One of my favorite sequences inone of my fave films, Bella Tarr’s Satanstango, concerns the village doctor. We watch him get drunk in his home, fall down in an apparent stupor, and then get up – after which comes the sequence, which consists of nothing more than him walking to the village inn to get more liquor. The thing about it is, the camera follows him in real time. Since he is old, obese, and intoxicated, that means that the camera watches him make an at most quarter mile jog in about fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes! When I first saw this, I couldn’t believe it – I couldn’t believe Tarr would dare an audience to basically install itself in the speed and sensibility of one of the members of the slow cohort of the population – those users of walkers, those hobblers down sidewalks or the aisles of grocery stores, those old or impaired. Normally, we’d get a bit of slow hobbling and cut then to the doctor approaching the inn. We’d get in other words what we expect in the terms of the speedy cohort, the ones with cars, the ones who run, the ones who stride, walking their dogs, or over the beach, radiating the get it now ethos.
Well, at the moment, I have fallen out of the speedy cohort. Get it now? I can barely keep up with the drunken doctor in the flick. My little monster wound, as I affectionately refer to it, keeps me limited to a stately, or if you like, arthritic pace. Of course, I’m supposed to sit around the house, or lie around, and mostly I’m obedient, but it drives me a bit nuts not to be able to go the four blocks up Wilshire to my usual coffee shop. Of course, I do go a bit – I pick up Adam from his school, a trip which, in all, is about eight blocks. And I go those blocks slowly.
The doctor in Satanstango lives in a village where, aside from a few cars and tractors, the fastest things are dogs and horses. Not a metropole. I live in Santa Monica, which, as in all American cities, cars are the primary entities. Humans are down on the scale. I take a grim, slow person’s satisfaction, now, in crossing the street, holding back that anxious car driver who wants that three seconds – gotta have that three seconds! And is probably cursing me in his or her driver’s seat. Good. I’ve discovered that with slowness comes no spiritual insight, but a certain bitterness, a fuck you attitude. This is evidently not good from the point of view of the Mahatma and Jesus Christ. But let the Mahatma and Jesus Christ walk across the street while a black BMW inhabited by somehow who has never missed a lunch or not gotten what they wanted in their entire fucking life glowers at them. It is … trying.