Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

New York is a real vampire...

Going to New York was the most fun I've ever had with movies, while not actually watching any.
Let me explain.

9/10 of the films you can name me are American. Even our German exchange penpals didn't know any German films. Film history is drowsy 50s starlets in sunglasses and big hats hanging around the Hollywood mafia; or shouty, beardy guys in baseball caps.

I think in cinemascope - all bikes are props from ET, or Donnie Darko, or whatever I've seen most recently. This is because I have a one track mind. But with America, it's different. I'm not overreacting - because they're filmed there, set there, and the minds which form films are inspired by it. The dusty highway, the lone diner, the white picket fence. All archetypes of film which _actually exist_. Not that I ever denied that they did, but they are so much more a symbol than real places. It's like kissing in the rain. Rain exists, so do kisses, and of course they can happen concurrently. But they don't. The old mentor, wise but human, due to die before the second reel. Actually, all the "mentors" I've ever met are still alive - and none of them have beards.

You can imagine the effect America's most iconic city had on me then...

Just being there is like being stuck in a 70s movie montage - yellow taxis! "One Way" signs! Steam coming out of the drains! Macys! Subways! Bridges! more than anything else, I was suprised it really existed. For me, NY is a set - it's the backdrop to so many films that it's become a part of the language of film. It's reduced to unreality. Sure, it's a real city. But to an outsider, it's like spending six days stuck on the set of Friends...or Annie Hall...or Taxi Driver. Take your pick. Vito Corleone introduces the dons of New York and New Jersey, but did you know there's an actual place in America called New Jersey? It's as real as Rohan.

And if that didn't strike you as hopelessly romantic, then this will: suddenly I "get" New York. All the Sesamie Street touches have ceased to be generic background decoration - it's actually there. It's real. This afternoon, I watched Breakfast at Tiffanys - its plot depends upon us believing that hero and heroine can communicate by going down the fire escape into each others windows. Now of course, I wouldn't have been confused a week before, but I would have beleved in the ladder in the same abstract way which I know spaceships should have sliding doors and escape pods.

It's white hats and black hats. Traditionally, a cowboy in a white hat is good, while black hats are reserved for villains. American Beauty's perfect lawns are a symbol of the visible perfection in the characters lives. When we see a character with fangs and a cape, we understand who he is even if we've never met a real vampire.

People understand the cliches. NY is a cliche of itself.

I even found an overweight cop in a restaurant - he's a surefire gonner. Of course, we only know that fat cops die because we've seen it in films, and they're only in films because at some point, the director cast an overweight actor and put him in a NYPD uniform. But for me, the uniform means nothing - my British bobbies wear hats and carry truncheons. Armed police? Only in the movies...It's his world not mine, it's only a costumed character. So for me, seeing a real live American cop was like meeting real life cowboys - something that only exists on screen.

I repeat: You can imagine the effect America's most iconic city had on me then...

Here's a photo of my mother and sister, AKA Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. Does it matter it's not the real bridge? Does it hell. We didn't see many genuine locations, but we saw hundreds that were good enough. My sister dragged us all around the library, and we reenacted the Day after Tomorrow. We saw the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty, which are in everything, but I was thinking about Doctor Who S3 and Legend of 1900. And we visited Ellis Island, which had the nastiest karmic atmosphere of anywhere since Bodmin and Kilmainen Gaols, but was also the place a young Vito Corleone passes through in Godfather II.
(I'm not a believer in all things neo-hippie - I haven't really thought about it. But I do sometimes get a bit sensitive to old buildings, and I'm telling you - the Ellis Island Immigration Station is an unhappy place to be.) We also found the HQ and UFOs from Men in Black.

As for Taxi Driver, a quintessential NY, you may recall I was disappointed to have not seen it beforehand. But I'm glad I hadn't, because I feel I'll enjoy it twice as much now.

Did I overreact? Ah well, it was a lovely place. Most people assume I'm not a city person, because I love trees and greenery, but I'm just addicted to atmosphere, any atmosphere. If I'd planned the trip, I would have spent six days wandering around, taking photos and writing stories about strangers. This is at the root of why I enjoyed Babel - a film which had something missing. It redeemed itself by dragging us through four or five different cultures by the end of the film.

So, a final question on New York. Our hotel had a film theme going on - there was a print of Harold Lloyd dangling off the clockface above in my hotel room, so that was OK.
All the pictures were like that; movie stars mainly. Clark Gable et al. I recognised a fair few of them, but among the ones I didn't was this:

Who is she? Quite aside from the fact she's gorgeous, I'm curious.

PS - People have started making their "best films of 2007" lists. I haven't seen any of them, not one. So this is a special thank you for my family who, when faced with a choice of Youth without Youth, Eraserhead, Blade Runner, No Country for Old Men, Atonement, Across the Universe and I'm not There in New York cinemas, chose Golden Compass. Thanks a bunch.


Will said...

That's Greta Garbo. You should see Grand Hotel. "Grand Hotel...always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens."

Catherine said...

Wow. You idea how jealous I am of you. I am in love with New York, not that I've ever been, but through the movies. And you have to see Taxi Driver!

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