Posts Tagged ‘film’
The principal players in The King’s Speech. From left to right: producer Emile Sherman, producer Iain Canning, stars Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, director Tom Hooper, and producer Gareth Unwin.
That brief, blink-and-you’ve-missed-it acknowledgment came at the end of Iain Canning’s acceptance speech at the 83rd Academy Awards, just a few short hours ago.
Canning, who co-produced this year’s big winner, The King’s Speech, went on stage at the end of the evening to accept the film’s Best Picture Oscar, along with his colleagues Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin. (The NYT recently profiled them, here.) TKS won four Academy Awards out of twelve nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay.
That, by the way, is an impressive four out of the so-called ‘Big Five‘ (Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actor and Actress).
At the conclusion of a short speech thanking his parents and the cast and crew of the film – including a sulky-looking Bonham Carter, who got pipped by the far more deserving Natalie Portman, hah! – Canning added: “And to my boyfriend Ben, you help me every day do what I do. Thank you.”
It may not have sounded like much, but it was nonetheless a heartfelt, public recognition. Of course, the big moment for gay rights at the Academy Awards was Dustin Lance Black’s acceptance speech two years ago, when he won for his screenplay for Milk, which also famously netted Sean Penn his second Oscar. The bitter Prop 8 war was raging thick and furious just then, and Black – who was raised in a Mormon household – paid moving tribute to his mother, to Harvey Milk, and to his gay brethren everywhere, especially those who wished to legally and admissibly wed their spouses:
When I was thirteen years old my beautiful mother moved me and my family from a conservative Mormon home in Texas to California and it was there that I heard the story of Harvey Milk and it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life openly as who I am, and that one day I could even fall in love and maybe even get married.
I want to thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to.
But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.
Thank you, and thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk.
Canning’s own gesture of gratitude may not have had the high-profile impact of Black’s moment in the spotlight, but in its own understated way it honours not just er, Ben, but gay men and women all over the world who lead quiet, ordinary lives far removed from the conspicuous glitz of Hollywood, from its relentless visibility and fashionable political statements – and many, as I do, in countries where a gay rights movement is unheard of, and homosexuality itself remains punishable by law. Black no doubt struck a blow for his fellow gay Americans when he got up on that podium to namecheck God and Harvey Milk and “this great nation”, but Canning’s modest little acknowledgment spoke to those of us for whom public expression or admittance of our sexuality is still a fraught, all too rare luxury.
Wheelock Place, drawn by Urban Sketcher Chuang Shyue Chou.
Straits Times columnist Ignatius Low had a piece in the Sunday Times today which he unambiguously dubbed “Malls Tell My Life Story.” (See below.)
Couldn’t agree more.
He calls for a reassessment of the role that malls play in Singapore’s social history, and methinks it’s high time. So much paper has been devoted to preserving the memory and analyzing the importance of historical sites like Chinatown, Little India etc. that the direct fruit of Singapore’s post-independence economic boom – those familiar, glitzy temples of high consumerism, our shopping centers and malls – have been woefully neglected, despite their prevalence on the urban landscape, and in the lives of generations of Singaporeans who came of age in the 1980s and after. True, the ubiquitous wouldn’t seem to require memorializing, but malls, like any other space of collective engagement, possess a life cycle of their own, enduring periods of growth, success, decline and fall, as the whims of taste and the pressures of capital flows and technological advance take their toll.
I tend to view the fluff in the Sunday Times pretty dimly, but Low’s article strikes me as an important articulation of a growing local trend: nostalgia for the recent past. Anyone remember the German film Goodbye Lenin! from the early 2000s? It grew out of and fed into the Ostalgie phenomenon – or nostalgia for the socialist way of life, mostly channeled through the material culture of the GDR era. As an article in the New York Times described it, at the unofficial Ostalgie museum in the small German town of Eisenhüttenstadt, an institution christened the Documentation Center on Everyday Life in the G.D.R., the socialist past is big business:
About 10,000 people a year come to look at Mikki transistor radios, jars of Bulgarian plums, schoolbooks, plastic water glasses that never seemed to come in the right colors. Seeing these familiar objects clearly stirs warm feelings about the vanished and unrecapturable past.
