Film Studies | Roger W. Hecht | The Piltdown Review

Film Studies

Film Studies
Audience photograph from Bigstock. Touch of Evil trailer still (1958) from Wikimedia Commons. Photo manipulation by William Shunn.

I am pushing this bicycle twined with ribbons & flags & enormous bells through the elaborate marble lobby to the bar where my wife is having drinks with strangers without me. The women I pass who admire my bike offer to “watch it.” I imagine they will sleep with me because of what it represents. I find my wife in a narrow room. She apologizes to her friends. We depart into a colorful night—carnival lights on Palladian buildings down rain-glazed cobblestone streets. Arms & faces hang from carriage windows. In between bars of music, yapping dogs in counterpoint. The trip home would be hurried if we were headed there. Everyone’s point of view is included: the couple stepping cautiously through the streets of a stone-built village; the woman staring blandly through the window of a train racing through forests passing village after stone-built village; her maybe ex-fiancĂ© at home anxiously preparing an elaborate meal, his one last shot. He is two days ahead of his skill level. He doesn’t understand all the tools at his disposal. But he has to abandon it—the steam, the smells, the colorful sauce—to meet his woman in the elaborate marble bar. There she is, in the iron grip of her boss who flirts with her & at the same time arranges their wedding. Something somewhere has unleashed some kind of toxic smell. But that’s okay. That’s only a plot device. The wedding won’t be called off, just cut short. There will be much crying later. But I am no longer watching this movie, but teaching it. The students are confused—they’re going to get married amid the toxic waste? No, someone explains. It’s a body they’ll discover under the elaborate garden. Someone else calls it a metaphor. I could let them talk all day but it is time to intercede. This, I say in a voice as deep and authoritative as I can muster, is the Southern Gothic. It is not, but rom-com doesn’t sound impressive. I write the words Southern Gothic in chalk, but the board is wet & the words won’t adhere. I step back from my words & into my voice. Southern Gothic. Ladies, say that in a sultry voice as you let your sweater or shawl slip from your shoulders & down your back to pool at your naked feet. Say it low and slowly. Any man would then do your bidding. I can’t recall if there were any women in the class, just as I can’t decide if this is pedagogy or just harassment.  

shortlink: dogb.us/film

          

               

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