by guest reviewer W.G. Sebald
Not long ago, I found myself for reasons beyond my control at the Rivoli Cinema, Camberwell, an art deco building of some local historical significance. [Lengthy digression omitted.] I was approached by a small, slightly-disheveled man whom I was only mildly surprised to recognise as Austerlitz, an acquaintance from my travels in Europe. This reminds me of something Montesquieu wrote about bat droppings, said Austerlitz. [Lengthy digression omitted.] I suggested we see Million Dollar Baby as I felt its title had some significance to our meeting, although I could not put my finger on it precisely. The film was unremarkable, save for Clint Eastwood's trousers, which were hitched up almost to his nipples. I am reminded, said Austerlitz, of old Hoffenbach, the architecture professor whom I later discovered was my natural father. Of course, that is another story. [Another twelve inter-related stories as it turns out, here omitted.] I believe, said Austerlitz, that Morgan Freeman's character is almost superfluous, a species of deus ex machina that, its job done, keeps hanging around waiting for further opportunities to influence the plot. I told Austerlitz that I found the story predictable. Yes, said Austerlitz, predictable in its attempt at unpredictability. The moment the major plot twist occurs, one remembers an earlier conversation that blatantly signals the film's resolution. And the father/daughter subtext is laughably unsubtle. Yet the film has awakened in me memories of childhood events I had long forgotten. [Meandering anecdote of questionable relevance omitted.] Later, as we sat in a nearby cafe, Austerlitz reflected on the enigma of Clint Eastwood's trousers. They are a symbol, said Austerliz, of mortality. They are a shroud, inching ever closer to the seat of reason. Clint is old, said Austerlitz, as are we all. We all have our trousers hitched up too high for comfort. And, without another word, Austerlitz walked away, leaving me to pay the bill.