What I am seeing...

Rather than numbly bumble along liking the visuals of various post-apocalyptic and dystopian movies, I've been challenged to articulate WHY I dig them.  As I've already noted, I am totally down with that new/old, sensual/spiritual, wounded/whole genre bending groove. Six years ago in London, we went to a participatory circus that blurred all the lines between performers and audience:  it was part acrobatic retelling of the story of Icarus, part goth-outsiders serving as loving and creative hosts as well as stunning performers, and part Wiemar Germany musical cabaret. It was the most exhilarating show I've ever encountered and part of that reality is what I experience in many of these films, too.

They seethe with vibrant life even in the midst of death.  They defy the urge to quit by showing life in all its strange beauty breaking out in the most unlikely places.  And they marry laughter with tears - tension with serenity - that encourages humility.  These movies are like Dylan recording some of his most surreal tone poems with old boy musicians in Nashville in the 60s... totally wacked and way too much fun.

I find the visual contrasts equally fascinating:  there are lots of little open fires taking place in the midst of a crowded open air market, there are street trolls and urchins wandering around next to sleek and stunning fashion models and captains of industry, there is a ton of rain and fog and shadows opening up to rooms saturated in deep reds, browns and yellows.  There is fear right next to courage, shame not far from hope and a quest for healing within an environment of uncertainty.  For me, this evokes both the prayer of St. Francis and Allan Ginsberg's Howl:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving
  hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the
  starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the
  supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of
  cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels
  staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkan-
  sas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes
  on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in
  wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall...

And throughout many of these movies there is a clear anti-greed message.  Sean Young's character in Blade Runner says after being questioned by Harrison Ford  about whether or not she is a manufactured replicant:  "I AM the business."  O Lord, have mercy, yes?  Think of the layers in that one:  I have given my soul to the corporation, I was created by the market, my imagination is a enslaved to to the pursuit of planned obsolesce and so much more, I serve and have value only as a commodity.  Clearly there are shades of the early Marx and his insights into alienation alive and well in these films.

So what happens over and over, is that these films point to what is truly human even in a twisted, soul-less and perverted reality:  the so-called villain in Blade Runner says to his corporate creator, "Father, I want more life."  This same depraved replicant not only pushes a nail through his own palm to stay alive - self-crucifixion - just before he dies he chooses to save the life of his assailant.  Apparently the sacred wisdom of mortality is even stronger than corporate hegemony.  This is a wisdom born only of life lived in solidarity with the sacred within and among us.

And this insight rings ever more true today in the shadow of the collapse of the market in 2008.  The prophet Isaiah once asked:  why spend your money on that which is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy?  (Isaiah 55:2) And these films keep the prophetic imagination alive - even paradoxically as they generate revenue for the coroporations that make them. 


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