Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The Dream is Alive

Paul Markoff, my co-host/co-producer on NOW PLAYING, has pestered me about seeing perennial Christmas favorite IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and yet I keep putting it off. Sure, I've been busy but in two or more years I haven't had a couple free hours for it? Whatever the reason, it has never been a priority. I have the DVD, so lack of access is no excuse. Around this time of year I start thinking maybe I should watch it. I know, I know, it isn't necessarily a Christmas film, although it is most associated with the holiday. It's not like I expect I'll hate it either. I brought the DVD to my parents' house, so maybe I'll sit down and watch it tomorrow. (If Paul is reading this, I suspect he just let out a skeptical laugh.) Really, I'm going to try, although I did check out a couple books on blogging from the library, not to mention a Truffaut biography and a couple novels...

Speaking of things mentioned but never covered, this seems like the perfect time for some thoughts on the Richard Linklater short that played after BUS 174 the other night. It was on projected video rather than film--insert sad emoticon--but it's worth a look. The timing couldn't have been better with the recent announcement of the plans for the former World Trade Center location. The film builds up to an unconventional suggestion for how to use the space.

LIVE FROM SHIVA'S DANCE FLOOR (Richard Linklater, 2002) (Wexner Center, 12/20/03) Grade: A

Timothy "Speed" Levitch takes us on a brief tour of Manhattan's financial district, including a trip to the footprint of the collapsed World Trade Center's Twin Towers, in LIVE FROM SHIVA'S DANCE FLOOR. Along the way he shares his knowledge of the area's history, opinions on commerce in contemporary life, and thoughts on how to move forward at the site of the September 11 tragedy.

A tour guide and a philosopher, Levitch has a knack for talking, which made him an ideal subject for the feature documentary THE CRUISE. Director Richard Linklater put Levitch to good use as a wandering dreamer in the brilliant WAKING LIFE. Linklater's films are characterized in large part by philosophical contemplation, and in Levitch he's found a kindred spirit. (Levitch was perfect for WAKING LIFE and wouldn't have been out of place in SLACKER.) LIVE FROM SHIVA'S DANCE FLOOR lets both director and performer continue their existential search.

Levitch and Linklater encourage the viewer to look beyond the surface, whether it's a physical item or a story. Levitch tells the story about a tree on Wall Street, how it came to be there, and what it is supposed to represent. Then he reveals the mythmaking involved in the story. What the tree once represented may not be true now, but the power of what it stands for today endures.

Shiva is the Hindu god of destruction and reproduction, and in Levitch's view, Shiva's dance floor was Ground Zero at the World Trade Center site. The destruction has passed, and now is the time for something to emerge from the remains. Rather than constructing a granite monument or establishing more places of commerce, which, some might argue, dishonor the dead, he proposes a park where American buffalo can freely roam. The idea sounds kooky, but Levitch makes a convincing case, financially and spiritually, for making a home for one of the iconic national creatures. It won't happen--last week plans were announced for a 1,776-foot tower at the site--but wouldn't his suggestion be more inspiring for visitors and New York residents through the years?

Levitch and Linklater must have known that their idea had an infinitesimal chance of catching on, but in a way, they have been able to make the dream real via this film. They've envisioned something that isn't there and have made it visible to the viewers of LIVE FROM SHIVA'S DANCE FLOOR. Isn't witnessing the dream, whether it takes a physical shape or not, one of the things that defines America?

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