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Initial Girl-Child


Nabokov, Lolita, chapter one.             


Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.


(L)olita’s (o)utset (l)anguage (i)nflux (t)akes (a)loft, (l)ove’s (i)nconvenience (g)enerates (h)umbert’s (t)roubles / (o)utrageous (f)iction / (m)any (y)uks / (l)ovesick (i)nspiration (f)uels (e)dition , (f)ace (i)nspires (r)apturous (e)nchantment / (o)bsessive (f)able / (m)emorialising (y)esterday / (lo)cated (ins)ide .  (M)ight (y)ield / (s)he (i)nclines (n)igh , (m)ighty (y)oung / (s)he (o)f (u)ndeniable (l)oveliness . (Lo)ve – (le)ads (e)xpositor – (t)otally (a)stray : (t)hus (h)umbert (e)xplains / (t)ouching (i)s (p)aradise / (of)fering / (t)o (h)umbert (e)cstasy / (t)ragedy (ong)oing (u)nderpins (e)xpression/ (t)etchy (a)llegiance (k)eeps (in)citing (g)rievances / (at)tachment (r)ends (i)nner (p)eace / (do)lores’s (w)anton (n)ights / (t)hrill (h)umbert (e)xceedingly / (p)roblematic (ala)s (t)o (e)xperience / (to)gether / (t)hey (a)ct (p)ruriently , (a)lways (t)roublesome / (t)apping (h)umbert’s (re)crudescent (e)xasperation , (o)nward (n)abokov / (t)ell (h)umbert’s (e)xperience / (t)orm(e)nt(e)d (t)ragic (h)umbert . (L)ingual (o)peration . (L)ilting (e)xpr(e)ssion . (T)ouching (a)lveolar . (S)o (h)umbert (e)nters / (w)arily (a)nd (s)ees / (L)olita (o)utside , (pla)ced (in) / (L)ight (o)utstandingly , (in)stantly / (t)hrobbing (h)umbert (e)xperiences / (m)ute (o)utsized  (r)eaction: (n)ymph (in) (g)rass , (s)he (t)ouches (a) (n)erve (d)ramatically (in) (g)entleman / (fo)revermore (u)tte(r)s / (f)id(e)lity , (e)nchantment (t)owards / (te)e(n) / (i)nventive (n)ovel / (o)ne (n)abokov (e)njoyed / (so)norous (c)reative (k)aleidoscope . (S)oon (h)umbert (e)xperiences / (wa)rm (s)cenes / (Lo)lita (l)arks (a)bout / (in)flaming / (s)aucy (l)olita (a)cts (c)hee(k)ily (s)ometimes . (S)lippery (h)umbert (e)ntertains / (w)ith (a) (s)ong/ (Dol)ores (ly)ing / (at)hwart / (s)ofa (ch)anting (o)nly (o)f (l)ove . (S)hifty (h)umbert (e)nds / (w)ith (a) (s)pasm / (Dolo)res (r)ises (e)ntirely (s)potless / (o)perator (n)otes / (t)hen (h)umbert (e)xits / (d)elighted (o)h (t)he (t)errific (e)xecuted (d)esire / (l)olita (i)magined (n)othing (e)ccentric . (B)r(ut)ish / (in)cursions / (m)ake (y)outh / (a)mo(r)ously (m)alliable (s)ometimes / (s)ly (h)umbert (e)xperiences / (w)anton (a)matory (s)ensations / (a)nd (l)olita (way)ward (s)oul / (L)ets (o)lder (l)inger (i)n (t)ender (a)cts . (D)olores (i)nsists (d)emanding (s)teadfast (h)umbert (e)nd / (h)is (a)d(v)anc(e)s / (a)nd / (p)roposes (re)muneration (cur)rency (s)ubsequently (o)lder (r)elents ? (S)cheming (h)umb(e)rt / (d)r(i)ves (d)olores , (i)nterstate (n)oma(d)ic (e)xp(ed)itions / (s)neaky (h)umb(e)rt / (d)es(i)gns (d)eliberately . (I)ti(n)erant / (p)assage (o)bjectless (i)nside (n)ation (t)ravelling / (of)ten / (f)ractiously (a)cross (c)oun(t)ry , (t)errible (h)umbert (e)xpects (r)omantic (e)xertions / (m)iss (ig)nores (h)umbert’s (t)ouch / (h)umbert’s (a)lways (ve)xed / (b)y (e)dgy (e)xasperated (n)ature / (n)ymphet (o)ften / (L)ets (o)bscured (lit)erary (a)dmirer / (at)tempt / (a) (l)aughing (l)iaison / (h)umbert (a)scertains (d)eviousness / (I)magi(n)es (o)nly (t)reachery / (lo)lita (ve)rbalises (d)efence , (on)going (e)nigmatic / (s)uitor (u)ndertakes (m)ultiple (mer)ry , (a)ssig(n)ations / (i)nventive (n)ovel (i)s (t)ops (i)n (a)llusive (l)anguage / (g)irl (i)nspires (r)eal (l)ove – (c)rafty (h)umbert’s (i)n (l)ove’s (d)ungeon . (I)ntelligent (n)ovelist’s / (a)ttractive / (pr)ose (i)s (n)i(ce)ly (d)rawn (o)ut (m)asterpiece / (b)eautiful (y)outh / (t)aunts (h)umbert (e)ndlessly / (s)cribe’s (e)ntertaining (a)rtwork . (O)h (h)umbert/ (w)hat (h)eartbreak (e)ve(n)tuates ? (A)mour (b)rings (ou)t (t)rouble / (a)rgumentative (s)cenes / (man) (y)earns / (y)outh (e)scapes (a)nd (r)ove(s) / (b)ook (e)xpresses (f)ervent (o)ve(r)arching (e)ndless / (Lo)ve (l)olita (i)s (t)imelessly (a)ttractive / (w)ill (a)lways (s)hine / (bo)ok (r)eadi(n)g / (a)rtist’s (s)ubjects / (m)otoring (y)ears / (ag)o (e)rratic / (w)andering (a)ges (s)ince / (t)roublous (h)umbert (a)dores (t)eenager / (s)he (u)ndergoes (m)any (m)oody (e)rotic (r)omps. (You)th / (c)onsequently (a)bsco(n)ds / (a)dmirer (l)eft (w)ith (a)wful (y)earning (s)earches / (count)rywide / (o)utstanding (n)ovel / (a)bsolutely / (m)arvello(u)s (r)ea(d)ing (e)xpe(r)ienc(e) (r)eally / (f)erreting (o)ut (r)un(a)way / (f)inally (a)fter (n)eedy (c)omfortless (y)ears / (pro)tagoni(s)t (e)ntreats / (s)weetheart (t)o (y)ie(l)d (e)verlastingly . (L)olit(a) (d)en(ie)s (s)uitor / (an)guishe(d) / (gent)leman (le)aves (m)elancholy (en)ding / (o)h (f)ate / (t)hen (h)umbert (e)xecutes / (j)abbering (u)nscrupulous (r)ival Quilt(y) , (ex)ecutioner (h)umbert (i)s (b)riskly (i)ncarcera(t)ed / (n)ymphet (u)ndergoing (m)iserable (b)irth (e)xpi(r)es / (o)ffbeat (n)ovel’s (e)nding / (i)s (s)ombre / (w)riter (h)atched (a)ffecting (t)ome / (t)roubled (h)umb(e)rt / (s)crib(e)s (r)eminiscences (a)nd (p)romptly (h)eart (s)tops , (th)rombosis (e)xter(mi)nate(s) (in)dividual (f)inally (o)lde(r) (m)an (e)xpires (d)esolated , (s)ens(i)tive (m)anuscript (p)reserves (l)ov(e) , (no)velist’s (b)rainy (l)anguag(e) – (w)ork (i)mmortalises (n)ymphet’s (g)rac(e)ful (d)ash / (ser)ious (a)nd (p)erpetually (h)umorou(s) , (e)loquent (n)ovelist’s (v)ision (i)s (e)ndlessly (d)iverting . (Lo)lita (o)rphan (k)id / (a)ttractive (t)een / (t)olerates (h)umbert’s (i)ndiscretion(s) / (t)ill (an)noyed (g)irl (le)aves / (o)bjecting (f)inally / (t)o (h)umbert’s (o)bstinate (r)elentless (n)ui(s)ances.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Ghost of a Reminder


