Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Themes and Undercurrents

ART is about playing themes and undercurrents. It's about getting into hidden and unhidden corners of the human brain. Touching and creating experiences and memories. Assaulting the senses but also going deeper than the senses. Into subterranean depths. Deep. Even into the soul.

Maybe this can be done with modernist fragments. I don't know. You tell me. We know it can be done through plot. Through traveling from point A to point B without us knowing exactly how it will turn out. A journey of adventure and mystery.

Film Forum is showing a movie this Friday which is about undercurrents, "The Guns of Navarone." To those raised on ridiculous junk like the Tom Cruise "Mission Impossible" movies, an old film like 1961's "Guns" must appear creaky. But it's not just a roller coaster ride. It's a classically structured adventure story with meaning. Like "Westward the Women," it starts with a recruitment scene. In the case of "Guns" the recruits are hardened commandos. Their task is to blow up two gigantic guns-- German war guns on an island near Greece.

The minute the tasked team enters the sea on a flimsy boat, beginning their journey, they and we are in the world of dreams. The land of myth.

Everything in the film, from the sea, storm, cliffs, mountains, caves, the symbolic monster-like guns, to the impressionistic Tiomkin music and mood-inducing Cinemascope color photography, even the character of the alluring girl, serves the purpose of creating a believable or somewhat believable and enchanting dream. The job of the moviegoer is to sit back before the big dream-screen and enter it.

Likewise, "Westward the Women," though not nearly so impressionistic, has moments, like the climactic chase between Buck and Fifi, when we're not simply on the prairie. We've momentarily left the prairie and entered the strange psychological unconscious world that the unspoken love between the two characters has created.

This is the essence of art. This is what it's about-- entering that area.

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