Tuesday, August 16, 2005

the lamentable state of dangling

According to Dr. Johnson, "whatever busies the mind without corrupting it, has at least this use, that it rescues the day from idleness, and he that is never idle will not often be vicious." We like the hesitating "will not often" that modifies the sentiment -- however, LI has plunged into as much idleness as saving up for two months can purchase. Instead of attending to Ms. Sheehan, or the bad faith scare, on the left, that Bush is preparing to invade Iran (with, one must ask, what army?); instead of paying attention to the Iranian repression of the Kurds (as our friend Brooding Persian is doing) -- we've been attending Tanglewood concerts and going to lakes and summer movies.

About which -- LI often wonders what they will make, one hundred years from now, of the descent of taste in the latter part of the 20th century. For a long time we simply refused to participate in it -- for instance, by never going to one of the Lucas Space operas. But in the past five years, we have dropped that stance. This means that we have accumulated a certain cache of experience in the twisty logic of action movies; we have sorted the good, the bad, and the ugly; and we have found certain sequences growing stale...

Not, of course, the car chase, the wet dream of a society of traffic jam sitters. There are certain kinds of artistry the quality of which depends on the re-enactment, within some rigid design, of the same thing. In a sense, there is only one car chase, just as there is only one wedding, and one death of the hero. All variants are simulacra of this single and singular event.

We are talking about something else -- the no-thing. This thing can happen as much as it wants, but it never emerges beyond the zero. Such a thing is the "hanging from the cable" scene.

The current Batman movie -- a decent enough flick -- might have signaled the end of this sequence. You know what we mean -- the hero dangles from a wire, a cable, a chain, a rope, that depends from a moving train, a helicopter, even an airplane. Was this sequence invented in the James Bond movies? We dont' know. The suspence, here, is that the fight is waged on two axes. On the horizontal axis, the hero is threatened with annihilation by buildings, railroad bridges, tunnels, and any projecting solidity along that plane; on the vertical axis, the hero is in a sort of tug of war, compounded of bullets, flares, tugs, etc., with the Mr. Big in the vehicle. The current Batman steals, pretty much, the sequence in last year's Spiderman of having its hero ascend a chord attached to a moving train. It struck us that this was the weakest cord sequence we have ever seen. Perhaps audiences will be perpetually moved by the dangers along the two axes, but for us, the danger on both the vertical and horizontal axes has been long exhausted. Dangling is simply too silly -- nor does it have its roots (as the car chase sequence does) in the everyday libido.

Elia meets Karl Marx at the South Sea House

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