Thursday, August 01, 2019

Matters Manson

I have not yet seen Quentin Tarantino's new film. My fandom has had a rocky ride with him of late. I loved Reservoir Dogs, grew to love Pulp Fiction, and still think his best film is Jackie Brown, but (despite multiple attempts in most cases) have not fully enjoyed any of his movies since then; some have been amusing enough, like the Kill Bill films, but others (The Hateful Eight, which I wrote about here) have been a painful, if sometimes interesting, slog at best. Still, I am protecting myself from knowing too much about Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood; I am anticipating that it will in some way acknowledge aspects of the Me Too movement, the outing of Harvey Weinstein as a predator, and that whole thing about endangering Uma Thurman during the Kill Bill shoot - since all of these things connect with Hollywood and its excesses, in ways very relevant to QT's career. I am not (like some) planning to boycott the film, or to use it to trash Tarantino; I'll see it, and see where it goes.

In the run-up, however, I have been poking my nose into two things, a book that revisits the Manson murders and explores angles not included in Vincent Bugliosi's "official narrative." It's called Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, by Tom O'Neill and Dan Piepenbring (Guardian review here). I am only 100 pages in, and it's very interesting, well-written, and provocative. I never really bought Bugliosi's explanation for the murders - the idea that Manson wanted the Family to start a race war, then hide in the desert until whitey was decimated - since it sounds too much like wildly speculative, entertaining trash talk by acidheads, as interpreted by someone who had never even smoked grass. Turns out there are a lot of reasons to question that narrative, and the Bugliosi himself was livid about some of what O'Neill dug up in his research (the preface of the book involves Bugliosi threatening O'Neill with lawsuits or worse if certain things see the light of day). The more I read, the more I want to keep reading; it's a fairly gripping story, though I gather O'Neill does not emerge at the end with any one singular counter-narrative as to what actually happened.

Secondly, I encountered, last night, a very charming movie made with the involvement of Jay and Mark Duplass, called Manson Family Vacation. It queries the reasons why a certain type of misfit and weirdo gravitates towards Manson, and it's on Netflix now (here in Canada, anyhow; can't speak to elsewhere). It's a few years old, and made while Manson was still alive (featuring some footage of him talking, note). It is at times very funny, at times surprisingly touching, and throughout is low key and earnest and an embodiment of all the best values of mumblecore, the "movement" that the Duplass brothers emerged from.

Anyhow, for people who have not yet had a chance to see the Tarantino film, or who have seen it and are looking for related matters to entertain themselves with, O'Neill's book and the Manson Family Vacation movie are pretty entertaining.

That's all I wanted to say...

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