Reading Laura Mulvey’s Late Style Essay on Vertigo in the Light of Covid-19


Reading Laura Mulvey’s Late Style Essay on Vertigo in the Light of Covid-19


She says that film is death

in its each frame, moving

life into motion by light

so artifice plays on reality,

arousing automatons,

those herky-jerky objects

we desire to own, infuse


with fake breath, because

to dominate the unreal

is what only gods, artists,

do. In Vertigo Madelaine

is memory, crossed twice,

a favourite bridge, she’s

ordinary spouse refused,


credit card declined, turned

as in Pygmalion into goddess;

she falls doubly, is a double

image and the pain is fetishes

are never again what they once

were in the possessing hand;

you play, let go, released


the toy breaks on the rocks

below. Freud, Adorno, the one

who died at the Swiss border

and loved unpacking books,

Benjamin, the master theorist

of machinations and creation;

the late style is, Deleuze or Said


both knew, an outcropping

of what’s placed behind us,

the time before the mastery;

the backdrop replacing actual

smashing waves with fashion;

how we make up and dress

plain Mom to become Marilyn


Monroe. One blonde icon falls

into another one, Russian dolls

as German ghosts in American

films as desired by French eyes;

there’s no meprise only error

and decline. In the silent streets

of London now no Ripper stalks,


no Hitchcock strangler taking

lives; the obsession is ours

with disease, invisible so pictured

in disguise as national trauma,

the dream of attacked glories

remembered as any sex sin is;

not since the war... rationing,


sacrifice, Nightingales... images

respliced to fit a new purpose,

until we almost find it beautiful,

this still distant strange alien

world we’re woven back into -

reborn into the uncanny made

definition of sci-fi terror –


the 1950s when Touch of Evil

and all the saucer flicks appeared;

invasions, panic, fear, control -

only icy command, medical poise

will save us from our own urge

to lean far from our towers, girls

flung to fanciful destructions


by going out with someone twice

our age or more than our families;

wash hands, avoid touch, reality

kills. In seclusion, we’re reborn

as robots that can survive on air,

eat only news. We’re movies,

silent, stilled, with the projector


temporarily broken, as is society.


2 April, 2020



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