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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Close Up: The movie/essay/dream

 

Words are linear. Movies not so much, even though they are encoded onto strips of celluloid or served up as streams or spirals of digital bits.

The web is not so linear, actually. Hyperlinks in all directions are more like the interconnected synapses of the human brain than any other technology or art form I can think of. But sometimes when I try to convey something about my experience of movies -- filtered, as always, through reflections and contrasts between images, memories, themes, styles -- what I really want to do is make a movie about it. That seems like the shortest, most direct way from imagination to articulation. The movie itself (as Godard famously suggested) is the criticism, the analysis.

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When I put together the images and commentary for my previous post, "Close-Ups: A free-association dream sequence," in celebration of the Close-Up Blog-a-thon at the House Next Door, that's what I was getting at. I just didn't have the tools to fully express what I wanted to say. Strike that. I had the tools, right here on my MacBook, but I didn't know how to use them.

One weekend and three long nights later, here's what I wanted to say. I will resist the temptation (you don't know how much I am tempted) to analyze my own cinematic essay, but I want you to watch it for yourself first. I'll translate it from web into movie and back into language later. This is a direction in which I want to move my film criticism.

Oh, and it's not a "literal" interpretation of the post. Some things just work differently on the motion picture screen than they do on the computer screen. Think of the first post as the original set of annotated storyboards, from which I felt free to depart whenever it felt right. The idea was not to overthink it, just to go with the flow and see where it led, like the ant-hole in hand / armpit / sea urchin / top of head sequence in "Un Chien Andalou." Enjoy and please leave comments, critiques, interpretations and questions! Just be sure to stay all the way through the end credits — a minute or so of the six-minute running time....

UPDATED 10/19/07: While looking for a frame grab from "Black Narcissus" to honor the late Deborah Kerr, I discovered the source of an indelible mirror-image (you'll see) that I'd previously been unable to locate. It's now been incorporated into the movie.

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