So I was setting up to fold the week’s laundry in the living room, and I was looking through the DVDs for something to watch, mostly because the last working Apple remote has gone walkabout, and maybe it’s because the Wachowskis have been in the news lately or maybe it’s because it’s one of the best films of the aughts, a pinnacle of cinematic achievement, but anyway I grabbed Speed Racer.
I mean, the opening sixteen minutes or so alone, a thrilling overture that blithely delivers a payload of unthinkably dense exposition—here is our protagonist, here is his backstory, here his family, his brother who went before him, here’s how the sci-fi cars work, and also all the tricks we’ll be using to tell the story, pay just enough attention to clock our moves, the time-shifts, the colors, the floating talking heads of sports commentators, as-you-know-Bobbing their polyphonic takes on the various narrative threads—it’s a real piece of Gesamtkunstwerk, and you can’t help but feel a little taken aback when the movie downshifts into the first act of its actual, y’know, story (though the disappointment is anticipated, cushioned, soon enough wiped away).
So anyway the story’s unspooling, and I’ve folded a bunch (amazing, the laundry a seven-year-old can run through), and here comes the quiet beat when Ben Burns comes to see Speed Racer in the locker room, after Speed’s DNF’d the Fuji Helexicon, and you realize, damn, they just ran a whole sequence in a conditional tense—anyway, it’s quiet, as I said, and contemplative, we’re at what you might call the hinge between the first act, and the second, which I wouldn’t, but there’s Ben Burns, whom the story’s already told us is our Fisher King, who’d lost his soul by letting them let him win a race, the race, the Grand Prix, only to discover that all he can do after is sit outside the castle, and cast sports—but here he is, come to speak to our protagonist, Speed, and what does he say?
Nice race. Haven’t seen moves like that in a long time.
And, I mean, Speed Racer is technicolorly, obviously a fantasy in any of a number of senses, but I’m speaking strictly Cluthian, for the moment: we see that the world (of racing) has gone wrong; that (its) honorable ideals have been thinned (by corporate corruption, and greed); our protagonist is then recognized (as the racer who can win in spite of it all); and thus the world returns (with all those flashbulbs, and a bottle of cold milk, and a kiss).
So you might think Ben Burns says “Haven’t seen moves like that in a long time” (and not, “Damn, I’ve never seen moves like that before”) because he’s thinking of Speed’s brother, Rex, or of his old rival, Stickleton, or even of himself, and it could be any one of those, or all of them at once, or none, but the real reason why he says that is because Speed must be recognized—and to be recognized, one must’ve been seen before. Maybe not in a long time. But now, again.
(And but one can argue nor would I stop them that the real recognition comes later, at what I’d never refer to as the hinge between acts two, and three, when Speed’s about to storm out of the Racer household in a rage, in an echo of Rex’s storming earlier, much earlier, when Pops sits Speed down to tell him what he didn’t tell Rex, what he wishes he’d told Rex, what might’ve kept Rex from dying, as it were, but sequences can multitask, and I have always read this scene as a fantasy of what a parent might sit down to tell a child who’s somehow, somewhich coming out, a parent who’s come to see how wrongly, maybe, they’d treated a child who came out before, a parent who’s life’s been thinned by the regret of that loss, who’s recognized in the second child a second chance, and oh, the return—)
Anyway. (Did I say that already?) —That, all that, or some approximation of that, was part of what was running through my mind when I got up from where I was sitting, and paused the DVD, and stepped, carefully, over all the folded laundry around and about to the keyboard, and after a moment’s thought, typed this:
We've not seen this in a long time. —fantasy— Kip Manley (@kiplet) March 13, 2016
We've never seen this before. —sf
We're not gonna see this again. —horror