Déjà Vu (2006) – slice

Is “looking” at image-time the first step in controlling them?

What should one think of Déjà Vu? It throws around difficult and morally-charged concepts of time-travel, fate, patriotism and government surveillence of post-9/11 America. In a way, it’s Tony Scott’s crude way of recognizing the American regret of that tragedy (and its aftermath). There are some neat cinematic experiments he does here, especially that past/present chase scene, which I believe–despite its somewhat dumb premise, which in my opinon, doesn’t really matter in most Tony Scott films anyway–works well with his signature quick-cut, rapid-pan style.

I watched this before Lucy, but in retrospect, this is a film that is loosely what Lucy attempts to do except mostly fails: it’s an action vehicle that actually attempts and more often than not roughly succeeds in fusing its subject matter (image and time, Gilles Deleuze must be proud) to the generic principles that the studios and the audience expect from the action auteur.

Of course, as per usual, his preference for constantly-moving entertainment supercedes any meaningful engagement that is deserving of the concepts he touches, and overall becomes a mind-numbing–I’d say in both good ways and bad–thriller that’s more about puzzles than ideas. But it does have some merit; Unlike Lucy, the film simplifies the concept of time into something decidedly linear–looking into past, the time flows linear, and so are the images. Once Washington’s character travels back in time, the image becomes reality that he can temper, ultimately disrupting the flow of time itself. It’s a rudimentary attempt at connecting image and time (therefore making time a visible concept), and furthermore connecting image-time to the regret and temptation to control time and image, but it works more or less while sitting nicely in that limitation of an action flick.

As with Scott’s excellent Unstoppable and Enemy of the State, Scott is always good at infusing cinematic theories into an action movie fundamentals (Unstoppable is a modern example of action-narrative-structure-symbolised-by-train that reaches back to Buster Keaton’s timeless The General, while Enemy of the State is the mother of all image surveillance/voyeurism films in post-Cold War era). It may be a limitation in a way to have those generic “shackles” attached, but at the same time, they do sometimes reinforce his ideas, and sure as hell make them more approachable.

If anyone’s interested, Gavin Hood presents a (lot) more sophisticated poke at similar ideas regarding image in his recent film Eye in the Sky.

Also, I should re-read Gilles Deleuze, and this time try to actually understand what the fuck he’s saying.


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