Wednesday, December 12, 2007

parallax aesthetic

the other night my brother rented "the parallax view," a conspiracy thriller starring warren beatty from 1974, whose visual creepiness was more important than the details of its plot. not only were the settings all bland and unmemorable to the point of monstrosity -- corporate buildings, convention centers, parking lots, escalators in airports, dams -- but the camera too conspired to act normal. in other words, the camera did not hype or privilege particular details. nor did music "cue" our nervous emotions. we see beatty reasoning, without him saying a word, that a bomb is on the plane on which he is travelling. we see him write a note on a napkin; he slips it into the middle of the pile from which the stewardess is drawing as she serves drinks. as he sits and drinks his coke and waits for her to discover the note, we wait too. in silence. the camera simply watches the cart inch forward, getting farther away. it is that cover of dead mundanity that cannot be broken (or he will be suspected) that oppresses. within the texture of everyday moments horrors exist, wedged into economy class, open secrets that penetrate everything. we see two people discuss assasinations in a parking lot outside a supermarket, at a kids' softball game.

sure, horror movies always start out with happy bucolic scenes like kids' ball games. but this film did not shove your face in sentimentality. its eye was cold, as cold as a surveillance camera. and that coldness of looking, and waiting, and knowing, and being trapped in that cold, mute, deaf landscape -- and welded into that way of looking -- was its own suffering.

as i got in the car at the parking garage tonight in new haven, i leaned over looking at a train opening its doors and thought that that view would have fit into the parallax view: the deadness of a modern center of finance, cleared of human imprint, where people scurry about, useless Lilliputians.

No comments: