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Ballad of Narayama

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Wandering the hallways from Marienbad to the Overlook

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It's the third door on your...

Kathleen Murphy has written a stunning piece over at Testpattern called "The Haunted Palace." (I've been waiting weeks for it to appear so I could send you there.) Although primarily about Alain Resnais' "Last Year at Marienbad," the article moves through those haunted corridors, into Stanley Kubrick's Overlook Hotel, passing through doors (and walls) into the worlds of Max Ophuls, Luis Bunuel, Josef von Sternberg... As you wander through the maze of this "Lady from Shanghai" hall of mirrors you'll catch glimpses of ghosts around every corner -- not just the phantom images of particular movies, but insights into a spectral world Dave Kehr has described as "the lost continent of cinephilia."

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From Kathleen's magnificent guided tour of the grounds:

Once upon a time, movie-loving folk actually, in the words of Susan Sontag, "arranged their emotional and intellectual lives around an art that was 'poetic and mysterious and erotic and moral all at the same time.'" We thrived on films such as "Vertigo" (1958), "L'Avventura" (1960), "Jules and Jim" (1962), "My Life to Live" (1962) -- works that, like [Ophuls'] "Letter From an Unknown Woman," plunged into the very DNA of the cinematic imagination. We happily drowned, not in narrative alone -- or even at all -- but in the seductive images, spaces and faces conjured by the formidable magic of the medium....

.... Still, there's a horror movie at the heart of every film about love and art. Death's always abroad in these environs, a reaper whose scythe eventually edits everyone out of the picture. Our avid gaze consumes the images we love; if we take them in, perhaps we will become them. Movies are haunted houses -- full of dead people who come to life again and again for our pleasure.

"If we take them in, perhaps we will become them." Is there a finer description of cinephilia, or of our need to consume art, to make it part of our own experience, to incorporate it into our psyches, to perhaps even become wiser, broader, better human beings through our exposure to the transcendent? She's at the heart of darkness here -- the darkness of the sanctuary (a movie theater, a home, a hotel room...) in which we view these flickering, mesmerizing images. Movies create illusions and shatter them, mimic dreams and usurp them.

I don't know about you, but I get shivers from exploring these cinematic environs -- and from reading words like Kathleen's that offer not just a perfectly situated window frame through which to view them, but that present a doorway beckoning you to enter...

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