Ken Attends V for Vendetta Premiere with Larry Wachowski
March 14, 2006 19:21
Becca and I are here in New York at the Tribeca/Soho Grand Hotel, with Larry Wachowski and Karin Winslow—plus his brother, Andy, mother and father and a few aunts and uncles (including one of my all time favorite actors, Lawerence Luckenbill, and his wife Lucy Arnaz, who is “I Love Lucy’s” daughter; Lawrence was the star of a great old TV series, “The Delphi Bureau”). We are here to go with Larry and Karin (and the rest of the crew) to the premier opening of V for Vendetta. We are basically the only ones here, and what I like is being able to spend a lot of time not only with Larry and Karin, but with the rest of the family, whom I have really become incredibly fond of. His mother and father are really extraordinary people, and Andy crackles with flashes of genius energy—it’s so easy to see why the two of them are such extraordinarily innovative and brilliant artists.
We got in town on Sunday, checked into the hotel, and then went to a small cast party that evening at a location that was not disclosed to the press, so we had the place relatively uninvaded. Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt, the director, and assorted other cast and crew had a grand time. John Hurt is another one of my all time favorite actors and human beings; he has left a string of extraordinary performances of depth and authentic resonance—some of my favorites are especially 1984 and The Naked Civil Servant. When we arrived at the party, he came up to me and said: “I know you, don’t I?” It took me off guard and we both just stared at each other in a weird and wonderful silence. I finally said something like, Well, I am writer and you might have seen my picture some place. But it was a fantastic evening in almost every way.
On Monday—the date of the opening—we spent the day hanging out with Larry and family, then Becca and I made a mad dash to several stores trying to find her a dress for the grand occasion. It was a ridiculous effort, because we only had about two hours, which in Manhattan is just the cab time. We finally stumbled into Bergdorfs, and happened on an Alexander McQueen dress that was absolutely perfect: it was a beautiful white satin evening gown, which for some strange and deranged reason had a skull in white sequins sewn right on the front—which is to say, it was perfect. We headed back to the hotel, got ready, and then got into three carefully timed limousines to be taken to the opening, which was held at Lincoln Center. We got out of the limos, followed Larry as he ducked the red carpet and took our seats. Keanu Reeves had come—he wasn’t in the movie but he is a good friend of Larry and Andy’s; plus a lot of standard NY celebs, from Susan Sarandon to Martha Stewart. One thing I do have to mention, because several people said it, and not just me: Rebecca outshone even Natalie Portman. She really was radiant, due no doubt to the secret power of that skull—not really, but her genuine beauty—and she said several times, “This is literally the most magical moment of my entire life.” We settled into our seats, and the movie began.
Here I have to be careful, because I 100% respect Larry’s (and Andy’s) wish to not divulge whatever meaning they had in writing the script or creating the film. Larry believes strongly in the “viewer response theory” of artistic meaning, namely, an important meaning of an artwork is the responses or interpretations of the viewers of the artwork. He therefore does not want to divulge whatever meaning that he, the creator of the artwork, might have in mind, because he believes, with considerable justification, that it would become a type of dogmatic meaning that would crowd out other legitimate meanings of the artwork, particularly those of the viewers themselves. So he will not discuss the meaning of any of his artistic creations with the media or press, and as I said, I support his stance 100%.
Of course, Larry is substantially sympathetic with an integral view of art, similar to what I outline in chapters 4 and 5 of The Eye of Spirit. In that essay, I summarize the half dozen or so major theories of art and its interpretation, and show that all of them have important truths that need to be included and woven together in a larger and more integral view. There is the primal holon, or the original intent of the creator of the artwork. There are unconscious intentions, or shadow elements that might also be present. There are sometimes representational elements in an artwork, and sometimes expressive elements. The artist and the artwork exist in multiple contexts or background meanings, and these contexts also provide important types of interpretations. There are, as mentioned, the viewer responses, and viewer interpretations of the artwork—and those also constitute actual constitutive elements of the overall artistic occasion. And we shouldn’t forget that the original intent, or the conscious intentionality of the artist, can span an entire spectrum going from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal, providing an entire spectrum of interpretations of the original intent. All of these need to be included in a well-rounded or integral theory of art and its interpretation. What Larry does not want to have happen, is for his original intent to be taken as the only legitimate meaning of his artworks, and therefore he guards those closely.
So I am not going to say much about the meaning of V for Vendetta or what I think it “really” means (ditto the Matrix Trilogy). But I can say that watching this film, which was extraordinarily well executed—it is an absolutely fantastic film!—I had the same impression that I got with the Matrix—namely, that Larry’s original intent is so incredibly sophisticated, complex, and often a product of sheer genius (I do not say that lightly), that it is hard to get all of that into the artwork, and so his original intent, which is extraordinarily profound, does not always fully make it into the artwork. People therefore often miss some of this meaning, even though it is there if you look really hard (sometimes so hard that only a handful of people get it—just a few people get that, in the Matrix, the machines represent Spirit).
So when I was watching V for Vendetta, all I could think of were the dozens and dozens of hours of conversation that we had about what he was trying to convey in the film. That happened to be at exactly the same time that I was working on The Many Faces of Terrorism, so we compared notes frequently. We agreed on many things, disagreed on a few, and in general were racing to bring these artworks home and get them finished. I was about two weeks away from finishing Many Faces when I got into a fight with an oak floor. The floor won, shattering my upper-right arm, knocking a tooth out and rupturing a disc or two. What then followed is a whole other story, which I will try to blog about soon.
