Monday, December 31, 2007
2007: The Year of Apocalyptic Texas Cinema & The Death of the Fixed Narrative Perspective
Finally I saw NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN last night, after four frustrated attempts (where I got spooked by the disorganized pandemonium of the 14th St. Union Sq. theater). Even getting there 20 minutes early, my date and I had to sit in separate seats, luckily we grabbed the wheelchair-man-alone ones along the aisle, and passed our smuggled stuffs back and forth as if the aisle between us was some U.S.-Mexico drug border of the mind. I had some vague feeling of pleasure when I saw the outrage and dismay on the faces of those who came in after us when they saw all the empty seats covered, sometimes barely, with coats and hats. I saw them try to refrain from yelling--especially the long term couples--and hissing at each other to maybe just leave and duck into something else and/or see the manager, knowing full well there would be no manager, and no other films about Texas..with Texas and the Coen's million dollar mcguffin a fine but ignored metaphor for picking up the coats left as markers on the best seats and just hurling them into the front row.
This is the state of America: Apocalypse, Texas. Texas has become shorthand for a nice Road Warrior-sense of lawlessness, the "grab land from a Mexican and marry Liz Taylor"-style wildcatting of our most gas-conscious American fantasies. All big empty horizons and harmonicas in the wheezing mouths of skeletons, the Coen's are back on familiar ground, as I'm sure has already been written. They love big empty canvasses and then close-ups of cramped, mercilessly tacky interiors and hands with money and screwdrivers, and most of all they love circles... lots of circles. The thrill left for me this late in the game was in deconstructing the impression the film made on all my fellow audience members. By now we've been innundated with NO COUNTRY's critical praise. No man has escaped bearing witness to NO COUNTRY's late-inning sprint to greatness in the mediated collective consciousness. At any rate, I haven't. So seeing it now in the theater is not like you've latched onto a sleeper. But is NO COUNTRY even a real film? It seems more like a crossroads, a destination at which to wait for Godot, a diner filled with a unique cross-section of America, waiting for the birds or the mist, or the blob to come attack. Only in this case it's not a monster, but the apocalypse itself and there's no defence, no walls, no borders.
The weird ending of NO COUNTRY is like the hand of your soon-to-die or already-dead father or grandfather reaching out of your own heart and pulling you into the screen and letting you know you never really lost it to begin with. There's no place like home, even if home is a movie theater where not even a pretty hipster couple can find seats together in the same time zone. You'd run, but there's no place to run...a sniper's scope or a pop-up ad will find you. America, where you thought yourself so safe from things like buckshot and coat-seat-markers, has become a tomb; worse than being walled up with your decomposinng father or a yowling black cat, you're walled up with a Dodge Ram truck commercial on endless loop.
What makes NO COUNTRY great really, in the end, is that it paves the way for THERE WILL BE BLOOD. The wild west eulogies are open for business and uber alles looms Kubrick (another big circle lover), his SHINING blood will be flowing and mixing with Upton Sinclair's black-sperm vengeance. The way's been paved and it's a half-pipe, so your kids can snowboard you to Valhalla (or hella). Word. Woot. Happy New Year, you old savings and loan, Zodiac watch-wearing scythe swiper of time! The fixed-positioin viewer-narrator is dead, long live the CSI "omnarrator!" The very old and the very new have found each other. Your kids have cobbled together a grandfather out of bits of old microfiche and silent cinema boxes, and they've cut you out of the loop. Where you gonna look now, scarecrow?
Let 2007 stand as the year the Coens showed us how death really works, just as Tarantino showed us how being DEATH-PROOF no longer works, not even for old men who have nothing left to lose but their center aisle seats. Now raise a glass of the bio-diesel and let's ring in the new automorphic new year!