Poirot And I Explain ‘Big Eyes’ by Tim Burton

“I was nervous. When I first started, I dropped the brush.” – Margaret D. H. Keane

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A still frame from the film “Big Eyes” by Tim Burton

Needless to say, the following story is merely fan-fiction and boy just take a look at that title – wow, a lot to take in, I can imagine.
I’d click, however. I’d surely click.

Moreover, this is a take on Agatha’s infamous recurring final chapter ‘Poirot Explains’ and – you’ve guessed it – it features Tim Burton’s ‘Big Eyes’ as a main body of exploration.

I’m also a character.

Here we go:

You can imagine my most profound anxiety once I’d heard Poirot will, as well as myself, be spending the night in a spare guest bedroom at the Burton manor some years ago in early June. Empirically speaking, I’d either end up being murdered or the murderer. My distress was even greater when I was given a blueprint of the London manor upon my arrival.
What you wouldn’t imagine is my awe.

The moment grasped by the horns and the starstruckness by the heroes I’ve met.

Lord Jesus, what a beautiful day it was.

When a side-view window was first open, some cool London undercurrent got tangled within the structure of his oakwood dining table, thus waking its terrestrial scents that went on to hover up his contemporary spiral staircase.
That must be why people go for wooden furniture in the first place.

We followed the scents up the stairs, Poirot and I, having rested on a platform along the way to appreciate a saucer-eyed Keane portrait of Lisa Marie embracing a slim doggo in her arms.

For me, it was the first time I’d seen a live Keane.

At once Tim Burton rushed downstairs again to see about an Eldridge telegram regarding some star-shaped face sticker or what not, and it was then and there that I initiated my conversation with the Belgian. As yet I’d been waiting for my turn to inquire his powerful intake on stuff and even more so on a Keane or a Burton.

“What an art history lesson, my friend, amirite? – it was me who first had to blabber.”

“Really? Is that so, mon ami?”

“I mean, surely, they are not a high-brow art, but it has to have something to account for the popularity?”

“Instinct is a marvelous thing. You can never ignore it, only go so far as to draw your own conclusions from the facts at your possession.”

“Oh, really? Are you keeping back conclusions from me? Enlighten me, Poirot, please.”

“I am doing nothing of the kind. Every fact known to me is known to you as well. Tell me one thing, however, how does it strike you?”

“Well, they do put it down as kitch?”

“Who is they, my friend? And please, lose the uptalk.”

“Sorry. The taste police, I must say.”

“But, you see, it’s your feelings that intrigue me the most. What I am utmost impressed by is the unintelligent first intake of the uneducated everyman. Here, mon ami, is where you will be of great assistance to me.”

I was most pleased with the compliment, for before my arrival here, there had been times I hardly thought Poirot would ever appreciate me at my true worth. I always found myself seen useless by such creatures. This surprising turn of events, however, finally gave me the confidence to speak.

“Well, I’ve always wondered when they decided to settle for the term ‘kitsch’. When exactly was it about time in mankind history to put a good… a popular artist down as unworthy? Like, have they always been profound in symbolisms prior to that? I mean, I find Shakespeare the very king of kitsch, for that matter. Like, I will never be convinced that he ever meant to say anything profound, and all he’s ever been is a good entertainer. He was popular. People just like to think he’s deep as if he somehow gains in worth with all that being from the past and stuff. He was even put down by the high-brow of his contemporaries and we’re like, ignoring it now. Why? Why do we do that? Because his name has stayed around, regardless to all. Their name has evaporated in time. What we’re exploring today is the reasons why he’s been so popular.”

“Ma foi, how wise we’re being, my friend! For one thing, you’ve mentioned a time in mankind history when the so-called necessity for the term ‘kitsch’ came about. Now, I myself have a theory of all things in history coming together when the demand of time is right. And I must say there is one very peculiar reason why the term was coined and when.”

“What will become of your theories, my dear fellow, when I attach a number to their name? By me, it makes an immense amount of sense it came about in the 19-th century, whit the industrial revolution having ended and people settling for getting the most out of an industrial machine. The effect was so that not only did material goods overflow, but in a case of domino effect, so did social organization eventually change and the number of artists grew at large. Accordingly, they needed a way to defer between the quality of art in question. A refusal of the easy is what came about.”

“An excellent recovery of wits, I must say. Mon ami, have you never, in all your understanding, dismissed in clear conscience the derogatoriness of this entire kitsch concept? You will undoubtedly notice the demand of the existence of kitsch art just alongside the demand of its creation. The purification of an image of the undivine and unacceptable for the sole purpose of creating a fuzzy feeling of a world that is ultimately ‘pretty’ is, after all, a craft in its own right with a very peculiar undertone and plenty of possibility for mistake and misguidance. How can anyone find it easy in the first place, so to demand its refusal is beyond me. Even more so, the worth of its craftsmanship will not be shaken because a pretentious man with a typewriter once decided that a human need for a closed interpretation and a pure, undisturbed emotion must be tyrannically deemed unworthy.” – said the little man, his bodily posture divided between annoyance and amusement.

“I agree. It’s a phenomenon is what it is. The intentional contemporary laughter behind the imagery is another thing, and the de facto intention of lack of taste eventually comes down to wide-spread functionality and an instant language. Hence, it has got to be the exploitation associated with kitsch that has people confused it’s altogether a bad thing. Yet, there must be bad kitsch?” – I added analytically.

