Director Danny Boyle is a master cineaste of potty detail. Who can forget the toilet swim in "Trainspotting"? Or the latrines of "Slumdog Millionaire"? In "127 Hours," the most revolting is Aron Ralston (James Franco) drinking his own urine in a life saving moment when he is pinned under a boulder in Blue John Canyon in Utah. Unless you want to count the anatomical detail of his cutting through his own arm, already turning gray/green under the rock's weight. This sequence would be grim as it sounds except that the fine script Boyle penned with Simon Beaufoy based on Ralston's book, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," includes Ralston's interviewing himself on the folly of his having taken this adventure without telling anyone, including-eh, especially his mother--where he was going. Oops! There's a whole bit about his not taking her phone calls, which, under the circumstances, he regrets. The director also delights in illustrating his hallucinations as Ralson sees his life flash before him with a buzzard circling overhead.
At the premiere screening on Tuesday, you could hear the proverbial pin drop in the audience that included Susan Sarandon, Zoe Lister-Jones, Daryl Wein, Padma Lakshmi, and Mario Cantone. James Franco moved through the crowd at The Bunker Club, seeming to avoid the beautiful models circling about him at the Gucci-sponsored after party. It must be good to be James Franco these days, with several movies out, including Howl, his evocation of the poet Allen Ginsberg.
The real Aron Ralston sat on a banquette surrounded by close friends; he let me feel his hook hand. Picture a metal lobster claw. Assuring me his life was going fine, he is now a family man, teaching his son all about the outdoors. He still climbs and enjoys the wild as a matter of habit, pride, and identity. And how is his mother? She's having a great time, he told me. They were just back from the London premiere parties. And now he tells her his every move.
Yes, nature can be menacing, ominous, life threatening, indifferent but it can also be the source of great poetry. Opening this week at Quad Cinema is a documentary, Practice of the Wild featuring a conversation between writers who celebrate Nature: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder and novelist Jim Harrison. Having lived in Japan and with his interest in the monastic life, Snyder was a catalyst in bringing eastern culture to the US in the mid-century. His journey mountain climbing with Jack Kerouac is immortalized in the novel "The Dharma Bums," where, as the character Japhy Ryder, he teaches the discipline of haiku composition to the beat writer. The great pleasures of this documentary are the extraordinary views of the central California coast, and the poetry readings. The interview with poet Michael McClure is especially resonant. The film's transcript is part of a new poetry-packed book, "The Etiquette of Freedom." Snyder recounts his experience climbing the Matterhorn on the Northern Sierra boundary line. There, a huge boulder did not trap them; instead, the rock reflected heat. Ahhhh!
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