‘Burn After Reading’

I discussed this new movie with Marc Gafni Friday afternoon.

Marc: "It’s a rare movie that understands the subtlety and complexity of both masculine shadow and feminine shadow."

Luke: As a religious person, I felt like I shouldn’t enjoy the movie. It was so sadistic. All the leading characters were bad doing bad things to each other. I felt like I was at the Roman coliseum. It made me sick that I was feeling entertained at watching people behave so badly.

I interviewed producer Mary Aloe earlier in the day. Her movie "Battle in Seattle" is in theaters. It is about the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle. I have no sympathy for the rioters but at least they believed in something greater than themselves. If any of the leading characters in "Burn After Reading" had believed in something greater than themselves, they wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble.

People who believe in something transcendent are not necessarily better for the world (what if they believe in something bad such as Nazism or communism?), but having a cause will often save people from their own destructive tendencies.

Anyone with a strong sense of boundaries would’ve been saved from destruction.

I often think I’m smarter than the people I’m around. So do the characters in this movie. They deceive themselves. They don’t realize that others are on to their shtick.

I found it depressing that there weren’t any good guys in the movie.

The most sympathetic character was the manager at Hard Bodies, but he allowed his love to overcome his good sense. Even love needs boundaries.

Marc: "What did you think of the character who was married to the fired CIA agent?"

Luke: "She was steel and ice but at least she wasn’t a fool like her husband the drunk."

Marc: "I saw a little bit of him in you. He’s a smart guy but for years he’s seen the corruption of the system. He talks about the early days when there was a sense of idealism. He’s had one disappointment too many. You’re perceptive and you’ve been disappointed one too many times by the world."

Luke: "There are things I do believe that save me from complete cynicism. I believe in a transcendent moral code and in the power of love and art to transform one."

"I still believe in Dennis Prager even if Dennis Prager does not believe in me. He’s been my favorite intellectual for 19 years. We had a personal falling out in 1997 [over my choice to blog about him] but this has not affected my high regard for his intellect. I’m not crushed by our falling out. I’m not going to trash myself for my flaws, even if our falling out was 75% my fault."

Marc: "You need to have a rigorous moral code about what goes on a blog and what doesn’t go on a blog. You have to be a psychologist and an ethicist, a political strategist. Why are people telling you things? You are not in a simple position. You don’t have a board of overseers. You’re completely autonomous and independent. You create your own pulpit. You speak to a lot of people. Just the ability to talk creates power and carries responsibility."

Luke: "I think it’s simpler than that. If you blog with your name on it and you belong to a decent community, most of your moral questions are solved right there. There are severe limits on what I can do because I belong to an Orthodox Jewish community. Not just a particular synagogue, but I live in Pico-Robertson. I walk these streets every day. Everything I write, I will bear the brunt of my misdeeds. That solves most of the moral questions."

Marc: "I think that solves about a quarter of them. The nature of the Orthodox community, which I know well… Orthodoxy hides many sins. You can get away with an enormous amount on a blog with inaccurate information and they are not going to say a word as long as it does not affect their immediate people… There is some sense of check when you are a part of a community. We disagree with the level of a check.

"You learned a couple of weeks ago that if you out someone who works for the Jewish Journal, people may get upset with you. I don’t think you caused any damage to the person. I don’t think it was an ethical issue. It was protecting the turf. On the other hand, you could say 20 things completely wrong about someone and as long as that person is not a part of their community, you won’t face consequences."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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