Sunday, January 29, 2006

Call Me Up in Dreamland

I had a lot of strange and strangely vivid dreams last night, a few of them distinctly cinema-related. The extraordinary self-indulgence of turning this blog into my "dream journal," even for one post, will hopefully be off-set by the fact that I'll relate just the filmic stuff. (And I do think that at least one reader will find this topic interesting.) So I'll share.

1) I dreamt I took my girlfriend to see a film musical at a massive theater--it was on a special screen because, being made in the 1950s/60s, it was widescreen. And when I say widescreen, this dreamfilm had an aspect ratio of maybe 4:1. Although I recall no singing or dancing in dreamwatching the film, I know it was a musical because (a) in my dream state I had seen it before, "but only on pan-and-scan VHS" as I recall I told another patron, (b) a musical is the sort of film I'd take my girlfriend to see (one of our first dates was to Singin' in the Rain), and (c) I wanted to tell my co-worker, who's really into musicals, that I saw this special extravaganza on the big screen.

At the screening itself, the huge theater wasn't packed--though there were proportionally more people, and the shape of the auditorium itself doesn't correspond, I'm reminded somewhat in mood (but only in my current, waking state) of the theater from Goodbye Dragon Inn.

The screening had some camp elements, with crowds of cultist fans yelling dialogue at the screen, too. But I can't recall much about the film itself. I do remember that the screen actually would 'freeze' sometimes and only one square of movement (framed, say, 'inside a window') would appear, and in my dream I figured it was quite logical for the filmmakers to not waste time or money shooting moving images with all cameras (because, like Cinerama, this super-widescreen work must have been shot with several cameras...) and just use stills for certain frames when need be. The only plot element I can recall is that the protagonist (a middle aged white man) is mentally unstable and, as I said to myself in the dream screening, "Oh yeah, now I remember from my first viewing--there are certain scenes that are figments of his imagination, but you can't know that until deeper into the storyline." Doesn't quite sound like a Hollywood musical, does it?

Because it was a camp screening and everybody was eating and having a good time, people were walking in and out of the theater, too.

2) So I went out at one point, and walked into another screening down the hall, where a John Ford film was playing. (This one, too, I had "seen before" and loved well, though I realized upon awakening that there's no such film as this one.) The moment in the film that I dreamed is a brief narrative digression--probably away from John Wayne's story--where Victor Maclaglen is saying an ode to his dead wife. The film (in black and white) shows Maclaglen as he talks, but pans away from him, and his voice continues offscreen, like a narration, and I remember someone throwing dirt. Maybe in the dreamfilm they were burying her at her grave? I can't remember the context except that handfuls or shovelfuls of dirt were thrown into the air (contrasting with the pale sky) and the music played gently underneath Maclaglen's voice, and in my dream I was so incredibly moved by this moment of Fordian beauty that I had to turn away from the screen and cry. At the same time as I was overwhelmed emotionally, I had an epiphany in my dream that Ford's cinema borrows much from early British documentary cinema (like John Grierson) and I thought I had discovered the key to something big about his art.

Now I'm scratching my head a little bit and will have to give it some thought. But it was right after this epiphany that a sound from outside pulled me from my slumber.

Ah, to write about films that don't exist ...


girish said...

Not self-indulgent at all; I love it.
More, please, whenever you feel like it.

Phil said...

"Ah, to write about films that don't exist ..."

... film criticism desperately needs another Borges, so you might consider sharing further cinema-related dreams with us in the future.

Eric Henderson said...

I wish I could even remember my dreams long enough to put a pen to paper, but they disappear from mem memory faster than cotton candy. I know I had a cracker this morning, but couldn't remember a thing about it while brushing my teeth.

Adrian said...

Zach, I am proud to see that ROUGE magazine has officially entered your unconscious! Your Fordian dream obviously draws from Shigehiko Hasumi's analysis: "Only those characters capable of throwing an object at decisive moments are truly Fordian. They are defined neither by their character nor their profession, but by their performance of the act of throwing."

