Sunday, June 10, 2007

Eye of the Camera

Kathy and I saw a really interesting movie last night: Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. Directed by Errol Morris, the movie juxtaposes the lives—or rather, the life’s work—of four men who are each consumed with an unusual project. George Mendonca, for example, has been grooming a topiary garden for years, and will do it until he dies. Dave Hoover is now semi-retired, looking back at a life of lion taming in the circus. Ray Mendez has been a naked mole rat specialist almost before anyone knew naked mole rats existed – he’d always wanted to find examples of insect life in other areas of the animal kingdom. Perhaps he should have talked with Rodney Brooks, who’s building robots to do that very thing.

It’s a gorgeous film. Morris intersperses face-up interview material with shots of the men at work and other material – clips from old movies, cartoons and science docs as well as some dazzling circus footage, in color and black and white. One of the magical things about the film is that the visuals don’t necessarily coincide with the sound. We might be seeing Brooks’s robots, for example, as Mendez talks about mole rat society. There are moments when you’re not quite sure who’s speaking – and moments when, whichever man is speaking, he seems to be speaking for all four of them.

I used the word “magical” above – I don’t mean it in a “magic of the movies” kind of way. I mean it quite literally. I don’t believe in magic as its normally defined, but there are moments when I feel like something unusual has happened in my consciousness. It’s some sort of mental friction, when disparate concepts and ideas brush together for a moment and create something new—or at least, new to me. That’s how this film constantly made me feel—that the world is an intricate, many-layered place, and the more we see of it, the more we’ll put back into it.

It’s a good feeling to have.


No comments: