the boor she’s married to. In The Forsyte Sage Soames proposes to Irene. She says she’ll accept provided that he’ll let her go if she changes her mind. Honey, you fool Vampyra, you can’t change your mind in Christianity! Not in the Church of England! Not in English law! Say Yes, and you’re chattel: end of story.
Going into the art business in the 1970s I thought I could make deals with people, I put restrictions on what my customers could do in reselling the art I sold them. No, no, Paul: once their check cleared that art was theirs: they were guided by the law, not by any restrictions I imposed on them. I thought they were crooks, they though I was a fool. They weren’t crooks; their check cleared!
Jan and I watched six or eight episodes of The Forsyte Sage over the past couple of weeks. Irene drove me crazy. She doesn’t like Soames after all, she wants out: “But you promised!” Soames ignores their promise, he follows the law: the law that says that he’s the law, that he need not keep promises, just keep the law: the law where he’s the law: the male property owner. It drove me crazy how much like Helene Irene succeeds.
What really drove me crazy was the extent to which the characters in the novel sympathize with Irene’s Romantic twaddle. Soames fucks her, it revolts her, she rushes to the loo and slushes his cum down the drain with a douche. Fine: but then she brags of it! No, no: he could have you burned as a witch, flayed as a murderess! The other characters share the architect’s opinion that Soames has raped Irene! No he didn’t, he can’t have. He’s her husband! He owns her! He owns her ass, he owns her cuny (Bowdlerizing K. 2016 07 29), he owns her fertility! She’s his property! The law can’t tell a white male Christian property-holder what he can and can’t do with his property! He can’t rape her! No matter what he does, it isn’t rape!
Soames starts an art collection. It’s in Queen Victoria’s last years. We see the paintings on the wall of a gallery, the opening attended by bankers, soliciters. They’re showing French Impressionists! Nonsense. Soames would have been repelled by the Impressionists. Not even Doctor Barnes bought the Impressionists at the same the paintings were being painted! The TV series makers were dishonest about a stack of things.
When Adam carried bacon to Eve even after she delivered Abel, that was marriage, the beginning. Marriage was whatever those two did. But not once there’s been a Moses, and a bishop of Canterbury: the members of the wedding no longer have any say.
I recently scribbled something parallel: Forsyte, the Gaul (and am embarrassed to realize I’d totally forgotten!)