One day there was an anonymous present sitting on my doorstep—Volume One of Capital by Karl Marx, in a brown paper bag. A joke? Serious? And who had sent it? I never found out. Late that night, naked in bed, I leafed through it. The beginning was impenetrable, I couldn’t understand it, but when I came to the part about the lives of the workers—the coal miners, the child laborers—I could feel myself suddenly breathing more slowly. How angry he was. Page after page. Then I turned back to an earlier section, and I came to a phrase that I’d heard before, a strange, upsetting, sort of ugly phrase: this was the section on “commodity fetishism,” “the fetishism of commodities.” I wanted to understand that weird-sounding phrase, but I could tell that, to understand it, your whole life would probably have to change. His explanation was very elusive. He used the example that people say, “Twenty yards of linen are worth two pounds.” People say that about every thing that it has a certain value. This is worth that. This coat, this sweater, this cup of coffee: each thing worth some quantity of money, or some number of other things—one coat, worth three sweaters, or so much money—as if that coat, suddenly appearing on the earth, contained somewhere inside itself an amount of value, like an inner soul, as if the coat were a fetish, a physical object that contains a living spirit. But what really determines the value of a coat? The coat’s price comes from its history, the history of all the people involved in making it and selling it and all the particular relationships they had. And if we buy the coat, we, too, form relationships with all those people, and yet we hide those relationships from our own awareness by pretending we live in a world where coats have no history but just fall down from heaven with prices marked inside. “I like this coat,” we say, “It’s not expensive,” as if that were a fact about the coat and not the end of a story about all the people who made it and sold it, “I like the pictures in this magazine.”A naked woman leans over a fence. A man buys a magazine and stares at her picture. The destinies of these two are linked. The man has paid the woman to take off her clothes, to lean over the fence. The photograph contains its history—the moment the woman unbuttoned her shirt, how she felt, what the photographer said. The price of the magazine is a code that describes the relationships between all these people—the woman, the man, the publisher, the photographer—who commanded, who obeyed. The cup of coffee contains the history of the peasants who picked the beans, how some of them fainted in the heat of the sun, some were beaten, some were kicked.For two days I could see the fetishism of commodities everywhere around me. It was a strange feeling. Then on the third day I lost it, it was gone, I couldn’t see it anymore.
Wallace Shawn, The Fever
(To understand it, your whole life would probably have to change.)
Princess Bride: The Shoot From Hell That Made A Beloved Film.
The Princess Bride is one of the most popular heartwarming films of all time. But the story of its production was no fairy tale. Here are just a few of the events that happened on set:
The lead actors didn’t get along. Robin Wright and Cary Elwes fought constantly, often refusing to kiss each other on cue. In one instance, the actors refused to be on set in the other’s presence, necessitating many scenes to be shot with doubles, or one angle at a time.
Director Rob Reiner made the film while suffering from brain parasites. Picked up from bad catering on “Stand By Me,” Reiner frequently collapsed on set, losing the shooting day as a new worm was found and removed from his cerebral cortex. He was finally cured of the disease only days after filming ended.
The “Cliffs Of Insanity” shoot lasted well over 7 months. Weather refused to cooperate with the dangerous stunt of climbing the rope. Every time the actors were in place they had to come back down before a storm hit, and seven stuntmen were killed when they couldn’t get free in time. Due to the dangerous conditions, many of their skeletons remain on the Cliffs of Moher where the sequence was filmed.
Author Donatien François who wrote the book on which the movie was based was furious over the adaptation and often showed up on set despite a restraining order. He managed to burn down the castle sets twice, kidnap Billy Crystal for two days, poison the craft services table with Iocane powder, shoot Werner Herzog, steal most of the horses and viciously bite off Christopher Guest’s sixth finger for which he had been cast. He remains in jail as of 2016.
The budget soared from an intended $16 Million dollars to a record $98 Million, and its planned two month shoot lasted well well into 1987, the film having begun shooting in 1983. During this time numerous roles had to be recast, and many crew were replaced, including ten cinematographers, four directors (Reiner was preceded by Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski, and Werner Herzog), and had to reshoot many scenes when the movie took so long to make that the first footage shot had decayed by the time it made it back to the developer lab.
The large rats used as “ROUSs” were real rats that had been specifically bred upward in size to be in the movie. Taking 4 years to breed, the giant rodents were uncontrollable on stage. In a single day, they ate all the catering, splattered the swamp set with noxious feces that caused sickness among the handlers, tore up most of the costumes, killed an alligator which was to have appeared in the scene, and seven of the beasts were lost into the streets where they caused a massive traffic accident and plagued the Fox Studio lot for decades. One can be seen hiding in the background of a shot in Alien 3.
Wallace Shawn stubbed his toe on a rock while shooting the famous battle of wits scene. He tells the story in “My Dinner With Andre.”
Pssst, Gary, I heard on the new island they replaced you with another Gary. And boy hIS VOICE MAKES ME SO UNCOMFTORABLE, GARY YOU GOTTA HAVR A DUEL WITH YOUR REPLACEMENT, I CAN'T STAND HIS VOICE ANYMORE