I often say to people jokingly that I had to keep one of my vices so I chose cigars. It gets a laugh. But in the pursuit of pleasure, vices play their roles. Are cigars a vice?
According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called “capital” because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice (greed), envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia (emphasis in original). (www.catholicexchange.com)
I’m watching ”Se7en” directed by David Fincher, and written by Andrew Kevin Walker. A tale of obsession about when retiring police Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) tackles a final case with the aid of newly transferred David Mills (Brad Pitt), they discover a number of elaborate and grizzly murders. They soon realize they are dealing with a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who is targeting people he thinks to represent one of the seven deadly sins. Somerset also befriends Mills’ wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is pregnant and afraid to raise her child in the crime-riddled city.
I’m in the office inside, not at the PRESTO Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7) so no cigar tonight. The movie is being played on my laptop, which for the longest time wouldn’t work. But whatever was wrong fixed itself.
The movie is grisly, to say the least, but to set the tone, Fincher wanted the opening credits to veer it as far away from Brad Pitt the heartthrob, and Morgan Freeman the gentlemanly driver in “Driving Miss Daisy” as possible.
“So he turned to title designer Kyle Cooper, a virtuoso but as yet inexperienced movie credit designer, to forge a black-as-midnight sequence that set the pitch, plot, and characterization of the noir thriller. Cooper leaped at the chance to frontload the film with John Doe-dosed menace. “I was really into horror movies when I was a kid,” he remembers, “and I used to get frustrated when they’d hold back the monster to the very end. It occurred to me to get an idea of the killer before they finally catch him. We wanted to get the audience curious about what this guy is going to be. He has to be super, super evil.”
What Cooper conjured up was one of the great title sequences. A stylised mash-up of scratched frames and fuzzed-up, glitchy graphics set to a remix of Nine Inch Nail’s Closer, it was shot over two days, taking a further, painstaking five weeks to cut together. It was deemed by the New York Times to be “One of the most important design innovations of the 1990s,” and has proved almost as influential as the film itself.” (www.empireonline.com)
I first saw only the first half of the movie when a male victim is discovered in a bed and has been left to rot to death by the serial killer illustrating Sloth. I was thrown off my sick meter when in the middle of the investigation the man on the bed, void of what anyone would call the human condition, coughs and scares the hell out of everyone. Panic ensues and I click off the movie.
But I was obsessed with what happens next and was dutifully surprised when my son told me had the film. But he suggested I watch a Tom Cruise Sci-Fi flick instead. I tried, but it turned out to be a bit ridiculous and I pulled it from the slot and slid “SeVen” in.
The atmosphere created is dark, dank, and far beyond any film noir ever produced in the 40s through to when this film was released – a noir masterpiece. It rained in many of the scenes adding to the thickness of the sickness that can sluice its way into the minds of man.
New York at its worse is captured and the casting by a trio of geniuses Kerry Barden, Billy Hopkins, and Suzanne Smith made the film into what would become one of the best of its kind of 1995.
The seven deadly sins are usually attached to Catholicism, but in the end, they are placed on this earth by Our Creator for Christians to navigate through life and prove their loyalty to the Father. For this, the church created the seven heavenly virtues of Chastity, Abstinence, Liberality, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility. Not as alluring as the evil that seems to dominate humankind.
“I’m sick of all this insanity,” a conversation ensues between the two men. “This is a job!” The patina of the colors matches the exasperation of the characters. Even though the hues, the drab, burnt, foggy prismatic wax choices that add to the cloudy stink that we can only imagine. A bucket of vomit. Piss. Shit. Yes. It’s us if we are left alone to atone for the infusion of vices. Smell a used ashtray lately?
Spoiler alert. This film ends with Spacey’s character fulfilling all his sick thoughts of the human race and how we have handled our choices. “Go easy on him,” Detective Somerset insouciantly mumbles as his eyes follow the police car with Mills in the back held for murder. The vices have won. They will always win unless we slide into the glossy and slick contrarian condition that the chur7ches mess gives us to choose from. Provided you even want to go there.
Are cigars a vice? Ask further questions about candy, alcohol, and the preoccupation of what is or isn’t.