' ' Cinema Romantico: A 2017 Movie Scene to Go Home with You

Friday, January 05, 2018

A 2017 Movie Scene to Go Home with You

Citing an out-of-body experience at the movies is no doubt a tad overwrought for the more snooty cinephiles among us, and that’s fine, but in sitting down to describe witnessing the No Man’s Land scene of “Wonder Woman” I have struggled to find any other description. It’s not that I failed to grasp or recall what I saw and how I felt as the scene played out, because I saw and felt it all so clearly, but that I also recall a vivid sensation after the scene ended of remembering I was in a movie theater and in my movie theater seat, as if I was re-entering my body, which isn’t what happened physically, I suppose, but maybe spiritually, in a non-religious way, which will no doubt make the more snooty cinephiles among us cringe even more, pounding on this blog’s windows and lecturing us that movies don’t just happen, they are made, so talk about that. And it’s ok, because we will talk about that, but how that makes us feel is just as important, see.

The scene is, in so many ways, a unifier of all “Wonder Woman’s” prominent themes, where its heroine, Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, literally turns her back on a bout of mansplaining by crack WWI pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) about what No Man’s Land is and how no one can cross it and how casulaties of war are just write-offs to then go and do what needs to be done, and what she does, crossing No Man’s Land, of course, to rescue the written-off before the officially are is not merely an action scene explication of Wonder Woman’s idealism but an evocation of cinematic idealism, a refusal to cross off extraneous background characters as mere collateral damage in the manner of so much of its superhero, blockbuster-y brethren.

And in turning her back on this bout of mansplaining, she then turns back around with her tiara in place, which is notable for how Patty Jenkins and editor Martin Walsh do not cut in the midst of it, because Diana does not need a phone booth or some such. No, this is her, as is, no changing of identity, which is why no one has to stand there and stupidly call her Wonder Woman. Because why would anyone need to call her that when what ensues leaves you wondering how on earth she could be anything else.

A few subsequent insert shots reveal all her accoutrement...

...and then she ascends the ladder, directly into the warpath, leaving her male colleagues stupified...

...and rises from the trench as the aesthetic orchestration swells, the musical score of Ruper Gregson-Williams not so much italicizing the moment as carrying her along, an explosion happening over her right shoulder that seems to exist only to accentuate how visual effects cannot distract from the main character holding the center of the frame, which she does because Gadot plays small at a moment looming so large, a decision that camera sings in tune with by mostly just staying still. Gadot may or may not be a movie star, but in this moment she does that thing, that thing Jeanine Basinger talks about, where the illusion of stardom is the illusion of ease, which is what this whole scene comes to represent, the ease of the illusion, which is The Magic of the Movies™, where a scene that apparently had to be shot 15 times with 15 minutes between each take to re-set the wire rig that the sequence necessitated not only feels smooth but spontaneous

And if Diana goes on to deflect a bullet and lead the charge and liberate a town, and if that is all superb in its rendering, this moment is just as liberating all on its own, the impetus, per motion picture metaphysics, for engendering an out-of-body experience.

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