Say a camera movement is associated with a character. Or, a camera angle, let’s say a dutch angle. Let’s say that at least two times in a film, the character has been shot in a dutch angle. Imagine now the end of the film. The character, in whatever way, is now gone forever. But the last shot of the film is a dutch angle. This camera move evokes in the audience a memory of the long-gone character.



ὦ κοινὸν αὐτάδελφον Ἰσμήνης κάρα,

ἆρ᾽ οἶσθ᾽ ὅ τι Ζεὺς τῶν ἀπ᾽ Οἰδίπου κακῶν

ὁποῖον οὐχὶ νῷν ἔτι ζώσαιν τελεῖ;

οὐδὲν γὰρ οὔτ᾽ ἀλγεινὸν οὔτ᾽ ἄτης ἄτερ

οὔτ᾽ αἰσχρὸν οὔτ᾽ ἄτιμόν ἐσθ᾽, ὁποῖον οὐ

τῶν σῶν τε κἀμῶν οὐκ ὄπωπ᾽ ἐγὼ κακῶν.

καὶ νῦν τί τοῦτ᾽ αὖ φασι πανδήμῳ πόλει

κήρυγμα θεῖναι τὸν στρατηγὸν ἀρτίως;

ἔχεις τι κεἰσήκουσας; ἤ σε λανθάνει

πρὸς τοὺς φίλους στείχοντα τῶν ἐχθρῶν κακά;



ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐδεὶς μῦθος, Ἀντιγόνη φίλων

οὔθ᾽ ἡδὺς οὔτ᾽ ἀλγεινὸς ἵκετ᾽ ἐξ ὅτου

δυοῖν ἀδελφοῖν ἐστερήθημεν δύο,

μιᾷ θανόντοιν ἡμέρᾳ διπλῇ χερί:

ἐπεὶ δὲ φροῦδός ἐστιν Ἀργείων στρατὸς

ἐν νυκτὶ τῇ νῦν, οὐδὲν οἶδ᾽ ὑπέρτερον,

οὔτ᾽ εὐτυχοῦσα μᾶλλον οὔτ᾽ ἀτωμένη.


These are the opening seventeen lines of Antigone by Sophocles. Antigone is the third play in the story-trilogy of Oedipus, the man who is now dead, along with his two sons, by the beginning of the third play.


In the line in bold, Ismene, one of Oedipus’ daughters, speaks here in the same speech pattern as Oedipus her father was wont to do : to break up an issue into an “either/or”, a compendium remark, a wholly Rational approach to a Situation.


Antigone, by the way, Oedipus’ other living daughter, has a very different speech pattern, less cerebral, more emotional and stream-of-consciousness (so to speak).


The technics recalls a character.




Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Sophocles and Cinema


Ismene speaks like her dad Oedipus throughout the entire opening of Antigone (ll. 1–99), with especial resonances (e.g., the “dutch-angle” phrases) such as at 15–17 and 39–40.


Sophocles deploys a common dramatic technique very quickly at lines 18–19.


This technique also skews the initial vibe of the play.


Before we explain things with specificity, we may say that lines 18–19 exhibit at least two dramatic techniques at once.


Antigone the play begins with an exchange of dialogue between sisters Antigone and Ismene. Nothing new is revealed to the characters : the lines establish for the benefit of the audience the Situation as it stands.


A third dramatic technique is employed in lines 18–19 : contrast.


We learn in lines 18–19 that the two sisters are standing before the palace at Thebes. The two sisters are speaking in public. The two sisters speak in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Oedipus at the beginning of the first play : they speak in a broad, somewhat elevated manner, connoting their royal status.


