Some Idle Thoughts on La costra láctea
This is number one of a trio of essays inspired by the work of César Velasco Broca.
La costra láctea / 2003
It’s a transmission from somewhere very far away. Death comes with the sound of snails and the cleaning of fish. The waves caress the hands of an old fisherman as he guts away. It’s an old art, an old technique done without a thought. Somewhere, someone’s looking as the old fisherman makes his way across the rocks to the shore. I’ve seen this ethnographic footage before. It’s long and far away. A corpse is retrieved. A corpse that has no features. A black corpse. The snails of what will come, a being of some future past, the grating of steel, the abstract sound that you hear in the halls of old danchi. Strange symbols, cities, metallic domes from some other civilization, and caged and barking dogs. It’s all part of the news. The drowned corpse reveals itself to be nothing (or something?) but a female form (a pod!) stuffed with offal and seaweed. An object of some sort of deathly desire meant to be cut and penetrated by a knife – just like a dead fish. The old sailor hears – his ears – the silence of the dogs, the alien marching along the shore, the rhythmic pounding. The alien pulls blackened offal from the faux corpse. Something to feed the snails. The dog comes sniffing by. Something to lick. Maybe to eat. The barking of desire makes the corpse real flesh. The flesh of a real woman’s body. Through a telescope that becomes a spiral of a building where the simplest of tractor-driven robots reign. The robot’s purpose? To follow the spiral down. This robot, we’ve seen before. It’s useless appendages made of kitchen gloves. It’s head, pea-brained to a Zippy point. The downward spiral reverses itself. Life (is this life?) goes forward and backward in cinematic space. Women’s legs walk down cement stairs to a lagoon. They line up before a retaining wall, the sea before them, the work of man behind Bikini-ed, desirable, far away. They ritually walk/fall into the water. Desire dies quickly. A man watches from some seaside lookout. He watches women, peasants in their classic peasant dresses, making their way across an ethnographic space. A space where men have always looked at women with a pretense of scientific anthropologic inquiry, but really with just plain old desire. The sound of the concertina creates a distant soundtrack of well, soundtrack. The soundtracks that one uses to wall and hide desire. The voices of an old song make this man – let’s call him Marcello – move. He walks by a blonde, who gazes into space. He descends the stairs of a demeaned Piranesi place. The peasant women continue on their trajectory. The walk they do every day, the routines of their very peasant lives. This is how they’ve always done this. We’ve seen this in documentaries over and over. Bare feet, long dresses, something seen from long ago. We know this. This is how it was in Viejo Castile. We’ve seen the Bunuel version. Treading up steps, walking the seaway paths. The rhythms of life how it once was. How it should be. The old songs. They ascend. The man, however, descends. His slip-on shoed feet go down toward the water. The peasant women toward the sky. Down by the quay he continues down through the concrete, tamed waterside, down, down, down. The peasant women continue upward through some rough-hewn trail amidst rock and shrubs, white-bloused and darkly dressed. Their destination? A spacecraft. The domed thing seen before. Pulsing with the signifier of the force field, the electricity of jagged lines. The women throw rocks at it. It has appeared and will forever change their routines and lives. Whatever is inside looks on passively, mutely, voyeuristically as the women pose for a group snapshot. Something burns. The spiral, something out of Man Ray or Marcel Duchamp, turns. L’aspirant habite Javel et moi j’avais l’habite en spirale. The spiral building. The tractor robot has made it to the floor. There is no pattern anymore. No more spiral to follow. There is only the random space of the flat bottom of the space. A circular place where order, where pattern has no guidance. Roomba-bot. Until it freezes, confused, overheats and blows up. God takes a long look from above at this infernal building, maybe satisfied with the results of his/her grand design. The black corpse, now a bikini-clad woman gets the god’s eye voyeuristic view as she strips, walking away, not aware of being watched. Marcello walks down to the place where the women threw themselves into the water. The rising tide making the floating bodies gently bob (oh the Shame!) as he wades by. The transmission ends.
Women standing up to the aliens. Women, like the people of Masada, giving it up, sacrificing. Under the eyes of a male god, always watching. The continuing view from above and from somewhere else, framed in irises and mattes. The seashore, somehow like it was when the early pioneers of cinema went with their girlfriends and their buddies down to the beach to have some fun and make a movie. Desire, death, spirals, going up, going down, aliens. There’s an emotional logic and a strange sense of having been through all this but somehow it’s all new and there’s no irony and there’s something that’s digging deep into some sort of well of time, space, history, burrowing in your brain like some sort of parasitic larva and what looks like a gauntlet thrown into the face of contemporary cinema and coming up with what the future of cinema should be – at least in the visionary eyes of César Velasco Broca.