by Pat Graham
Dead bodies in movies creep me out. Or make that dead bodies played by live actors, since CGI corpses, freeze-frame stiffs, dearly departeds the other characters talk about or cry over that never appear on-screen, because some wise, observant director/cinematographer/film editor has judiciously cut them out of the frame, etc, I can deal with well enough. It's the stiffs that phenomenologically aren't that set the eyes darting and the skin crawling, that create tension for at least one viewer—like "O no, not another chest cavity subliminally heaving again." Or microscopic twitches in face and neck, skin in its natural respiration state, that even an accomplished actor (assuming it's about acting at all) can't always camouflage, teeny-tiny indicators to remind you that, yes, ladies and gents, this putative pine-box candidate is actually alive and not just rigor mortis kicking.
So what can you in the audience do? Don't look, I guess—or start playing visual ping-pong with the screen, the out-the-corner-of-your-eye approach: Is it over yet? Can I go back to paying attention now? But why do filmmakers do it at all, since the illusion's so hard to sustain? Another grueling test last week at the Film Center: Jeanne Moreau's dead matriarch laid out for kaddish in Amos Gitai's One Day You'll Understand. The camera kept insisting we watch her in the casket, but all I could think was "How long does she have to hold her breath?" No CGI comforts to lean on, not on this kind of indie budget, and fortunately no gotcha!s either—that I'm aware of anyway, since the eyes kept wandering off. Because I really don't want to find this stuff. Just give me my illusions straight.
Well no, on the other hand don't ...