And yet. The sudden surge of light in darkness is as potent as a mugger or a stranger with a story. Holding on, and convincing us that the first rough seizure was justified--that has always been less common. He was born in to a mother who haunted theaters to avoid landlords looking for the rent. By the late s, Gates begins his education sentimental as well as filmic at the hands of Clare Swann, an earthy, brilliant, belligerent cineaste who co-owns a basement theater in Los Angeles for which she writes passionate program notes. Clare is the most plausible and interesting character in the book, which makes it harder to understand why she feels love or respect for the unchangingly callow and closed Gates.
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The images and the messages slip through and take hold deeper. Flicker is a thriller, a history of film with a conspiracy theory thrown in and a cautionary tale about the power of movies. The Classic is run by Clare Swann and Sharkey, who handles the antiquated movie projector.
Jonathan begins an affair with Clare, who is a trenchant film critic. The film leaves them uneasy, feeling unclean. Jonathan becomes an expert on Castle, tracking down his films and finding the few people who knew him. Thanks to him, the films find a cult audience. In his search for the elusive Castle, Jonathan keeps coming across the Orphans of the Storm, a powerful sect.
Descended from the Cathars, the sect sees the body as a living hell and advocates not bringing children into the world, not by killing but turning people off sex. This puts them in direct opposition to the Catholic church, which encourages procreation. In the Middle Ages, the Cathars were hunted down by the Church and went into hiding.
The modern Orphans of the Storm has partly emerged from the shadows and is known for taking care of abandoned children. However, its real power has never been acknowledged.
Its influence is far-reaching—having infiltrated politics, entertainment and everything else, the Orphans spread their creed, always behind the scenes. The young Orphans are taught film-making and how to insert images under the actual film—the flicker—that has a subliminal effect. Castle is an Orphan but fell out of favour because of his independence.
Meanwhile, Clare becomes a respected film critic and lives in New York. The theatre is taken over by Sharkey, who is showing mostly low-grade films, with lots of violence and sex. Like the films of Arthur Dunkle, an year-old who makes graphically violent films. Jonathan hates the films but can see the skill with which they had been made.
To him, they signal the loss of taste, of real storytelling. Not surprisingly, Dunkle is one of the Orphans. Jonathan, still on the trail of Castle, uses the excuse of interviewing him to get into the orphanage in LA.
But the more he learns, he gets deeper he gets. Until he takes one step too far. I read Flicker in the early s and thought it was brilliant. This year, I decided to reread some of these books and see whether I felt the same about them.
It was an interesting experience. There was a lot I had forgotten about it. I remembered Jonathan, Claire a wonderful creation , the Classic, the inserting of images and the twist in the tale but everything else felt new. But reading it now, I found it much more disturbing and bleaker. This is not a book that you will forget, and believe me, you will never see a film in quite the same way again.
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Not-So-Special Effects : FLICKER, By Theodore Roszak (Summit Books: $19.95; 544 pp.)
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Flicker : A Novel
Flicker is a novel by Theodore Roszak published in The novel covers approximately 15—20 years of the life of film scholar Jonathan Gates, whose academic investigations draw him into the shadowy world of esoteric conspiracy that underlies the work of fictional B-movie director Max Castle. Director Darren Aronofsky 's name has long been associated with a possible film adaptation. Jonathan Gates is a student at UCLA in the early s, where he begins his love affair with film at The Classic, a rundown independent movie theatre. He begins an affair with the theatre's owner Clarissa "Clare" Swann, who tutors him extensively in the study of film history over the course of their relationship. It is through Clare's pursuit of classic films to show at the theater that Gates stumbles upon the work of Max Castle, a German film director whose work uses subliminal imagery and unorthodox symbolism to achieve a powerful effect over the viewer.