Those “warm feelings about the vanished and unrecapturable past” are key. As numerous commentators have pointed out, Ostalgie largely whitewashes what was a difficult, turbulent history, and film scholar Anthony Enns notes that it also reflected current socio-economic realities in a unified Germany as much as it eulogized the past:
It is certainly more than coincidental that this phenomenon has emerged at a time when Germany is experiencing a massive economic crisis, record-breaking unemployment, and severe cuts in health care and education that have only increased the disparity between east and west. When understood within this context, the nostalgia for the east in recent German films can be seen as a reexamination of the utopian hopes and expectations surrounding German reunification and a critique of a capitalist system that has failed to adequately address current economic and cultural challenges.
(From Enns’ article The Politics of Ostalgie: Post-Socialist Nostalgia in Recent German Film in Screen , 48:4.)
The Paragon on Orchard Road, today. Image from URE’s Projects page.
And here we segue back to the glittering malls of Orchard Rd. As Low acknowledges, “The trouble is that we often think of malls as transient buildings anyway.” Yet it is precisely his advocacy of these seemingly transient social spaces as sites of historical interest, at this particular moment in Singapore’s history, that dovetails so neatly with the contours of the Ostalgie movement that Enns gestures at. The recent past – as opposed to suitably distant epochs, which lend themselves far more easily to the categorical operations of the historian – really only becomes commodifiable as nostalgia in the aftermath of broad ruptures in the social fabric, which reshape everyday realities and inscribe often traumatic disruptions in pre-existing cultural frameworks, leaving behind in their wake once familiar lifeworlds and the comfort of uninterrupted historical trajectories. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, for instance, the overnight disappearance of Communist-run job security and state benefits and the difficult integration of the East German economy into a capitalist system proved unsettling for many Ossis (East Germans), triggering the insular wistfulness of Ostalgie for quotidian souvenirs of yesterday, like Mikki transistor radios and “jars of Bulgarian plums.” (?!)
While the Singapore Story doesn’t boast anything quite so spectacular as the fall of socialism and national reunification – talk about a show – we’ve certainly suffered our own disquieting forms of social fissure, especially since the onset of the Lee Hsien Loong years. Perhaps having lived away from home for much of that time has defamiliarized a lot of what I took for granted about it, but it seems as if the Singapore I left back then and the one I returned to last year were utterly different places. The constant restructuring of the built landscape which we Singaporeans thought ourselves inured to by now seemed to have picked up new speed, producing scores of ritzy new malls along the downtown stretch and eradicating old landmarks like Specialists’ SC and the Promenade (cannibalized by The Paragon next door); the legalization of gambling and the subsequent transformation of Marina Bay and Sentosa island by the so-called integrated resorts was also achieved at a breakneck pace. Most significantly though, the government’s policy of “growth” resulted in record numbers of foreigners taking up residence here. While the population on the whole grew from some 3 million to 5 in the last two decades – that’s a not inconsiderable jump of 66.6% in 20 years, by the way – the number of resident aliens positively ballooned from 0.3 million in 1990 to 1.3 million in 2010. (The Dept. of Statistics has those figures here.) The math speaks for itself. The surge of foreigners in our midst has produced a very public chest-beating, hand-wringing campaign, with popular sentiment questioning the need and the wisdom for such accelerated growth, as well as the consequences it portends for issues such as sustainability, the burden on a limited infrastructure, and the core of the Singapore identity itself. And while those debates necessarily occur in the abstract, they are but theoretical correlates of very tangible realities on the ground: skyrocketing property prices, soaring costs of living, overtaxed public transportation, the dilution of autochthonous social norms, the eclipse of localized dialects and histories.
The Paragon in 1989. Picture from er, this site.
Low doesn’t address those matters in his column – I doubt if they are of immediate interest to him there – but the scenario of rapid, large-scale change provides a contextual framework within which to read his nostalgia for the unremarked, or, more specifically, the landscape of Singapore’s consumer culture in the 1990s and 80s, which is really his point of departure. Those decades stand as the immediate precursors to the broad sociological shifts and extensive urban and commercial redevelopment that was to overtake the country in the new millennium, and may be seen as such to provide the end point of an imagined trajectory of the Singapore Story, before “foreigners took over” and other similarly expressed views that surface with regularity in the media and on online forums. The perceived socio-temporal break between the 90s and the noughties thus enacts a hierarchy in which the former becomes imbued with an ersatz authenticity of experience, especially with regards to a sense of privileged nativeness. Low, in his article, conjures a detailed, little-mentioned slice of that recently-concluded history, to which only Singaporeans or aliens of long residence, by dint of having lived through those times here, are privy or may identify with. Like the Ostalgie fetishization of the otherwise disposable goods and products of the GDR, his sepia-hued nostalgia trip down a pre-millennial Orchard Rd. represents in some ways perhaps a particular form of historicizing: the inscription of overlooked narratives into the public record*; the assertion of spaces of mass culture against the sanctioned sites of official history; an excavation of the recent, uninterrupted past as an expression of the fears, the failures, and the purposive amnesia of Singapore’s present.
