8Fold: Weird Romance #2 "Forty-Nine Short Films"

Jamie Rosen jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Wed Oct 24 18:33:57 PDT 2007

{ Eightfold Comics Presents }

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The first film was a close-up of a caterpillar crossing cement. I
spent more time watching you by the light of the screen and felt
almost no guilt: your red hair twisted into a French braid falling
down your back; the way it played off of the green of your top even in
the semi-darkness; the attentiveness of your freckled face, turned
towards the images projected. These are the memories I take away from
that film, more than the sight of hairy bristles rippling off in some

The second film was a monologue about capitalism and its effects on
the bedrooms of the nation -- both their design and what goes on
within them. I will admit to thoughts on the subject of what our
bedroom might be like, and what we might find cause to do within it. I
will not deny this, even though I doubt you had even noticed me by
this point and I knew you only from a glimpse of beauty in the corner
of my eye as you plucked a programme from the table in the lobby.

The third and fourth films were of a piece, each the production of one
half of the same set of twins, each dealing ostensibly with death
through intense meditations on the everyday: the first on the
unpacking of a cardboard box filled with dishes, the second on a pair
of sleeping figures in an unmade bed. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition
of the two -- your attention seemed to wander. The box did little for
me, but the bed was tantalizing in its way.

The fifth film was the first to contain a narrative, as though the
organizers knew that by this point they may be losing some of the
audience. I became wrapped up in the troubles of a man in search of
his companions in a darkened theatre, and so I did not notice your
reaction to the same.

The sixth film was archival footage of a little league baseball game
overdubbed with an audio track I did not recognize at first: the
Hindenberg disaster. As the game descended into violence and parents
assaulted one another and the officials, that famous voice wailed
about humanity, and I cringed as I saw you shake your head, as though
saying "Close, but no cigar."

The seventh film truly stretched the definition of the medium as it
was nothing but text on the screen, one letter after another,
incomprehensible at first as it began in the middle of a sentence. I
took it to be merely the repetition of the words "the penis" ad
nauseam, but upon reflection I realized it was in fact a circular
statement taking advantage of the lack of either punctuation or
spelling to lend itself a certain ambiguity. You doubtless recognized
this right away, judging by the knowing chuckle from your vicinity.

The eighth film was the backdrop and catalyst for my decision that
there was more to my attraction to you than the obvious carnality. It
was simply tranquil nature scenes, narrated in a Japanese that was
like poetry personified, and the serenity I felt during those moments
was inextricably entwined with my knowledge of your presence.

The ninth film was a study of the female form, artistic, detached,
impossible to sexualize -- and yet I found myself dwelling on the nape
of your neck, the turn of your nose, and what your breasts and thighs
might feel like to the receptors on my fingertips or the tastebuds of
my tongue. These thoughts, once recognized, made me uncomfortable, as
though I were despoiling some fragile innocence.

The tenth through twelfth films were unwatchable due to technical
malfunctions so sever the house lights were brought up on two
occasions. I took the opportunity to examine you more thoroughly as
you spoke to your companions. You moved with a casual clumsiness --
awkward without feeling it. My ears strained to hear your voice, but
you were too far away from me to be certain which one it was. Had the
difficulties persisted, I may have had the wherewithal to approach you
then and there. But the house lights dimmed and the night continued on
as planned.

The thirteenth film was captioned "A Forensic Memoir," and the
filmmaker seemed intent on dissecting his every memory as though it
were a corpse to be autopsied. With luck, however, time restrictions
cut him short at the age of three.

The fourteenth film was comedic in intent, if not in execution. It
featured lead paint, a small child, and common household objects. You
were visibly upset and I longed to do violence to the man who thought
this funny.

The fifteenth film was another monologue, this one more dramatic, and
I noticed a resemblance between the speaker and yourself. Your
brother? There was no filial pride that I could see in your eyes as
you watched the film. Estranged, perhaps -- this viewing an early
gesture in the act of reconciliation. Or else I was mistaken, and the
similarities were mere coincidence.

