A Thousand and One Points of Light

Written by Armond White on . Posted in Arts Our Town, Arts Our Town Downtown, Arts West Side Spirit.

Winter’s Tale and Invisible contrast the visual art of cinema

Bono in Romanek’s Invisible

Bono in Romanek’s Invisible

Deschanel’s spectral rays seem realistic, without 3D effect, but they underserve the film’s suggestion of spirituality and magic. Either Deschanel (masterly imagist of The Black Stallion, The Patriot, Message in a Bottle, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) miscalculated or first-time director Akiva Goldsman didn’t know what exactly was needed.

I had dismissed Winter’s Tale until I saw Mark Romanek’s new music video for the U2 song “Invisible.” Romanek does what Deschanel was not inspired to do: Invisible celebrates light as an expression of the spiritual aspiration Bono sings lame lyrics about but that his crowd of live concert revelers exhort. It is amazing to watch Bono and his band enveloped in black-and-white chiaroscruo. Romanek finds innumerable variations on brilliance and shadow, sparkle and depth. The video is an volatile experience where the high-contrasty flashes are so sharply edited that the afterimage strobe effect improves on Kanye West‘s N****A in Paris: Each frame here seems stark yet lustrous with thermal body illuminations as backdrops.

Accustomed to turning out Hollywood formula, Goldsman adapts the Mark Helprin novel about early 20th century lovers as a blend of gangster nostalgia and Notebook-style rom-drama. A life/death story imitates the Twilight franchise–adding a white flying horse–and the antagonism between Farrell and Crowe distracts from the romanticism as if following Dan Brown’s fake religiosity (Will Smith’s appearance as Lucifer wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt is a spoiler in itself). Goldsman’s incapable of writing on a higher level and hasn’t a clue about dealing with the expressivity of images. Deschanel’s genius is wasted.

If Goldsman believed in any of Winter‘s Tale’s time-traveling story (let alone evoke Shakespeare or Rohmer’s Winter Tales), he might have thought how to represent it visually. His time-and-immortality plot mangles the ideas in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. A shot of Farrell standing in a Queens graveyard with the New York City skyline as a backdrop ought to be astonishing, but Goldsman’s truncates it, losing the necessary awesome effect. The film’s romantic clichés are in line with contemporary Hollywood’s facile, godless, post-Oprah spirituality: “The universe loves us all equally. What if we all get to become stars?”

Romanek says it better by showing it. Watching Bono and U2 step through a thousand points of light in the Invisible music video gives an awe-inspiring dimension to the call-and-response, preaching and congregation Pentecost pyrotechnics of a rock concert.

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