Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Top 10: Poetry

In the most recent edition of Answer Man, one reader asks for examples of poetry in cinema. Ebert gives both literal and figurative answers, citing moments from films like McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast as examples of purely cinematic poetry. The question helped me to contextualize my own recent thoughts about cinema. I've gradually come to the conclusion that a film should not be evaluated as we would prose, but rather for the marriage of its visual and auditory elements to create a sensory experience. We've become too literal-minded about cinema; we need to feel it in our bones. But in trying to articulate this to people, I've overlooked the obvious - I'm talking about poetry.

The following moments are not necessarily the "most poetic" - that would be self-contradictory. They are simply moments that resonate deeply for me as examples of the use of imagery, rhythm and metaphor to create meaning. They touch that unnamed place where the "me" of me resides; they speak of ecstatic truths with a language of images. They get the job done.

1. The birth of the star child (2001).
2. The return of the robin (Blue Velvet).
3. The dance of death and his followers, hand in hand (The Seventh Seal).
4. The dancing rooster machine (Stroszek).
5. The bleeding elevators (The Shining).
6. Merrick's dream (The Elephant Man).
7. Scottie's dream (Vertigo).
8. Rebekah del Rio singing "Llorando" (Mulholland Drive).
9. The car crash and the harmonium (Punch-Drunk Love).
10. Chauncey walking on water (Being There).


Doug said...

Just poking through my DVDs as I jot these thoughts down.

American Beauty would be one film that in my opinion that flows between different parts of poetry.

The climax of Big Fish grabs the audience for a line of pure emotion, mixing nostalgia, humor, romance, and sadness into one gigantic bittersweet farewell.

The train station and confrontation with the home invader in Unbreakable are two moments that come to mind in that film in which David transforms before our eyes, yet we are still able to identify with him.

And for a simpler. There's always Elwood removing his hat for a moment to mourn the loss of the police car in The Blues Brothers. It's short. It's simple. It's a total pause in the pace. It's perfect.

Great topic, this has had me pondering alot.

Bemis said...

Great call in particular on that moment from The Blues Brothers; grace notes like that can make all the difference, particularly in comedy.