“Ah! – cried Poirot. How can there not be? That would, accordingly, be the kitsch that fails to fulfill the kitsch mission; the beauty and perfection of the subject, the melodrama and emotionally-charged imagery, the identifiability and familiarity of association. Speaking of which, how did you like the film? Quick, before he’s back or figures he could just as well eavesdrop.”

“I will for the love of me leave out what’s been widely said about the film. On the contrary, I seemed to enjoy plenty about it. Its Burtonness, per se, the quirkiness, the film’s gestures, and the clear, purified emotions could have easily failed to fulfill its kitsch mission. In the right hands, of course, they did not. “

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Another still frame from the film “Big Eyes” by Tim Burton

“Mon ami, what you mean is it was purposefully kitsch?  And moreover, it was a pure Burton at the same time?”

“Of course, Poirot. It was a purposeful kitsch. He must have figured that he of all people has to be the one to know how to tell her story and it was the only way to it. Though it takes a quirky wit to understand all its undertone, and cinema folk today is obsessed with high-brow film to the point of becoming easily dismissive of all that seems even remotely shallow in content. They fall into their own trap of depth vs cliché and so foresee true gems of art. And I’m not saying this just in case he eavesdrops. Oh, no! I’d opt for a Burton to a Tarkovsky any day! And this was a pure Burton. Did you not take notice of the German Expressionism of the dream-like unreality only this time in reverse – what with the color scheme alla Edward Scissorhands as much as the characters’ illusionary manner – the Burtonesque way of using symmetry and movement to his advantage; and also, did you not take notice of his continuous Disney-charged eye obsession in motion once again? The only thing I could not think of an answer to is the question the audience posed – that he did not further into ‘why’ she painted those paintings.”

“Really, mon ami? You did not? What is the one line she always said about her paintings?”

“‘The eyes are the windows to the soul’? What about it?”

“Correct. And what did her soul say to you, then, over and over throughout the entire film?”

‘HELP.’” – I replied, and the thought of its discovery dwelled on me for ages.

Yet another still frame from the film “Big Eyes” by Tim Burton

Johnny Boogieman

About Johnny Boogieman (né Johnathan Boogiemanovich Goode) is an American comedy reviewer and a self-proclaimed cinema connoisseur, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. … Johnny grew up on a farm in Louisiana, as the only child of a Louisiana-based field worker, dressmaker, dog hairstylist, dog collar jewelry designer, dog walker for the elderly (dogs and owners), disabled and elderly dog walking aids creator-in-attempt, and homemaker, Dutch single mother. As large a clientele as dogs were for the barely-gasping-for-air family business, they were the proud owners of a single tabby cat alone, a streetwise and self-dependent hunter known by either of the street names Stringer Bell and El Capo (sometimes referred to as El Cato). … Having been amazed by the crazy wild early readings of Jules Verne, Johnny’s school days were spent dreaming he’d someday make for a good storyteller. Hence, as early as fourth grade, eager to prove himself to the world, he went for it and constructed a well-balanced heartbeat-skipping thrilling essay, pointing out to some well-reasoned critique of society and solid character arcs, committing to his talents to the fullest and diving right into that pool of majestic phrasing and complexity of thought, confident he’d soon get bejeweled with a spotless A and a pretty clap by the teacher, with gradually having the whole class join in looking up to him as he emerges from his seat to receive his essay evaluation. When results day came, though, little Johnny not only got a D, but he was mocked by the teacher and class for the gullible overexposure of his fragile overambitious mutating childish writing skills of questionable taste and poor poor quality. It was the “you’re tearing me apart, Lisa” equivalent of a child’s essay. He was rather massacred. He never got that brave ever again. … Anyway, Johnny mainly spent his summers field-working on a sunflower field with his uncle Berry under the widespread wings of the storks and the chesty white doves and clever black crows who all flew right under the neighbor’s umbrella caps patio ceiling installation thingy as soon as the first raindrop was godshed over the one-eyed monsters battalion that the sunflower sea was to Johnny. It drove the unwilling bird host nuts, and he’d storm right out yelling and cursing at the birds, “we’re going, we’re going” they went, and flew a semi-circle over the umbrella caps as to fool him and came right back the other way around pretending to be some fresh arrivals of clueless law-abiding American birds not yet acquainted with the police system of the patio. The guy wouldn’t take it out as it took ages to plant and he and his wife thought it made them look like fancy DIY people who had some ideas worthy of admiration. Oh, the bird manure, though, oh the bird manure. “Work your time, boy” – staring Johnny’s uncle frowned, his eye twinkled. … Cinema was to Johnny what he made plans for, what he made time for, what he looked up to all his life, and as he became a young adult, what he fancied himself to have a special talent to understand. It was the sort of a sixth sense, an intuition, a gut sense. He was the squad movie buff and a film whisperer. “No”, it whispered, “Fight Club ain’t no bueno. Mark my words and don’t ask why ‘cos you ain’t schooled enough to know why, boy.” He tried, though, he debated and disputed over a glass of scotch-on-the-rocks and under the jibe of a saxophone jazz, but it was as fruitless and dull as the poetry he wrote - unclean, uneven, and too abstract - as if he hadn’t found a voice to speak in yet. He did his part for years to come, reading as all writers ought to, writing and not publishing until he found out what he had to say with the peculiar piece of work. As for cinema, it happened one evening as he discussed legs-up-a-recliner their plans for the future with his lover-cum-best friend in their rented one-bedroom living space in New Jersey, that his lover casually contributed: “And then I thought we could start a film blog and you could do the content writing” – words that sunflower field Johnny with his gangster cat and his dewy eyes staring at the rainy-day con birds thought he’d never hear.

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