quarta-feira, 7 de janeiro de 2009

A Scattered Homage to Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929-2005)



In the introductory pages to A Twentieth Century Job, the fictitious friend of the dead Cain writes:

Curioser and curioser, Cain always went to movies alone. For this he also had an explanation: ‘Women don't let you watch movies in peace,’ he explained. ‘It seems that the combination of the darkness, the music and the so soft seats predisposes them to something quite different from a critical judgement: to erotic prejudice.’ (5)

In spite of (or because of) this, the last pages of the 1979 novel La Habana para un Infante difunto (Infante’s Inferno) depict a fantastic voyage beginning in the body of a woman and ending in the clear light of a cinema projector. (6) The character, more or less the author himself, goes to a well-known Havana cinema with a premonitory name: Fausto. There, in the lobby, he perceives a gesture of invitation in a woman’s face. Immediately he buys a ticket and enters the theatre in pursuit of this woman, who is sitting in the middle of a group of empty seats. Sitting means waiting: the woman is, the whole time, paying attention to the action on the screen (a Pluto cartoon) as he begins putting a hand on one of her knees, then one of her breasts, until she finally opens her legs, where he touches her ‘intimate nakedness’. It is at this very moment that magic begins, because he loses his wedding ring ... inside her.

I know that I am spoiling one of the most beautiful passages ever written in the Spanish language, but I need to tell this story to finally return to cinema via another route. She gives him permission and the incredible quest for the ring begins, but then ... he loses his wristwatch in the same place/hole and, then, then the cuff links from his shirt. As all efforts to find these objects end in failure (there is so little light in a movie theatre), she gives him a flashlight and opens her legs as wide as she can. Not only to facilitate the search, but to give him the possibility of entering her body. Inside, he does not find the ring, watch or cuff links, but a book with Latin words on the cover: ‘Ovarium, corpus luteus, labium majus, matrix, tubae Falloppi.’ The next phase is the loss of the book and the exit from the labyrinth in a grand parody of Jules Verne’s famous novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The only thing which the character never leaves behind is the light: the phallic light of the cinema projector.

This journey into the body of woman is a strange rite of passage in which the hero loses time (the watch), social bonds (the wedding ring), and the correct dressing (the cuff links) that symbolises his civilised condition. The woman with open legs, hieratic and tempting at the same time, with enormous internal organs, wet and dark, is a sort of absolute Nature – at least, if we consider the loss of time, social bonds and civilised condition experienced by the character. From this point of view, the words printed in the cover of the book (and the loss of the book when the character is finding the exit of the labyrinth) are not only logical, but the only words one could find there, as we are now in the empire of origins. Matrix is source, rising, birth. The novel starts with an adolescent character, an emigrant from a provincial town in the big city, the capital of the country, trying to find his way in life in a double direction: erotic and professional. At the end we have travelled, with him, the road to maturity and cinema (both of them signifying creation) in a single movement of reading.

© Victor Fowler Calzada and Rouge 2005.

Arquivo do blogue

«I always contradict myself»

Richard Burton em Bitter Victory, de Nicholas Ray.