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David Denby's article in the New Yorker addresses the fact that movies of today junk the chronological narrative of the past to create a "mashup" of stories, jumping from past to future in a seamless transition. What's onscreen is not necessarily the present of the movie anymore. The opening scene, as is the case with Memento, could be, in reality, the last of the story.

Personally, these type of movies have always either kept my attention or frustrated me to no end. One of my favorites, Mullholland Drive, has a long opening dream sequence that contains clues as to what is going to happen. What we believe is happening, and are seeing onscreen, isn't. David Lynch paces the moviestraightforwardly , or so we are lead to believe. Maybe that's why this movie resonates so well with me. The time traveling that takes place fools the viewer in an already intriguing plot.

All these movies draw on a sophistication about cinema that is now almost universal. We know that a film is not a piece of life; we know that it is something made. And we’re used to being shoved around in time—we may even be doing some of the shoving ourselves. Twenty-five years ago, the videotape transfer of a film sustained the notion of a movie as a continuous track: you could run it forward or backward, but the film was “printed” on magnetic tape, and you remained on the track. Digital information, on the other hand, can be infinitely manipulated; you can jump from one place to another or cut the movie into pieces. At home, kids create “mashups”—chopping sections out of a feature film, mixing the excerpts with their own material, and posting the result on the Web as a madcap original creation. The danger of instant editing, of course, is not just disordered time sequences but glibness. Some of the big Hollywood action films move so quickly that they eliminate the most rudimentary emotional attachment to the material. It would be terrible if computer editing wiped out the proper emotional resistance to making a cut—the lingering grave affection for a face, a landscape, an interior, even the resonance of an empty space.

Denby warns that pace is what is needed in movies like this. Pacing and proper editing have great rewards but also a treacherous downfall. His example, the Academy Award nominee Babel, fails at this. It undermines the story in the way that the filmmakers, GuillermoArriaga and Alejandro González Iñárritu, used the narrative to tell it.

...part of the disconnection that the movie presents as a universal fact of our world is produced by the odd way it is put together. And, once one notices the inorganic structuring of the material, and the hostile tease of the editing, one begins to wonder if the conjunction of so many mishapsisn’t a kind of abuse of the freedom that’s normally granted to fiction.


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