Let’s get back to the rats.
You know, put a buncha rats in your movie. That’s an impulse many directors have had. A curious one.
It can’t be easy—no, I suppose, ah! Can’t they be easily trained? Because scientists are always [short laugh] runnin’ them through mazes to get pellets? As far as I know from popular culture?
When you see…
Well, it was kind of touching in the Demy version of The Pied Piper, when the extras are, you know, trying to battle the rats at one point, but it’s obvious, in a very sweet way, that Demy said, “Okay, guys, be careful now, don’t, don’t hurt… These rats are rented, you know, don’t… We can’t get our deposit back on these rats, so… uh…”
So, anyway, the extras are… whacking in the vicinity of the rats [laughter] with their little short sticks. And they are, uh… you know, gently scooping in the general direction of a rat with a… with a shovel, and it’s supposed to look like they’re narrowly missing the rats, I suppose, but it really—it looks more like what it is: a… you know, cautious, “Let’s not frighten the rats too much.” You know. “These rats are professionals.”
[Sigh. Long pause.]
And then there’s a sort of—I don’t—you know, I know they’re not real, and I don’t think he hurt any rats. I don’t know. Demy does not seem like the type of man who would wish harm to befall any creature, unlike so many of his… uh… fellow… arthouse directors, who delight in having… for example, you know, a goose, uh, getting its head chopped off in that, uh… adaptation of Bluebeard by Catherine, I can’t think of her last name. Breer, Breer, Breillat? Somethin’ like that. You know, that goose. You know, “Let’s not only chop the goose’s head off, uh, let’s let it flop around with its life essence, you know, spurting samurai style from its… neck hole… for, for, you know, let’s see how long we can hold the camera on that. All right! Is the goose ready?”
Or in the… uh… was that Schlesinger, perhaps? Who directed the, uh… Julie Christie aaah—adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd? In which there’s an extended cockfight scene… and believe me, cocks were harmed in the filming of that scene.
Well! Demy doesn’t strike me as that type. There’s a scene when rats are going into the river, but it’s, it’s, it’s cute, it’s like they’re cupcakes on a conveyor belt. I don’t think they’re real… rats. It’s like this little [sigh] slide [sigh]. Like a child’s slide at a park—there’s little rats, plop, plop, plop into the water.
[Coffee drinking. Satisfied coffee sigh.]
“A big rat jumped plop into the scum.” Is that a quotation from James Joyce?
Oh yeah. So then the Pied Piper says, “Hey, rat.” He sees one final rat. “Hello, rat. You’re…” You know, “This town sucks. You’re lucky to get outta this, this crap hole.”
And, so maybe that’s how you make th—you really have to work hard to make the Pied Piper sympathetic. Okay, maybe he’s saving the kids from the plague. Look at it that way.
Or maybe, as he told the rat, he thinks, you know, this town’s not—[stomach growling long and loud]—this town’s an oppressive… [stomach continues to growl very persistently].
“You’re not gettin’ anywhere in this town.”
Maybe he’s takin’ the kids to a [laughter] nicer town.
I remember [stifled laugh] one thing I was gonna say. It’s not that… uh… it’s not interesting at all! But maybe it’s a good detail for something in the future. I don’t even think that’s true. But I notice that now that my beard has grown for… I haven’t cut it since Trump got elected. Part of me considers it a, you know, a bold statement. [Drinking coffee.] I’m gonna go visit my mother and father. I should really, I—I can’t… I can’t subject them to this beard. [Sniff.]
One day, uh… we had a very windy day and I was walking around outside, and… the [short laugh] wind was blowing through my beard. And it was a… I’ve never had that… I’ve never had a [short laugh] beard long enough… uh… for the wind to blow through it. [Laughter.] What an idiot.
But, uh, it was a very pleasant sensation I’ve never guh, guh, experienced and at least I did think, “Oh, look. You can be a middle-aged man and have a sensation you’ve never experienced before. It’s still possible.” [Laughter that turns into coughing.]
Oh my God. [Laughter.]
I need to indicate that that was a much longer bout of laughter than usual. I can’t… uh… my… I was heaving with laughter, perhaps.
[Sniff. Gruff exhalation.]
But the… [laughter]. I can’t even talk about it. But the wind [laughter]… why is this tickling me so much? The wind was, uh [short bark of laughter], gently tugging… at my beard. Uh, wuh, weh, you know, I’ve never, that was a strange sensation to feel your whole beard being gently tugged. Not painful at all, uh… [laughter]. Now I’m tryin’ to imagine the kind of wind that would painfully tug—uh, yuh, uh, uh, you’d really have to be in a hurricane, I guess, and at that point your, your mind would be elsewhere. You wouldn’t be thinking about how it made your beard feel.
But it’s very nice! That’s one thing that people with longer beards know, I suppose. And they don’t tell us. ‘Cause I’d never heard about the pleasant sensation of the wind blowing through someone’s beard. I’m here to tell you, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh… it’s lovely!
This way, please, to the next installment.
Jack Pendarvis has written five books. He won two Emmys for his work on the TV show Adventure Time. During a period of light employment, he spoke into a digital recorder whenever the mood struck him and transcribed the results, accumulating the two thousand pages from which this column has been extracted.