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Unquiet on the Battlefront

April 20, 2010

There were two fronts in this week’s “Battlefront” episode. The first was obvious: the battle every single character was going through to survive. So many characters was was forced to deal with the “kneeling dread,” that fear of having to bow down: Antoine and Janette to their parents, Delmond to his father after his bust, LaDonna biting her tongue when her new husband says “our life is here, in Baton Rouge,” Antoine playing in the strip club. I’ve probably missed an example but it’s been a long day on the road there’s more work to do so fill in my omissions if you will.

One character stood out in this: Albert Lambreaux. When his tools were stolen he not only got them back, he went out and tracked down the petty thief and beat him within an inch of his life, one way or the other. While everyone else scrambled for money or roofers or just some damned respect he showed the heart of steel that’s expected of a Mardi Gras Indian, and even more so of a chief.

You probably found the scene disturbing (my wife did) but I though it tremendously important, a window into a part of New Orleans I am sure we will see as the series unfolds: our chronic violence. There is a root of the violence in our city that doesn’t occur to some of us because we didn’t grow up around it. Others, too many of us did.

Stop here for a moment and read this post by Cliff of Cliff’s Crib from a while back: The Land of Misguided Soldiers.

You back? Good. If you didn’t read it, either go back, or just skip to the next post. I hear there are more pictures of Davis’ butt being posted.

I didn’t grow up in Cliff’s situation. I grew up in the rather sheltered, white-as-a-loaf-of Bunny Bread Lakefront. There were times when a person had to fight (but I dodged most of them. I guess I’m either a natural born coward or too smart; you’ll have to decide that for yourself). Lambreaux’s situation is much closer to Cliff’s than anything I experienced. And that’s probably true for most of the viewing audience. I think Cliff’s post gives those viewers (myself included, but my moment came a year ago when I first read it) some understanding of Lambreaux’s action, of the dark side of what it really means to have “a heart of steel,” of the roots of CNN’S Beirut on the Bayou.

Watching Lambreaux first turn his back on his blood family in Houston in favor of staying in New Orleans, and then that horrific scene of violence: now we are seeing the sketches roughly drawn in the first episode filled in, made complex as Simon gouges out the first stark details in the clay.

As Ray pointed out in another post, Treme is unfolding slowly and there are hints as well of where the show’s story line will go, the “character arc” Simon frequently speaks of in discussing how his shows are built episode by episode: some broad like this week’s prominent and to all post-storm Orleanians familiar battles over money and shingles and pride and place, and some more subtle like Albert’s dark moment.

— wet bank guy

  1. wev permalink
    April 20, 2010 11:01 pm

    This helps me understand finally what my feelings are about this episode. I wanted this series to feel true, to be true in the way great fiction can and now when larger truth begins and I am uneasy. I enjoyed the pilot; the joy felt so real. But now Simon is gouging out his stories, as you say.

    Did I think it it could be true but it wasn’t going to hurt? Did I think we wouldn’t see the growing desperation, the violence, the sleaze, even the edge of darkness in those beautiful street musicians?
    As for the seemingly gratuitous and peculiar snakeskin hat and blood on the wall, it’s probably just as Maitri said, blood in Act I means more blood in later acts. Interesting that Davis cleaned it up and that he sent the kids to a place they could be picked up by that scary looking guy with the ruby studded gold tooth. I think that gave Davis pause, there, for a minute.

    I’m always glad for a link to Cliff. Like you, I follow his blog and when I first found it, went back and read every word.

  2. April 21, 2010 12:20 am

    “Kneeling dread”

  3. April 21, 2010 5:07 am

    Cliff’s post and the subject in general made me think of this video someone made to the song Buckjump Time. It speaks a great deal to what Cliff wrote about those lesser known aspects of New Orleans culture.

    (I cannot believe I have forgotten the HTML code for hyperlinks. It’s really been that long. Sorry.)

  4. April 21, 2010 6:32 am

    New Orleans has never suffered Fools kindly. For me that has always been the living dying irony behind the Harlequins.
    Cliff describes an innate dissonance of New Orleans culture, the violence of which had come to nearly every doorstep that summer before the flood.
    What would happen during the flood came fast and final.
    This is not that story I know, but what Simon will have to show me is how all of this comes through the wood-chipper post-flood.

    Given our loss since the water went down of a beloved band leader, renowned film maker and precious artist just to not name a few, this scene with the Chief strikes me as almost gratuitous.
    For me this Flood was no more Racially effective than the Reaper, yet post-flood I have seen every attempt to drive the narrative in that direction.
    I am hoping that “Treme” is not shaping up to be just such a vehicle too.

    I was stunned by the hubris of the voodoo references, can’t go there but to say that “Angel Heart” nearly had to shut down because of the workers’ comp claims…. and that Armstrong Park sat dark for over 20 years after they put it on top of that neighborhood.

    Thank you again for this great blogging.

  5. April 21, 2010 7:55 am

    Video is not allowed in our cells in the Temple Moloch but look forward to seeing that tonight. Thanks.

    Felt I could have said more but I think Cliff said it all with his usual direct eloquence.


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