Friday, July 12, 2013

The Unknown Chaplin

This canister of film contains a clip
requiring restoration. We can see
the sequence opens in a studio;
a flapping muslin sky diffuses all
the ambient sunlight. Although the heat
looks terrible, we spot a withered palm
sighing and swaying inside a pot with each
gentle breeze blowing through the lot;
a lot still ringing from a bang somewhere
along the Western Front—a Ford back-
firing in the distance. After these
imagined noises fade, we find the world
returns to silence once again: black
and gray and white. A dented derby fans
Edna Purviance and her bouncing leg.
Windows are replaced and hinges greased.
Cops and crooks—wearing identical
false moustaches—whisper, exchanging their
own views about the news: the war, their wives,
sore bums, their pay. A puppy—on a leash
that’s growing shorter as he sniffs around
a fake hydrant—nearly strangles him-
self in search of some comic relief.
A titter passes through the company.
The dog breaks up the day’s monotony:
endless takes and retakes; wasted time;
the camera always turning, turning, like
the door to a hotel you can’t escape.

This is not a movie. This is life.

No longer the director, our hero
races from behind the camera
and acts. His face says everything. But
we only see a blur: a little man,
without a hat, running very quickly
toward a dog. The rest is lost. Perhaps.

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