* Another subtext of sorts runs through Low’s piece. His deliberate nod to stores like New Urban Male, Bods/Bodynits and Power Tools, as well as the downtown branch of California Fitness, pays oblique homage to the local gay community and its retail and lifestyle icons (circa 1998 of course). In the midst of speaking to a generation of Singapore shoppers, he pays quiet tribute to another, unacknowledged demographic; my sense of identification was immediate and visceral.
(Ignatius Low, “Malls Tell My Life Story.” The Straits Times, February 27, 2011.)
If the story of one’s life can be told as a series of shopping malls – as mine clearly can – then these past couple of weeks have been really tough.
First, news broke that Borders Singapore’s parent had run into financial trouble.
The bookstore will still operate at its flagship location in the Wheelock Place mall for now while the company tries to find a saviour, but given the way the bookselling business is going, I doubt it will be there for much longer.
Then, there was a story that the Alt department store in The Heeren shopping mall, further up Orchard Road, was moving out after reporting dismal sales in its first few months of operations there.
Both these stories made me sad, but not so much because the stores in question may be closing.
It was more because, unless their fortunes changed drastically, both these malls that were once so much a part of my life will probably see their bright lights dimmed and maybe even go out.
For me, it will be the passing of two old friends, with which I spent many happy days and nights.
It hurts even more that both these malls were mavericks of sorts along Singapore’s shopping belt.
When it opened, Wheelock Place had a ridiculously tall conical front glass atrium and ridiculously priced clothes sold by its anchor tenant, Hong Kong department store Lane Crawford.
Back in 1994, it was like going to a museum and I loved every intriguing inch of it.
When Lane Crawford closed down (no one really bought anything), Borders opened and Wheelock Place came to life for me.
Much ahs been said about how the bookstore revolutionized the consumer experience, but Borders also revitalized the mall.
An Apple stores opened, along with other cool brands such as Crumpler which has since become ubiquitous.
I was in my 20s then and spent many hours talking about life, love and friends in places such as Nooch and Borders Café.
At the height of its success as a mall, I would go to Wheelock Place maybe twice a week.
On the other days of the week, you might have found me at The Heeren.
There was a good reason for this. I am a big music fan and the mall was home to the gigantic three-storey international music chain HMV.
But The Heeren also curated its collection of merchants carefully and, in the initial years, it was the epitome of cool.
Club 21’s first Blackjack boutique, which was the first to carry brands such as Y-3 and Maharishi, was on the second floor. The Heeren was also where the first Energie store opened and where the local chain New Urban Male got its start.
We used to pretend to be outraged by the too-tight tops at stores with names like Power Tools and the too-short shorts at the big Bods/Bodynits store, but went back later secretly to buy them.
I used to run into friends on weekends at the California Fitness across the junction where multi-directional crossing was once on trial. And afterwards we would go, in random agglomerations, to Spinelli on the ground floor of The Heeren for a beverage (“mocha spin, add power”) and to people-watch.
Those days are long gone, and the two malls are now a shadow of their former selves.
Who has really paid tribute to the unique role they played in Singapore’ history? Will anyone ever think of doing it the day their tired old structures are razed?
The trouble is that we often think of shopping malls as transient buildings anyway. A developer intent on making money spies an opportunity to build something in a location where he thinks people will go, and fills it with objects of desire he thinks people will buy.
The materialistic, transactional nature of it all reduces the mall to a seemingly soulless place.
Yet, for so many Singaporeans, malls are always one of the first places that come to mind when they think of friendships and relationships forged and broken.
My most vivid memories of growing up are of the old Plaza Singapura mall. My parents would drive there nearly every weekend with my sister and me.
We would shop for groceries at Yaohan and buy the famous “An-Pan” red-bean buns from the bakery.
The family would split up sometimes and my dad an I would go to Times The Bookshop or Supreme records and end up discussing music or things I would read in books that I didn’t understand. And on special occasions, we would go to Swenson’s on the fifth floor for a treat.
