Teen Classic Triple Bill…Kinda
“Rebel Without a Cause” on TCM last night. Four hours before that, I was watching Caligula. I will not be talking about fucking Caligula.
The most memorable if not haunting scene in this James Dean vehicle happens the first time the kids visit the observatory. For some reason, these too-cool-for-school kids wanted some geeky presentation about stars. We get a banal delivery about constellations and their connection to the Classics, and all of a sudden the benevolent older voice talks about a black hole. And an explosion that rocks those young minds with fear.
I suppose adults can’t lie to their kids about the war (one of the rebels compares the observatory security guard to an SS officer. These kids must have been nine years old or younger when all that shit happened), about black holes and that anything outside their perfect American neighbourhoods is a volatile universe waiting to devour them. But as the kids like Jimmy (how many victory laps is he on?), Judy (Natalie Wood), John (Sal Mineo) and Good (Dennis Hopper) know these facts they become such fatalist creatures, knifing each other, participating in death races, toting guns.
The whole movie in general has a haste makes waste tone to it that’s as melodramatically effective as when Shakespeare did it (although less eloquent, of course). The adults slightly understand because these teenagers aren’t the first generation of teenagers. And their “honour code” sounds so stupid, right? But again, there’s this urgency. In one sense, that they should do what’s right and honourable, and that they should always fight back when someone else calls them chicken. In the other sense of urgency, that the older generation should be guarded and take care of their young before they hurt themselves and each other. Leading to tragic results.
After “Rebel Without a Cause” I saw “Giant,” which was ok until my cable provider sledgehammered me in the middle of the movie. Thanks, Rogers.