Rosanna Arquette and Aiden Quinn in 'Desperately Seeking Susan'.
This essay will explore the concept of the modern metropolis as a milieu in which a person can escape from the general awareness of society and become practically invisible to the world at large, living a life that most citizens are unaware of. Yet I will also explore how the social intricacies of the city can make it very difficult for some people to successfully complete this disappearance, perhaps due to economic or sociological background. Despite the opportunity for disappearance and reinvention of identity, the many ways in which a person can be traced in the modern metropolis make complete and permanent invisibility an unlikely outcome. Given the opportunity to vanish into a vast natural wilderness with no people or society, the attempt could be more successful and complete, but in the city there is an illusion of invisibility that cannot be sustained due to the eyes and ears of a civilization in constant activity. Connected this paradoxical theme of attaining ‘invisibility’, and yet in some cases more ‘visibility’, is the idea of the metropolis as a different experience for different people, with many aspects of the city being to all extents invisible, or at least denied, to some of its inhabitants. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as class, creed, gender or even sexuality.
These ideas are posed in relation to the novel Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd, and the film Desperately seeking Susan, directed by Susan Siedelman. Continue reading
Timothy Dalton’s more intense and serious interpretation of James Bond has won him many fans, as they see his version as the closest to Ian Fleming’s original creation. Of course, many other people found him too dour for an escapist action adventure film, which is also why The Living daylights and Licence to kill are not as light hearted as other Bond films. However, whereas The Living daylights has several things in common with the later Roger Moore films (mainly the cold war era politics), Licence to kill follows a path not trod by any Bond film before. Not until Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, in the 2000s, would any Bond films follow such a vengeful story. In some ways this is the film Diamonds are forever could have been, if Broccoli and Saltzman had decided to do a true tale of bloody revenge following the death of Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty’s secret service. Those fans who were once worried about Quentin Tarantino directing Bond and turning it into a Kill Bill style bloodbath may well wonder what he would have done with the aftermath of Tracy’s death. In Licence to kill, it is Felix Leiter’s new wife Della who is murdered, and Felix himself is seriously injured. Bond is Felix’s best man, who returns to his friend’s home after he realises Felix’s nemesis- the drug baron Sanchez- has escaped gaol and is out to avenge his past failure. He finds the body of Felix’s wife and his friend is also there, but close to death. Continue reading
Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie in John Schlesinger's "Billy Liar" (1963)
The modern world puts great emphasis on the rejuvenation of formerly run down areas of our cities. Money and modernity is applied to the problem and old buildings and streets are often cleared out of the way to make room for the new vision. Having been raised in the North West of England I’m aware of the changes that have happened even in my lifetime, going back over thirty years. However, Britain’s celluloid past gives us a glimpse into a romantic world where the streets may have been grimier and the architecture more austere, but combined with the black and white photography of the time, gave us a romantic vision of Lancashire and Manchester. The cobbled streets, spiked iron railings, worn steps and grand athenaeums sometimes still survive; dinosaurs from a lost world. In the timeless world of film, however, this world still remains untouched. As our cityscapes become ever more generic, it’s almost refreshing to watch films from our post-war film boom. Continue reading