Saturday, June 04, 2011

Memento Mori: In a hundred years we'll all be bald

"It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth -- and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up -- that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had." Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
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A favorite subject of painting's old masters was that of a saint contemplating a skull or some such memento mori to remind him or her of the unbearable lightness of being. But the cinema has been around long enough now for the shadows of people to populate it who were dead before your grandparents or even great-grandparents were born and they do a better job than any painting of reminding us how fleeting life really is.

Looking through old cinema archives several years ago I stumbled on a brief scrap of film of this joyfully erotic "Hootchi Cootchi" dancer from the Saint Louis World's fair of 1904. I put it in my editing program and slowed it down to cancel out the jumpiness of the pre-24 frames a second footage and then hunted around for some raunchy music to set it to... and there I had my own memento mori, standing there, dead as Cleopatra and everyone who ever her knew her or ever loved her, just as dead as she is: shaking her booty just for me.

I wonder how many great, great granddaughters of my dancing lady are going clubbing tonight totally ignorant of where the DNA that has their boyfriend's hormones so fissiparous comes from. DS

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