Thursday, May 19, 2011

Musical Impact - 'Veronica' by Elvis Costello

Sometimes the magic of a truly exceptional song hits you when you least expect it. This happened to me recently with Elvis Costello's 'Veronica', a song I'd loved when I first heard it. It came on the other day on a Pandora station I was listening to while out in public, so it was an inopportune time for me to get extremely emotional. I was surrounded by people and almost had to run away, since I was in tears, but I kept my composure as well as I could while listening to the song through my headphones. I was then struck by how incredibly effective a song can be in stirring emotions you never knew were there. When that song is a legitimately great one. Elvis Costello's 'Veronica' is co-written by Paul McCartney, who also plays bass on the track, and the song is co-produced by T-Bone Burnett. It's a beautiful, emotion-filled, catchy tune. A perfect pop song. 

But Elvis Costello wrote this song for his grandmother, 'Veronica', and it depicts so movingly, with the greatest artistry and such intricate lyrics, his experience in watching her struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Although I'm not witnessing this experience as he did, since my grandmother is geographically far away from me, I now have a grandmother like 'Veronica' too. Despite my infinite number of questions to my mom (who has been witness to the way the disease has affected my grandmother) about this confusing experience, my emotions about it were somehow locked away. 

I thought this song was beautiful before. But now it has touched on new feelings in me, because of an awareness of this disease that has affected my family. They are feelings I could not have grasped until now. Elvis Costello, with this one lovely song, made me understand with great intensity what we're dealing with here. It's something very mysterious to which any wonderful person, so full of life and experience named 'Veronica', someone who could be anyone's grandmother or grandfather', can sadly fall victim. 

This is the sort of music I will always treasure. There's so much more I could say about it, but I am grateful for Elvis Costello for giving me that good cry I seemed to need–––and for doing his best to clarifying for others what happens to be a very confusing experience. We all know that there is so much more to our own Veronicas than what we are left with.

I'll leave you with the beautifully poignant song here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Julie Christie in 'Darling' is anything but... (1965)

'Darling' has been an interesting film for me to experience over time. When I first watched it, years ago, I felt as if it were my duty as a fan of the 'Swinging Sixties' era to see it. I was initially curious about the film since Julie Christie had (deservedly) won the Best Actress Oscar for it in 1965. This was the breakthrough performance that made her a bona fide English star. John Schlesinger directed it, so it had to have some depth. But I wondered at the time what it all meant. I wondered what the point of it was. 
After watching it again recently, whatever I hadn't grasped before was abundantly clear. The character of Diana Scott in 'Darling' is anything but what the title suggests. The film manages to show us there are Diana Scotts, of varying degrees, in our world - both then and now. Diana is someone whose only talent lies in getting whatever she wants. 
She admits to it early on as she describes her life - that even as a child, she was always someone who was picked for things. She is incredibly self-centered and opportunistic. There is absolutely no meaning in her life other than to get satisfaction in some way. Every moment of her existence and in every experience she has with other people is reduced - by her - to simply being about her. Every relationship she has must service her own needs. Not once in the entire journey we take with Diana Scott does she think about someone else's feelings. She is, in fact, one of the most deplorable, selfish and unattractive female characters in the history of films. 
Julie Christie plays Diana Scott with a very believable but chillingly singular beat. She may have varying emotions, but she maintains the same rhythm no matter what the situation. 'I, me, mine' is her mantra. It is understandable that decent people can be taken with her, since she has a childlike charm and innocence. But there are moments when it's staggeringly evident that Diana Scott is nothing short of a monster. 
Diana Scott's journey is one that allows her to go from London housewife, to mistress, to famous actress, to a European princess. Perhaps all of the visions or hopes that any attractive woman might have ever had for herself, Diana Scott manages to experience in her lifetime. Yet she is never grateful and she is never happy. Even she doesn't seem to realize it, as she alters much about herself when she retells her story in voiceover for a magazine article. And at the end of the film, despite her every questionable act or behavior, no one in the public is even aware how void of humanity this woman is when they see her photo on the cover of a magazine and pick up a copy. To the outside world she has lived a charmed life and she is darling. It's chilling to think how many successful (or simply famous) people today might fit that very description. Now I see where Schlesinger was going with this. 'Darling' speaks volumes about people who incessantly seek attention, validation or power. This vehicle we're seeing might be a thing of beauty, but it is void of humanity... and therefore leads a sad existence.