September 25, 2003
| September 25, 2003
Quite a few of the great films are about movies — what it means to make one or view one. Only one, as far as I know, is actually about film itself. The literal material of which movies consist — the thin strips of fragile stock on which all the images, characters, and dialogue reside. Decasia chronicles the decay of early silver nitrate footage by simply presenting 67 minutes of it, with no commentary, no context, and no attempt at continuity. In doing so, experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison has demonstrated more effectively than any polemic on the subject could exactly what film means to us.
The gradual breakdown of the footage manifests itself as odd blurs, blank spaces and defects in the film: it doesn’t so much make the images meaningless or illegible as it constructs a new image out of the original and its disintegration. What we see more frequently than anything else are images flickering into view for a moment in the center of the frame and then dissolving into meaninglessness once more. The strange thing is how I strained to make sense out of the maelstrom, how I felt triumphant whenever I could identify an emerging object or person. The fleeting snatches of stories and scenes I could catch –the remnants of a make believe — seemed to be a reality impinged upon by the decay; which was only the manifestation of what the images really were: information preserved on a specific medium.
Every shot in the film is striking and unique. How could they not be, when the frames we see have never been seen before and never will again? Because the film decomposes constantly, probably even as Morrison was running it through the projector. The footage he used probably doesn’t exist anymore in any corporeal state other than what we can see of it in Decasia. There is a short shot of the ultimate American icon — the cowboy and his beloved in each others arms, silhouetted against the horizon — being repeatedly swallowed and spit back up by the decomposition until they finally disappear behind it. The breaking up of the film and distortion of the images does not seem to be a natural process, but the desecration of a final resting place for dreams.
Decasia is both one of the most beautiful and most horrifying movies I have ever seen. Every image, no matter how mundane, is transformed by its own destruction into something ungodly, unearthly, and lovely. Each individual aspect of the frame seems almost to float, disconnected, hovering independent from the larger image. Everything, people, objects, background, moves in an odd dream-like waltz. The film dances as it melts and burns.
At the same time, the film is unbelievably unsettling and painful. The film is not decaying, it is dying. And with it, the people preserved in it die a more final death than the one they already suffered. It is one of our most central and comforting beliefs that art is eternal. By leaving behind an accomplishment to stand as a memorial, or even so simple a marker as a photograph, we seek to gain immortality for ourselves. Morrison has shown us that even metaphorical immortality is impossible, and that art and dreams are just as easily destroyed as the bodies and lives they represent. The decay of the images is, in some way, our death too, and one by one it seems we are all becoming ghosts.
Archived article by Erica Stein
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September 26, 2003
Six down, who’s next? While much of the east coast shudders in the wake of the tumultuous Hurricane Isabel, local women’s volleyball teams have also found themselves victim to a seemingly unstoppable destructive force. The only difference is, the Red shows no signs of letting up. Having swept through both the Seton Hall Spikefest and the Albany Challenge with a near-perfect record of 6-1, the volleyball team is looking to complete a sparkling preseason with three more victories this weekend against Western New York teams. The Red hopes to build on its five-game win streak by compiling another weekend winning record before heading into Ivy League play, yet business still needs to be taken care of. Tonight’s target: Canisius, followed by Fairleigh Dickinson and Niagara tomorrow. “Overall, I think our team is pretty solid,” sophomore middle blocker Heather Young said. “Since we have been winning we feel a little added pressure to keep winning, but I think our mentality hasn’t changed. We are still going to work hard.” The Red has thus far relied on key contributions from both starters and bench players alike. One of the biggest surprises of the season continues to be freshman standout Elizabeth Bishop, who was named tournament MVP at the Albany Challenge and Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the second straight week. Bishop has solidified an already potent Red offense, averaging 4.50 kills, 3.42 digs and 0.75 blocks per game last weekend in addition to notching her fifth double-double effort of the season against Long Island. The freshman currently leads all Red players in kills per game, showing remarkable maturity both on and off the court. “It feels really great to be honored [by the Ivy League],” Bishop stated. “But I don’t really think about things like that. I just go out, play hard and focus on taking things one game at a time.” Yet even with its impressive offensive statistics, the Red would not be much of a team if it weren’t for its unyielding defense. The veteran corps, led by seniors Ashely Stover and Jamie Lugo, has out-blocked opponents 91-39 in seven games thus far (a team average of 3.91 blocks per game). Moreover, on the rare occasion that a ball does get through this pair of blocking studs, sophomore libero Kelly Kramer is almost always there to dig an opponent’s attack, averaging 4.1 digs per game herself. As a result, the Red puts out one of the most balanced squads on the court game in and game out, a balance that will undoubtedly serve the team well in tonight’s match against Metro Atlantic competitor Canisius. The Golden Griffins (6-8) bring home-court advantage and a little extra confidence into their match up with the Red, having compiled a 2-1 record last weekend at the Holy Cross tournament with sweeps against La Salle and Colgate. “Canisius is a scrappy team that is efficient at getting balls in the air,” Young noted. “It’s going to be our responsibility to finish off the plays against them.” Fairleigh Dickinson (2-13) and Niagara (2-11) are not expected to pose quite the challenge of Canisius, the teams having combined for a 4-24 record at this point in the season. Both the Knights and the Eagles are trying to put together winning records after consecutive losing seasons in the Northeast and Metro Atlantic Conferences, respectively. Regardless, the teams will still be a welcome tune-up for the Red, as the squad readies itself for the beginning of Ivy League competition next week. “We’re all getting really excited for Ivy League play,” Bishop said. “We’re going to stay focused through this last pre-season weekend, but we’ve definitely been looking forward to [Ivy League competition] for a while.” All eyes will also be on senior Debbie Quibell this weekend, as she is only 62 kills away from surpassing Robin Moore ’01 on the all-time career kills list. Furthermore, Quibell needs only 10 digs to make Cornell history as the first women’s volleyball player to record both 1,000 kills and digs in a career. Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