The sixteenth film consisted of rapidly flashing images apparently
designed to cause epileptic seizures, as they did just that to a woman
in the front row on my side of the aisle, bringing another halt to the
proceedings as she was attended to. The next day's paper revealed that
the filmmaker was spoken to by the proper authorities soon afterward.
No charges were laid, but a civil suit is pending.

The seventeenth film was perhaps my favourite, although your reaction
seemed mixed. I can understand this; certainly the content was geared
toward the masculine or animus, rather than the feminine or anima.
Still, the romantic undertones stirred hope within my heart, and you
seemed particularly lovely in its shadows.

The eighteenth film was a paean to the breweries of the director's
homeland, and it was during a loving, lingering shot of a neighbouring
waterway that the necessities of nature made themselves known to me
quite pressingly.

The nineteenth film is lost to me amidst the memory of traversing the
dimly lit theatre en route to the public rest room located at the
back. Similarly, the twentieth and twenty-first films passed without
my viewership, although they sounded most interesting filtered through
the acoustic tiles and metal door.

The twenty-second film was a fitting backdrop for my return to your
presence, all blossoming flowers and the thaw of Spring set to a very
striking Classical score -- Stravinsky, I thought, perhaps.

The twenty-third film was a stop-motion chronicle of a young doll's
introduction into a family of toys. The doll reminded me of you, with
its flowing red hair made out of wool or yarn. Of course her skin was
plain where yours was freckled like the sun, but still it warmed my
heart to look from you to her and back again.

The twenty-fourth film was a silent comedy in black and white. The
pratfalls and captions elicited laughter from the crowd, and yours
rang crystal clear and true. It had a beauty much like your own --
distinctive, unmistakable. I longed to tie you to the railroad tracks,
or save you in the nick of time.

The twenty-fifth film was the last before the intermission. It was
from Turkey and in a language I could not understand. The subtitles
were frequently obscured by the background, but it seemed to be a
rapid-fire retelling of _Romeo and Juliet_, touching on the conflicts
that have torn the area apart for centuries. It spoke to me and my
background, and I can only assume it held something similar for the
Irish blood so obvious within you.

I resolved to speak with you during the break, but you were locked in
conversation from the raising of the lights onward. I took advantage
of the crustless sandwiches provided free of charge in the reception
area, but resisted the lure of the cash bar. I could not be a drunken
oaf when the opportunity arose for us to meet.

The twenty-sixth film showed me that the honeymoon was over. It was
terrible slapstick, pratfalls without context or significance, and you
howled with laughter, tears running from your eyes. So: you are not
perfect. What human being is? There are worse flaws than a love of
physical comedy, and it was good to see your humanity demonstrated so
clearly so soon.

The twenty-seventh film documented a man's struggle to cope with his
father's death from emphysema. I questioned the decision to place this
film at this point in the programme, and judging by the shaking of
your head you shared that sentiment. It seemed at times the order was
governed by lottery.

The twenty-eighth film was another extreme close-up of the insect
kingdom, following a ladybug in slow motion as it made its way
throughout a house. The camera work was jerky to the point of nausea
on my part. I saw you look away more than once.

The twenty-ninth film was an action-adventure, a genre ill-suited to
the time constraints. Plot was all but abandoned in the pursuit of
cartoonish violence, and I derived far more pleasure from watching you
by the light of the projector. If nothing else, the colour scheme was
very favourable to you, and my attraction increased two-fold or more.

The thirtieth film was one you watched attentively. It drew parallels
between cosmology and the home life, which seemed to resonate with you
particularly. My relative ignorance of both limited what I could take
from the production, but my appreciation for the piece was far greater
for having seen your reaction to it -- you seemed to key on elements I
barely even registered.

The thirty-first film was a memoir of the dying days of the director'
grandfather, recounted over looped footage of ships sailing in and out
of the harbour front. It was touching, but overlong, and dragged
toward the end.

The thirty-second film slowly, subtly shifted from a blank, black
screen to a blank white one, and back again. A haunting melody played
over top, along with whispers I could not quite make out. You
scrunched up your face, trying to understand the words we could almost
hear. I found the act endearing, the look of concentration on your
face a charming one.

