Moon #10: “The Lovers Struggle to Take What they Want”
“One of the rallying cries of that generation was: ‘What the fuck? You wanna fucking live forever?’ And the answer of course was, ‘No.’ You want to live just for now. Like a fire in the night. Like a spark that flares and vanishes.”
The generation Mike Daisey is referencing in the quote above is the World War II generation. He uses it in Chapter Ten of All the Faces of the Moon in contrast to people these days, who are so unwilling to give their selves over to an experience; to leap into a relationship for instance. He talks about the freedom that comes with jumping off of that proverbial cliff, into uncertainty. Daisey believes such an experience is exhilarating and important.
This fearlessness manifests itself in his narrative – at the end of episode ten things very much go over a cliff for Daisey and his characters. For the past two (maybe even three) episodes he has been building towards one moment: 3:47 pm on a Sunday. In earlier installments Daisey focused each episode on one character – like the gender-flexible Jack, Livia, or even himself – but for the most recent installments he’s been crosscutting between two or even three in the span of one episode. The transitions between characters have quickened, almost to the breakneck speed of Robert Altman, whose works we all know to be the storytelling equivalent of the speed of light – the laws of physics simply will not allow storytellers to jump between characters any faster than in, say, Shortcuts.
It’s an effective technique, nonetheless, which allows us to check in with multiple characters before the event that finally occurs at 3:47: an astonishingly described explosion that “disintegrates” an entire building and takes the lives of two of Daisey’s characters. We don’t know precisely what, but this cataclysm has something to do with Livia, who was delivering a message in the building for the Grey Lady, and also with the gruesome death of “The Big Guy” (a.k.a. the Greek god Dionysus). For a few episodes, The Big Guy’s son (and sometimes daughter) Jack has been agonizing over his destiny – whether or not he should kill his father. The Big Guy is fated to die and be reborn, so he wants to Jack to do it; otherwise there will be grave consequences. Only Jack didn’t kill the Big Guy – someone else has and now things are going completely crazy. Daisey’s eyes are bleeding, wine is turning to blood, silver coins are turning black, and, of course, there’s the massive explosion, which everyone in Daisey’s occult clique can feel as a piercing psychic jolt. We are following Sabrina, a doomed photographer from Brazil, when the explosion takes place. Daisey takes his time with each burst of heat and glare of light, slowing down the cascade of horrific events to help us fully comprehend the sense of inevitability and mayhem. The balanced way that Daisey unspools it makes for an amazing sequence, something that most action movie directors can’t do with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal.
Fittingly, Daisey dedicates most of this episode to that which is fleeting – a moment of connection between an estranged father and son, ghostly visions of his wife Jean-Michele’s dreams, Sabrina’s all-too brief romance. Whether they are colossal supernatural tragedies or small epiphanies, they are things that are here and then gone, leaving us reeling as we attempt to reconcile their full meaning. He makes this point best in a small speech about one of his perennial topics: the art (and magic) of theater.
You will tell yourself the story you always wanted to hear. And every performance has always been that because the performance only exists in the room at the moment. It’s like shining a shaft of light through a dark room. It illuminates things for a moment and then it’s gone. And as soon as it vanishes, as soon as it’s gone you begin. And you build the narrative you wanted to see anyway. You build it out in every direction.