My memories of the 1980s were not of the red-bricked National Library but of the endless afternoons spent at Far East Plaza and Centrepoint.
Whether we were trawling record stores such as Valentine or The Attic or just hanging around eating whipped potato at KFC, the malls always felt like home and we knew every square inch of them.
How should we think about heritage in an urban city such as ours? It always seems unfair to someone like me that we value old markets and hawkers centres, which we see as vital community meeting points, over modern shopping malls which essentially perform the same function.
Should we immortalize places such as Centrepoint and Ngee Ann City, if not physically then at least in our history books, the same way we do Lau Pa Sat, Chinatown or Little India?
I’d like to see giant plaques erected by the National Heritage Board giving the history of the place not just in temples, churches and streets, but also in malls such as Far East Shopping Centre (where the first escalator was built) or Lucky Plaza (arguable Singapore’s first “new immigrant” mall).
And when these buildings are dead and gone, I think a small memorial of the great meeting place of people, money and ideas that once stood in their spots would not be out of place.
Last year, in my own small way, I did just that.
At the Affordable Art Fair, local artist Boo Sze Yang showed 12 new oil paintings of the interiors of some of Singapore’s most iconic contemporary shopping malls.
Boo had become famous before for his moody depictions of the interior of cathedrals in the United Kingdom.
Asked by the gallery Utterly Art to produce a similar series of Singapore “spiritual havens”, he instinctively chose shopping centres.
After looking carefully through paintings of Marina Bay Sands, Illuma and 313@Somerset, I bought a small painting of Ion Orchard [below].
It is the view from the second floor of the vast atrium, looking out at two escalators rising to the top.
The one of [sic] the left is normal-sized but the giant one on the right rises like a stairway to heaven to the top of the mall, where light is cascading rapturously down.
Decades from now I will still look at it in wonder and amazement – not just because the mall signifies the new Singapore and its ascent as a city in the new world order, btu because it was very much a part of me, and I of it, then.
“I asked Gertrude, “Why did you write ‘rose is a rose is a rose’? And she said, “Well I’ll tell you. Poetry is the addressing, the caressing, the possessing, and the expressing of nouns. And when I wrote ‘rose is a rose is a rose’, I took the word ‘rose’, which had lost its meaning, over the years it had gradually gone away, from the object itself, and when I wrote it, ‘rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’, I gradually brought the meaning back to the word. In other words, I addressed, I caressed, I possessed, and expressed .. the word. And I am the first person in two hundred years to have done that.”
- Samuel Steward, in Paris Was A Woman (below)
Gertrude Stein (1905-6), Pablo Picasso. The painting is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.
For more on the lives and work of Gertrude Stein and Alice Babette Toklas, please visit GertrudeandAlice.com – a wonderful blog that details the minutiae of all things Gertralice. (I hear the groans. YOU come up with something better then.) Below is a clip from the documentary film, Paris Was A Woman, which explores the lives of female expatriate writers, poets, booksellers and journalists who arrived in Paris in the early decades of the 20th century to escape the moral puritanism of home – America, in most cases – and to live la vie artistique. Oh, and an attraction to their own gender was also an impelling force for some ..
The film is available in its entirety on Youtube.
Paris Was A Woman (1995), part five
Stills from Andreas Hykade’s Love and Theft (2010).
I’ve been meaning to get round to this post for a while. The recently-concluded Animation Nation 2010, which happened in December last year, brought several disappointments and a couple of delights. Metropia, a dystopian look at a corporate-controlled Europe of the near future, and starring the voices of Juliette Lewis and Vince Gallo (eww), was a tedious dud; My Dog Tulip, based on the book of the same name by J. R. Ackerley, was absolutely charming, if a trifle long. The best thing that came out of the animation festival, though, was at a screening of shorts from Stuttgart, during which I caught Love and Theft, by one Andreas Hykade (a full version of which is available on Youtube, below).
Hykade maintains a personal site, where you can find examples of both his commercial and artistic work. His graphics are simple and stylized, often featuring stark, bold shapes and bright primary colours. Love and Theft is a seven-minute tribute of sorts to traditional cel animation, which Hykade utilizes to create a cartoon of rapidly mutating figures borrowed from popular culture; characters include Charlie Brown, Betty Boop, Spongebob, Spiderman. Now what I really enjoyed was the mickey-mousing of the movement of the shifting images to the beats of a throbbing electro soundtrack, which sounded in parts rather like Daft Punk’s techno-inflected dancefloor rhythms. The head-spinning undulation of the visuals, the hypnotic, repetitive energy of the pulsating bassline … it’s awesomely trippy.
