Friday, May 25, 2012

THAS: Scene from 'Lifeforce' #2

#2 - Centripetal Wit - "Sorry, Gentleman. No photographs."

Lifeforce is many things, good and bad, but if there's one thing I will insist upon its judges, whether praising or deriding, is that it is undoubtedly determinedly witty.

I return to a previous idea of internal structure in Hooper's sequences, which props up the idea of a grammarian precision in his scene craft. Some of Hooper's most striking scene work has a way of folding in on itself, compacting itself into a singular unit of construction that holds rarefied structures within it. It imbues his scenes with the cinematic-supernal qualities of the allegorical, representational, and discursive (or vice versa, it is the allegorical and representational impetuses that imbue the structuralist creation).

The internal structure in the following scene from 'Lifeforce' is one of a wit that lies centrally, and pulls that around it towards it, yet simultaneously propels the scene along its velocity, like gravity working centripetally.

It involves a cutaway that interrupts - splits in half - a tracking shot that should have gone, by all respect of authority and decorum, uninterrupted:

(1) Colonel Caine enters and immediately strikes a narrow path through
the crowd, the camera proceeding to fly along beside him in total deference.

A photographer jumps in his way. The camera halts.
From out of the frame flies in a soldier.


Here, a witticism in cinema form. The regimented tracking shot is thrown out, tossed aside, for a single -- drolly self-sufficient -- cutaway:
A whip-pan to-and-back with Caine's creepy right-hand man as he pops in from behind Caine and grabs the camera from the photographer.


The tracking shot finally continues its velocity towards a logical end:

(The logical end: Caine meeting that which he was walking toward.)

The wit condenses in that outwardly active, "messy" whip-panning shot - a clear act of cinematic burlesque that serves as the ironic center of curvature for a scene that curves deferentially along Caine's narrow, upright path. One can see the entire film as condensing around this particular representational nugget, as it, in its inspiration, speaks of the entire film - truly a representation of the whole piece, the whole creation that is the cinematic bon mot that is Lifeforce.

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