January 9, 1996 [Twelve Monkeys]

Bruce Willis’ time-traveling lost soul sticks his head out the car window and breathes air he believes has no poison in it and listens to a song on the radio with such eyes-closed bliss that he made me ashamed not to do the same every day--even though his own days melt and warp as Terry Gilliam in Twelve Monkeys peels back the skull-flap of Time Bandits so that the reptilian brain can do its necessary work: survival at any cost, at any time.

I saw Chris Marker’s La Jetée on TV a number of years ago--PBS, probably, back in the ‘70s when you could see so many Janus films you felt as though the Cinématèque Française had turned up like a bookmobile outside your door.  Twelve Monkeys captures the sad suspension of Marker's still images and draws them along a ground-down Philadelphia that sees one shining moment--the giraffes on the bridge near 30th Street Station--before it falls into wet wind and darkness--and maybe one more bright light, at least for a while: Brad Pitt in the loony bin, super snappy in his manic glee, seeing Something catching up with him and giggling at the look on Its face as It gets ready to gobble him up.

The movie feels bad for making its characters lose so much--but that’s what happens when you draw a circle, the graphite leaving a powder-burn spray as the pencil curves right back where it started and tells us that the start and the end meet one day--every day, maybe, and we should keep our eye on both just long enough to share the sadness of the little boy and the dying man, separated no more by the straight lying timeline.


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