12.11.2008

Shine: A Critical Commentary Part II

See other posts in the "Chris Dane Owens" series.

Credit must be given to Newman, who has unearthed this recent interview with Chris Dane Owens. I'm not quite sure whether it answers questions or takes us further down the rabbit hole. Regardless, take note how Owens exhorts us to "attach [our] own meaning to it" (this does not mean, however, that I did not feel a tinge of smug satisfaction when he verified my resurrection theory, but more on this anon).

We left off with Chris and Virtuous Babe's romantic interlude cut short by the arrival of a squadron of dragons. In apparent response to this imminent threat, a blade hath been forged.

Judging by the regal and pregnant visage of the lead Witch, this is no simple giveaway. No, something is required of Chris if he is to wield this broadsword (or is it a rapier?). Following a close inspection of the blade, Chris deems it suitable, and we get a brief shot of him slashing about, i.e. training. To me, the following is then one of the most powerful shots in the video:

His training complete, the warrior prepares for battle. His tortured countenance conveys both steely resolution and lingering doubt. Chris is nothing else if not human (we may have to revise this statement). A fleet of dragons, a Masked Villain, and God knows what else (alligators) awaits him. The drums of war sound. Our own blogger Andy found himself rather vexed at the interposition of these shots that seem to reveal a colonial aesthetic. Specifically, he leveled an implicit accusation of anachronism. While I can't deny having had similar initial sentiments, I've come to appreciate the variety of historical aesthetics that Owens employs in this video. Though the colonial gear might seem odd, notice how nicely it meshes with the winter sleigh, and how smoothly it elides with the more pirate-esque, high seas look of certain scenes. From there it isn't a long shot to the late-Medieval atmospherics we've already witnessed. I'd argue that the genius of the video lies in this very fluidity.

Anyway, let us move on to triptych number three:

Here are three members of what I will be referring to as Chris' "crew." The one in the center will be "The Captain," and the one to the right will be christened "The Lieutenant." Several things strike me as significant here. First of all, Owens, in a typically self-deprecating move, places himself at the edge of the shot. But I want to suggest that something more complex and potentially subversive is at play here. Note the suggestively unbuttoned shirt of The Captain, his enticing, even longing, gaze, and the disco lighting in the cathedral within which he is situated. What I'm suggesting is that this firmly homosocial environment seems to contain a subtext of homosexual desire. The central positioning of The Captain could be a manifestation of Chris' desire (if we are to identify Chris with the auteur Owens), while The Captain's intentions, as I've suggested, are visually apparent. Certainly part of Chris' journey is towards an affirmation of a heteronormative vision of romantic love.

At this point in the video, the "real" chronology becomes rather difficult to follow, because there is an effusion of dream visions and nostalgic reveries that appear on-screen. Thus, when we see the warrior Chris strutting across an ice-bridge, it is only through a kind of internal cognitive association that we find ourselves with the firmly antebellum vision of a picturesque sleigh-ride. In actuality, we will learn, Chris has gone to war at sea. But first we see the Angel bequeathing a mysterious tome unto Virtuous Babe. In this scene, my earlier suggestion that the Angel may harbor feelings for Chris should not be neglected, as this scene opens up the possibility of a sort of vicarious eroticism. What I mean is that by providing Virtuous Babe with this text, through which she can observe Chris' trials at sea, she is in part engaging in a masochistic urge to unite the two before her very eyes, while the possibility of Chris' death offers its own potential sadistic pleasures. The Angel's heavenly appearance belies a more sinister nature, as one can read distinctly in her eyes:

Moving through the magical text onto the stormy seas, Chris confidently pilots his schooner, aided by The Captain, who, giving the order with a swing of his cutlass, orders a fusillade of cannon-shot against an enemy vessel, subsequently igniting the ship's ammo depot, and causing an immense explosion. Despite these early victories, however, we observe the Witches actually causing a monsoon that ultimately wrecks Chris' flagship. We can account for this by remembering that the Witches charged Chris with a trial. His talismanic sword is to be purchased with a cost. He must be tested. And as the image of Chris swinging defiantly towards the viewer on a line of rigging attests, he will pass.

Careening into the water, however, and following a remarkable spin move, a washed-up Chris can be seen on a forest floor, not moving...

Part III will be posted shortly. And to be honest, I will almost certainly need a Part IV. Additionally, if anyone can think of a possible way to do footnotes in these posts, please let me know so I can avoid so many parenthetical remarks (I've been chastised for this by professors in recent weeks).

And remember, as always, LOVE HAS ENEMIES.

4 comments:

Newman said...

Your foray into the heteronormative implications of Chris' relationship with The Captain is bordering on Barthesque

Leaves n' Leavin' said...

matt, you are absolutely blowing my mind.

James said...

I gotta add, what makes this particular fleet of dragons even sweeter than normal dragons is that in additional to their standard fire-breathing powers, they can drop bombs (see 2:44 in the video, right after the alligator).

I first thought that the background of that scene was footage from an old Vietnam War movie or documentary. Upon closer inspection, however, the flora appears to be conifer, but it still led me to ponder the following side-question: If the U.S. Military had had access to dragon bombers, would it have affected the outcome of the war?

Oh yeah, hi. Newman mentioned this blog to me and I've been checking it daily for about a week.

OKAAAAAAAAAAAYGUYS said...

James, be patient. I haven't gotten there yet.

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