In our Yearbook series, Double Exposure contributors share lists and essays that attempt to define their year in film. In this entry, Max Nelson recounts some of the more notable cinematic naps he indulged in this year.

Post Tenebras Lux

An Abridged Catalogue of Movie Theater Naps

Is the traditional grammar of cinema a direct expression of how we dream? Do we dream in multi-angle coverage, with static masters, close-ups, tracking shots, and pans? Do we never cross the magical axis, except when we wake out of our sleep in terror? Is this why the language of early cinema came so quickly—because we’ve been playing it inside our heads forever? -Atom Egoyan

Carlos Regyadas’ new film Post Tenebras Lux is full of images that feel torn straight of its maker’s dreams, but the moment which brought me closest to dreaming was pretty unassuming: a man gives an impromptu guitar recital at a crowded party to loud, boisterous applause. Sitting in a very cozy MoMA theater during a late afternoon screening, I had to shake myself alert at the last minute: through drooping eyelids, I’d seen myself lifting my hands to clap along.

Several months ago, Double Exposure contributor Gus Reed managed to track down a rare copy of Michael Powell’s feverish Bartok adaptation Herzog Blaubarts Burg, made in the early sixties for German television. Perched on the side of a bed in an Upper West Side apartment, I started to drift in and out of consciousness—to an extent I discovered only after the credits had rolled. Conferring excitedly with the friends perched beside me, I mentioned a haunting shot of a couple tangoing at the bottom of a deep, dark lake and was met with blank stares: that scene only ever existed in my dreams.

Midway through a life-changing New York Film Festival, I settled in for a screening of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s Leviathan, a feat of sensory immersion set on a commercial fishing vessel in the storm-tossed waters where Melville once wrote Moby Dick. The camera is buffeted, submerged, pulled under the current, and lifted into vertiginous heights to fight seagulls for airspace—none of which could keep my sleep-deprived and film-saturated head upright. For a brief moment before nodding off completely, I continued to take in the film’s rapid-fire imagery without being able to distinguish my eye from that of the camera. I found myself lost in deep waters, exhausted, exhilarated, pulled along by some unseen force to which I was clinging for dear life—not a bad metaphor for what it’s like to attend your first-ever film festival at nineteen.

This summer, the Greenpoint experimental film and video hub Light Industry put on an all-day tribute to Chris Marker—complete with a massive outdoor shrine to the late filmmaker. Set up by an anonymous well-wisher, it was stocked with photographs, notes, mementos, flowers, candles, hand-waving porcelain cats (Marker’s favorite animal) and even a VHS tape of Vertigo (his favorite film)—all glowing on the side of a far-flung, otherwise deserted Brooklyn street. Marker would have been proud. Periodically, artist-activist Paul Chan would come out to pay his respects, draped in an oversized Lil Wayne t-shirt. He was scheduled to introduce the Marker film I’d come for, The Last Bolshevik. Tossing aside his notes, he told the packed crowd about the first time he’d seen the film as one of three patrons in an enormous, otherwise empty theater—and how he’d promptly fallen asleep. “I feel like I’ve never woken up,” he concluded. I feel, too, like I’ve never woken up from this film—during which I fell asleep despite, or maybe because of, the cramped surroundings—or from that vision of cinephilia at its purest and most generous.

For months, fellow Double Exposure editor David Beal and I had been restlessly anticipating the New York return of Christian Marclay’s epic found-footage compendium The Clock—a twenty-four-hour-long fully functional timepiece made entirely out of clips from movies past and present, celebrated and unknown. It was the first film I’ve ever had the chance to watch for twenty-four hours straight, and the first I’ve seen in a space employing roving security guards to prod sleepy audience members awake: a fact I discovered firsthand twenty hours into our marathon. All my precautions—taking ten-minute breaks every four hours to catch a breath of the summer air, stocking my backpack full of illicit baguettes and granola bars, scribbling away at my school notebook—couldn’t stop me from dozing off, feeling a gentle tap on my shoulder, and asking in a very confused whisper, “am I watching something?”

wiz

I spent the last week of 2012 back home in Charlottesville, Virginia—just in time to celebrate my 20th birthday with a pair of friends I’ve known since grade school. We ended up sitting down at 3pm in the afternoon to watch Sidney Lumet’s The Wiz, a delirious Motown-infusedWizard of Oz remake with a cast as killer as it is bizarre (Michael Jackson as Scarecrow! Richard Pryor as the wizard himself!). Miles away in every possible sense from the world into which I’ve settled in New York, this apartment—its living room table littered with Budweiser cans, ashtrays, half-eaten Chinese food, and an immense, vision-obscuring hookah—felt more like home than the poshest rep theater. When Diana Ross’ insanely overwrought final solo came along, I found myself wiping away a few tears. Embarrassed, I turned to the familiar faces next to me, who were both fast asleep.