Thursday, 31 May 2012
A Series Of False Endings - Friday Flash
The emergency sirens were getting closer. The mob with their torches were raising their flambeaus in exultation, but saw them extinguished by the hovering helicopter looking for a place to land. Soldiers in fatigues were deploying and handing out blankets. The ticker tape parade was in full swing, though once the confetti landed on the concrete sidewalk, they were limply drenched by the hoses putting out the ground fires. The tribal warrior was taking the plaudits from his people as he rode by them in his chariot. The girl kissed the man who had rescued her death-defyingly, though he flinched as her lips irritated the cut on his lip. Meanwhile overhead pyrotechnics lit up the sky with celebratory swashes of colour. Their detonations blotted out the sound of horns from the flotilla of ships returning triumphantly to harbour. The graduates threw their mortar boards into the air, while on the parade ground the police received their medals with due pomp.
He shouldn't have been quite so churlish. Disowning his own film because the Studio rejected his dark ending. Their test screenings, focus groups and guinea pigs, people who had never made a film in their life, YouTube not withstanding, had plumped for something more upbeat. And so he had ceded his opus to Alan Smithee, the hardest working director in Hollywood back in the day.
Out of pique he had spliced together a reel of all the hackneyed endings to films he could find and now sat watching it on an endless loop. His own original celluloid having long since shrivelled into dust. He who had been charged with chronicling the world through his imagination, now left without a camera to record anything. Just a projector to relay this degraded version of it instead. Here in his self-enforced seclusion, now the last witness to the fate of mankind. Following the ravages of wars and genocides. The inundations of toxic waste, biological mutation and terrorist inspired nuclear contamination. Rising tidal waters and tsunamis. The assault of solar radiation through the Earth's denuded Maginot Line of ozone and magnetic fields.
The last man on earth, one of its most eloquent examiners, stripped of any means of self-expression. Of any audience remaining to report to. There were no focus groups now. He wound the spool of film around his neck and looped it over the curtain rail. Alan Smithee's final stand as he kicked the best supporting chair away from under him. The definitive ending that his magnum opus had demanded all those years ago, but which had been prettified by the Studio. If anything, he hadn't been dark enough in the original.
Note: Alan Smithee is the name given to the director of any film disowned by its actual director. This has now been replaced by the name Thomas Lee.
I'll be reading this story and two others at The Stoke Newington Literary festival this Sunday from 3pm. Venue The Baby Bathhouse, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, London, N16