I love my wife. She had an idea. She wanted to create her own website, where she could write about her thoughts and feelings and beliefs. She is so open, so honest. I love the way she writes. She somehow manages to advocate for a certain way of living without sounding preachy. I genuinely enjoy reading her posts, and I look forward to seeing what she will write next.
When Jaime started her website, she asked me to contribute to it. I told her that I would write for her, and I meant it. That was in January, and up until now I have contributed nothing.
My wife’s calls her website, ”Happy Does It.” This makes sense for her. My wife is a happy person with a positive outlook on life, and this is reflected in her writing. I do not see myself as a “happy person.” My best ideas seem to come from a very dark place.
So, since agreeing to write for Jaime’s website, I have been continually asking myself if I can, or if I even should. Then a few weeks ago, I had occasion to write a letter of complaint. This isn’t something that I do often, although I certainly could. At any rate, in this particular instance, I was extremely bothered by something, and imagined myself writing a letter, as I often do. However, this time I was seized by another idea. It hit me that I should write the letter, then use it as part of an introductory piece for “Happy Does It.” Here is the letter I wrote and e-mailed to the Bravo! television channel, unedited, and in its entirety:
To Whom It May Concern:
In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 13, I, unable to sleep, sat down to watch your telecast of the film, “Eastern Promises.” To say that I found this telecast to be offensive would be an understatement. In your warnings before the beginning of the movie and at the end of every commercial break, viewers were warned about violence, coarse language, and nudity. However, you failed to warn viewers that they would be subjected to censorship and hypocrisy. The decision to air the film with the bathhouse fight scene excised was an extremely poor one on the part of Bravo! In doing so, you have failed at your self-described goal, that is, to be an “innovative channel (which) covers all aspects and facets of the arts.” For this, Bravo! should make amends.
From an artistic standpoint, it is indefensible that the bathhouse fight scene was cut from your airing of “Eastern Promises.” It is a perfect scene, in its logic and in its staging. Too often in crime films, assassins walk into a building or through streets with big guns and blaze away, and these scenes are presented with a great deal of noise, quick-cutting, shaky camera work, and special effects. What has been achieved with the bathhouse scene is a scene which shows the intimacy and brutality of up-close violence. As well, the assassins use linoleum knives, which makes sense because these are deadly, concealable, and are primarily not weapons, and therefore easily explained should the assassins be detained before they reach their target. Also, the scene is a pivotal one for the central character, Nikolai, played brilliantly by Viggo Mortensen. The scene captures the resourcefulness and desperation of a man who is fighting for his life as he is at his most vulnerable; naked, weaponless, alone. The scene was described by Roger Ebert thusly:
At a time when movie "fight scenes" are as routine as the dances in musicals, Nikolai engages in a fight in this film that sets the same kind of standard that "The French Connection" set for chases. Years from now, it will be referred to as a benchmark.
For a channel that touts itself as having been, “...created to fill the void of interesting and relevant cultural programming,” Bravo! has created an artistic void in this film that robs its viewers, some of whom may have been seeing this movie for the first time, of something truly beautiful, honest, unique, and necessary.
After much thought, the only conclusion I can come to as to why this particular scene was cut from your telecast is the fact that it shows Viggo Mortensen’s penis. If this is indeed the case, I find it most distressing. Mortensen’s performance in this movie is an amazing achievement. He embodies the character of Nikolai in every way. Because he is completely naked in this scene, and because of the scene’s obvious physicality, the bathhouse fight demonstrates a measure of physical courage not generally seen in movies, and certainly not involving actors of Mortensen’s stature. Furthermore, the film contains many graphic scenes of violence, including a man’s throat being hacked with a razor, as well as at least one scene depicting sexual intercourse in which female nudity is seen. To leave out the bathhouse fight scene due to violence makes no sense, and due to Mortensen’s nudity demonstrates a hypocritical double-standard. It is an insult to Mortensen’s dedication to the film and to the craft of acting to delete this scene.
Bravo! needs to right this wrong. The network should commit itself to airing the film again in its entirety. Bravo! owes an apology to David Cronenberg, to Viggo Mortensen, and to its viewers. This should be done with as much publicity as was used to promote the airing of “Eastern Promises,” and should be done with as much regularity as the warnings that are shown before and during the telecast of the film.
George F. Howie
You can’t really get a sense of what a person is like based on one letter, and this letter certainly doesn’t encompass everything I am as a person. It does, however, contain some basic truths about me. I love the arts, especially film, and I believe in artistic integrity. I do not like hypocrisy. I absolutely despise censorship. I believe free speech and free expression are worth fighting for. I don’t like it when people and organizations appoint themselves as society’s “nannies,” to protect us from making the wrong choices. It is because of this combination that I was compelled to write the letter. I was offended.
Recently, I wrote to a friend that “(b)eing offended is what reminds me that I'm alive. If it's possible to be good at such a thing, well, I'm very good at that.” It’s not that I’m some crazy prude who runs around screaming like a nut for people to cover up the legs on their furniture because they’re obscene. It’s just that I, well, I hate people in general and find a great deal about human behaviour to be indefensible. Feeling the way that I do makes it very difficult to feel happy.
However, venting about it makes me feel good. And writing makes me feel really good, because I get to think and reason out what it is exactly that’s bothering me and put it into words. I love words. Take the experience I described in the letter. The experience of watching the movie and discovering the missing scene made me angry, but writing the letter was a very pleasurable experience. When I clicked “send” and sped my missive along on its way, I felt a great wave of relief and happiness wash over me.
I started out with the goal to keep my promise to my wife and contribute something to her website. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I needed to do this for myself. If I’m unhappy, it’s because I don’t do enough to make myself feel better. I can’t help seeing things that offend me. I can write about them. I know that expressing myself makes me feel better.
I love to write. I love the process. I get ideas, and I write them down. Maybe I take the time to develop an idea. I write, and write, and rewrite. I strive to find the right words, the perfect phrasing. I rarely share, though. There’s always a “reason.” I hold on to everything. I’m afraid to let go. I strive for a perfection that can never be achieved. And I do nothing.
Well, I can’t do nothing anymore. I’m letting go.
This is my introduction to www.happydoesit.com. Believe me when I say this: I am happy now.