Monday, April 23, 2012
A Memory Exercise
Several months ago I saw a movie called "The Mechanic" with Charles Bronson. I had seen the movie before, with my father in a theater when I was a child, and then several times since. The last time I watched it I tried to be super-consious of what was happening because I wanted to perform this experiment. I will try to recreate the movie in my memory, to see how much I remember. Then I will re-watch it to see how much I had forgotten. The relevance to scholarly writing is the question of memory itself. How much we know depends on how much we can bring to mind in accurate memory. Charles Bronson plays a hit man or "mechanic." I don't remember his first name. In the first scene he performs an assassination by first breaking into the target's second-storey apartment. He places certain explosives in the man's gas stove and in a book in the bookcase. (There is no dialogue at all during the first part of the movie while he assassinates this man.) The Bronson character watches the man through binoculars from an apartment on the other side of the street. When the explosions happen, he shoots the man from there. The target is a middle-aged or elderly man with glasses and a scholarly demeanor. Bronson always gets his assignments in manila envelopes after receiving a phone call. These calls are laconic, and the envelopes contain a large photo along with other written information. Bronson's father, before him, had also been an assassin. The next scenes are with Bronson and a gangster figure, in the back yard of the gangster's house. He is introduced to the gangster's son. The next manila envelope he receives contains a picture of his gangster friend. He drives to a beach with him, or meets him there, and shoots him as he tries to clamber down some rocks to escape. In the following scenes, the viewer sees the funeral of the gangster, in which Bronson is in attendance. The same night of the funeral, he receives a call from the gangster's son to help out with a situation of a girl who is committing suicide. They are there to help her kill herself, apparently. She has slit her wrists and is in a bathtub. The question is how far they will go before they seek help for her. No matter how many times I see the movie I can't remember how this is resolved, except that the point is to show Bronson's sang-froid--a trait shared by the gangster's son. At some point around here Bronson goes to visit a woman played by Jill Ireland, an actress of limited range who was married to Bronson and played many roles in his films. They have sex. The gangster's son, also played by a rather wooden actor (like Bronson himself!), approaches Bronson to be trained as a hit man himself. The wooden acting is designed to convey a sense of affectlessness. They certainly never chew up the scenery or emote. Bronson is reluctant to reveal his profession at all, and they have some coy conversations, but he ends up agreeing to train and adopt as a partner the younger man. There are scenes of training, one in a martial arts studio, in which a karetaka from Japan breaks someone's ribs. The first hit the two men carry out together is done on the grounds of a large mansion. There are many bodyguards to be taken out, whether before or after the hit on the mobster, and a spectacular motorcycle chase to conclude. The purpose of the scene is to demonstrate the prowess of the two hit men as a team. The next assignment is in Italy. Before they go, the younger hit man receives a manila envelope with Bronson's photo in it. In Italy,the assignment involves taking out someone on small yacht of some kind. There is diving involved. They get on the boat, kill the guy and some bodyguards perhaps, though I don't specifically remember, and return to shore. They are attacked by groups of men in sports cars driving on a mountainous road by the shore. They win this battle, with some cars exploding, and return to the hotel. Drinking red wine, which we might have seen a bit earlier, the younger man reveals to Bronson that he has been poisoned with strychnine. Everyone makes a mistake, and Bronson's is that he couldn't work alone. The younger hit man returns to California and gets in his car. He notices that there is a note on the steering wheel. It is from Bronson, to the effect that if he returns from Italy alone, he will be killed in the car, which then proceeds to explode just at the moment he finishes reading it.