World Long Gone
When I was in my early twenties, I wrote a lot of fictional pieces set in the post-Apocalypse. In my fictional realities, the current world was the old world long gone, and the characters must survive and begin again (and have adventures. . .I liked writing adventures).
Now, older, I no longer dream about the post-Apocalypse. Maybe it's because I've begun again a few times. Maybe it's because I know those golden days of long ago were not so bad and not so good. They just were, and I try not to be nostalgic about such things. Maybe it was the high school reunion invite that recently showed up in the mail. I can't go back, and that's okay. I'll go on.
As I stumble forward with time, I find myself neglecting my movie watching habit. Sure, I’ve been spending time on boats and seeing dolphins live and in front of me is a pretty neato thing. Still, I long for the dark, the fold down seats, the sticky popcorn crunching underfoot, the screen with stuff projected on it.
On the recommendations of friends I recently saw two good movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel and Only Lovers Left Alive.
The old world long gone is in every frame of The Grand Budapest Hotel, the new Wes Anderson film. First in the 1980s, we learn of a writer long dead who wrote a book called The Grand Budapest Hotel. We then meet the writer as he travels through the old hotel (painted the most awful shade of orange ever put on film) in the 1960s. One evening, he sits down to hear a story, and that story is what we watch. We learn of the hotel in its golden age of the 1930s with its legendary concierge M. Gustave (played with joie de vivre by Ralph Finnes). The majority of the film is about M. Gustave, the lobby boy named Zero, and their wacky adventures. But the time of M. Gustave will not last. Time keeps going, and all that is left is the story.
However, the movie does not wallow in the loss of an era. Instead, it seems to draw energy from the passage of time. It knows that stories are joyous things especially when those in them do not give up on life. The film looks right at the audience and asks, what are you going to do with the time you have?
What if you could live a thousand years? We don't know how long the vampires in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive have lived, but it's been a very long time. When one of the vampires is named Christopher Marlowe, you know they are not from modern times.
The vampire lovers (played with understated elegance by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) begin the film in separate spaces. She lives in Tangiers. He lives in Detroit. Then, realizing that her lover is in Hamlet-esque despair, she takes a night plane to Detroit. Since they can only go out at night (they don't stalk people, it's the 21st century after all), they wander through a Detroit with no people and only shadows of what it once was. Like the characters in The Grand Budapest Hotel, the vampires can only keep going. Is it possible to have too much time?
Only Lovers Left Alive also felt like a relic from another time. As I watched the film at the Landmark in LA, I felt like I should be watching it at the Angelika in New York back in the 1990s and that Elina Lowensohn would show up in a cameo.
Alas, those days are gone, never to return. All that is left is ruin. . .and the internet.
How much of cinema is really just a nostalgic dream?
Time to move on. Maybe that's where the courage is. . .in the movement.