Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chapter 14

I have always been fascinated by the difference between period pieces and works produced at the time. With too many TV channels, everything is a rerun, but it's still easy to tell the difference. Period pieces fixate on details people want to remember. Watch Mad Men, and you'll see the camera linger on the furniture. Cars are beautiful, and the camera lingers there too. For contrast, watch Breakfast at Tiffany's. Cars and furniture show up in the background, and they stay there. Although the movie was clearly made at the time, it was as well produced as Mad Men. The attitude towards its surroundings gives it away. In Breakfast cars are polished, but many of them are ugly. Off-brand makes and models show up. Cars simply go by, as they do in real life.

Dick Matena's adaptation of Kaas falls into both categories. The text was written in 1933, while the drawings were copyrighted in 2008. To his credit, Matena does not beat The Depression to death. He could have populated his drawings with the Belgian equivalents of veterans selling apples and, "Brother, can you spare a dime?" but he didn't. Instead, he stayed true to the author's vision of the events as they unfolded. As a result, I was a bit surprised to finally see The Depression become part of the story in Chapter 14.

Until he leaves his job at General Marine, Frans Laarmans lives in a closed world. He goes home and to work. When his mother dies, he meets different people, and his world starts to open. He decides there might be more money and glory in the cheese business.

In this Chapter, his world opens enough for him to see society's margins. All sorts of people come to his house, looking for jobs or a ball of cheese. Even his youngest brother-in-law shows up, a diamond cutter trying to live in an era when work is way down.

From there, Frans goes to Brussels to look in on his reps. He is unable to find either of them. One would seem to have given a bogus address, though the mail gets there. He goes to the other's house, only to find a man who says he's, "Not interested in the cheese story."

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