In Morning Patrol (1987) postmodern Greek filmmaker Nikos Nikolaidis expresses his concern for the future of cinema and spectatorship. The film is a pastiche of science fiction and film noir, while the dialogue of the film is a pastiche of excerpts from novels that have been adapted into films, as for instance Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier, 1938 – Alfred Hitchcock, 1940) and The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler, 1939 – Howard Hawks, 1946).
Morning Patrol takes place in a post-apocalyptic environment where the protagonist wanders around in an empty city, which is patrolled by authoritative squads. She only has filmic memories which she mistakes for her own recollections. For instance, she narrates the Manderley memories of the new Mrs de Winter in Rebecca as if they were hers.
The filmmaker’s concern for the forthcoming threat and ‘death’ of cinema, but also the threat for the life of the protagonist, is stressed through her ‘conversation’ with older films. While hiding in an abandoned house, the protagonist watches The Big Combo (Joseph A. Lewis, 1955), and The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) on the TV screen, which films are presented as if they were one, she picks up the phone and dials a number. At the same time, the on-screen figure of Humphrey Bogart picks up the phone, and she hangs up. Since she has no personal memories, she has no one to call. Yet, she seems to remember Bogart from his films, and she appears to intend to call him, but is then scared to say anything on the phone.
Fear for the dissolution of cinema and the future of film spectatorship is also witnessed in a scene where the protagonist hides in an empty cinema playing Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946). The cinema, a locale with a paramount role in Nikolaidis’s work, becomes a trap, and the protagonist is attacked. After the attack the film cuts to the projection room, where Gilda is still heard playing as the film reel unfolds and piles up. The protagonist emerges from the celluloid as if (re)born. The self-reflexive nature of the film is highlighted in this scene, since the spectators witness Nikolaidis’s product – the protagonist and the film itself – emerging from primal matter. Therefore, in this film Nikolaidis shows his concern for the future of cinema through nostalgia for classical cinema, and renders Morning Patrol essentially a film about film.
Cinephilia as Escapism and Rebirth
In an entirely welcome coincidence, we've both posted on Greek films about films. I'll leave it to scholars more well-informed about contemporary Greek politics (check out Alex Lykidis' essay "Crisis of sovereignty in recent Greek cinema (2015)," for one) to unpack the resonant connections. But the backdrop of authoritative power structures in both 'Morning Patrol' and 'Dogtooth' clearly make allegorical reference to national politics as well as to cinematic spectatorship. Though I don't see either nostalgia or film's future (or the lack thereof) as informing 'Dogtooth' to the extent that you find it central to this film's concerns, and interestingly the rebirth that this sequence stages suggests that Nikolaidis' post-apocalyptic vision may be more optimistic than the ambiguous note on which 'Dogtooth' ends. Again, I'll leave it up to those who know better to parse whether these films' respective releases in 1987 versus 2009 hold allegorical significance on that count. But certainly it's illuminating to see how both filmmakers invoke associations of Hollywood with escapism to imagine the rebirth of their female protagonists.
what cinema is dying?
Thank you for raising this very interesting film! I wonder to what extent classical Hollywood is being fetishised here. Why does MORNING PATROL focus primarily on such a distinct, canonised body of film to speak for cinema proper?
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