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Date: Thu, 01 Aug 2002
MUSIC DURING INORDINATELY LONG TITLES SEQUENCE:
Miles Davis, "So What"
The titles, which include not only the standard opening credits but also the standard closing credits, scroll past in tiny letters, a nearly illegible font, at the bottom of the screen, while the bulk of the frame is taken up by a seemingly endless roll of billowing satin, which gradually changes in color from a nearly white sky blue through blue's part of the spectrum, towards a shade of navy that verges on blackness.
The 14th Century, a battlefield near Milan. Trumpets blaring. Banners unfurled, sapphire blue, ruby red. Swords clanging. Arrows whizzing through the air. A knight in blue, closeup on a face wincing in pain. An axe falls. A head removed, that of a woman general, Regine. The Blue Company banner falls. Blood spills across it.
A small garret in Barcelona, around the turn of the 20th century. The poet Sabartés struggles through the night, working and reworking a single line. The wax paper he has hung on his windows where they are cracked filter the moonlight to give the room a pale blue glow. The poet Sabartés is attempting his most serious work thus far, a poem that will encapsulate the spirit of the time, of the age of unhappiness that the young bohemian finds himself surrounded by. The poet struggles on the line. The poet sweats. The poet's pencil breaks, and he pounds the desk in frustration. The poet crumples the paper in his hands and throws it into a basket, where it joins a dozen or so similarly crumpled failed attempts. The poet Sabartés rises and walks over to the studio next door, where Picasso, who opens the door reluctantly only after Sabartés has pounded it repeatedly, is just finishing his final touches on a painting of a blind guitarist in blue. Sabartés inhales quickly, and stands before the painting. "When did you start this one, Picasso?" he asks. "Yesterday afternoon," replies Picasso. "What I have been trying to do on paper all summer long," Sabartés says, "you have accomplished in paint over the course of 24 hours." Picasso says, "I know, my friend, I know." "Picasso," Sabartés says, "I will serve you all the rest of my days." Picasso smiles, "I know, Sabartés, I know," he says, and he puts his arm around his friend's shoulders.
TO A TIGHT CLOSEUP of an owl's eyes. The snowy owl, high in a Blue Spruce, hoots. The camera pulls back. It is night, the color of midnight. Beneath the trees there is a wash of tulips, and in their midst, a blue orchid, which bends as a steel blue Mercedes rushes past.
Robert Lowell is preparing to shave. An attendant in a white coat unlocks a box and hands him a straight razor, then steps back, arms folded across his chest. Beside him a man in his seventies, frail and slightly wild, while waiting his turn, watches Lowell's every move. The man killed a woman decades ago. Lowell lathers. Lowell stares into his own eyes in the mirror. His eyes are sad. Lowell pauses. There's a poem in this. Lowell grips the razor and lifts the blade to his neck. Steady now.
MOMENTARY LAPSE OF NARRATIVE
In which the project director steps up in front of the cameras, and apologizes to its audience for the fact that art, like life, entails a necessary resort to cliché. The conspiracy theory is always in some sense the truth, though typically and necessarily a ham-handed reduction of said. He shrugs. Nothing to be done. The director drinks a Blue Hawaiian. The lei he wears around his neck is also blue.
A powerful man and his attendants are waved through the gates of the White House, past the marine guards in their formal dress uniforms. Secret Service agents meet the car and admit the CEO of one of the nation's largest energy concerns through the back door, to the ornate Blue Room. The sounds of gathering are heard in the distance, as a band plays "A Blue Christmas Without You." The CEO occupies an ornate 19th century couch, and waits, nervously. Some fifteen minutes later, an American President, looking just a little bit awkward in a tuxedo, enters the room and sits beside his friend on the couch. "Ken," the American President says as he places his hand on his friend's knee, "tell me what you need." The camera pulls back as the popular President and the powerful CEO exchange certain anecdotes, off color jokes, and favors.
The camera pulls back into the ballroom, where the band plays "Blue Suede Shoes" as celebrities, politicians, media figures, policy wonks and the like are twirling around the dance floor. The camera momentarily focuses on a man in a dark blue suit, towards the back of the room, in shadow, who is listening to an important conversation in his earbud. The camera then spins a few times around the dance floor before returning to the American President and his friend, who are shaking hands.
Later that night, the powerful CEO, back in the comfort of his Texas ranch, is meeting with two rather brawny cowboys. The powerful CEO is angry, agitated. The powerful CEO says, "I want him dead. Cleanly." The two rather brawny cowboys depart. The powerful CEO turns towards his computer screen, and writes an ill-thought email to a woman who he has trusted in the past, with whom he even had a brief and discrete affair, a woman who has handled his public relations skillfully in the past. In that email, which the audience reads in its entirety, as it is typed, the powerful CEO reveals certain details of the conversation he has had with the American President, in which certain promises were made, certain other promises were not, and certain favors from the past were called to the table. The powerful CEO looks desperate as he writes in the dark, in the blue glow of his LCD monitor. The powerful CEO hits send.
