Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Frosty Berliners

I watched the documentary "Marlene" about Marlene Dietrich after my husband Dick Cavett mentioned it on some podcast, saying it was wonderful and illuminating.  Actually, it was terrible.  Not because it was poorly done, but because Marlene is irritating.

Is that allowed?  I feel like a terrifying gay harpy a la Angels in America is going to come shrieking through my wall like the Kool-Aid Man and make me take it back.  Two metaphors, one sentence, there are no laws here.


She's such a contrarian.  I definitely get that she's just old and bitchy, but she is so committed to letting us all know that no one has her figured out or knows anything about her life.  This is a predictable response to being famous for 40 years, but it's goddamned irritating to listen to her say NEIN NEIN NEIN NEIN!!!!! when her interviewer mentions some factual incident or totally neutral perception of her.  She then presents some contradictory revisionist perspective, and maybe she's right, but she absolutely exhausts herself in letting us all know that she is an enigma.  Great, MD.  You're about 10% as enigmatic as your mom Garbo, so get over it.

She also refuses to actually appear in this documentary.  I think this is because she was old, and too vain to allow her elderly visage to be committed to film.  That makes me angry.  The way people struggle against aging is the most unseemly, embarrassing shit to witness, and refusing to let anyone SEE YOU because you don't belong in some panty-party cabaret anymore is so simple and ridiculous.  I know that aging is rough and often traumatic, but I think we've figured out by now that to struggle against it is a hundred times more graceless than to just accept the inevitable ravage that is the passage of time.  Also, it does a disservice to all of the impressionable people watching you, Marlene.  Anyway.  I realize that I'm speaking in the present tense and she's been dead for twenty years, but...no, that's it.  I also think it's so vain when people are like, "I want them to remember me as I was, not as I am now."  They will.  Don't worry. 

Dick Cavett said that Marlene called him up at home once.  He thought it was a practical joke on behalf of one of his friends, and hung up on her.  They managed to reconnect, and had a series of enjoyable chats that you can read about somewhere in his current NYT column, which is full of topics that are probably considered dusty and obscure by most people under retirement age, and which contain his delightful brand of sass and old man ire.  Mostly the latter.

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