You can bet I’ll climb aboard unseen
I’ve done it before
I know I can do it in my sleep
Birth of a Nation had promise – a compelling narrative most of all – but fails. Instead of exploring the contorted depths of American history, Parker trains the camera on himself, too often in close-up, reacting to repetitive brutality. Violent images dominate – people’s teeth getting hammered out, exposed brains – when the story of a remarkable man, Nat Turner, could have been developed, asking who really spoke of this: As we pushed on to the house, I discovered some one run round the garden, and thinking it was some of the white family, I pursued them, but finding it was a servant girl belonging to the house, I returned to commence the work of death. The film does not elucidate nor does it have vision, as did Steve McQueen in 12 Years a Slave, but is solely a chronicle of violence, flat and tediously rendered, craft-less as anything of the Superhero genre.
I dream of looking outside the image.
Escaping from the frame.
Considering what could be.
Getting my head on different.
Words float through: Empty. Death. Grasping. The camera drifts underwater, everything a sweeping, swinging visual. Redeem my life. Justify it. That blinded you. I turned you upside down, my son. Longing for something other. There’s isn’t a story, just characters who stand about, some playing handsies. Nobody’s home.
You have to fly. Fly. High up. Everything’s just a…speck.
(Extracts from Knight of Cups in bold italics)
Russians may find profundity in the story and themes of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1975 film The Mirror, but for the rest of us it’s the images, the visuals.
A woman runs. A barn burns. A bird lands on a boy’s cap. A dog leaves a cabin. A boy looks back at himself. The music plays. And we reflect. We know something about who we are, as if a light glowed behind us, as if this was not so much a movie as a dream that we had somehow conceived together.
This moment matters. This moment right now. I am writing. You are reading. This is it. Maybe more than that. Moments of truth. Never forget. And yet we do just that. A constant. People are killed. Wars are wages. On to the next thing. So right. And then it’s the next thing – what is it now?None of us will remember what it was were not supposed to forget.
“You ever see Capricorn One? You ever see that, Nico?” She didn’t wait for him to reply. “James Brolin, O.J. Simpson. I fucking loved that movie.”“The mission to the moon that went wrong. They faked it because they didn’t have the budget, and then the capsule dissolved in re-entry. And so they had to kill the pretend pilots. It turned stupid in the end, little evil black helicopters chasing them around.”
Nico hunched over his screen and turned a switch. “There will be something else tomorrow, Dee, another slaughter, another crime against humanity. And we all know exactly that. We wait for the next thing. And it’s always worse than we can imagine.”
“What about Twilight’s Last Gleaming? The gang that hijacks the nuclear silo, with Burt Lancaster.” He looked around at Dee. “Burt Lancaster claims that there is some kind of secret doctrine about the Vietnam War being fought to prove to the Soviets that they could sacrifice their men. Yes, I remember it.”
“You know, I used to believe all of that.” She spoke too fast, shorthand for what was in her head “It was a revelation. I believed it. I couldn’t understand why the government didn’t fall. It took me a long time to realize it’s not like that. I’m still not there. People are people. We are just who we are. There is no evil emperor, no star chamber, nothing. It’s just us and our demons, pretending that all of this is decided by someone different. And it’s just us.”
A deer and then another run across the road. L swerves hard, misses the first, but catches the second and seems to about to lose control, cutting across the shoulder and then stops.There is a long moment. No one says a word. (Description details digging into the trapdoor of fear, the foundation of what it is that terrorizes the back of the brain, freezes the heart and lungs when the deep steps loom down, sucking everything in, stepping deliberately into it, terrified of the monsters and evils that haunt the shadows and walls, and continue into the dank cut-out pit, pressing face and limbs forward to look into the long rectangular holes where it lives, wanting to scream and scream and run but looking down into it, expecting the claws and horned head, the hunched back, the bloody arm to wrench you down and find nothing, nothing, but still held in the black, knowing that it will come from somewhere.) L opens the door to search for the deer. It is raining hard. H follows her with a flashlight and then R. They can hear a rustling in the brush. L moves toward it. Three cars pass by. H continues to move toward the bushes, but she can’t hear anything. H shines the light. Another pair of cars (mobile homes) pass. R catches a glimpse of the animal fleeing. It is quiet. R mentions going after it. H disagrees. L says nothing and goes back to the car. H and R get back in. H offers to drive. L refuses. They continue on.
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