Friday, August 17, 2007

September 4, 2003

I dreamed a widescreen epic last night. Sometimes I was in the movie — not participating, just present. Other times I was in my seat in the theater watching. It was about a mad general leading an army east through Russia towards a confrontation with a never-seen Asiatic, Genghis Khan-like figure. The film combined Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, Doctor Zhivago (it had specifically early-sixties colors), Patton, and Kubrick’s unmade film about Napoleon. In fact, the general resembled a taller Kubrick, or perhaps Pavarotti. He was always shot from a low angle, and the camera followed as he stormed around being autocratic. There was a confusion in the dream about whether the general was the star of the film, or the famous director of the film, or both.

At one point, the general changed his mind about attacking the Asiatic general and decides to head back west for a while — only delaying the inevitable confrontation, not abandoning it. All the prostitutes are upset, because they’d just gotten finished making themselves up as Asian women, to be used as spies against the enemy, and now they had to undo their hair and wipe off all the Asian makeup and prepare to look some other way instead.

In one long scene the mad general mentally prepares to confront his enemy. His relationship with the enemy general was personal. Perhaps they were once close friends and allies, now become bitter enemies. Or perhaps they’ve never met but are just really into the nemesis thing, like Rommel to Patton in Patton, the only-he-is-truly-fit-to-be-my-enemy thing. The general storms around operatically, declaiming, and at the climax of his monologue he calls out his enemy’s name. It was Latin-sounding, something like “Arrhenius”. He declaims the name Arrhenius on an ascending scale, going up at least an octave, almost singing: “ARR-RHEN-I-USSSSSSS!!!” Suddenly, I realize everyone in the theater but me is shouting it in unison with him, and then everyone laughs. Obviously it’s a famous scene, not just to film buffs but in popular culture too, considered a great scene but also a little corny and overblown, so people laugh at it too, very much like when Stanley Kowalski shouts “STELLA!” in A Streetcar Named Desire. I’m puzzled, sitting in the theater, that I don’t know the line, and I’m also puzzled why it’s famous.

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