Sunday, February 22, 2015

the last book I ever read (David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, excerpt ten)

from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace:

The most controversial bit of casting in Lost Highway is going to be Richard Pryor as Balthazar Getty’s boss at the auto shop. Meaning Richard Pryor as in the Richard Pryor who’s got the multiple sclerosis that’s stripped him of 75 pounds and affects his speech and causes his eyes to bulge and makes him seem like a cruel child’s parody of a damaged person. In Lost Highway, Richard Pryor’s infirmity is mean to be grotesque and to jar against all our old memories of the “real” Pryor. Pryor’s scenes are the parts of Lost Highway where I like David Lynch least: Pryor’s painful to watch, and not painful in a good way or a way that has anything to do with the business of the movie, and I can’t help thinking that Lynch is exploiting Pryor the same way John Waters likes to exploit Patricia Hearst, i.e. letting the actor think he’s been hired to act when he’s really been hired to be a spectacle, an arch joke for the audience to congratulate themselves on getting. And yet at the same time Pryor’s symbolically perfect in this movie, in a way: the dissonance between the palsied husk on-screen and the vibrant man in our memory means that what we see in Lost Highway both is and is not the “real” Richard Pryor. His casting is thematically intriguing, then, but coldly, meanly so, and watching his scenes I again felt that I admired Lynch as an artist and from a distance but would have no wish to hang out in his trailer or be his friend.

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