The thirty-third film was an atmospheric piece of horror that gave me
goosebumps and made you sink back in your seat. I longed to put my arm
around you to comfort you with the warmth of human contact -- and to
comfort myself as well. Even now it troubles me to think about it.

The thirty-fourth film was a spoken piece, painfully hip. I could see
you visually relax in the aftermath of the preceding film. You looked
quite beautiful as the tension drained from your body. I had to agree;
the dramatic change in tone, though jarring, was a welcome relief.

The thirty-fifth film juxtaposed lectures on math and physiognomy with
newsreel footage from both sides of the Second World War. It was even
less successful than the similar Hindenberg/little league film before
the intermission, any sense of artistic purpose replaced by pretension
and the need to be difficult. Your body language mirrored my own
disappointment with the overall quality of the films since the break;
again, our tastes aligned auspiciously.

The thirty-sixth film was something of a return to form, a
collaborative effort between the twins who had each presented a film
in the first half of the evening. This time they dealt with life, not
death, and they showed a combined artistry far beyond what they had
exhibited alone. The smile of relief that crossed your face was closed-
lipped but beautiful -- the sort I have always longed to have turned
on me by a woman of your qualities.

The thirty-seventh film was ruined by a return of those technical
difficulties, and I found myself secretly hoping that the problems
would persist to the point of cancellation, to provide me with both
opportunity and reason to strike up a conversation. But this was not
to be; the house lights were not even raised, and I was in a sense
quietly relieved.

The thirty-eighth film was on the subject of urination. I was thankful
to have already attended to my needs, for otherwise I may have missed
out on a surprisingly entertaining film, by turns thoughtful and
hilarious. I noticed as it wound to an end that you were no longer in
your seat.

The thirty-ninth film documented human rights issues in sub-Saharan
Africa, but that is a tricky subject to cover in the allotted time and
I think the filmmaker was a touch overambitious in her approach. At
this point your absence was not troubling to me, as I myself had
missed two films while in the washroom earlier.

The fortieth film made me hungry. I have something of a sweet tooth,
and it was based entirely around chocolate and pastries that looked
most delectable on screen.

The forty-first film dealt with the disappearance of a woman from a
crowded subway platform. Its mix of documentary and narrative
strategies made it impossible to tell if it were fiction or non-
fiction, but the subject matter unnerved me all the same. Still you
had not returned to your seat across the aisle.

The forty-second and forty-third films are now a jumble in my mind.
Neither was coherent to begin with, and your continued absence
distracted me even more.

The forty-fourth film was an extended love letter from a dead man in
Vietnam. I remember this one clearly because you returned during the
reading of the salutation. I took the tragic-romantic content of the
film as a kind of omen, focussing of course on the latter aspect. You
shifted in your seat repeatedly, as though no longer able to get

The forty-sixth film was a condensed, sexualized take on Hitchcock's
_Rear Window_, and the only piece with any Big Names involved in it.
The elements of voyeurism brought to the fore in me certain strains of
guilt. But I am an artist. Observation is my calling. Beauty is the
siren song I heed. And your beauty needed -- no, demanded observation.

The forty-seventh film was about seals and seal hunters: a curious
creation, surprisingly passing no judgement. This seemed to bother you
a bit, judging by your body language and the way you leaned in close
to whisper to your companions.

The forty-eighth film was the penultimate as well. A notebook was left
out in the rain, where the pages began to warp and the ink began to
smear and run as the narrator read its contents: confessional, diary-
style, by turns romantic and resentful -- like a love letter you know
you'll never send. It reminded me of me.

The forty-ninth and final film was my own creation. It was dedicated
to you, although I hadn't realized it while making it. How could I?
But as I sat there, watching you and not the screen, it all became
quite clear to me: that you were the element that had been missing
when I couldn't put my finger on it; that your mere presence enhanced
the power of my film a dozen times; that with you by my side I could
accomplish any goal. You were my muse incarnate -- in the flesh.

When the screenings were over, the house lights came up and our eyes
met for an instant as you turned around. It was electric. Then your
companions rose, and I lost you in the crowd.

Please, if you are out there in the audience, let me know.


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