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10.30.2009

MOTION SICKNESS OF TIME TRAVEL

Now Showing
Directed and Written by Raya Martin



"(Nostalgia) is delicate but potent. . . in Greek, it literally means the pain from an old wound.It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone." - Don Draper, Mad Men

Lovely Rita, the girl who leaps through time here, had a movie star for a grandmother who wore a dress spun from gold, that now hangs from a nail on the door, a yellowing ghost leeched of its exuberance much like Rita herself, making the rent as a teenager from the hawking of bootleg DVDs

Coming of age stories, the sugar pill of arthouse, tend to heighten the mythic in the banal. Raya Martin’s Now Showing, ostensibly a coming of age story, taps into these banalities, rather, for the despair and beauty of impermanence. The past is a forever fragmenting thing, forever slippery, forever changing shape, making every memory implicitly flawed and implicitly precious. Retro is what nostalgia is often mistaken for. But retro's passive - - -the weak shit of the time-locked. Nostalgia has a lot more at stake - --a rescue mission but always with casualties.

Of a throb with avant-garde diary films like Khavn’s Memory of Forgetting and Jonas Mekas’ Lost Lost Lost in the way it parses for mesh in disjuncture, teasing membranes of story from random found life vignettes, it's not as if Raya is splicing together his own found life - - -he's merely co-opting the syntax. Now Showing is a triptych bookended by the two halves of Rita - - -the prepubescent trembling with wonderment and the post-teen lost in space. But it is the middle third, a re-purposing of the weathered but resplendent remains of Octavio Silos’ lost film Tunay Na Ina into what seems at first mere connective tissue, that somehow bears the ore of the whole piece - - -that is, the corrosive vagaries of time. And like his Indio Nacional and Autohystoria, this is an historical autopsy, too, notwithstanding the shift in temperature, and as bothered by the futilities of retrieving the past without having to make up the parts mislaid to the blind spots of memory.

Chris Marker, in Sans Soleil, said “Remembering is not the opposite of forgetting but rather its inner lining.We don’t so much remember as we rewrite memory.” I'm with Chris and so's Raya.Now Showing is all remembering and re-enactment, if these are his memories or if these are even memories at all , but conceived with a naturalism so immersive, the seams melt. A fake passing itself off as real passing itself off as fake until you can't tell which is which anymore. With thickly familiar pangs of mood evoking a sense of deja vu that can't be right but never leaves you anyway.

Each of the three parts it divides itself into is queasy with a specific veneer of decay - - -imperfect failing memory and the imperfect failing platforms that foolishly try to capture and preserve them - - -but the first third, a love letter to childhood that's flush and agog with tiny incident and shot as if on a lo-res camcorder, is queasiest, opaque to the point of creamy, with that vague sense of torpor that someone else's home movies have in the way the interstitial shots linger- - -on a birthday party, on kids playing patintero at night, on a young girl singing mutely to the roar of the crowd in her head, on nothing much - - -past ambient and into tedium. But not without that murmur of peril, as if some fugitive magic will be forever lost if the pause button is pressed too soon. That's the lethal poignancy of nostalgia. And it leaks like blood into what these interstices connect, throwing shadows on everything. And a swatch of hope. There is nothing mythic to heighten in the lives we lived. There is only the warmth and burnish of remembering , the flames that gnaw at the edges and the things we save from the fire.