Bright Wall/Dark Room

Bright Wall/Dark Room

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A different lens on film. No hot takes, lots of long reads. (And now a podcast, too.)

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Dear Olive,

How should a person be?

Love,

Sheila

*

Dear Sheila,

The summer I was seven, I spent two days on the middle bench of an airless yellow VW bus driving from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, with my family decomposing all around me.

-- Erica Cantoni, Dear Olive

Movies about the end times are exactly what you want when you think you want truth. One of the films M. and I saw that year was Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World. Though not the director’s most successful, the film is arguably his most ambitious—a role-reversed Ulysses story that describes a woman’s travels across the globe and a man who waits for her return. It is a 20th century story: unlike current ideations of the apocalypse, there…

We are always, all of us, looking for home. Literally and figuratively, so many of our maps point us back there. Most of us have a sense of something lost now. Something resembling warmth and comfort and belonging. Something nostalgia can only ever barely get at. We spend our entire lives searching for our lives.

-- Chad Perman, A Connoisseur of Roads

Perhaps the most familiar cliché in the film—and the most appealing to a certain type of audience member (namely, me)—is the dominant but kind man taking the clever but sheltered girl under his wing. Peter Warne loves the sound of his own voice. Over the course of their northward journey, he lectures Ellie on travel etiquette, money handling, how to properly dunk a donut, appropriate piggyback ride technique, and, in one of the film’s most famous scenes, the undressing habits…

Even presence can’t protect us from death. A person can die while we are watching them. I just typed this, and it strikes me as strange—I can be speaking to you one moment, then you might hold your throat or touch your temple or feel a weakness in your arm and fall over and then, gone, your words practically still in the air. You might read this page, my words in your head, puzzling over the meaning of all my…

[Editor’s note: for reasons of clarity, I have retained Bresson’s notes, in black, and follow them with Kermit’s, in green. Other selections have been attributed.]

The ejaculatory force of the eye. [Sheesh, this is a family movie.]

A model Muppet. Enclosed in his mysterious appearance. [Enclosed in felt and cotton.] He has brought home to him all of him that was outside. He is there, behind that forehead, those cheeks. [The animating principle a hand.]

A Muppet. His actual being external. Internal, alien.

-- Stephen Sparks, A Frog, Escaped

I have heard time and time again that our choices don’t really matter, that the things we like or find ourselves drawn to aren’t really grand signifiers of our inner essence. I find that people most often say this when they are giving other people dating advice: “When I was dating around, I said I could never date a guy who liked sitar music, but then I met Stan, who is an avid sitar player, can you believe it?” or…

When I was younger, Planes, Trains and Automobiles felt like a peek into this secret world of men that I knew so little about. And it took some time for me to understand all the ways in which Neal and Del are both flawed, deeply and almost unbearably so. Neal, behind all of his frustration and anger, is really just a man trying to get back home to his family. Growing up without a father around, I always liked that…