Monday, July 1, 2013

Through the Looking Glass

Hasty dispatch from the moving sidewalks of Berkeley to Oakland.

Hardly a raid on the inarticulate, yet herein the Flaneur attempts to recall a moment of inchoate happenstance.

As a local expression of the summer heat wave, I have employed visits to the cooler environs of Jack London Square to relax some evenings.
There I was on a recent night as an outdoor exhibition of a recent film took place. On a lawn alongside restaurants with outdoor fire pits an inflatable screen had been set up, its frame a tubular deal giving it roughly the shape of an etch-a-sketch.
An elevated patio above the rest rooms etc. afforded me a dignified seat away from the crowd to have smoke and enjoy the crepuscular bay side atmosphere as pleasure craft came back to dock contently. It's quite a prospect to wait until it's dark enough to comfortably show a film outdoors a few nights after the solstice. Impatience prevailed naturally enough when after a quiz and a raffle the mob felt it had collectively waited enough and a booming male voice introduced the film.
I grabbed a spot on the lawn as close as was practical and settled in for what was turning out to be a slightly chilly spot despite the heat of the day.
The film started with a blurt, the video control semiotics visible over the picture with a women's voice-over described what was being shown on-screen for the benefit of those without sight. Prolonged giggling ensued as even the simultaneity of twitchy warthogs was noted in the obtrusive narration rapidly interspersed with a recitation of the credits as they passed by.
Fortunately the night had fallen a bit further by the time they stopped and restarted the film, the screen became more legible as it went on.
It is a enough pleasant film and just right for this family-centered crowd with its relative smattering of hipsters and bystanders like me. Some of its clever-cute spiritual jingoism and the over-long "revelation" of its ending might not have been missed by this viewer. Moreover though it is a well-wrought use of so much CGI it is left with that nagging irreal feeling when it wants to be at its most naturalistic. And some sequences such as Richard Parker the tiger pounces on the heinous hyena are so abrupt as to be incomplete--as in what exactly happened to the hyena's corpse? Swallowed in one bite?
But it was loose enough to allow the attention of the young crowd  to wander and then draw them back in at the thrilling moments. I suspect many of them had already seen the film as well. Some young folks quite close to the screen were noticeably slapstick in their antics. A tall young guy with a wild "natural" hairdo was bounding around while still sheathed in a sleeping bag like  a cartoon. Sitting next to me were a Sino-American couple who had brought their alert looking little terrier. The dog watched every outlandish behavior with calm forbearance.
Then as the film's bestial soundtrack roared to a crescendo, the rodeo-clown kid came running down some stairs behind the screen to dive toward the scrum of sleeping bags. The dog barked a single loud bark in admonition and everyone froze for a second. It was as if it was one last adrenaline-inducing thrill, one more of the many vivid animal sounds in "The Life of Pi." The tall kid was momentarily spooked, and then the tension resolved in general laughter and merriment. A sweet looking young black girl and I exchanged a twinkly look and everybody rose to go.
"I thought that he looked like a smart dog," I told his proud owner.