I've put my newly acquired long-distance vision eyewear (for watching TV from across the room, night driving, inclement weather driving, not for reading or computer work... yet) to good use watching a small smorgasbord of films. Started off with Kurosawa's Rashomon- its fractured, modernist, self-cancelling narrative making it my favorite Kurosawa after High and Low- then moved on to a rather allegorical late-fifties horror drive-in double feature: Irvin Yeaworth's The Blob and Arthur Crabtree's Fiend Without a Face. The former features conformity as a gelatinous, ever-enlarging form that attempts to swallow an American small town whole; the latter features the Deadly Human Mind (a mind capable of conjuring the grim specter of nuclear warfare!) as disembodied human brains, complete with attached spinal-cord "tail," crawling rapidly on the ground like spiders and leaping at the necks of people who just don't know when to shut down the atomic military installation. These things work because they were obviously made with the most energy and wit the filmmakers could muster; the special effects seem cheesy now, of course, but luckily (?) we have the postmodernist prism to look at them through. It doesn't matter that your disembodied brains look like Claymation (though they're still pretty damn creepy, if you ask me) or your blob looks like melted Jell-O when they're only mediating signifiers on the way to things people apparently couldn't speak or even think of openly back then.

I then went on to D.A. Pennebaker's gorgeous Daybreak Express- music by Duke Ellington- which was released on the same 1958 bill as Ronald Neame's The Horse's Mouth. It was shot on New York's 3rd Street El before they tore it down, and it's absolutely beautiful. It appears to have been shot at an exact daybreak magic hour, and we basically ride the train from its farthest point of origin to its farthest point of arrival, with the city just shimmering in the orange-saturated dawn. It's transporting on every level; it's everything a short film should be.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to split the bill and watch the feature tomorrow, as it's nighty-night time now, time to crawl under the covers and devour a few more chapters of Margaret Atwood; full report forthcoming upon completion.
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