So let me tell you about a few of the things that came to my mind when watching V for Vendetta. The theoretical discussion that Larry and I had centered around states of consciousness and stages of consciousness. Stages of consciousness generally move from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric, also called preconventional to conventional to postconventional. States of consciousness include gross/waking states, subtle dream/vision states, causal/formless states and nondual/integral states. In the film, the character V has an experience of nondual, integral, unconditional love—but he interprets it through preconventional/ egocentric stages, and thus, among other things, goes around blowing up buildingd and torturing women—for their own good, of course. Evey also has a state experience of nondual, unconditional love—but she is at a postconventional/ worldcentric stage of development and thus interprets it through that much wider lens—a lens that she offers and magnetizes for V. So it is important to understand that V is not the simplistic hero destroying a Bush/fascist/oppressive regime, but that V is a very complex character with “half” of him being really good, so to speak, and “half” of him really fucked up.
Now, as indicated, I am not going to suggest what the “actual” meaning of V for Vendetta is. But I will say that the script—not to mention Larry’s discussion—contain an incredibly rich and sophisticated interplay between all these a various elements, with states and stages crawling all over each other, a very profound understanding of governance, a nuanced understanding between terrorists that are merely preconventional and egocentric (with ethnocentric elements), and freedom fighters that are postconventional and worldcentric. Guy Fawkes was clearly a preconventional dude, and this should give some hints right there. But repressive regimes need to be deconstructed, one way or another, and a very complex view of the moral intent of those who do so characterizes the script. So, I think it is a travesty when I hear the simplistic and common interpretation that V is the total good guy, the government is a conservative/fascist/reactionary pile of shit, and the good guy is a freedom fighter in every way. It’s just infinitely more nuanced, subtle, sophisticated, complex, and multifaceted than that.
I will share one last piece of information with you. One of the greatest perks of my job as a writer—which for 25 years basically kept me alone in a corner—is that I am honored to meet and get to know some of the most remarkable people alive. Of the hundreds of brilliant minds that I have jumped into a dance of intersubjectivity with, virtually all of which were deeply satisfying, there are a handful that really standout, and our conversations always proceed at the highest altitude and fastest velocity I think imaginable. I’ll get in trouble here, of course, because I am not going to mention all of them, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So I’ll just sort of randomly say that Mike Murphy is one and Larry Wachowski is certainly another. Larry will begin a single sentence with a quote from the Upanishads and Schopenhauer, weave it through different interpretations of Chekhov and Tolstoy, and end up—in the same sentence, mind you—with their relationship to recent digital video games. I have honestly never seen anything like it. We haven’t had many conversations that have lasted less than two hours. I am trying to convince Larry to let us record a few of these, simply because I would really like the world—and history—to know this extraordinary side of my friend. Given his reticence with the press, I fear that these extraordinary insights, observations, and flashes of creative genius will be lost in the ether. I am afraid that in guarding his privacy, which I fully support, this dimension will not be seen or appreciated. The press has demonstrated its capacity to run in the gutter; I would like to see them fly with the angels in these conversations.
The last thing I will say, since everybody asks and it would be ridiculous to try to avoid it, is about the media’s treatment of Larry’s private life, which they are aggressively distorting and misrepresenting in a shallow, vulgar, and reprehensible fashion. So I have about one or two sentences in response. Larry and Karin have one of the most loving, caring, healthy, and authentic relationships that I am aware of, period. Really, that’s about it. They remind me of me and Treya in many ways, and I would certainly wish this kind of relationship for anybody.
So it is always a spectacular delight to hang out with them. Karin, incidentally, is quite brilliant. Seriously; she is one of the three or four people I have chosen to work with in developing an integral theory of sex and gender. She really got so much of that nailed (more or less literally, on a good day) and it is really terrific working with her.
So, it was off to the movies with Larry, Karin, Andy, Natalie, Hugo, John and crew. After the showing came what was for me one of the terrifically fun parts of the evening: the after-show party on top of Lincoln Center. They had this huge red “V’ hanging from the ceiling. With two large winding staircases up the sides of the ballroom to a spectacular balcony—and lots of food and drink for all. Rebecca really wanted to say hi to Martha Stewart so we went over and it took all I could do to not make some kind of stupid comment…like, “Love your ankle bracelet, Martha.”
We stayed at the party for a couple of hours, then caught a cab back to Soho. I don’t know if it was the single most magical day of my life, as it was for Becca, but it was pretty close. This is turning out to be a terrific mini-vacation. The last time I flew anywhere……….hey, come to think of it, the last time I flew anywhere was to LA to record the commentary for the Matrix Trilogy, so Larry has been responsible for getting me out of the house both of these times. And both times he has been right, I am having an even better time than I thought I would—a fantastic time on both occasions! So God bless you, Larry, and I will see you tomorrow with the rest of the gang. I am happy, delighted, thankful, and honored to have you in my life. You know how much I deeply love you. And, of course, I yearn for you tragically.
Ticket stub from V for Vendetta Premiere