Monday, January 12

On Movies

If you blink very fast when you’re watching a movie you will notice that nothing is really moving, that all you’re seeing is a succession of photos speeding by so quickly that people, things, objects seem to be moving. Movies favor characters who seem to be running, leaping, plunging (think of Run, Lola, Run or any of the Bourne series) over those who (as in that rare film My Dinner with André) just sit in a restaurant and chat about this, about that, whatever comes to mind, and rarely even bother to lift a forkful of food to their mouths. (I won’t even mention Warhol’s Sleep or Empire.) Cars seem to hurtle through the streets, crash through plate-glass windows into restaurants crowded with elderly diners realizing—all too late, many of them—that they’ll never finish those early-bird specials spread out on the tables before them. They even terrify rush-hour commuters on the expressway by seeming to drive contrary to traffic, weaving in and out of lanes, leaving a trail of burning and smoldering wreckage—dented, mangled and blown-up cars and buses and trucks that stretch for miles behind them in the gathering darkness, as the camera slowly zooms in on a sign saying “Report Aggressive Driving.” Most movies are full of people pretending to be other people. They say their lines as though, more quick-witted than most of us, they’d just made them up, all by themselves. No wonder we admire them so—their words, their wit, their good looks. We’re money in the bank for them. And yet . . . and yet, if we had their courage, their nerve, we’d get out of our seats, walk down the aisle to the stage, climb up to the screen, and discover that they’re nothing but reflected light, not even skin-deep, so to speak.


[in The Bloomsbury Review, July-August, 2008]

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