February 6, 1905 [The Kleptomaniac]

In the end, after the destitute woman who steals food is taken away and the rich lady who steals baubles to feed only her troubled brain is released, Justice peeks from behind her blindfold, no doubt to ensure that the scales remain tipped. Another bit of social pamphleteering from Edison, well-meaning but obvious. Still, the world needs its interrogators, and at times The Kleptomaniac with all good intentions tries to upend middle-class complacency. Here, we see both the poor and the rich as victims of forces—both social and mental—outside of their control, with the added injury that the poor are given no indulgences, doubly victimized, with only a few sympathetic glances before the punishment falls.

But I worry that the cinema will take itself too "seriously"—not as art, but as arbiter. Or perhaps all I want is for the didactic to arrive with a little less finger-wagging and a bit more—what? Raising of fists? Anarchist snarls? Are social injustices a form of violence to be displayed violently? Or will louder voices simply mean more noise? I'm not sure if, like Hamlet's mother, I want "more matter, with less art" (given my own propensity for the purple, such a demand would seem more than a little disingenuous); but I'm getting as bored with cinematic sermons as I am with bad-boy pranks and card-tricks.

This mood arrives once more. Maybe I'm going to the cinema too often. On the other hand, I just heard some of Bela Bartok's Hungarian folk songs, and they almost broke my heart; and I can stare at a Monet haystack until it passes from abstraction to haystack and back again; and I believe I am on the verge of being able to do more than simply bear George Bernard Shaw. Do not puff yourself up, though: Your heart lies where it is, not in your head, and it will always be back to the moving picture-show for you. Raise your eyes, then, and keep watching. Everything will catch up with everything else, sooner or later.
In the meantime, weep for the poor woman without bread, and wonder at the rich one with her shame and fortune. Common decency, that old schoolmarm, demands.


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