Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rachmaninoff, Marilyn Monroe and Milan Kundera; A Fantasia

In the 1955 film called "The Seven Year Itch," the character Richard Sherman (played by Tom Ewell imagines that he is able to seduce "The Girl," who is played by Marilyn Monroe. The plan for the seduction: classical music.

Sherman rejects a disc by Debussy and passes over Ravel before finding Stravinsky. But upon reflection; "Stravinsky'll only scare her."

It is the second piano concerto by Rachmaninoff that if perfect. As the bell-chords that open the work move into the opening theme Marilyn Monroe comes into focus...it is a fantasy sequence.

She wears a tiger-skin dress and is smoking a cigarette. Sherman reclines at the piano in a smoking jacket that looks like it came from the closet of Hugh Heffner. The conversation is deliberately campy and fabulous:

"Rachmaninoff... It isn't fair... Every time I hear it, I go to pieces... It shakes me, it quakes me. It makes me feel goose-pimply all over. I don't know where I am or who I am or what I'm doing. Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't ever stop!"

This scene is a lovely parody of what Milan Kundera calls "Homo Sentimentalis" in his novel "Immortality:"

"Homo Sentimentalis cannot be defined as a man with feelings (for we all have feelings), but as a man who has raised feelings to a category of value. As soon as feelings are seen as a value, everyone wants to feel; and because we all like to pride ourselves on out values, we have a tendency to show off our feelings."

"As soon as we want to feel...feeling is no longer feeling but an imitation of feeling, a show of feeling."

"Europe: great music and homo sentimentalis. Twins nurtured side by side in the same cradle. Music taught the European not only a richness of feeling, but also the worship of his feelings and his feeling self."

It takes Marilyn Monroe to play homo sentimentalis to the perfect laugh.

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