New York City is a temporary delusion many of us are sharing and we are, all of us, co-authors of this 24-hour-a-day unfolding, frothing miracle. “Reality” is a convenient term utilized by the lethargic to label the greatest theatricality that has ever been.
To say something is “commercial” is to say it is addicted to the opinions of others. New York City couldn’t care less about the opinions of others: its originality is actually its dedication to its own opinions. The city appears in “commercial” films as a teacher.
In Die Hard With a Vengeance, Bruce Willis’s machismo is a product of self-delusion and rerouted homoerotic passions. When he enters the New York Federal Reserve Bank–the second largest gold reserve in the United States and a gorgeous, enormous replica of a Florentine Renaissance palace–he fires a gun. Which is to say, he fires a loud, detoured ejaculation as he attempts to protect the gold. Bruce Willis is seemingly unaware of any deeper motivations moving him through this afternoon. He has become a mediocre alchemist who can only understand the worth of himself and the gold of his life in material terms. Meanwhile, his wife cries because she is a hostage and her husband is absent even when he is in the room. This episode is a precise diagram of capitalism’s need to understand human beings vaguely. This is what the very first European, Peter Minuit, actually bought from the Native Americans for $24.
The flower children in Hair are experiencing transcendental journeys in Central Park. They are tasting the initial purpose of Central Park. They have run from society’s trivialities, the Vietnam War being the largest triviality of all, and are escaping into nature. When they dance ritualistically at Bethesda Terrace honoring the proud, neurotic gods, while practicing shamanism, these flower children are suddenly Titania’s apprentices reliving A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The true difference between Hair and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is that the forest outside of Athens was truly nature, and the lovers in Shakespeare’s play are truly falling back into their original place in the world’s food chain. In New York City, nature is taxidermic, only created by 18 years of gunpowder exploding, millions of cartloads of topsoil being imported, all choreographed by Victorian men wrestling with their repression. New York City is a drastic exhibition of how deeply alienated the human race is from its original mother. New York teaches us that alienation, most of all, is human.
In When Harry Met Sally, sentimentality replaces true emotion at every essential turn in a human relationship. In Katz’s Delicatessen, Sally, experiencing simulated emotions, simulates an orgasm. This made me cry. It was so real.
Manhattan Island is reduced to rubble in Independence Day by invading aliens entirely unimpressed with the human race. The history of New York City suggests a creation/destruction theme, what the Hindus would call a “Dance With Shiva.” Notice that the city only persecutes those who are trying to control it. To enjoy one’s life in New York City is to be a healthy associate of chaos.
In Escape From New York, the city becomes a true prison as opposed to the metaphoric prison it is for all residents at different times of the day. Snake Plissken is the liberator alive in all of us. He is a mercenary and a nomad who comes to Manhattan to meet the largest purpose, the greatest mission his life has yet known; he is suddenly a New Yorker.
For myself, Planet of the Apes is an excellent prediction and an informed biographical understanding of New York’s destiny. Eventually, New York City will sink and retake its rightful mythological title, “Atlantis.” It will be an effective climax to this perplexed movie called Civilization.