Movies for Dummies
Homer had an audience among his fellows, Homer still has an audience today, even among non-Greeks. (Of course partly that’s because he’s assigned — by authorities: not exactly fair.) Shakespeare had an audience: still has one: ditto.
What “Homer” today’s audience has deteriorates: what would we understand without the help of scholars? How many of us can follow how much of that? The Chinese is even more handicapped than the Englishman. And so forth. But now I switch to considering a different audience limitation: not just intelligence! not just imagination! but experience!
What would Homer’s Argives and Achaeans around the fire have thought if Homer suddenly started singing about Michael Jackson? What would Shakespeare’s Londoners have thought if Shakespeare suddenly made reference to the Big Bang? What if either had compared Athenian democracy (which didn’t exist yet in Homer’s day) to the Iroquois’ Great Law of Peace? or the US Constitution? (neither or which existed in either Homer’s or Shakespeare’s day)!
Last night I watched a DVD of the Japanese anime, Akira. I had a flood of thoughts that included memories from the 1960s when I watched a movie, an English documentary, which purported to imagine the aftermath of a nuclear attack. The documentary depicted people, a little grim but otherwise normal, queuing up: for food, for water, for services: utterly peaceful, utterly orderly. In other words, the documentary was pretending to imagine something; it hadn’t actually imagined anything!
In Akira cartoon characters, mostly juvenile, genetically sort of universal, but with Japanese names, bilingual children’s blocks, and a post-apocalypse Tokyo, very reminiscent of Hiroshima-Nagasaki, experience explosions and civic disasters of every description, but very very few ever get hurt. Akira was demanding barely more than zero imagination from us.
Imagine disaster: but imagine that it isn’t disasterous at all. Actually, it’s kind of fun: and you‘re the hero!
Disintegration is Harmless
When I was drafted and sent to basic training in NJ, there were infantry combat training sergeants who could make company after company of trainees roar with laughter by insulting the military nonsense of John Wayne movies. John Wayne swaggers his middle aged hips into the bar. Somebody hits him in the jaw with a whiskey bottle. John Wayne kind of blinks, shakes it off, and wades into battle, none the worse for wear. How many GIs who had actually been in a battle wished that this big galoot of a football sissy had actually been in a battle, and John Ford along with him. That might have mussed his hair.
Sitting in that theater in the 1960s watching English actors pretend to be devastated without having a single seeping wound drove me crazy (partly because if I was in the theater, I was not studying!) I wanted a mic and an amplifier. I wanted to beseech the audience to understand that if they’d been nuked nearly all of them would be dead. Those who lived might well wish that they were dead. And those not yet in pain would be right to imagine that unimaginable pain might yet be on the way: from radiation. Maybe the radiation will sear you quick, maybe the radiation will sear you slow, but you’ll burn either way. The recently rich might well bargain all they ever had to have had their arms and legs and head singed off them in the first microsecond.
“First, you have to imagine that you’re dead. You don’t see anyting, you don’t hear a word I’m saying.” See? pk has no audience!
Akira was comprised mostly of orphans grown into juvenile delinquent bikers: their bikes all super rods, all stolen. They’re surrounded by clinging females. The females get stripped on occasion, their breasts showing: modestly. These kids are all orphans, deliquents, thieves; but they’re not yet addicts, pill poppers … and they’re all virgins, they’re all louts but they’re all concerned for each other … But in their midst come a few adults. One called the Colonel is a John Wayne type. Again and again the Colonel is at ground zero when Neo Tokyo falls on him. The sewers erupt: into his esophagus. He shakes it off: and he’s unaffected.
Several years back I explored anime. I fell in love with several examples of the work of Hayao Miyazaki.
Recently I shared some with my beloved: and was overdosing almost immediately.
I’ll reserve comments on the science fiction dialogue of Akira for another time, when I’m feeling less movie-nauseous. Oh, and some other comments will come best in the company of a couple of K. modules not yet resurrected here: on humans evolving to look too young to be dangerous: these anime characters all look ten-to-twelve but going-on-streetwalker-warlord. Ah, now I’ve brought one in: Masks and Deceptions.