But in lines 18–19, Antigone says, “I knew all that well [what you and I were just speaking about]; I brought you outside the gates of the courtyard because I want to talk to you alone.”


The reader can picture Antigone whispering this line into her sister’s ear; or perhaps Antigone first takes Ismene aside with a guiding hand, then whispers the line.


Point is, the play begins in a broad Royal manner; then, within sixty seconds or so, turns conspiratorial.


A sheer shift of tone right at the beginning of a scene, recalls, in world cinema, for example, Buñuel in That Obscure Object of Desire (1977).

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εἰ τὸν νεκρὸν ξὺν τῇδε κουφιεῖς χερί.


Antigone, knowing the King has forbidden anyone from touching the dead body of one of her brothers :



I will lift my brother’s corpse with my hands!


Line 43. A big emotional moment. Antigone is described by her sister as ταλαῖφρον (“sad”/”much-suffering”, 39) and “ὦ σχετλία” (“wretched fool”, “stubborn girl”, 47). Suffering, headstrong Antigone belts out this line, full of emotion for her brother.


But she and her brother are the product of an incestuous union. Antigone is praying for the Justice of the Common Way; but her family is anything but common. Come to think of it, she and her sister share the same incestuous blood : all four children are the perverse issue of the conjugal union of mother and son.


The perverse is crying out for common Justice.




Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Absurd & Serious


At the beginning of the play, Antigone is faced with the “go-to” ancient Greek narrative technique that Dunkirk (2017) employs to colossally successful effect—the choice between two negatives.


She simply wants to bury the body of her dead brother. If she does this, she faces the harshest penalty from the king. If she doesn’t, she’ll be haunted and damaged forever. The only option for her is doing the right thing : she must bury the body and pay for it. That’s Sophocles : you’re doomed from the start, and it only gets worse. After the end you’ll be happy.


During this heavy dramatic Situation, there is sudden contrast : humor. Weird. What is funny about this story?


Humor in the first play was perverse. Humor throughout Antigone is absurd.


One example : line 385. Creon the king speaks at length about the Situation (162–222), and the penalty. Then the criminal—Antigone—is brought in. And the Militaryman who does this, the same man who just received a severe dressing-down from Creon at length (223–326), wonders aloud to everyone :


ἀλλὰ ποῦ Κρέων?

Now where’s Creon?


“Now that’s funny”—as John Ruth says in The Hateful Eight.


Does Sophocles have a realistic view of life?—doomed and absurd.




Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Sophocles and David Lynch



τί δ᾽ ἔστι; ποίᾳ ξύμμετρος προὔβην τύχῃ;



ἄναξ, βροτοῖσιν οὐδέν ἔστ᾽ ἀπώμοτον.


(ll. 387–8). The translation doesn’t matter :



What is it? What’s happened that makes my advance auspicious?



King, let no man say there are things too impossible to happen to humans!


The surreal quality of Creon’s line is founded in the word “ξύμμετρος”—a word your calm author spoke of at length earlier (Oedipus, l. 84; with respect to Phantom Thread). In this play, the third play of the story-trilogy, the word is drained of every last drop of complex resonance; its use here is simple everyday speech. But Creon using this word jars the Reader outside of the story into Heavy Thought. Using this word in this context in Antigone, Sophocles is making a connection that is absurd.


Compounding absurdity (these are only two examples), the Militaryman has a personal revelation of the wondrous nature of things. But we already know the story of Oedipus and how weird things are! So the Militaryman’s heavy discovery is not only funny, in this context it’s almost silly in its naïveté.

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Antigone : Sophocles and Absurdity


1. If the play’s foundation of nihilism and absurdity is hard to take, why would an audience put itself through it? The bitter pill of the message is sugared by the humor of the absurdity.


2. Early question evoked : Does the king have the right to deny, in Law, what God demands? (And does this denial question belief in God?)


3. Misplaced heroism : young Antigone is ready to give her life for the Word of Zeus. But Zeus is the god who caused her father’s disastrous life, and brought Antigone and her three siblings into the world as an uncanny issue of an incestuous union.