I have been recording my film-related dreams for about 15 years (some extremely elaborate) and hope to find something to do with them one day!

Zach Campbell said...

Well I'm glad some of y'all liked this! Adrian, I had remembered Hasumi's article when I first started my blog entry and wanted to mention it, but by the time I got to the Ford part, I forgot. Thanks for bringing it up again.

Eric, normally I can't remember anything I dream, but yesterday morning was a big exception. (Although, since the only ones I wrote down were these two film ones, I've since forgotten almost everything else I dreamed that night.)

HarryTuttle said...

I don't mean to kill the fun, your film-related dream is great indeed (and remarkably detailed), but you know dream language isn't rational right?

You can't make sense of a dream by relating to its significance in your wake intellect and knowledge, because this is a troyan horse in your mind. Each familiar element used stands for something else that has no logical (but symbolical) meaning.

It's like forgetting everything you know and trying to understand what is it your unconscious was trying to tell you, about yourself (not about cinema).

The aspect ratio incongruencies, the musical and Ford reference, the audience behavior act as perverted symbols, and not as straightforward significance. The cinema milieu is only a random context used by your mind.

A dream is self-psychoanalysis, a visual free-association.

Like the surrealists, you could use dreams as a catalyst to come up with new ideas, although I don't think your subconscious would tell you on purpose something pertinent about film criticism...

Dreamwork is fascinating. Mulholland Dr. makes a good job at exploring its irrationality and its bottomless abyss.

Zach Campbell said...

Huh? OK. Harry, I didn't try to rationalize my dream, I'm well aware that a dream tells me about myself and not the cinema (I mean, honestly, jesus christ...!), and I don't know what prompted your lecture here.

I was just relating a dream that, having film content, I thought would be somewhat interesting and relevant for this blog .... and in truth I don't think you understood this fact and have quite inaccurately projected onto my entry some intentions that are simply not there ...

HarryTuttle said...

All apologies...
I really didn't me to lecture.
At worst I make a fool of myself for stating the obvious and being redundant (which might not be lost for all readers though).
But there was no intention to offend you!

"you know dream language isn't rational right?" was a rhetorical assumption saying "I know you know".

Again, your dream was genuinely interesting! Had I known I was not allowed to comment on its content, I would have not shared my passion for dreamwork.
(Ah! the netiquette barrier...)

btw, you shouldn't feel "self-indulgent" about posting something about yourself on your own blog... or maybe it was a rhetorical humility, and I took it that way.


Zach Campbell said...

No worries Harry--I just felt as though there were a misunderstanding, and you were unfairly accusing me (if that's not too harsh a word) of extrapolating great knowledge about the cinema from these dream symbols. I mean, of course these symbols are reflections of my own psyche, but what's important for the purposes of this blog entry is that the tools used for this nocturnal moment of 'self-psychoanalysis,' as you put it, are cinema-based!

It is true that--in my dream!--I felt as though I had an epiphany about John Ford's work. But this isn't something that I projected onto my dream afterward, it was a sensation of intellectual "discovery" felt while dreaming. I don't expect my subconscious to uncover secrets of the cinema for my waking mind--but if, as you say, the dream acts as a springboard for new ideas (which is what I was trying to suggest when I wrote in my post that I'd 'have to think about it'), then I'm all for that.

Likewise, I don't know where my dreaming of the Fordian 'throwing' gesture came from; but the congruence with Hasumi's article is to me pretty noteworthy. Maybe just a coincidence; certainly nothing mystical; but worth at least acknowledging.

HarryTuttle said...

That's what I meant. All the great discoveries on cinema you post here, you owe them to your active wake mind at work, not to a passive state of reverie. I meant to credit your thinking first (not that your subconscious isn't "you", but "it" is not worried about cinema)

For the record I perfectly understood what you meant. It's me who has been yet again overzealous, and unintentionaly confusing.