Friday Free-for-all #31: From movies to the apocalypse

This originally started as me answering one random question generated by a website, but the questions eventually got to the point where they didn’t really need long answers. So, instead, it’s turned into a slow-motion interview with multiple queries. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers in the comments — or ask your own!

What’s the strangest movie you have ever seen?

I’ve seen a lot of strange movies in my day, having been a film major and a film critic, but as of now, I have to say that the strangest is one called Holy Motors, a piece of neo-surrealism made in 2012 by Leos Carax, a French filmmaker.

It’s impossible to describe, but incredibly compelling and hypnotic. It’s one of those things I just ran across online having no idea what it was, but from the first moments it hooked me and took me on its wild ride. The film is anchored by the incredible performance of Denis Lavant, who, as the lead character in the film plays a ton of them.

Check out the trailer.

The premise seems to be that Lavant’s character, who may or may not be Mr. Oscar, is chauffeured around the streets of Paris at night in his limo by Céline (Édith Scob), his faithful driver of many years. She takes him to his various evening assignments, which involve taking on various roles, with elaborate make-up and costumes that he applies himself en route.

Some of the “performances” seem to be for a specific audience, while others are for no one in particular — or maybe for everyone. In a sense, he’s sort of a one-man flash mob, although it’s also clear that he’s not the only “actor” traveling through this demimonde.

Most of the stories take really weird twists, and yet Mr. Oscar goes on to his next assignment after each previous one, no matter how it ended.

In a lot of ways, it’s clearly an allegory for an actor’s life, who is shuttled from role to role at random, led by the whims of their directors, but the metaphor goes beyond that. And, if for no other reason, there’s this interlude that is well worth the price of admission. In the film, it comes out of nowhere and yet makes total sense.

It’s not your run-of-the-mill Hollywood film because, of course it isn’t. It’s French. And as one of my film mentors once brilliantly explained to me, here’s the difference between Hollywood movies and French cinema…

Both films start the same. Our hero is going to meet some old friends at a café to catch up after a long time over a leisurely lunch and drinks, but his taxi gets caught in traffic. Before he gets there, a terrorist bomb goes off right outside the café, killing all of his friends. The only reason he survives is because he was late.

Hollywood move: He spends the rest of the story hunting down and killing the people responsible.

French cinema: He spends the rest of the story wandering around Paris, disconsolate, trying to find meaning in something, anything, and feeling extreme guilt an angst on being the one who survived due to a mere accident of fate.

Et fin.

If you lived to be a hundred, would you rather keep your body at 30 or your mind at 30? (You only get one)

A lot of people would instinctively go for the “young mind” answer to this question, figuring that they’d like to avoid Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and so on. But if you understand biology, then there’s only one best answer: You keep your body at 30.

Why? Because it’s your body at 30, so it’s your brain at 30, along with your heart, and organs, and blood vessels. Ergo, you’re not likely to develop any of those other mental conditions. And if you keep that body all the way until you’re 100 and then start aging, then you’re going to keep on going until you’re pushing 200.

Also, if your body stays young, you’ll have the energy to act like you did at 30, so while you will mentally have all of the knowledge and memories you accumulated up to the point you started this adventure, you will also have the incentive to go out and keep learning.

So you kind of get the best of both worlds — the knowledge accumulated by your older self, but with the renewed kick-start of your younger self. And, come on. With that combination… watch out world.

Which apocalyptic dystopia do you think is most likely?

Hm. What is, “The one we’re living in right now, Alex?” A pandemic that some world powers refuse to acknowledge, the breakdown of democracy and the possible end of the United States as we’ve known it, weather conditions hitting new extremes on the regular leading to more frequent hurricanes and more devastating wildfires among other things, most of 2020 having become one long but necessary span of isolation, and on and on.

It kind of makes wanting to live to 100 in a 30-year-old body sort of a moot question — although if having that 30-year-old body would enable me to jump on the first colony flight to Mars, or even the Moon, I might just jump on the opportunity.

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