Yes, as foreseen, TVO presented an airing, with simply appalling captioning, of Alan Zweig’s I, Curmudgeon. Here one may record for posterity the words of Toby Young that caused me to plotz on first viewing (emphasis added):

– Early on, you said something about having negative charisma.
– Yeah.
– What is that?
– I define negative charisma as meaning that I can walk across a crowded a room in which I know no one and no one knows me and already ten people hate me.
I was a kind of fairly prototypical embittered loser, kind of, for a while. It became such a source of sort of energy that I worried that if I did kind of achieve some modicum of success that I would mellow out and sort of lose that source of energy.
[Glances to the side] Come in! Come in! Aw, fuck, it’s room service.

(Toby Young looks nothing short of fuckable with his tight pasty skin, round intellectual glasses, shaven head, and stiff- and high-collared shirt. “Come in!” “Coffee, tea, or me, sir?”)

At any rate, a second viewing of most of I, Curmudgeon reinforced my reservations from the first viewing. In fact, slouching in the armchair at my esteemed colleague’s pad, the longer I watched the show the more morose and self-denigrating I became. (The movie is its own party mix; you can talk right over it.) The initial half-hour still is a triumph of identification (“I’m like that!”); the rest of it is a symptom of Zweig’s unerring fatal instinct toward the downward spiral. He picks at scabs and revels in misanthropy. If I may resort to neologism (Calvin: “Verbing weirds English!”), he tends to loserize.

After my first viewing, I exchanged a few tremendously souring and dispiriting E-mails with A. Zweig, as his From: field names him. Everything I said he countered with a paraphrase of “Nobody else, including very seasoned broadcasting professionals, has complained about that yet” or, more worrisomely, a flat-out denial. At one point he actually claimed not to have made a film about curmudgeons. What, and Vinyl wasn’t about record collectors? I know his entire œuvre is a forum to beat himself up in public, but Zweig’s documentaries do in fact have themes and subjects. I was worried that the next step in E-mail would involve his denying he’d even made a movie.

(Incidentally, the captioning on I, Curmudgeon is enough to warrant a CRTC complaint unto itself.)

Zweig’s active airing of and luxuriating in his own inadequacies and bitterness leaves one flatly disillusioned by his two pictures. If I wanted a sour taste in my mouth, I’d cue up the most distressing film ever made, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? I don’t expect to feel down after a movie about curmudgeons.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.12.06 20:21. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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