Sunday, August 26, 2012
Somerset Maughm's, "The Razor's Edge", is a tale of self-discovery by its lead character, Larry, after WW I and the economic boom leading up to the '29 crash. He leaves Chicago and his fiance, Isabel, played by the luminously beautiful Gene Tierney, whom he refuses to marry, because he will not sell bonds and live the life of the rich and comfortable. His chief protagonist is her uncle, Eric Templeton, a rich snob with a heart of gold that is concealed, who thinks Larry is unacceptable as a full fledged member of the society he actively seeks as accepted member of the American and European aristocracies. Larry's childhood friend, Sophie, played in the movie by the strikingly beautiful actress Anne Baxter, is the pivotal character who can neither live the expected comfortable life and falls into alcoholism when her main link to the good life, her husband and child, die in a car crash in post WW I Chicago, or rise above her loss to live a life of decline leading to a violent death. Isabel is also another pivotal character who retains her passion for Larry even when married to Gray, the rich bond trader who suffers a breakdown when he loses everything in the '29 crash. She continually offers her love but rejects Larry, as he does her, because he chooses to live the spiritual life. The book and the movie are prescient of the modern day infatuation with Eastern religious spiritualism, but even more so because Larry is the symbol of the few westerners who want self-awareness more than material well being and offers a sharp contrast to the American culture that seeks acceptance and reputation built on false expectations of the American dream. Larry finally comes to the realization that his identity is defined by him and not by the judgments and standards of the world he has left.
American Movie Classic's offering last night comes before the opening of the 2012 Republican convention. Whether that is the purpose of this coincidence, it sends a messsage to the Romney-Ryan candidacy. Larry talks about truth revealed by the hard work of introspection and knowledge. Romney-Ryan stand for the lies and mistakes of the ruling class of the American culture, a throw back of sorts to the culture of boom growth after WW I and the recklessness then of risk taking economic adventurism leading up to the 1929 economic depression. Romney-Ryan should have watched this movie, but their lock on their beliefs would not have revealed the underlying themes of the picture. And they proceed with proposing this country to live on the razor's edge.