Spanish facial

Harpo Marx had a regular bit of shtick. It was a ridiculous and hilarious face he’d pull, known as a “gookie” (rhymes with ‘kooky’ rather than ‘cookie’). Something I saw this week reminded me of it. And of Eric Bana.

Vertical gookie

“No, wait, let me explain…”

Supremely immature and tasteless, it looks like, me taking this line of humour. But this was my genuine reaction as the news story played out, with its scientists and journalists assembled for the unveiling of the latest miracle of modern science: the first totally transplanted face. And the face actually works: the tear ducts cry; the facial stubble grows.

Well, the face mostly works. So far.

When the new face was revealed, it was a bit confronting. My response: “That’s what you gave him? I mean, yes, I saw the ‘before’ photo – it is an improvement. No, it really, really is. But…”

With therapy the face will look more… facial. And even if it didn’t, I’m no oil painting so who am I to judge?

It’s just that, when they had the guy talking at the press conference – with a new face that clearly can’t smile or emote or do anything at the moment other than look like an oversized mask – he sounded pretty much as he looked, only moreso. Suddenly I had a vision of that scene from Young Frankenstein, when the ‘monster’ (Peter Boyle) sings ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’. Well he doesn’t; Gene Wilder sings it. Boyle joins in at the appropriate moment by bellowing ‘Suuuuper-duuuper!’ and ‘Putting on the Riiiiiiiiiiiiitz!’ – like a drunkard who was never taught consonants. Although, ‘Oscar’, as the Spanish transplant recipient is known, was speaking his native tongue; maybe all Spaniards from his part of the country sound like that.

Again, this is supremely cruel of me – likening this genuine modern miracle to some comedy (a fine comedy; a work of art, when it comes to comedy, but a comedy nonetheless). However, the analogy actually works: an assemblage of cutting-edge medical scientists, before the representative world press, to show off the latest breakthrough in medical science: sewing together a man using parts from another man.

And yet I feel justified in poking fun. When Oscar spoke, the most obvious thought was, ‘Wouldn’t you wait until the face works enough so that he can talk? Wouldn’t that look more impressive, before the assembled scientists, journalists and viewers around the world?’

But then I realised, in addition to revealing how amazing the latest breakthroughs in medical science truly are, such a press conference needs to take place to acknowledge: the science works. The funding is justified. Publicise it, maybe more funding will be forthcoming. Once again, modern science truly is amazing. Oh, brave new world!

But I still think Eric Bana can play Oscar in the biopic.