Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Moviegoer, Part III

Watching Mr. Walker Percy at work in The Moviegoer, I'm noticing that the most real scenes, where Binx is on the spot, forced to improvise or to listen thoroughly to the other person, are the least cinematic. And so we get to Kate and Binx on the train to Chicago, in what must be the least filmable love scene ever (if it can be called a love scene) ever. Binx is concerned, wary, headachy, and not following well Kate's changes of mood and topic. She's drugged and desperately trying to work up some desire by referencing, rather obliquely, a pornographic cartoon featuring Tillie the Toiler and Mac. (I would have had no idea what she was talking about if it weren't that this cartoon was included in the title of Matthew Lickona's panel presentation for the Walker Percy Conference:  "Tillie and Mac and Belly to Back: Percy and Pornography, from The Moviegoer to The Thanatos Syndrome".)

The resulting encounter is actively anti-cinematic, if by cinematic one means the sort of quasi-melodramatic movies that Binx has been watching throughout the book. Though they have sex, it's a anxious touch-and-go struggle. Binx knows how important it is that he perform at this moment when an increasingly fragile Kate has thrown herself at him; what Kate is striving for is not the sexual act but the release and peace that follows, but the faint lure of the porno-comic can't compensate for the reality of the situation. Desire and ability can be fleeting at the best of times, as anyone knows who's suddenly listened for little padding footsteps in the hall outside the door that might not have been locked. In the case of Binx and Kate, almost all things (including their own bodies) are conspiring against them, and it's a minor miracle that they're able to finish up at all.

What's interesting is that Binx, who was able to channel a movie persona so successfully when he was trying to seduce his secretary, is unable to put on a role here even when Kate keeps trying to make him play some part in her own fantasy. This interaction is too fraught with peril to Kate for Binx to be anyone but himself with her.

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