Sunday, September 30, 2007

Seeing the thing & also its frame II

Two nights after watching Jules Dassin’s The Naked City (1948), I can remember little of the narrative content—the plot, generic noir crime stuff, is just raw material for what is basically a spectacular editing-event, an argument for cinema as the art of style and succession. The Naked City, we are told, is the city of 8 million stories, and what’s special about the movie is the high modern freedom with which it flits through scenes out of them in a sort of filmic all-over painting. What I remember best is an image from a montage that shows us many of the many millions of things happening simultaneously one afternoon. Somewhere a theater is empty, and we see it from the right side of the balcony in a sort of View-Mastered receding view of layers of depth, and the stage, lit but vacant, is framed by bunched curtains looking like the eyes of some sort of bug face, like sunglass lenses mirrored like Japanese beetles with coppery spectra of green and purple and popped out of aviators, or like the windows of some European streetsweeper or earthmover, triangular but rounded and made friendly by the black rubber gaskets that seal them, an image of theater-as-face or theater-as-face-seen-from-inside.


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