CAMERA 22, Part One, UPDATED


CAMERA 22

Leila Samarrai

 

I do not claim that this tale will disturb many a heart, end an endless fear, nor lap up your blood. Besides, many have had stranger tales happen to them than this one of mine, wherein an unending fear reigns. Yeah? On Christmas Eve, no less? This is what you wonder. You, smiling, story-intoxicated reader souls. Should dark wonders emerge from the colors of Christmas trees, betwixt laughter and kisses, the flying confetti? People with no prejudice, I’m talking directly to you now, you that were touched by Pluto, perhaps cut off at the waist by his hand, or pointed by it to the road of an eternal weather wane.

During the Christmas Eve party, in the villa on Gravity Hill, I was invited by Oliver Daldry, a controversial horror director, a master in his field. His amorphous creatures were capable of shapeshifting human organs in Ineffigatius on the Blue Hill, which was selling out packed theatres. He weaved tales later in Reanimated Beasts, the colossal Amorphoso, and the cult classic Hand Shape. All four films were banned after the first screening.

I drove to the villa in my Polo, driving in neutral on the inclines of odd gravitational pulls. I saw streams flowing upstream. I heard rocks ringing. I spotted wavy trees, growing crookedly and its old, knotty branches pinned to the ground.

– Eh, nothing Escher had not already painted – I thought. I was hitting the brakes uphill, meandered circular roads of Danteian architectonics. At long last I made it to the top, parked, managing to wedge my car between two other vehicles. One was a Lamborghini of a plastic surgeon. An attractive purple-haired Mexican girl talked him into, just in case, turning the front tires “hacia el centro de la pista, con el fin de asegurarse de que nada va cuesta arriba”.[1]

I laughed at her superstitious comments, shifted gears and stopped the car in front of the castle gates.

The castle towered over everything, surrounded by pine trees, towered over the villa, shining with the light of the intersecting light beams. Dressed in satin-like soil, umbra-hued villa was filled with numerous guests. The reflectors on the pyramidal roof were squirting droplets of light onto the limos, adding shade to the hue of the horizon.

I exited my car and, as my nose was assailed by the wind from the mouth of a sculpture on the porch, cast in bronze (a mere porch figurine, a misshapen Aeolus), I was welcomed by Daldry, a merry Hitchcock, in a strange way merging with this whole powder keg of a scene.

– My friend! Duck head, rhino neck, horse ears! We lose life illusions, but not optical ones, never those, ha ha ha – he clenched my hand heartily, while his eyes kept check, it seemed, of the items in the background. – Why do you think I chose Pasadena in the first place?

I shrugged.

– I see you have no response. Strange things make up life, my friend, and the creepiest of those have long been swallowed by celluloid – he mumbled with melancholy, only for his face to again be adorned by a smile of a Santa Claus.

[1] Towards the middle of the driveway in order to make sure that nothing goes downhill for them.

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– But, do you believe…if you don’t mind me being so personal – he had his hands outspread and whispered to me in a conspiratorial manner – that I feel repulsion towards the dreamlike, to the banal dreamlike. In a paranormal experiment lies the key. I want to assault the world!

– And if the world strikes back? – I followed, hands in pockets. Daldry moved quickly, hunched again, like a determined primate.

– Bingo! – he drummed on my forehead with his finger. – When it strikes back, then, at the very least, the seats are full. – He giggled while we were climbing the stairs up into the inside of the castle.

I was welcomed by  a sight of shiny dresses of the female Guests, interspersed with a cacophony of voices.

The ladies were nonchalantly handling the Swarovski glasses. The conversations of various frequencies were intertwined with a lush color palette of the inside of the castle. The enchanting aura of the eve was intersected by Auld Lang Syne.

