Syriana and Purple Trees

Monday night, I went to see a preview showing of Syriana with a couple of friends.The Cinema Studies Students’ Union (CINSSU) was screening the sneak preview, for free, as it often does. The film kicked ass.

It’s a complex film with several characters; shot with two hand-held cameras, it’s so rich in detail it almost seems like a documentary (and it might as well be). It is an important film about America’s dealings in the Persian Gulf revolving around oil. It follows four main characters (they’re all men): a CIA agent shuttled between the Middle East and America (George Clooney), and energy analyst (Matt Damon) advising the would-be emir of an oil-rich nation, an attorney investigating the shady merger of two oil companies, and a Pakistani migrant-worker in an oil-rich nation who joins a madrassa. The jargon may be hard to follow for some, and many of the business dealings can leave people confused; but the message of the film comes through — without making any of the characters appear one-dimensional.

Again, it’s an important film, because people need to know how it is that they manage to get cheap oil and at least some of the reasons why leaders of oil-rich countries are almost invariably lackeys of American agendae.

Many people, after the film finished, expressed that they didn’t understand it. And I suppose that might have something to do with the complexity of the content or of the way the film was structured. In any case, I hope they use it as a starting point to learn more about the United States’ operations in other countries.

On Tuesday, after noon, as I was headed downtown on the subway and reading Thucydides, a man started asking loudly for change. You could tell he was kind of homeless; carrying a few things with him, wearing two dirty coats, dirty pants, dirty hair, dirty skin, and with an intoxicated manner. As no one responded to his appeal for change, he began to loudly castigate the general subway ridership for their self-alienation and isolation — refusing to interact with fellow human beings and living in their own worlds. I actually agreed with him on that point.

Finally, a lady got up, thrust some change into his hands and sat back down. He left his seat and went over to her to thank her, and managed to find a seat right beside her and sat down. Soon, she — disgusted — got up and walked to the other end of the car. He laughed and continued his banter.

As we approached Broadview station, he quipped that he came to Broadview to view broads. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, tall ones, short ones, “pencil necks,” and so on (to the general repulsion of those who had nothing better to do than to listen to him).

He related a short story about how he picked up some girl and in bed she started talking about a “ban-job” — short for a banana job.

Soon he went into a narrative about a whore he picked up from Dundas and Jarvis. He talked to her, knowing she had been in this business for some time, and asked her name. She said it was Cynthia. So he asked her who gave her that name, her father or her mother? She replied neither. Well then, he asked, who gave her that name? At which point she rolled over on the bed and bent over and vomited on the floor. She then said Satan, Satan (and he had a peculiar way of pronouncing Satan, “say-dun”) had given her her name. He laughed and asked her if she was a ritualistic type, a ritual girl. She said yes. So he asked her how many candles she lit in her room. And she said sixty-nine, sixty-nine candles and that “ain’t no sexual reference, neither.” Sixty-nine. Cynthia. End of story. Thank you for listening.

The train approached Sherbourne station and he got up, stating that he didn’t understand why people were unkind to him — he wasn’t a gangster, he was a “good fella.” The door opened, and he said:

Crimson mountain, golden sun,
Purple tree for everyone.

Good-bye!

As he bid his farewell, the door chimed and just as it closed he exited. It was like he had it perfectly timed.

I turned to the girl next to me and asked, “Did he say purple tree?”
She replied, “I have no idea.”

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4 Responses so far

  1. 1

    fahad said,

    November 23, 2005 @ 9:35 pm

    You’re a magnet for weirdos.

  2. 2

    Sabeen said,

    November 23, 2005 @ 11:00 pm

    lol, wow, this kind of stuff never happens to me on the subway

  3. 3

    plipplop said,

    November 24, 2005 @ 12:21 am

    as if hollywood is gonna tell us about the faults of American imperialism.

    Clooney is gonna laugh all the way to the bank account as he appears ever so caring to his adoring fans…

  4. 4

    Danielle said,

    November 24, 2005 @ 5:02 am

    TOTALLY stalking you now. Hope you don’t mind :)

    I really liked Syriana’s message, but I thought his editing process was garbage. He included too many characters and couldn’t balance time between them properly and sometimes it just felt inappropriate when the focus was being shifted. It was good intentions wrapped up in his own head too much of the time. The business dealings were easier TO follow once you stopped paying attention to the small character dramas that were erupting.

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