The Mind's Eye

by Dermot Healy



I am one of those frustrating people who say: Did you see that film? I can't remember its name but I can give you a bit of the story. I can name the place, meaning the cinema - the Paris Pullman which was situated in Drayton Gardens, South Kensington. My cousin was the projectionist there so I always got in free. I was with a group of Communists who had to apy and they didn't like the film at all, it being Russian and bourgeois. This was ling before the wall came down. It was called Oblomov, taken from a novel of the same name written in the mid-nineteenth century. The hero, a landlord, has taken to his bed and a friend gets him out of it and introduces him to a lady who he later loses back to the same friend. He should have stopped in bed. But the minute I say Oblomov I feel disloyal to Polanski's Repulsion, to the Indian Chess Players, A Man for All Seasons, the Shakespeares' and the Dickens', the black and whites, to the films' whose name's I've long-forgotten and those actors speaking away in different languages that I can still hear and see in the mind's eye.

Most of all I feel neglectful to The Mother and the Whore, a French film I saw in the 70's one afternoon, down in the Electric off Ladbroke Grove. It started in a long street. There is an entrance halfway down a high wall. She, I think, will emerge from there. He, a dapper Parisian, appears on the usual unauthentic bicycle. The strangers meet somehow, go to her room and a steadfast camera watches them over fifteen minutes as they listen in silence to a symphony. The relationship is terribly bleak. Three hours pass. We are in real-time, little is spoken, we go nowhere. They light cigarettes, study each other in remorseful asides. I think someone might go to a window and look out. To see a wolf-child lurch out of a forest in some other story. Or a peasant woman harvest a crop of wheat by herself in a Germanic landscape. She has to pay off a debt on behalf of her son. Up the road in the same Calvanistic territory Babette prepares a feast. Nothing gets eaten in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie. Out there Antonioni is in the Red Desert. In colder climes Bergman has a dead sister come to life and give suckle to her younger sister. Next, in another movie, a camera glides up a block of flats. We hear music, screams and silence as it reaches various floors. You can smell the cooking. He masturbates to make his cock stand in one of these lost rooms. The couple are after some row. When it stands he slices it off. The audience go limp..

The remainder of this article can be found in Film West 28.