Tuesday, March 25, 2008

But what does it have to do with Yeats?

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
---Those dying generations---at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

William Butler Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium

So DW goes off to church on Sunday morning, and I sit down to watch the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men. I, of course, was expecting a period piece about Yeats's trip from his homeland to the Continent to appreciate antiquities.

Instead, I get something coming from my own homeland of West Texas. This connection notwithstanding, I spent the entire film trying to figure out whether it was an adaptation of Yeats's poem or something else entirely. Sailing to El Paso would be more like it. I just couldn't figure it out.

I really liked this movie. The plot is nothing spectacular, and it would hard to divine some kind of deeper meaning from the film. But it is an excellent film nevertheless, if not quite the masterpiece that is There Will be Blood. A Texas ne'er-do-well (Josh Brolin) comes across some drug money and steals it, only to be chased through West Texas by a crazy hit man (Javier Bardem), who, in turn is chased by another hitman from his own organization (Woody Harrelson). The local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) is also chasing Brolin, mostly to save him from Bardem. Bardem deserves all of the praise he's been given; his character was frighteningly crazy and delciously creepy. Tommy Lee Jones didn't have as much screen time as I would have expected (or would have liked; I'd watch Tommy Lee Jones read the phone book), but his character is the old man who realizes that he is out of his element with archcriminals like Bardem's character on the loose. It really was no country for old men. The harsh storyline was matched by the harsh country of West Texas, much of which appears hot and lifeless. I, for one, liked the Sopranos-like ending, with the now-retired sheriff chatting away about nothing important. He isn't doing anything important, but he is alive.


Anonymous said...

I'm a huge Cormac McCarthy fan. While this wasn't my favorite of his books*, I did enjoy the reaction to the end of the London teenagers in the row behind me in the nearly empty theatre: 'Wot?!'


* Although I wouldn't call it 'uplifting', and despite the snoot in me reacting against l'Oprah, I think any father would be well served to consider reading McCarthy's The Road. Be forewarned: it is not for the delicate. By contrast, everyone who is anyone should read the Border Trilogy (including All the Pretty Horses).

Randy said...

Hi, cka; how's life at the LSE?

Thanks for the recommendations. I shall have to order a copy of The Road and put it in the queue in my bedroom. Right now I'm reading Redemption Falls in bits and pieces. The book is so rich that I can only digest a couple of chapters at a time. That, and we're doing several home-improvment projects that take up my time.

Speaking about books about fathers, my mother-in-law bought me a book titled Fathers and Sons in the Book of Mormon shortly after I married her daughter. I've thought about passing it on to Gentle Reader Lawyer Bill, but I wouldn't get to see the horrified look on his face when he opened the package, so I probably won't. Unless he wants it, that is.

Anonymous said...

So that's where the movie title "No Country for Old Men" comes from.