Thursday, 30 June 2011

Holy Wood Part I [Reviews: Day Of The Locust and Moving Pictures]

Nathanael West's short, bleak novella Day Of The Locust is narrated by a hard-up artist working as a scene painter in Hollywood, doomed to a life of unrequited love and unrecognized talent. The object of his affections is the typical actress-in-waiting, turning tables and sometimes tricks to get by in the absence of the "big break." The craziness of Hollywood is laid bare - in a defining, dream-like scene, the narrator walks through an elephant's graveyard of discarded props.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld is not actually a disc but a lens - through it some aspect of the real world is brought into focus, usually for the purposes of ridicule. In Moving Pictures, the Discworld alchemists discover a celluloid-like material that enables an entire industry to spring up overnight, but the hypnotic power drawing people to Holy Wood to seek their fortunes hints at the revival of an ancient evil. The new opportunities turn Discworld society on it's head: suddenly trolls are in huge demand, and seller of sizzle Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler finds his skills are perfectly suited to the role of movie mogul.

Both novels turn on the exploitative nature of the movie industry. This is still true to some degree even today, but arguably that's nothing compared to the outright abuse of the "Golden Age Of Cinema" and, when modern day scriptwriters or other movie professionals go on strike, it's worth remembering that this unionisation might be the only reason things are even slightly better.

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