My ol' Dad showed me "The Man with the Golden Arm" many years ago when I was quite young and it must have had an effect as I used many drugs in my life but I never would touch heroin. In fact, it was the only street drug I didn't do at one time or another. It's possible there was some contact with it as sometimes back in the Army days people would say they had put some heroin into joints that were called OJ's but who knows if it was really there and I never noticed any particular effect from them beyond that of the reefer.
The movie was shot in the mid- to late-fifties and, even though it was directed and produced by Otto Preminger and starred Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak, it's a cheesy job of a production. It was obviously shot on a Hollywood sound stage and most of the characters are so one-sided as to be almost cartoons but it's still a brilliant piece of work and the jazz in the soundtrack is exceptional.
Eleanor Parker plays Zosh, Frankie's girlfriend, who is keeping him by feigning paralysis in an auto accident in which he was at fault. Her performance is abysmally flat while that of Kim Novak as Molly shows the sensitivity of loving a junkie when she is torn between helping him and walking the hell away. Sinatra isn't exactly a dynamo of acting genius but he shows good sensitivity toward how a junkie who has gone straight is torn between staying that way and going back to his old ways. However, he does an excellent job of showing the pain of kicking it again.
As with "Trainspotting," the climax of the movie is when Mac or Frankie kick heroin and both did fantastic jobs with it but in different ways. However, also like "Trainspotting," it wound up with a 'happy ending' and again I wasn't really satisfied with it. Note that Preminger did not write the story but rather created a screenplay based on a novel by Nelson Algren so it would be interesting to know what he thought of the ending. Perhaps it didn't satisfy him either but he wanted to stay true to the original.
Something that's not obvious from movie is that Otto Preminger is yet another German director. More accurately, he was Austrian but he still belonged to the class of German directors who willingly took on movies that went beyond simply trying to entertain people. Perhaps ironically, one German, ostensibly at one time an artist, who didn't come anywhere near understanding this was Hitler as he commissioned a series of movies for his Third Reich, all of which were complete crap.
Cat has been quite a student of cinema but it still surprised me a little that she was familiar with the "The Man with the Golden Arm." Like me it had been a very long time since she watched it and she said she may watch it again. It had been so long with me that I didn't remember how it ended and perhaps that's the same with her.
Just as with German movie directors, Cat is not satisfied with music that is simply entertaining. Live music is a performance art so of course entertainment is part of it but if that's as far as you're willing to go then it's very unlikely she will stage you at Cat's Art MusikCircus. The same is true with her visual art as making something pretty is not enough for her and some of it is brutal but, even in that frankness, there is an elegant beauty to it.
There is more than intellectual interest in these movies as the damage done to Britain by heroin is obvious the moment you spend some time here. What I'll pass to the sociologists and psychologists in the audience is my concern over any idea that junkies are victims of the evil dealers. I don't mean to defend the dealers but maybe their evil is about the same as the bankers as both are bleeding society but they do it in different ways. My concern is that treating junkies as victims absolves them of responsibility and accountability but you don't become a junkie just by sniffing the stuff, you have to work at it and time will pass before the monkey is on your back.
One example that's familiar to just about everyone is that of Amy Winehouse and she didn't have anything close to a happy ending. I've listened to her husband talk about how it went with heroin and he said it took some while before they were addicted. They didn't even realise their addiction until one day they woke up and felt sick. That's when they realised they were in withdrawal. I think the movie of her life would be an excellent piece of cinema but I have not seen "Sid and Nancy," the story of Sid Vicious and his violently self-destructive path to drug-addicted death. However, even though that story has already been told perhaps it needs to be told again ... and again ... and again ... until people finally understand it.
In my view, underlying all of this is why heroin comes out of U.S. war zones. Afghanistan had been the biggest producer of opium poppies and consequently heroin prior to the Taliban but they came close to wiping it out. Since the U.S. invasion and despite the massive U.S. military presence, poppy cultivation has skyrocketed and Afghanistan is again the biggest producer in the world. The same was true from the Far East during the Vietnam Era when the CIA was actively involved with heroin exportation from Thailand.
Given the staggering volume of heroin required on a daily basis to support a large population of addicts, estimated at a million in the U.S. alone, there's no chance so much could be imported without governmental engagement. The question of how is not so important but the question of why is vital. The U.S. is not the only country involved as there is rampant heroin abuse in the U.K. and, I gather, in Russia as well. Why.
and not knowing.
There is no dream,
there is almost nothing
except the roar of empty voices
screaming words that mean nothing.
They say, "Believe me,
help me to know there is something more
or something else
or anything beyond
television and french fried philosophy,
reduced in fat, of course."
They know the truth,
but it is nothing,
only more words of despair
soaked in rain and blood and selfishness
calling out, "Give me my skag
to cure my sickness."
But there isn't any cure
when the words are the disease
and the needle the suckle
from the mother who is dead.
The raining never stops
nor the bleeding
and the screaming, "Feel my pain,
I need to die
but I am afraid of death
just as I am afraid to live."
And then he awakens.
It starts all over again
"I am sick. Help me."