Things That Look Like Other Things IV

by on Dec.25, 2009, under Movies, Travel

Earlier this week, with the assistance of the gentleman from the last post, HJ and I rode into the Grand Canyon on the backs of mules. It’s neither entirely wrong nor entirely right to call it more luxurious than hiking the canyon, but relieved of watching your footfalls, you certainly have a much better chance to watch the landscape change than do the hikers.

South End of Indian Gardens

And change it does. From the piñon forest at the top, you descend through full-on deserts and semi-arid scrub.The Colorado River at the canyon’s bottom leads through varied environments, from red rocks naked and Martian to lush riparian habitats. The uncanny effect of moving vertically through these zones*, finding them nested one right atop the other, put me in mind of Gus van Sant’s 2002 film Gerry, in which Casey Affleck and Matt Damon do little else but go for a walk, get lost, and nearly both die. One of the most unsettling elements of the film is that though the two men remain on foot the entire time, the location shifts dramatically over the course of their hundred minutes, from sand dunes to salt flats, from Utah to Jordan to Argentina. The shifts aren’t subtle, visually, but they go unremarked upon; the effect amplifies the characters’ dangerous inattention to their path,  and heightens the feeling that they’ve come unmoored from their world and their lives.

the landscape......changes

the landscape changes

This, in turn, put me in mind of another movie in which a critical element changes without comment (save, perhaps, the film’s title):

Luis Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire gives us a sexual battle between a couple that is really a triangle: Mathieu must content with the temperamental nature of his elusive Conchita, made more so by her portrayal by the Betty-and-Veronica pairing of Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina. As with the landscape in Gerry, the character of Conchita appears played by two different actresses with neither comment nor easily comprehensible logic.

This episode of Things That Look Like Other Things has been brought to you by things that do not look like themselves.

Extra credit, Gerry: “Nothing Happens To No One, The Death Trilogy of Gus Van Sant” by Holly Myers at n+1

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