At times my lust for the film was grand. Oftentimes, as a lad, I went to the local cinema which had a small yet always packed room whose walls were laden with movie posters. While I was sucking up the magic from the big screen, like a vampire, the images merged with one another, like one shape submerging into the next. Enchanted by cabaret dancing, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, I became a boy-worker in the dream factory. As a kid, I was distributing mail, did odd jobs which were still of importance, and as such had the opportunities to be part of casting tryouts – I was excited by the chair creaking when shooting began as well as the canned laughter. And the cameras… ever moving, living, fisheye. After the war, a strange set of circumstances and decisions led me somewhere else, thus having lost nearly all illusions about life, and consequently about art, I was satisfied with an occasional hangout with the film’s greats. After a decade spent in banking investment, with maps of financial schemes as focal points, my war siege on the Big Apple ended in a Caesarean manner, I became a benefactor and collector of film paraphernalia.

Recognizing this passion of mine from my words, the host, followed by a Jew-nosed butler with a tray filled with glasses where we drank large sips from while conversing, quickly and not too formally took me through the villa towards the upper rooms, where many a cinematographic miracle was hiding away: from a vast cinema-for-one built in a surrealist style, to museum props from some ancient and unknown times.

– You know, Jack, this castle belonged to a famous director who died under mysterious circumstances – he gulped – they claim he is the true author of Nosferatu!

I stared through him with an eye of an impressed interlocutor when my eyes rested on an old camera model in the middle of the showcase.

– An this?

– That’s…a very rare model – he said.

I felt the magic of the evening tightening. I took one look at the camera. It was an almost forgotten film projector model, made to shoot silent films, a 9.5mm recorder. I was looking at this appliance of unusual craftsmanship, its round fluorescent lens, its spiky rodent-like tip. As if it were shaped in magma and cast out of the boiling innards of this Earth by sulfur. What are eons but a whisper of living dreams? The reflection of the fluorescent night, snatched away from Nature, was caught in the Shape.

This camera is an artist’s revenge. Down the camera’s lense flowed tears of souls sleeping frozen in time. The walls were the dancefloor of purple shadows, as Daldry scraped about in silence smiling.

 Reality checks and checks and checks! – a twisted giggle continued. A Daldrian surmountable gap of comedy and horror. Devil’s teeth.

– Is it working? – I downed another glassful of champagne.

– But of course. Push the button at the back of the thing and you get a frame. The most natural movie action, my friend. Using this Old Shatterhand  I made a pure cinematic beauty last year on a… hmmm… a lady. The damned motor of this thing! – my merry host giggled.

– Who, the lady? – I downed the third glass too, but my sight was clear and sober inasmuch that I could not miss the fine print on the camera’s back. It said: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, 1922.

– This is one aging lady… for a Sony CA d50…

– RCP… HDV… HDCU… Ah, those modern ones, and yet her acronyms, opposite an old glow of Antiquity. I guarantee you that this age-old camera, and even the models predating it, contains the elixirs of cinematic youth. To replace living human beings with amorphous actors, or rather, to replace a seemingly staged order with a chaotic form, but with a very non-chaotic fixed function, does that seem not-artistic to you? A howling old machine contrasted with the power of new diagrams. The grotesque, bug-eyed larvae, shells of amphibians, formlessness, outline-lessness!

– But…where is the life?

– Life? – Daldry was confused. – Life is merely a function. I merely replace the logical function with an illogical one… I don’t understand…

– Life, a message to people, even if it bleeds, the artistic act and means, unacceptable to many, but safe in the hands of a humane master of horror.

It was as if he was holding back until that point, Daldry burst into laughter and covered his eyes, while his shoulders shook at the same time.

– A humane…master of horror… hahahahahaha, say it again, my friend! If they find it so confusing, why are there so many rows of ticket buyers, standing before the bizarreness…

Suddenly he got more serious, rubbed his bald spot, stared at me with his tiny peepers and mumbled with his lips tightened.

– Why do you think that Cronenberg did not make his new film with this camera in particular? –he pointed to my new metal mistress. – with Camera 22. Maybe a strap or coil were missing here and there, but Tesla managed to fix that for the filmmaker as well. – he said and devotedly looked at the ceiling.

To Be Continued…Camera6_eye_image-695x499

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