Archive for January 25th, 2017



© 2017 by James Clark


    In Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic, Space Odyssey (1968), one earthling, Dave, leverages his involvement in the American space program to strike up a unique and fertile relationship with a black monolith juke-box-resembling tower emitting unearthly music for the sake of an inter-species choir of lucid and ardent sensibilities. 48 years later, along comes filmmaker, Denis Villeneuve, from Quebec Canada (a place not even very good at streetcars), with a film, Arrival (2016)—also about inter-species progress—which, for the most part, exceeds expectations. Kubrick did have his Old Testament David; but unequivocally, the point was surpassing conventional relentment. What, on the other hand, are we to make of, after nearly two hours of thrilling headway, the Frank Capra denouement? Does the crashingly out of place designation, “Abbott and Costello,” for the pair of aliens they are tasked to make sense of, by a military physicist (as apparently likewised amused on the part of the protagonist, Louise, a top-notch linguistics scholar), constitute a word to the wise that, though some remnants of an obsolete world still hang around, you are welcome to regard Louise’s “triumph” as part of a vivid reverie centering upon the death from cancer of her teenaged daughter?

    Arrival, with its family-guests’ connotation of a title, is definitely sci-fi with a difference. Rather than show off the latest in deadly weapons, wielded by adventurers having been bitten by the adventurism bug since before Kindergarten, we have a central character startlingly indifferent to the day’s Breaking News that (an ecclesiastically 12) alien space ships have positioned themselves across the globe. As a teacher in a university lecture hall bemused that few students had shown up that day, she is put into the loop by one of the few faithful on hand, asking her to activate the high definition media screen to see something of compelling interest. Louise, realizing that she will not be able to get across that day the account of the peculiarities of the Portuguese language and its exceptionally fostering the art of communication, rather non-chummily intones, “Class is dismissed.” What, from her perspective, has upstaged the sensation of the century? What has impelled her to return to the ghost town of a campus next morning and drink it all in how singular she is (anticipating from the invaders either tedious violence or, at best, more of the sluggishness in her face delivered by planet Earth). Along the way, she assures her frantic mother that she has become over-excited. “Mom, please don’t watch that channel! You know they’re all idiots!”In the aura of a presumably horrific eventuation on the horizon, eclipsing the viewer’s focus on her, Louise’s being out of step is, if ever spotlighted, not merely personally bizarre but a disposition of remoteness toward human history far too gripping to ever (ever—as in that ending) turn around on a dime and become just another sentimental thrill-seeker. Miss this step and you’ve missed the movie—a film about aliens whom the protagonist comes to realize to be far closer to where she lives than the bulk of her species. This is what is truly important about this “thriller;” and this is what we’ll follow in detail. (more…)

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