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Archive for December 26th, 2018

 © 2018 by James Clark

 Our film today brings to mind ancient Greek theatre (often regarded as “tragedy”), inasmuch as it is concerned with an odyssey of no mean weight. In accordance with this template, there is a chorus, a number of mainstream busybodies galvanized by a unique and self-destructive protagonist. True to form, these lesser lights have much to say; and what they say is often more than they realize.

Their modern apparition appears in the story’s very first chapter, where a test pilot, Neil, let’s rip with an aircraft not for the general public. In the midst of his struggles with the untamed beast, the bureaucrats in the picture radio to him a series of complaints. “We show you wobbling, not turning… You’re bouncing off the atmosphere… He’s a good engineer, but he’s distracted…”

The do-nothing perfectionists do manage to dissuade Neil’s seeming to be on a roller coaster from hell. Of course he’s in elaborate protective gear, but the caveats unintentionally direct us to the regions of death and where to thrive there before disappearing into those abysses having given to us a startling physical introduction. (Our latter-day Odysseus has been branded a First Man [2018]; and we’ll be tested to recognize whether he deserves such a vaunted reputation.) Our Homer, here, befitting the métier of cinema in perhaps its dying days as an adult pursuit, is Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007), who, as it happens, was a devotee of dynamics as wild as it gets. Coming upon First Man, therefore, we are provided with, in addition to what that chorus distinguishes itself by carping, Bergman’s very self-aware steering apparatus, “acrobatics” and “juggling.” (more…)

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