Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Falling into the Future 2006 - 2009 • "32 Days of Movies" Day 32

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Falling into the Future 2006 - 2009 • "32 Days of Movies" Day 32


Thirty-second chapter in "32 Days of Movies", an audiovisual tour through 366 films
(2015 update: included Vimeo embed after the jump)


View "Chapter 32: Falling into the Future"


Falling into the Future

Today we end quietly, mournfully, and, I think, beautifully. Many of these clips deserve that adjective - there is a sinuous grace to the films in this chapter, a kind of painterly impression as if figures and backgrounds on a canvas were being animated. As if, in a way, we had returned to the very roots of cinema, yet with a memory of where we'd been. This is less death than a kind of anti-birth, which makes the final clip deeply appropriate. It might help here to explain that my storytelling sensibility trends neither optimistic nor flatly pessimistic, but rather toward the tragic. Tragic conclusions are at once sad and deeply transcendent - not a happy ending, but still a glorious one. This certainly describes the last two clips, over which I played a single soundtrack - the music derives from the second film but works equally well with the first. Together they form a kind of swan song, and so this chapter's final moments can stand with the 40s dream chapter and the lightning montage ending the 60s episode as one of the most unified and telling moments in the video series.


Of course, the story of the movies continues and will continue, but this is where we get off the train. The cinema is in the process of becoming something very different from what it was, for better or worse, and the gorgeous flickerings of today's images call to mind the last burning embers of a dying star. Perhaps something new will rise from the ashes like a phoenix, but the moment is nonetheless poignant. Celluloid is on its way out - several of today's clips are video rather than film, including the eerie closing sequence. With the centrality of the theatrical experience dimming and the movies' status as a popular medium shrinking before television and the internet, the golden age of the cinema as at once a mass entertainment and an innovative art form may be on the wane. Yet I hope not - and in a way this series, while by nature derivative and back-glancing, may point to the future.

A seemingly bizarre aside may illustrate my point. In the sixties, there was a "Death of God" theology which postulated a transcendent God who embodied all of himself in Christ and, upon being crucified, disappeared from the ether and entered into the world, becoming an immanent god or gods rather than a removed deity. A complex and cryptic idea, perhaps, but one that I find fascinating and "right" in its sense of reverse transfiguration. I see this happening to the movies in their journey from the movie palace silver screen to our home computer monitor, from their existence in a single film reel can to their dissolution into streaming bits of information, from something manufactured by an untouchable "out-there" dream factory to a wild, mercurial something we can craft with limited means and our own resources.

I wonder if, as we fall from our familiar window to the snowy ground below, our death rattle won't reassert itself as a birth pang, if the snow won't swallow us up and miraculously transform into sky, if our fall won't shift, almost imperceptibly, into flight.

When closing my personal statement, "The Big Pictures: The Movies and Me", which unofficially kicked off this series, I wrote: "End of essay. Not quite End of Cinema. Not yet anyway."

I could echo that here, and it would suit the mood of finality which the last clip conveys. Instead, I'll go with another, less ambiguous epitaph:

To be continued...



Content warning: the final clip includes a very abstracted shot of a child's death.

I have covered today's films here, here, here, here, and here.


This concludes "32 Days of Movies"
Yesterday: Reality Cinema


Visit the Video Gallery for a complete list of the chapters.

4 comments:

Hokahey said...

A very lyrical ending to a tremendous series. This is an amazing anthology of so many different cinematic visions. I just recently saw Antichrist after seeing Melancholia. That opening scene is devastating!

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks Hokahey - yes, this ending does work very well in light of the series as a whole. So much so that, even though I acquired Drive & Melancholia after launching it, I had no temptation to finagle them in (in fact, I haven't even watched either one yet).

I like all of Antichrist - if "like" is the right word - but found myself a little disappointed that the rest of the film, aesthetically, was so different from the opening. I understand that was Von Trier's intention, and probably a wise one, but it's so rare that we get to see something so powerful and visceral as Antichrist's opening minutes whereas the style the rest of the film is shot in is familiar from thousands of TV shows and 00s movies. Which, again, doesn't make it an invalid aesthetic choice, but still...

And it paired nicely with the Evangelion clip, I think, in several senses. The fortuity of accidental chronology (which is not a bad subtitle for this whole series, haha)

Shubhajit said...

Here's what I've seen from among those covered in your final chapter:

Once - A pretty likeable musical, and comprising of a number of hummable songs. It becomes a tad melodramatic at the end to its own detriment, but it managed to remain realistic & believable for the larger part of its crisp length.

No Direction Home - I quite liked this one, and found it be be a reasonably powerful documentary on one of the most iconoclastic & enigmatic performers as also one of the iconic pop-culture phenomenons of the last century.

Michael Clayton - Fine thriller. George Clooney, like Brad Pitt, has given quite a few memorable performances in his career, while also continuing to remain a matinee idol. And this willingness of theirs to regularly take up challenging roles is what separates them from most of their popular counterparts.

Antichrist - One of the most depressing & disturbing movies I've come across. Yet, despite its morbid tone & graphic content, there was something haunting about this film. And the B/W opening montage remains among the most powerful & lyrical opening sequences ever filmed.

Now that you've posted your final video compilation, I'm now starting to realise that there are no more such videos to look forward to - more so given the kind of ritual it had become for me to watch your fascinating compilations and post my views on the various movies that I've seen (while also reliving them & increasing my desire to watch some of those which I haven't seen yet).

It sure has been a great 32-days journey, Joel. I'd like to congratulate you for successfully bringing to conclusion this terrific journey, and thank you for providing so much enjoyment through these superb creations of yours. It sure has been a labour of love for you, so you deserve all the praise for the kind of effort & time you've put in this series.

Looking forward to more such enriching & memorable endeavours!!! :)

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks, Shubhajit! A very encouraging compliment - perhaps someday I'll do another 32 days of movies, but in the meantime I have many other ideas in the works (and I don't know if my wallet could take the purchase of another 300 or so films, which is what it would take to justify a follow-up! At least the cost of this one was spread over 10 years, albeit with a huge chunk - about 1/3 - being purchased in the past six months).

There will probably be an "update" in December when I add four films to the series, bringing the total to 370, but that will be it for this installment.

Next up, in addition to the continuation of Fixing a Hole (Stephen just sent me an excellent piece which will be going up Nov. 13) and some visual tributes on the weekend, will be a series covering "the Big Ones," iconic legendary films which I haven't covered on the site. I think you'll be keen on this since you mentioned recently wanting to read my take on some of these films (although, come to think of it, that was for the early 90s chapters and actually none of those films will be covered as I have to keep the number down to 30 - Goodfellas almost made the cut).

Stay tuned.