Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Star Wars Rhapsodes?

While we are on the subject of mythic films from the 70s and nostalgia, I am trying to figure out whether to laugh or cheer at some recent low-budget remakes of Star Wars (or, as their makers may attend, do both). Of especial note is the ongoing saga Star Wars: Macbeth, a strangely poetic if decidedly loony conflation of George Lucas and William Shakespeare that was pioneered in the late 90s as a high-school project. Take a look at this recent chapter:

Yes, the scrolling letters at the beginning tell it all: Episode V. Revenge of the Scots. Silly but very compelling! What strikes me here is that these students and burgeoning film-makers with their camcorders and costumes are actually millennial rhapsodes: they are in touch with the emotional wellsprings of myth, and are driven by the impulse to tell and retell the stories that have captured their spirits. As we are not a culture of poets but a culture of movie theaters, they get behind the camera rather than stand and recite.

Here is the geeky but really fun Low Budget Star Wars:

I really love the cardboard X-wings and TIE fighters (remember The Flintstones?). This also reminds me of countless playground plays in which I performed in elementary school - nearly all of them dramatized versions of mythic books or films.

We have an editor on our staff who reveres Star Wars and Umberto Eco in equal measure, and who may have a heart attack when he encounters this post.

What about it, though - in what unexpected places can we find the modern rhapsode? The reciter and reteller of old myths? The immediacy of our myths and folk heroes - whether they have their source in Jacobean drama or twentieth-century cinema - depends not on our watching of the stories again and again, but on our making of the stories again and again.

Think of that scene in Reign of Fire when the beleaguered citizens of a post-apocalypse fortress set two of their number to give a nightly performance on a stage for the entertainment of children who never knew television. The two actors put on their fire helmets and some dark clothes and pick up some painted sticks. Then they play the lightsaber duel and the moment of revelation for Luke Skywalker. (The children gasp.)

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