The joy of racking our nerve center
By Op Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-25 08:26

The joy of racking our nerve center

They do not make films like they used to in the good old days till the 1970s, or perhaps the early 1980s, said my colleague.

You bet, I nodded in agreement, especially the offbeat ones. Imagine something like Papillon, based on the Henri Charriere novel, I continued, the cool dude act of Steve Mcqueen offset by the brilliance of Dustin Hoffman what acting.

Or, my colleague exclaimed, think of films like Marathon Man. Hoffman with the great Laurence Olivier.

And what about the film, I interjected, with Olivier and Michael Caine? O, what was it called? You remember, Olivier was a veteran detective storywriter and Caine, a hairdresser in love with his wife. Olivier invites Caine to his house almost the entire film was shot in a room. Joseph Mankiewicz was the director. Come on it begins with S. Give me another word for "detective" starting with S.

Spy, said my colleague.

No, I exhaled.



We were talking about Hollywood films during a break, with my colleague sitting on his desk. Except for John Ford and Charlie Chaplin (and perhaps a couple of other directors), Hollywood has never had masters of cinema like Eisenstein, Renoir, Bunuel or Fellini, or even Bergman, Kurosawa or Angelopoulos. But still it used to make meaningful and entertaining films. Alas! No more.

Should I google Olivier and Hoffman for the answer? my colleague said with a naughty smile.

That would be the end of conversation, I objected.

The Internet is a great pacifier. It nips all conversations, especially those that can turn into healthy arguments, in the bud.

Let's forget the Net, I said. I've seen the film, so have you. We don't need the www to get its title. Let's use our brains for a change.

Yeh, yeh, my colleague cried out. I've seen a somewhat similar film with Caine and the Superman actor Christopher Reeve. Deathtrap.

O, that Sidney Lumet film, I jutted in.

The conversation veered around to music and literature. But Olivier and Caine kept playing hide and seek in our brains. We talked about the "angry young men". John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe and John Braine peppered our discussion. But who was the fourth prominent angry young man? And what's the name of Braine's famous novel?

We recalled the long forgotten names of Osborne's and Sillitoe's books, but the title of Braine's famous work had become "corrupted" in our memory disks.

Ah! I cried. I've read it more than 25 years ago it had a reddish-orange cover. But all my rusty brain could think of are James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room and E.M. Forster's Room with a View. Age seems to be catching with me, I lamented.

Let's google this one, my colleague said, with a sarcastic smile this time.

I agreed, grudgingly.

But instead of hitting the keyboard, he almost jumped up from his chair with joy. I thought he would cry "eureka", but he blurted out Sleuth.

Sleuth is the title of the Olivier-Caine film. How could I forget it? Perhaps the comfort of having the Internet at hand is to blame for that. Perhaps that's why I couldn't recall Room at the Top (Braine's novel) and Literature Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter's name (the other "angry young man"). What a shame!

The human brain is a strange organ. The more we use it the sharper and richer it gets. Arguably, an average person uses only 10 to 20 percent of his brain. And if we fall on google for answers to all our questions, we'll be using it even less.

The Net has enriched our lives, for sure. But our dependence on it has also left us poorer. The joy of recalling something by racking our brains is becoming ancient history.

So let's think before hitting the keyboard for an answer.

E-mail: oprana@hotmail.com