Love and Theft also recalled for me the work of Viking Eggeling, a Swede who was one of the first artists to experiment with the potential of animation. Associated with the Dada crowd, Eggeling’s Symphonie Diagonale (1924) is comprised of moving lines and abstract shapes, set against a plain black backdrop. The result, like Hykade’s film, is very much rooted in the fluidity of evolving pictorial forms – like a series of dancing Cubist collages … Symphonie is a silent film, but these days, thanks to the Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s dvds, in which it is included, it tends to come with marching-band-esque musical accompaniment. Strange, but not altogether unenjoyable.
Symphonie Diagonale (1924), Viking Eggeling, sans sountrack.
Symphonie Diagonale (1924), Viking Eggeling, with music.
The good life. That’s how a friend of mine, JT, captioned the picture above – which shows one of her pet dogs taking a blissfully oblivious nap on the couch.
I don’t disagree.
I’ve recently been rereading an old fav, The Great Gatsby, and reacquainting myself with all the reasons why I love this book. Well, one of the chief reasons is this: Fitzgerald managed to capture the unbridled romanticism and hedonistic abandon that characterized the life of the leisured classes in the 1920s in the most sumptuous images. Parties and music under the moonlight, crates of fresh oranges and lemons just for juice, drunken afternoon soirees in Manhattan apartments, roomfuls of pristine white furniture open to mile-long gardens and a midday sea breeze … but for me the most arresting passage is the well-known one that goes
He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher—shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.
“They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.”
No one described the good life – and its melancholy – better than Fitzgerald.
Yet here, in one fell stroke, a dog has him pipped. The mound of soft, rich, multicoloured material as a metaphor for easy livin’ simply doesn’t measure up to the image of simple contentment that a doggy siesta evokes. Perhaps its the unusual sight of a jet-black canine snoozing on a plush sofa upholstered in dainty blooms that captured my notice, but, in any case, I’d take some untroubled shut-eye over a pile of pretty shirts myself, any day. (A last-ditch scenario of course, but nonetheless ..)
A still from the 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Image courtesy of Let’s Be Preppy!
In a word ? – Engaging.
Although I will admit this right now, I enjoy art, film and Singapore history, so I was pretty much predisposed to like this show on all scores. Personal proclivities aside, however, Imitation proved to be an intriguing, compelling exercise in museal creativity: artist Wong (who apparently was the sole Singaporean representative to the Venice Biennale last year, where this exhibition premiered in an abbreviated version), Tang Fu Kuen (the guest curator), and their collaborators – who included the last surviving billboard painter in town, one Neo Chon Teck; a local collector of cinematic memorabilia; and a filmmaker who produced several documentary shorts on these folks – produced a marvelous if somewhat ill-defined visual mash-up of hand-painted billboards, installation and video art, documentary photography, and a social history of local cinema.
If that isn’t bang for your cultural buck, I don’t know what is.
The historical aspect of it was quite a revelation. The items on display here, which ranged from ticket stubs to vintage posters to little blurbs on local movie theaters past and present, including photos of these structures in their glory days way back when, rather nicely encapsulated an overlooked facet of the collective memory now fast fading – like so much else of our urban fabric constantly being lost to material progress and the government’s manic fixation on ‘upgrading’. (Old National Library, anyone?) The film posters and promos in particular were awesomely trippy. Check out the one below (top) for a movie called Crazy Bumpkins in Singapore 阿牛奇遇記: it stars home-grown comic duo Wang Sha 王沙 and Ye Feng 野峯, who might be familiar to Singaporeans of a certain generation from their TV show (here’s a clip). A newspaper article (middle) announces a performance by Chinese songstress Bai Guang 白光, who happens to be a personal favourite. And posters a-plenty from a flourishing Malay movie industry; especially well-represented were horror flicks with titles like Anak Pontianak (bottom).