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The long, slow zoom in


All the President’s Men (1976), 48:02–54:04 (with a bit of camera movement). Cinematographer : Gordon Willis.


Inherent Vice (2014), 37:29–40:03 (with a bit of camera movement; and dolly zoom). Cinematographer : Robert Elswit.




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1. Creating tension visually : continuous diagonals


(1:15:53–1:16:18). Seven contiguous shots of growing tension. Note how the Pilot’s position in the frame shifts from right-left-right-left-right. The image of Mark Rylance, whose character represents, among other things, The Proper Manner to Do Things, is almost rectilinear—it’s just a bit off-center, communicating the extreme pressure this strongly-founded character is experiencing in the circumstances of War.


Perhaps the inert lamp visible in the final image continues a “light-giving”/“light-withholding” motif, such as the sun in image 4?


2. Coloring


Note the silver spinner knob in Mark Rylance’s right hand. I wonder if there is a technical term for such a detail in a film frame : the “benchmark” detail that reveals to the audience that, no matter the wondrous coloring of the frame, the film is still capturing real-life with fidelity, such as, for example, the authentic colors revealed by the paintings on the wall here :


(27:26) / (26:33)


“Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?” Jean Harlow, whom Nicole Kidman resembles, in Hell's Angels (1930).


(37:54) / (23:57) Recall that Kubrick’s first short films were released by Howard Hughes’ RKO in the early 1950s.



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Life and Death : contrast of Light and Dark in the frame.


(1:21:01–1:21:04). Two contiguous shots, which also continue the film's motif of the Up/Down with respect to the light of the heavens and the dark beneath of death.


Compare the bright dead body with, for example :


ANTOLINEZ, José, The Death of the Magdalene (1667)


CARAVAGGIO, The Death of the Virgin (1606)


CAVALLINO, Bernardo, The Death of St Joseph (1640)


CIGNAROLI, Giambettino, The Death of Cato (1762)


KINSOEN, François-Joseph, The Death of Belisarius' Wife (1817)


MÉNAGEOT, François-Guillaume, The Death of Leonardo da Vinci in the Arms of Francis I (1781)


PAOLINI, Pietro, Allegory of Life and Death (1632)




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The distortion of the geometry in real time might be baffling to the audience (what is Up and Down here?). In this shot Nolan immerses the audience in the abyss : the audience tastes the dark beneath : just as music brings glimmers of the beyond.

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“Owing to Governor Reagan’s shut-down of most of the state mental facilities . . .”




Throughout his adult life Howard Hughes suffered from a series of fully developed anxiety disorders, many of which are today identified as “classic” symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). What follows is a list of his well-documented symptoms, some of which we have already noted in this account while others are yet to appear:


1. interminable handwashing

2. interminable reordering of objects

3. repeating same phrase many times in a row

4. acquisition mania

5. germ phobia

6. hypochondria

7. social phobia

8. agoraphobia

9. insomnia

10. paranoia

11. fugues

12. hoarding


In 1960, Howard Hughes was 55 years old. A man who spent decades bedding beautiful women now shunned all physical contact. A man now so terrified of germs he wallowed unwashed on dirty bedsheets rather than touch sinks or bathtowels or showers. A natural-born pilot now spent years vegetating in a dim, airless room.


Hughes might have inherited a predisposition for mental illness from the maternal side of the family, just as he had inherited his otosclerosis from his paternal side. Then life experience intensified this destiny. No one can know how damaged Hughes was left in emotionally after losing both mother and father when he was young. More apparent are the many serious head injuries that Hughes sustained in airplane and automobile crashes later in life.


Hughes may have recognized his strange behavior—many people with Mental Health Disorders do. Still and all, he was powerless to stop it. He could conceal it, however. When Hughes went mad there were neither antidepressants nor counselling as many know of them today; there was only the mental hospital. Instead of that, Hughes anesthetized himself with codeine and valium and maintained his own private asylum for the last fifteen years of his life.

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