A FEW MONTHS LATER (reads the subtitle):
Regine DuBois is on the phone with the powerful CEO, and she is receiving bad news about her own employment situation, bad news about the fate of her company and the one that she represents. Regine DuBois, on impulse, makes certain threats to reveal certain secrets unless certain conditions are not met.
IN AN FBI INTERROGATION ROOM:
Sue Miller, a loyal, smart, and dedicated special agent, who has served the bureau for a decade of her life, is called to meet with one of her superiors, who has flown in from Washington for that purpose. Expected the meeting to consist of a discussion of certain details of a planned report, she is surprised when a senior agent, Kenneth Lethe, pulls from his briefcase some photographs, some photographs that Sue Miller did not realize existed. The photographs show Sue Miller, or a younger, less responsible version of herself, engaged in certain compromising positions. A proposal is made, a deal is struck. A career is preserved, some morals are compromised.
MOMENTS LATER (CLOSEUP):
On a northbound EL train, a G-woman sheds a tear.
Miles Davis raises his horn. Miles Davis is sweating rivers. Miles Davis is holding a high note. Miles Davis is beyond human but not superhuman, otherhuman. Miles Davis looks like shit, he's visibly frail. He looks old beyond his years. Miles Davis is holding that note. He's still holding it. A woman in the audience lights a cigarette. Miles Davis is still holding that note. It's a piercing note. The woman smokes her cigarette. Miles Davis won't let go. The woman puts out her cigarette. Miles Davis pulls the trumpet from his lips. The note echoes in our ears. Miles Davis goes back to his dressing room. Someone hands him a towel. Goddamn. Miles Davis does a line of cocaine. Miles Davis shakes. Miles Davis falls down.
A MAN IN A BLUE CAPE
Lurks in the shadows, where he sits on a garbage can, pulling a thorn from his foot.
A factory in Bengal. A twelve-year-old girl is operating a machine with a large metal wheel, turning indigo to dye. She sees that something is caught in the machine; she reaches to pull it out. Her hand gets caught in the machine. Her hand is torn off. The girl screams, and falls to the floor, clutching the wound at her bleeding stump. Her fellow workers come to help. A whistle blows. Work stops for a moment. The girl is carted off on a stretcher. Her fellow workers are ordered back to work. Workers mop the floor. Another young girl is put in her place. Work resumes.
IN A DARK TOWER:
Kenneth Lethe is praising the work that Sue Miller has done on the cover document. Kenneth Lethe is putting on blue jeans. Kenneth Lethe says something suggestive, something sexually explicit, to Sue Miller. She demurs, and then moves towards him. Sue Miller removes Kenneth Lethe's jeans. Kenneth Lethe and Sue Miller have sex. A threatening, edgy song by the Rolling Stones plays in the background. Kenneth Lethe puts his jeans back on. Kenneth Lethe is putting on gloves. Sue Miller puts on a flowery robe. The flowers are tulips, tulips of blue. Kenneth Lethe pulls a knife from his bag. He asks Sue Miller if she has a tomato. Kenneth Lethe tests the knife on the tomato. It slices in half with almost no pressure at all; its flesh and seeds spill over the cutting board. Kenneth Lethe nods. Sue Miller checks the hallway. There is nobody out there. Sue Miller and Kenneth Lethe walk on down the hall. Sue Miller knocks on Regine DuBois' door. Regine DuBois answers, a glass of red wine in her hand, looks disappointed. She was expecting something else. Sue Miller asks is she can borrow a cup of sugar. Regine Dubois nods. Regine Dubois turns towards her kitchen. Kenneth Lethe slips in behind her. Kenneth Lethe pulls a blade in one swift, smooth motion across Regine DuBois' neck. Regine DuBois falls the floor. Blood and red wine.
At which point the writer apologizes for the pandering, for the carnage, for the occasional lapse into sentimentality and for breaking the frame of the story's austere near-photo e-realism. But, the writer reminds us, these things do actually occur in real life. You're being watched in ways that you don't know and innocent people are being killed by your government in your name. Every day. In secret. Right fucking now. You should feel more blue, not less. But you already know that. It's a miracle, he says, that we aren't all slack-jawed droolers like poor Berto, such is the nature of all of this shit.
A Vice President receives a phone call. A Vice President nods. A Vice President makes another phone call, and says something about a win for national security.
THE NEXT DAY:
Three detectives are on an elevator; another man gets on with them, wearing blue jeans. The man rides down with them. None of the detectives will remember this man, or think anything remarkable of him. The man is carrying a backpack, containing a knife, wrapped in a bloody shirt, in a kitchen trash bag. The detectives discuss sports and interior decorating.
Explains that "police" is a fiction we have inflicted on ourselves.
Sue Miller is receiving a special commendation. A medal. The medal is blue. Sue Miller is holding back tears. Her eyeshadow is sky blue.
WE FADE TO BLUE
and there is a BLUE SHIFT as a BLACK HOLE moves towards us
"It's All Over Now Baby Blue" by Bob Dylan plays eerily in the distance as
blue thins out to darkness