Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chicanonautica: Chasing the Invention of Morel Across the Sci-Fi/Magic Realism Border

La Bloga headquarters informed me that someone wanted me to review a recent film of Adolfo Bioy CasaresThe Invention of Morel. Not just a blurb-like mention, but a full review. This is the result of my efforts.

Since all kinds of chingaderas are happening on the writer front for me lately, it took me a while to get to it. Once I did, I figured I’d watch the film again. Having bookmarked it, I got back on Denver Open Media site, clicked on it, and got Error loading media: file not found. It also said, Upcoming Airings 11/19 9:31am on 56, whatever that may mean.

Here, you can try it yourself.

Besides what’s on that frozen screen about Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos, Filmoteca UNAM, Ollin Studio, and Kodak, I can’t find any more about the film online. It was a short subject rather than a feature film. And I liked it.

It was black and white, and silent. This emphasized the theme of freezing time -- and people -- in a recording by giving it the look and feel of an ancient artifact. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying to evoke the steampunk sci-fi subgenre, as well as revel in obsolete cinema technique. It’s also quite poetic, more magic realism than Hollywood.

I like silent films, the way everything is so different from the way things are now -- the past filtered through rickety gadgets, so alien. I fell in love with them while seeing them deconstructed on the Fractured Flickers TV show when I was a grade-schooler back in the Ninteen-Sixties. Politically conservative Jay Ward, not only created Rocky and Bullwinkle, but pioneered postmodernism.

There are also other film versions of The Invention of Morel, but somehow they don’t get mentioned by sci-fi movie historians. Maybe because some of them are rather abstract.

Bioy Casares first published the novella in 1940. Funny, the new silent movie had me thinking that it may have been much earlier. There’s an island, a mysterious invention like so many vintage science fiction tales -- but it also reminds me of New Wave stories that J.G. Ballard wrote decades later.

Time. It gets tricky.

The Invention of Morel straddles the border between science fiction and magic realism. Science fiction, despite its relationship with science, is considered to be lowbrow, or at least low class. Magic realism is highbrow stuff that Lit professors like. Magic realism is considered “better” -- even though there aren’t magic realism sections in bookstores.

Come to think of it, in my ten-year career as a bookstore clerk, not one customer ever came in asking for magic realism.

Could Bioy Casares and Borges be considered science fiction writers? Can Chicanos dare claim them as brothers?

Born-in-the-USA Latino writers still get packaged as something exotic. Oscar Zeta Acosta was once included in an anthology of Latin American writers -- I had mixed feelings about it, he belongs with the others, but he was an American, dammit!

What if a Latino wrote the Great American Novel?

Meanwhile, this Chicanonaut doesn’t care about all the borders that carve up the planet. I’d like to blast across these borders with my homies Adolfo and Jorge Luis in a rocket-propelled extreme transformer lowrider costume-built by a barrio mad scientist. That would make one helluva movie!

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