MIDNIGHT LAMP AT THE MOVIES

                                              

2001, July 15th, Sunday: I saw my first virtual movie, at the Regal cinema, Oceanside CA: Final Fantasy, The Spirits Within (Hayo Miyazaki). I haven't seen another one yet, that I know of (tho' I have my suspicions about Matrix Reloaded, Surely they picked up that Keanu Reeves avatar for $10 on ebay). But there I was, in this frosty, classic Californian cinema: watching a strange confection from the unborn future, thinking about the story I was going to write, the power of this great industry, my fantasy technology; and how real life cinema has burned its images into my real life brain; into all my fiction.. It was a thrill. See below for further details.
We saw this first in Bangkok, 1980, with a Thai bloke who remembered fondly the days of R&R; he found it very moving. It made a strong impression on me, too... I saw it as a passionate romance, not a racist war film. I always thought its eclipse was unjust, and I counted the story as one of the major sources for the threesome love affair in Bold As Love. How about that final denoument, "I love you Nick!" Bam! Romantic, or what? But it's strange how memory works. At the end of Castles Made Of Sand one of my heroes has a scene where I just knew that he had to be sitting up by a window, wearing blue... It didn't make sense. The character was at death's door, tubes coming out of him, intensive care bed, but I had to figure out a way to do it. This year I finally saw The Deerhunter again, and there's Nick (Christopher Walken), a lost soul in the military hospital, in his blue pyjamas, sitting exactly as I'd been forced to place Sage. Bizarre.

Midnight Lamp Movie Burns (the ones I'm aware of)

Dr Zhivago (David Lean): One of those big movies from the age of bland, Ava Gardner to Julie Christie, but there's a famous moment when the rural doctor, (Omar Sherif) tosses something shiny into a beaker, and instantly, ching!, it's the wheel of a vehicle going round, in Moscow -we've made the transition, from good works to urban revolution. I took this trick to heart, I've used it often. See the repeat of the word maelstrom, (ching!) when they cross the border from the Baja beach to a Hollywood party. Midnight Lamp, Bears Discover Fire. Besides, I'm very keen on daffodils.

Fanny and Alexander, (Ingmar Bergman) Currently my top movie, displacing (after a reign of many years) Les Enfants Du Paradis. I wasn't sure if F&A was right for the "top movie" role in ML, which is a fairly important one. So I watched it again, and it was déjà vu.The dark caravanserai, where Alexander meets his mother. The internal-world encounter in the secret room of the red house, where Ismael tells him individual consciousness is an illusion. This is where Midnight Lamp came from.... "The pilgrim's progress of the mind's predicament, what else should art express?" Midnight Lamp, Precious Bane.

Star Wars (George Lucas) "I'm in a constant state of déjà vu," said Ax. "I was imprinted on this landscape before I was six, on tv screens, cinema screens. It's not supposed to be real, and here I am. Fuck, actual rocks look familiar. I think this ravine  must have featured in an episode of Star Wars, or several episodes of Star Wars..." Midnight Lamp, Desperados. A transposition: actually it was the memory of ancient cowboy movies that thrilled me, and in the Alabama Hills, not up in Inyo County. Desert landscapes at the heart of post 1945 global culture:something catacylsmic happened here. For a long time we thought it was the Manhattan Project, but maybe it was really Hollywood all along.

High Sierra (Raoul Walsh; screenplay by John Huston & WR Burnett 1941). A breakthrough: the humane and intelligent gangster movie, co-starring Mount Whitney and the High Sierra, Ida Lupino wonderful, the ending perfect. Free... Free... You'll have to ask someone in film studies to explain how good this is, but I know there's something of Roy Earle, Bogart's bothered, decent killer, indignant at the tone of his press coverage, in the Ax Preston of Midnight Lamp-

The Sting, (George Roy Hill, 1973) The old bloke with the blue eyes... When Robert Redford makes a special guest appearence at a Malibu virtual-movie wrap-party, (Midnight Lamp, November Rain) that's secretly for the Julia Phillips connection, and this is the Redford movie that won her that Oscar. The Malibu set, the Seventies, my my. They were really something, those people, and she was the queen of them all.

Inserts (John Byrum, 1975) A minor gem of a movie about the movies, set in Hollywood sleazeland at the time when the talkies were taking over, and silents were dying. Featuring Richard Dreyfuss's debut as the faded golden boy director with a problem; Bob Hoskins as his wiseguy patron, and Veronica Cartwright as a brave little trouper with a favourite necktie. This is where I picked up 'couldn't get his rope to rise with a magic flute.' Not a lot like Singing In The Rain

Tron (Steven Lisberger 1982) You know that scene where Flynn (Jeff Bridges) gets digitally broken down and kidnapped into the machine, by all these criss-cross sort of laser-beam things? Well... I saw Tron in Brighton, when it was first released in the UK, with an audience of geeks and nerds. We cheered, we were spellbound, we gave the credits (and they were long!) a standing ovation & thereafter I was mystified that nobody else seemed to care; nobody seemed to get it. The world was not ready.

This Is Spinal Tap...(Rob Reiner) "I don't know. A movie about rockstars is a longshot. What is there that comes to mind? There's Spinal Tap. But when that came out, the general public had heard of Spinal Tap, even if they were only funny, stupid, English has-beens..." MidnightLamp,Dead From The Waist Down#2 When my editor spotted this ref she wanted me to ditch it, concerned that readers would think I believed Spinal Tap was a real band. What can she be thinking of? Of course they're a real band.