May 9, 2006

Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us.

Posted in movies tagged , , at 10:09 am by placeinthestars

I had to google up Umberto Eco’s essay on the movie (oh! I saw a girl reading Foucault’s Pendulum on the bus this morning, and it made me happy. I have to buy a new copy – my dad mangled my copy badly when I lent it to him, and oh, I adore that book – people should read it instead of DaVinci Code* if they want a good thriller about overarching conspiracies, because it’s also about the construction of narrative and the power of truth in fiction and, crap, I really need to reread it again), and I was just talking to DI et al. about intertexuality, and this always makes me squee:

But precisely because all the archetypes are here, precisely because Casablanca cites countless other films, and each actor repeats a part played on other occasions, the resonance of intertextuality plays upon the spectator. Casablanca brings with it, like a trail of perfume, other situations that the viewer brings to bear on it quite readily, taking them without realizing it from films that only appeared later […]

Thus Casablanca is not just one film. It is many films, an anthology. Made haphazardly, it probably made itself, if not actually against the will of its authors and actors, then at least beyond their control. And this is the reason it works, in spite of aesthetic theories and theories of film making. For in it there unfolds with almost telluric force the power of Narrative in its natural state, without Art intervening to discipline it. […] Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion.

So much yes! So much of what I love about writing is bound up in this – the play of stories against each other, the inverting or reimagining of old stories in new ways, the mashup of the familiar with the new, the archetypes mixed and matched to throw light on each other, exposing new and different patterns, the cliche done right (because something doesn’t reach cliche status unless it works when done right) or twisted into something unexpected…

Oh dear god, I think they gave me caffeinated coffee… This can’t be good…

*my objections are to the painfully bad writing and ginormously obvious plot twists, not the plot itself, which would have been enjoyable had it not been so badly written, though as I said, it was kind of obvious from early on what was going on