White Stripes, Treehouses, and Owning Mahowny

I haven’t blogged that much this week, but that’s not due to any lack of exciting topics to blog about. The last few days have been quite full actually, due to the fact that I’ve had a rental car and I’ve been trying to make up for lost time. I *did* see the White Stripes with S on Friday night at Stone Mountain (the big granite rock I refused to mention in my other blog), and it was a cool show. I’m not really good at describing concerts, so I’ll leave it at that.

On Saturday, S and I went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to check out their Treemendous Treehouse exhibit, which was also lots of fun. Not sure I have any interpretation here, either, but if you’re in the Atlanta area, check it out. The orchid greenhouse was also pretty cool, especially now that I’ve written about Adaptation.

Tonight, I took advantage of my last night of mobility by going to see Owning Mahowny, staring the wonderful Philip Seymour Hoffmann as Dan Mahowny, a compulsive gambler who defrauds the bank that employs him out of millions of dollars in order to ssutain his gambling habit. It’s a fascinating look at addiction–Mahowny seems to derive little pleasure out of his gambling excursions and the other distractions available at casinos (he refuses the company of a prostitute; he declines free booze; and he barely notices the hotel suite that is reserved for him). I’m still trying to develop my interpretation of the film; it’s hard not to read it as moralizing about gambling, but a simple moral narrative about gambling isn’t new or even that interesting.

There seems to be something more here–specifically about personality and identity. Mahowny’s framing narrative focuses on Mahowny in a psychiatrist’s office after he’s been arrested, and the psychologist tells him that most people “have a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” These distinctions seem to be central to the story that is being told, especially to the extent that the casino manager (played by John Hurt) can find out no details about Mahowny and professes at various times not to care as long as Mahowny keeps dumping money at his gambling tables. This inability to capture an authentic self seems to be reinforced by the security cameras that follow Mahowny’s movements at various points, dissolving into graininess so that we don’t get a clear picture of him. Hoffman’s ability to withdraw into himself really adds to this reading of the film.

I’ll experiment more with the extended entry function later (especially for film reviews).

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