In an adjoining gallery was a series of Polaroid snaps of old theatres both in Singapore and Malaysia, taken by Wong himself. Really in the same vein as the stuff above, but one specifically caught my eye: a pic of the old Capitol cinema, tucked away at the corner of North Bridge and Stamford Rds, and today a derelict shell of an edifice just waiting for the URA to do something with it. But the point here isn’t to rhapsodize about old structures. This cinema in particular is significant to yours truly: it was a long-ago day in the early 90s, in the halcyon spring of my misspent youth, when I whiled away an afternoon in a stairwell of the Capitol with my first love HSC – lithesome, winsome SC, of whom another image is now surging to the fore, him on the volleyball court in white tee and blue shorts, the epitome of teenage sexuality … (Although, to be strictly factual about one’s romantic chronology, he was really the second, though one of the greatest. JL rightfully holds the title of First, puppy love though she may have been. That’s right, boys and girls, I used the feminine pronoun.) Details are fuzzy, but I think the exact stairwell we sat in is the one visible in the picture.
That was a good day.
Anyways, enough reminiscing. The other salient aspect of the show, and really what grabs the viewer first, is the metamorphosis of the gallery space and the art objects into an approximation of the movie-going experience. The hand-painted posters, so evocative of a bygone era, were designed by Wong and executed by local billboard artist Neo – who, according to a documentary by filmmaker Sherman Ong, is pretty much the last of his breed. The lurid colours, the misshapen facial features, the grotesquely exaggerated proportions .. I haven’t seen these around since I was a small child, terrified by the mammoth hideousness of their figures. Most of the posters are of faux-movies produced by Wong, parodies of actual films ranging from Malay melodramas to Douglas Sirk – whose Imitation of Life from 1956 provides the title of the exhibition – to Wong Kar Wai’s more recent In The Mood for Love. The galleries were transformed into mini-theaters, complete with seats and curtained-off screening rooms in which Wong’s video pieces were screened; one of the hallways was even equipped with a wall of flashing neon Plexiglass to give one the impression of a lighted marquee (presumably). There were also a couple of strange-looking installations resembling projection devices .. And that’s where the congruity ends and the self-reflexive cleverness begins. Like Wong’s “rehearsals of rehearsals”, his caricatures of actual films featuring himself and other amateur actors, one person often playing several parts simultaneously in a bid to de-suture the viewer from the filmic diegesis, the exhibition itself is set at a remove from experiential reality. While the ostensible effect is one of an old-world theatre, the actual displays seem suspended between kitschy (semi-)recreation and a sense of the Freudian Uncanny. What Freud dubbed unheimliche, or unhomely, relates to “what is familiar and comfortable … [and conversely] what is concealed and kept hidden”; in other words, the uncanny connotes not just what is otherwise obscured from view, but that which was meant to remain veiled and has instead been brought to light. To illustrate his point, Freud read several texts – including, famously, E.T.A Hoffman’s short story, “The Sand-man” – for examples of the uncanny, an exercise which leads him to surmise that the primary mechanism of the phenomenon is the gesture of returning: “… this uncanny element is nothing new or strange, but something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed.” The Unheimlich, as such, is marked by the return of the repressed; the once-familiar, in surfacing from the depths of memory or returning from the realm of the forgotten, is what engenders the sensation of uncanniness. Here, then, in the cinematic worlds of yore conjured up in an alien space, we have the familiar embodied in not-quite-recognizable form: the posters announcing known movies with unfamiliar faces; the ‘projection devices’ that broadly resemble real ones, yet are clearly non-functional art installations; the screening rooms where instead of projection screens one finds flat-screen TVs and playfully-angled mirrors; the empty gallery spaces with just a row or two of seats, alluding to real-life movie theaters but falling short of reality in surreal, spectral fashion, rather like returning home only to find that all the furniture has been rearranged or removed, a known quantity rendered otherwise unexpected …
Both nostalgic and novel, and yet sly enough for art snobs like myself – kudos to the organizers.
And totally hot.
That’s British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the sleazy child-rapist character in 2007′s Atonement.
Wonderfully quaint name aside – which sounds like something out of Harry Potter – I think he has the perfect villian’s face: long and lean, just bordering on the skeletal. In particular, those thin, pale lips and limpid, translucent, crystal-cold eyes put me in mind of Henry James’ description of Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians, “with eyes like green ice.” The scene in Atonement where he offers the ginger-haired jailbait a bar of chocolate and tells her, “Bite it. You have to bite it”, the naked lust all too visible in the anemic, gossamer pupils … Wow.
Two inferences may be made here:
1. I am attracted to sleazoids and sex offenders.
2. This being my third post of the day, apparently I am also adamant about avoiding work at all costs.