Excerpts from an Imaginary Cinema Diary, 1876-Present
September 12, 2001
At 3:00 AM I finally stopped watching the news and found W.C. Fields in It's a Gift trying to sleep on his porch. The print was scratchy and grey, fading--I almost expected it at any minute to slip its sprockets and shift suddenly off the screen and unspool in the projection room while the audience hooted and stamped its feet. But I was home, like the elephant that George Orwell shot, "stricken, shrunken, immensely old," with "an enormous senility" settling over me. And like Orwell himself, I wonder what we're willing to do about this, this devilish attempt to make us look like fools. Somewhere beneath the scratches and dancing hairs stuck in the frame, Fields finds no opportunity to sleep, and he makes a sound like wet air whining from a blown-out tire. I was also dismayed and exhausted, but I came over here to write something; still, over there on the TV screen, back to the news, "the tortured gasps continued as steadily as the ticking of a clock."