Yet Untitled Lite 001 - some long term (screen) relationships
A short one on another kind of long relationship
Welcome again to the X-press version of YU, which you’ll be getting for the next few weeks on account of deadlines and travel. It’s a WIP emerging format, so please bear 🐻 with me 🙏🏼.
Top Gun, 80s Nostalgia and Time Travel
Something happened when I watched Top Gun Maverick that I couldn’t explain at first. I put it down to nostalgia - that feeling that rose with the film’s near operatic overture, pictured on the deck of an aircraft carrier - it took me back to a time when America was - to me and my peers, represented by two, no three, names: Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise and Madonna.
It was an innocent and funny time - with its VCR players and video libraries (where the pornos were kept just out of sight but were produced on request).
As the film progressed, I knew what I was feeling was more than nostalgia. It was the feeling you got when you meet old friends after a long time: friends who you associate with times and places where you’ve been and where you’d like to be again.
In this sequel to Top Gun, which followed 36 years after the first film, essentially I was watching a 36 year old friendship between the two main characters. I have a few such friendships and I find them pretty special (you can read YU #014 on long friendships here). There’s something to be said about seeing a relationship age on screen - it’s like time travel. I think we all want a peek at how things may turn out to be. I have a feeling that that’s why books were invented.
I’m very interested in these time jumps that films take us on. Done well, it’s nothing short of revelatory. Done badly, it’s Jake Gyllenhal’s moustache in Brokeback Mountain.
Why why do we want to master time via stories? Is it because Time has such a vice grip on our butts, only moving us forward, streaking our hair white while it does it’s thing, that we want to know its workings better where we can. Isn’t that what the experience of stories tells us - How time will work on ourselves and the world before it actually happens?
Here’s a list of films and their sequels where I’ve enjoyed watching characters grow:
Top Gun and Top Gun Maverick
Little Things - Our one home grown Indian show that made me feel the same way about two very relatable characters closer to home.
One thing in common about my experience of watching The Matrix Ressurections, Top Gun Maverick and After Sunset - is that in each of these, there was a small scene inserted in the latest instalments showing the main characters as how they were when their journeys began.
In all cases they were very young then and had aged by now. Ethan Hawke had a gut, Keanu had become more gaunt (as if his Constantine character had crossed universes) and Tom Cruise looked only infinitesimally softer around the jaw (I guess that’s a big deal in the world of Tom Cruise). But what a delight to see then all young! So full of prospects and hope. To see July Delpy and Ethan Hawk as twenty-somethings in a film where they are already 40-somethings - pretty amazing.
I’ve often been quite unkind to the memory of my younger self - quite dismissive even. I encountered a new perspective when I read Anandi Mishra’s letter to her younger self in her lovely newsletter - “Scruf”. After reading, I decided to send more kindness into the past to little Vasant - a reassuring hug, even.
But, hey, it’s nice to see leading men and women age. Even when they age well, they still age. I like them so much more for ageing. This verisimilitude - the fact that they too are ageing like me - is a solace. It’s-life affirming, telling me that the films are life - making them one hell of an artefact.
Can simulations - which all films are in the end, be life? The Matrix asks - well: who’s to say that life itself isn’t a simulation ? Is that why films and stories resonate? Because they imitate life in the paradigm that they, and life, are both simulations?
How did we get here, again?
Ah, yes: Top Gun.
And: me trying to be brief!
Who’d have thought? 😄
A line on adaptation:
I never knew that Top Gun the film was inspired by a magazine article. I find reading the source material to screenplays an illumination, learning endeavour.
Read Ehud Yonay’s article here.
Which onscreen characters have you built an important relationship with over time?
I want to know.
PS. I sent this one out very aware of how unprocessed it is. But we’ve been on this trail together for awhile, and I trust you.
Lots of love.
PPS. I’ve gushed a lot on Top Gun, but, just saying…
The enemy fighters shot down by Tom Cruise are flow by people, who die.
The film tries to make this palatable by never showing us the face of the enemy, only helmets, duping us into never thinking about them twice.
I took a moment to think about this; about what the normalisation of carnage in entertainment does to us. To me, it reduces the distance between what I see on the news and what I consume as entertainment, and tends to make my response to the real stuff - to actual war and killing - disproportionate and desensitised.
It’s definitely something to think about.
See you all next week!