‘Civilization and Its Discontents’ by Larry Smith

soft cartel may 2018

Total silence. Split screen. Credits on the left. On the right, a naked woman facing the camera. She is surrounded by a small group of fully clothed men and women, slightly moving toward each other and milling about as if at a cocktail party, but not speaking. A few glance at the naked woman. A few glance away. A few smile slightly. The woman’s face remains impassive.

The credits conclude on the right. The woman and the others are on the left. None of the people seen in the opening shots appear at any time in the scenes to follow.

A guttural and intense male voice is heard singing the refrain from Old McDonald’s Farm, incanting “eee eye eee eye oh.” He sings it three times.

Four couples in a tasteful but not luxuriant apartment sipping drinks. The men are dressed in jackets but no ties. The women are well-dressed, a little more than casually dressed but not at all formally. There are photographs and a couple of paintings on the wall. Rear left is a bookshelf full of books. Sounds of their conversations filter through to the audience but it is more of an indistinguishable low murmur. Among the words that do become audible: “Everything there is delicious” (male voice); “She’s going to be 12 next month” (female voice); “They’ve got this one painting that was extensively damaged” (female voice); “How many blue states are at risk?” (male voice).

Meg and Mark on couch, Jack standing by couch, Melissa in chair. Melissa is a pleasantly plump, pretty woman in her thirties. Meg and Jack are in their thirties too. Mark is grayer-haired and looks older. The murmur of other conversations is still heard with occasional words being audible, such as “he was elected in any event” and “the question is whether or not they actually believe what they’re saying.”

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