Monday, August 20, 2007

Our Selves

The distance between what I was and what I am is but a moment, an instant. Funny how my features change, my hair thins, I accumulate scars and markings, wrinkles appear... all this yet I remain still I. And so, with our inner selves, we change yet remain the same, with a singular inner fingerprint, our unique "mark" that defines us. This is who we are.
October 4, 1999

It is fascinating to follow the careers of various authors or movie directors and look for their personal fingerprints. Borges, Graham Greene, Hesse, Hemingway... each leaves his mark on the stories he writes.

This morning I woke thinking about the films of Stanley Kubrick... specifically what he did that was so distinctive. That "something" was his love of the overlong look. That is, allowing the lens to linger, and linger still longer on a setting, a scene, an image. As early as Paths of Glory (Kirk Douglas, 1956) you could see it, from the scene with Douglas as Colonel Dax walking the length the corridor of trenches to the endpoint scene with the captured German woman singing to the soldiers with poignant tear-jerking grief.

2001: A Space Oddysey produced a whole catalog of unforgettable images from the opening monolith to the ultralightshow summing up. Scene like "Open the pod door, Hal" are forever etched in Hollywood history, and the 1960's cultural archives.

Kubrick's style of lingering too long on a scene or image did not run in sync with the culture which seems to have become increasingly frenetic, pulsating with slam-bam jammin' and frantic overwrought camera work. Compare Barry Lyndon (1975) to Syriana, Crash or Bourne Ultimatum. The last of these practically requires a Dramamine to keep from getting motion sickness in the theater. (Note: I think each of these is a very fine movies, and the point here is only to contract the style.) Too many modern movies are simply fast paced because that is "in" but Kubrick, to the end, gave his lens license to tarry unhurried, lavishing each scene till it mesmerized.

So it is that, like the great directors and the great authors, our own deeds are like fingerprints that reveal our Selves.

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