September 26, 2003
It’s time to get down to business, to see how things will turn out this season. In the cross country teams’ first weekend of action two weeks ago against Army, the teams ran against a single opponent on their home course, and while the Cadets offered the first real competition either of the teams saw, they didn’t give the Red much of a benchmark. “It’s not a true test of where we are,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson. After all, the teams have no idea of whether Army is the best team in the country, or the worst, or somewhere in between. At the Iona Meet of Champions tomorrow in Van Cortlandt Park, the Cornell teams will get a better picture of where they are. “When you get in a bigger meet against a lot of teams, the results mean something,” noted Johnson. Both the men’s and women’s teams welcome the challenge. “I’m looking forward to it,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. The meet offers a chance to see how far his team has come, Duesing noted, since the last meet and since the past season. Johnson agreed. “I’m really looking forward to the meet, and I’m sure the guys are too,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ll really find out where we are.” “This coming race, there are going to be 21 teams,” said Duesing, “and there are going to be a lot more people running.” The women’s race will include No. 8 Villanova, along with other national powers like Auburn and Pittsburgh. Additionally, six of the eight Heps schools will be represented there. “It will be nice to measure ourselves against those teams,” said Duesing about Villanova, Auburn, and Pittsburgh. The meet, Duesing explained, does not mean a whole lot to the final results in the Heptagonal conference. “I’m not too worried about the Heps schools,” he said, noting that where the Red stacks up now matters very little. That’s not to say that the presence of the Ivies means little to the meet, though. “It really contributes to the quality of the meet,” Duesing concluded. “It makes for some excellent competition.” Seniors Jessica Parrott and Kinsy Miller and junior Sarah Coseo will all return this to action this weekend for the Red, adding to an already tough varsity squad. The three all sat out against Army. “We’re going to be a stronger team than we were two weeks ago,” said Duesing. The Red will benefit from the addition of the upperclassmen and two more weeks of training, he noted. “It takes a while for what you’re doing to take effect,” explained Duesing about the training. “It’s a cumulative effect. The summer is so important; it’s critical. But now it’s the summer plus.” With the Iona meet, the team looks to put in the best possible effort and show some improvement from previous weeks. If it accomplishes those two things, the standings should take care of themselves. “What you want from each meet is to be a step forward,” said Duesing. “You [typically] see some real growth and improvement in the second meet.” At this point in the season, the important part is not the finish order. “It’s still very early,” Duesing noted, and there are a lot of things that still have to happen.” In the great scheme of things, Iona is just one more step in the journey. “The last thing you want to do is to look at this meet as a determinant,” concluded Duesing. An individual race only indicates where a runner is on that particular day, and so far, the women’s team is looking good. “I really could not be more pleased with the attitude [the runners] are coming to practice with, and the work that they’re putting in while they’re there,” said Duesing. Men’s Harriers On the men’s side, Johnson is equally impressed with his team’s work. “The last two weeks of training have gone really well for us,” said Johnson. “All indications are, we’re moving in the right direction.” Much like the women, the race offers the men an opportunity to run against some nationally-ranked competition. Five of the eight Heps schools will be in attendance, including top competitors Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton. Additionally, the home team, No. 8 Iona will be in competition. “Next year, we should be able to compete with teams like Iona,” said Johnson. This year, he said, “The most competition is really going to come from the Heps schools.” Right now, noted Johnson, the competition between the schools is pretty wide open. Iona, though, will offer a sort of first picture of the competition in the conference. “On Monday, we’ll really have a better idea of where we are,” said Johnson. The meet will give an idea of how far the team has come in the past few weeks. “I thought some of the freshmen ran very well, and I was really pleased with how the top guys ran,” said Johnson. The meet will be an opportunity for some of the runners on the team to step up, so the team can see how it stacks up. Johnson said the team’s runners will employ a few different strategies in the race. “The best way to run a race is to run very even overall,” said Johnson. But at the same time, he noted, in a big race it’s always bad to get buried in the back of the pack. Johnson said he wanted the freshmen, running in their first big college meet, to be a little cautious, to not get caught up in the race. The top runners, he said, would have a little more freedom. “It’s an early season meet,” he said, “so it should be used as a learning experience.” In the end, much like the women, Iona is just one more step for the men. “It’s nothing to get too excited about,” said Johnson. “Sometimes people put too much emphasis on the early season meets.” What really matters is what happens in November.Archived article by Matt James