Double Exposure: Fall/Winter 2013-2014

Page 30

hame couple is peeling grapefruits (were they really grapefruits?) in the kitchen. Nothing is happening, and Bogart suddenly says something like, “would someone looking at us right now guess that we are happy?” And the spectator immediately thinks yes, maybe—but just a second before, he himself wasn’t thinking about it. Emotion before the instability of the moment and the fragile beauty of cinema, capable of making the scene feel “close” to us without having to bring the camera “closer.” Without the intrusion of a close-up, or the indiscretion of a one size fits all zoom. It is the inside-out camera movement, the one that happens within the body of the spectator, that we call “emotion.” It arises from what we suddenly guess. But which word is the most important, “suddenly” or “guess?” Both. “Guess” because we almost let the moment pass by unnoticed. But then, we agree to stay by the kitchen door of the Lonely Place, and with a new eye we notice that Ray is a great scenographer. I borrowed my example from him, but I could have taken a hundred others, along the same lines, from Paris, Texas. Wenders has received much praise for the way he gives a style—almost a “Wenders touch”—to the way he looks at landscapes and captures their photogenic quality. But if this were his only strength, he would have shot neither Paris, Texas nor the last scene of Paris, Texas. The one who watches puts himself at a distance, but in doing so runs two risks: The Charybdis of indifference and the Scylla of mannerism. Wenders hasn’t always avoided them. But what saves him from his apparent ease is the certainty (stronger than ever with this last film) that there must be a distance (only one) from which all things (people and landscapes) appear not simply as strangely “detached,” but as the affectionate promise of a secret. A promise which it is hard to say (as in Ozu) whether it would be more elegant to keep quiet (as in Dwan), or more painful to revive (as in Ford). The responsibility falls on the filmmaker (it is then that his immense talent as a scenographer comes into play) to keep his spectator in “long shot”: by the kitchen door, in the Mojave Desert, in a bar or a shabby motel, in a peep show, wherever the story is unfolding. To learn to live with the secret, as Travis’s brother (heroically) does in Paris, Texas. To give the characters enough time to tame each other, as Travis does with little Hunter, his son, when he picks him up from school. The right distance, for Wenders, is that from which it would be possible for us to want at the same time to crack the secret and to leave it intact. This “at the same time” is the very time of emotion. The contemplatives want to earn the landscape, not possess it. To furtively slip into it, not be noticed in it. To modify it, not remodel it. What does Travis, the man who (says Wenders) “comes back from the dead,” want? The same thing that Wenders wants when he “comes back” from the myth of the Death of Cinema. The same thing we want when we stand to applaud Paris, Texas at Cannes. He wants to reenter the family portrait from which he had disappeared, to take the time he needs to modify a detail from it. Only one, but extremely significant: to remove a child (or rather to “collect” him) from a corner of the frame and to put him beside a woman whose faded features haunted that same frame, in another spot. It is an alteration, the work of an acupuncturist. The job done, Travis leaves the frame for the second time, his secret intact. The secret (often trite) is not something that can be spit out; it is the hollow horizon of an asymptotic curve. From constantly moving closer, we get farther away. From constantly moving closer to Travis, the man who emerged from the desert, we failed to notice that he was already getting away again. The Wenders-emotion is a boomerang. 30

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