[Marxism] Michael Wood reviews ‘12 Years a Slave’ · LRB 6 February 2014

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 3 17:55:15 MST 2014

For much of the time Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave strikes a 
curiously stately rhythm, as if it didn’t want to be a movie but an art 
exhibition or a class in design. The frame fills with colours and lines, 
gold, green, black, yellow, dusty grey, sharp, blurry, fading. The 
effect is one of pure abstraction, and very beautiful. This effect 
remains even when the colours and lines resolve into figures, 
landscapes, objects. Now we see a river, a meadow, a line of trees, the 
churning wheels of a paddle steamer, a harrowed human face, and the 
camera lingers, resisting all idea of time and narrative. This is true 
even when an image is taken directly from the book on which the movie is 
based, where the scene is instantly and plausibly interpreted for us. 
‘The inanimate body of poor Robert was consigned to the white waters of 
the gulf … and I gazed out over the great waste of waters with a spirit 
that was indeed disconsolate.’ In the film we see the wake of the ship, 
the sack with the body floating in the gleaming water, but it doesn’t 
translate into an unconsoled spirit. Or rather it does if we choose this 
translation, but on the screen the water just gleams, the sack slips 
away, the sea stretches to the horizon.

full: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n03/michael-wood/at-the-movies

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