Mary Gaitskill

My Eager Eyes


Music: The Killers, “Mr. Brightside” (2003)

I don’t have much to say about this, I mostly just want to share it. The only thing I feel compelled to comment on is the music which, compared to the beauty of the film and the elemental purity of Louise Brooks‘ face and body, is very common, I’d even say cheap. But that is almost why I love it with this hyped-up mash-up of moments from “Pandora’s Box.” I especially love its line “open up my eager eyes” sung in Brandon Flowers‘ petulant, puerile, insisting voice — the voice of a boy, the voice of bedazzlement and darkness, sweets and poison.

I don’t attribute these qualities to Flowers because of particular artistry or even personality; they are qualities he embodies in a charming and perfectly ordinary way, and there is nothing more ordinary than rushing eagerness for the ideal romance of a dancing girl, of lambent eyes, sweet looks and silly costumes, of tenderly cupped hands opening to release Pandora’s delicious vortex — betrayal, laughter, music, dancing, ecstasy, betrayal and back again over and over… until finally the movement goes too far out on the spectrum and tips into death. The shallow joy of the music holds in it a flashing glimpse of the ideal that is full-blown (briefly) in Lulu’s every move and in her various, feral eyes, as that ideal holds its opposite.

How ardently and uncomprehendingly shallow human feeling holds that inhuman ideal; the knife goes in, the gun goes off, the light goes out, and slowly, reluctantly, yet with relief — movement stops.

- Mary Gaitskill

  • JShield

    Louise Brooks wrote: “The great art of films does not consist in descriptive movement of face and body, but in the movements of thought and soul transmitted in a kind of intense isolation.” I feel like it relates to your beautiful observations here. When the movement stops, thought and soul have to go elsewhere.

    Thank you! I love your posts.

  • Bella

    Before three minutes and onwards you can see in particular in this video why the cult of Louse Brooks endures, beyond her sexual allure.

    She seems like a friend with whom you’ve been out of touch, remember vividly, and regard with affection.

    The weak, plaintive voice of young male yearning will always lean to such beauty.

  • Amy Bebeme

    When movement stops – the ideal endures, sometimes the moment expands to contain our entire life. Very moved by everyone’s thoughts here. XO

    • Amy Bebeme

      When movement stops:

      Until, flicked by feeling on a gildered street
      I call you by name, my green, my fluent mundo
      You will have stopped revolving except in crystal

      W Stevens, Notes TSF

  • Amy Ponomarev

    Perhaps it’s an obvious point — but I don’t think Lulu’s relieved. When Jack the Ripper murders Lulu the prostitute it’s murder. And murder is murder after all, even if the song is nice. This is not a moral idea.

    Does the ideal hold its opposite, or does our talent for darkness stretch our capacity for joy?

    I knew a hooker who was a literary genius. She’d been through years of torture-like violence. When she finally overcame the experience, the reaction of ‘hip’ writers on the sexual edge shocked her.

    They ostracized her for, essentially, being a hooker. They made her feel bad about the vivid intensity of her gifts. It was too much for them, although privately they marvelled at the capacity of her instrument, her startling fluency.

    I mention this because it reminds me of the inevitable predictability of Lulu’s murder. Watching the video I felt she was murdered because she’s so vividly alive.

    Even if we have the lips of a spider drinking blood with pure bliss, when Jack the Ripper slits a hooker’s throat it’s murder.

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Mary Gaitskill is the author of the novels "Veronica" and "Two Girls, Fat and Thin." She has also written three books of stories, "Bad Behavior," "Because They Wanted To," and "Don't Cry." More Mary Gaitskill here.