Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Not-So-Mini Essay | Magic Lanterns by Nicolas Pillai | Part 4: The Bedroom

The treatment of bedrooms must be governed by good taste and decency.
The Motion Production Code of 1930.

Bedrooms are always significant in film. Whether characters are dreaming, making love, going to sleep or waking up, bedrooms are always significant.

Maybe it’s because they are such private places, and the things that occur within them are often hidden from us in life. And so scenes in bedrooms hold a special kind of thrill, permitting us access to intimate moments of the characters. Once Hollywood studios began to implement the Hays’ Office’s Production Code in the 1930s, it became common to show married couples occupying separate beds. It was as though America was becoming ashamed of itself.

I was uncomfortable with all of the handwringing, tutting and sneering over conspicuous consumerism and cultural imperialism in this summer’s reviews of Sex and the City 2. It is, I think, noteworthy that the same critics failed to muster the same level of outrage for The Expendables. There are two snobberies at work there, one concerning (excuse the revolting term) 'chick flicks' and one about TV shows that get above themselves. While I’m not interested in defending Carrie & co. here, I do think the film had some very interesting bedroom scenes. And none of them had anything to do with sex.

In the New York sequences of the movie, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) begins to feel that conjugal life in her new apartment is growing stale. The final straw comes when her husband John James Preston (one-time Mr. Big, Chris Noth) buys her a big screen TV for the bedroom. To Carrie, this is the end of romance. He only wants to watch black and white movies, whereas she wants to live in them.

Watching the hitch-hiking scene from It Happened One Night (a film in which attraction begins with lines drawn across a motel bedroom), Carrie worries over her ability to lead an exciting married life. At the end of the film, in the living room again, the couple watch the conclusion to The Talk of the Town, as Cary Grant runs back to kiss Jean Arthur. Carrie has reordered domestic space to her satisfaction.

What’s so wrong with watching TV in bed anyway? In Sex and the City 2, the bedroom becomes less the arena of sexual satisfaction and more the assurance of mutual content. The way this is measured is through the absence of a TV. The bedroom becomes the last refuge from the moving image.

Keep dreaming. Keep watching.

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