Sunday, March 24, 2013

Where's My Montage?

Cinema tries to imitate life, both as it occurs and as it is perceived. When it imitates the perception of life, it's expressionist, and some expressionist marvels have been so true, so accurate to our perceptions, that they've been repeated to the point of cliche.

You know what I'm talking about, even if the terms are unfamiliar. The person in an accident on screen has everything go into slow motion. Real time doesn't do that, but we experience time that way sometimes during traumas. Some director decides, during a climatic scene, to have a single flower in a brilliant color to indicate the real way that human perceptions work, where a detail that seems irrelevant may stand out more to a participant than the materially important events.

Well, how about the early parts of "The Graduate?" You know what I'm talking about. Dustin Hoffman puts on his new SCUBA gear and walks into a party of people speaking gibberish to him and sinks to the bottom of the swimming pool. The replica of his tropical fish tank and his private metaphor (being on view, being an object), as well as the director's (being cut off, being unintelligible, having dialog streams that belong to different languages/species) is perfect. You loved it. I loved it. After all, we were always Dustin Hoffman's character, because we were the camera.

Then came the fast motion montage. You know this, too. The framing character is impassive, stunned, catatonic, and the rest of the scene is filled with a stop-motion or slow-film-stock film of people running at sixteen times normal speed and interacting. They're all doing things, while the character (you) is out of it (out of time). The point of view character has declared a separate peace.

In the days of rock videos, the technique was a cliche, if only because the feeling was a cliche. It's a large part of what adolescence and young adulthood is: being overwhelmed, like The Graduate, and incapable.

However, the heart of it, of the humanity that affirms the cinematic gesture, that makes us resonate, is in much graver circumstances than the prom or graduation. The heart of it is the inconsolable and unreasonable. The heart of it is birth and death. The lie of it is that the point of view character who becomes a cork in the maelstrom does not end up safe and saved, but farther at sea, with dilemmas that cannot be reconciled.

In short, it is a cinematic lie. It is an expressionistic truth that is a living falsehood.

Nevertheless, I sure as hell wish I could have one right now. My mother is in hospice care for her last days, and her death is all going to be on me. All the decisions are mine, and all the financial burden will land here, but, more to the point, her death will explode my life, because my life for seven years has been devoted, first of all, to looking after her. I always figured that, after that did not really matter: my job would be done. It sure would be good if the montage were true, and not mimetic.


Anonymous said...

Lots of white water ahead. Wishing you well. Trust the dog.

Filiocht said...

My own mother died 4 years ago now. My thoughts are with you.

The Geogre said...

Filiocht, sir, I thank you. I wish that I could correspond with you and point you to "The Geogre" at Daily Kos, as he is a fellow of some fine writin' and thunderous occasion.