Bryan Lindenberger

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I've Never Seen His Films the Same

I wonder, when telephone booths were a thing, and each of them had inside a telephone book, how many times on average a particular white page was used by the denizens of a typical town.

I wonder because of a movie called Back to the Future.

The protagonist of the film, Marty McFly, you see, travels back to 1955. In searching for his friend
and mentor, Doctor Emmett Brown, Marty enters Lou's cafe, looks up his friend, finding him. Since he is at a cafe, where orders are taken routinely, one would expect Marty to ask for a pen and paper to write down Doc's number and address.

Marty tears the page from the book.

Marty McFly's "Everyman" persona, the careful visual editing, and the relatively lush sound design tell me this wasn't just a random scene, some accident. These summer blockbusters are painstakingly constructed, and this scene was certainly no different. Marty even approaches the cafe owner with the torn page in his hand, as though flaunting how he ravished the book. Lou does not seem to notice. This vandalism is accepted.

Here's the thing ....

How many people that year might have sought a name on that exact page?

Imagine one of them attempting to look up Sally Brown, frustrated to find that page missing. Worse, imagine now this person flips through the book to see if there is a sudden spate of directory carnage going on.

But ... no. The book appears intact. He looks closer, skimming more slowly. Then thumbing through, page by page, only to find that of hundreds of pages, only the one he sought is missing!

It is not difficult to imagine a person having an already bad week - who else used public phone books except when in at least some minor crisis - only to find himself singled out, chosen as though by fate to be impeded from even the simplest task, intercepted by a cosmos that suddenly seems less indifferent than dead-set against him in the most petty of ways. It's the sort of thing that could make a man on the ropes question his faith.

This lapse in judgment by the protagonist, his sudden yet breezy entrance into destruction of property and the seeming acceptance of it by the authority, and mostly the great care with which it is presented to masses of people in an otherwise light summer popcorn flick, strike me as work that can only come from a diseased and disordered mind.

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