or how Class Consciousness = awakening from the denial of Addiction
In 1992 Paul Schrader made a film that slyly equates drug addiction with Yuppie Materialsm. Our first contact in this world is the Dealer; initially we are lightly guided by Willem Dafoe's John LaTour, entering into a criminal world. And what makes LIGHT SLEEPER so rewarding is how the points of identification are fluid; they splinter, and then shift back and forth. The absurd and pathetic addicts we experience initally seem so contrapuntal to LaTour's seller...then as the film progresses, particularly when Marianne relapses, the cloud of our own dreamlike state is lifted and we see we are all like the buyers, who are also, actually, like the sellers...delusioned and sickened by our own attachments, whether it be to economic class or to drugs.
Our protagonist, John LaTour, has a gently disturbed energy. He deals drugs...at night. Though most of the people he sells to are also variations of light sleepers (most are fairly cracked out on uppers and /or blinded by addiction), Dafoe is the haunted voyeur among their strange land, and it seems to keep him up at night. Revisiting VERTIGO's Scottie Ferguson, LaTour is cued on pause on between a past failed love and the fear of destitution that the future may hold. As his profession mandates, we witness his evening drudgery; stuck on a restless loop of enabling and catering to the sick and suffering. He also runs circles on a parallel track; keeping his own past active addiction at bay and trying to save select others from the depths of addiction that imploded his old fling with love Marianne (Dana Delaney.)
LaTour is also a non psychotic urban everyman reworking of Travis Bickle , having achieved socially acceptable yuppie status via socially acceptable illegal drug sales to the Elite. John has made the vertical climb from user (consumer) to seller( producer) and so he treads lightly. He is easily disturbed, easily roused, and he is tiptoing around people (addicts and yuppies--both blind to their compulsive attachments and to the powerless moral descent it has caused.) LaTour tiptoes as to not awaken...how can a drug dealer maintain his purpose if the addicted get clean and recover?
The same question, a key aspect of the sort of brainwashing that occurs in a disease of the brain like addiction, can be translated over to a more Marxist sensibility. The meaning of the dispossessed can be extended to those who are trapped by the myths that kept yuppies on a hamster wheel of class escalation.
A perfect signification of this waking up from the light veil of sleep occurs in the scene when both LaTour and the viewer learns Marianne has relapsed.
In every previous scene, Marianne has appeared more dressed down, plain, and, well, less glamourous and clearly less wealthy than the other characters. She's been seen in a cafeteria, in a hospital, on the street in the rain. Several of LaTour's customers are caught on the way down; we see ragged and tweaked out characters wearing stained clothes in messy penthouses. They are caught in a moment in between classes: perched in sickness, perhaps about to lose all the shiny wealth they've attained. But when we see Marianne, coked up and wrecked at Tis' (Victor Garber) opulent pad, she is newly housed in a rich frame; housed in a rich apartment and associating with the uber rich elite, and dressed in a silver satin nightie. What makes Schrader's frame so powerful is how he conveys the overlay of images in a single frame; from the movement of LaTour's character to lightly sleeping accomplice to a damaged victim who awakens to the crime and harm around him at the very moment his own best efforts have destroyed all he loves. This overlay of representations of love (once innocent Marianne) with representations of sickness and immorality (active drug addiction; the controlling taint of economic greed.) is a subtle yet combustible formalist coup.
John LaTour, once quietly philosophizing and walking from penthouse to penthouse, set to a jazzy score, is now truly "Wandering around in the night...consumed by fire."
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- acousmetre: political voice of KINGS SPEECH
- HE, HE, HE and HE dances.
- He Dances TO her.
- He finds dancing easy and stopping hard.
- HE dances.
- she walks. she dances.
- she dances. she fights. she walks. she lays. s...
- she walks. she fights. she kills. she rides.
- she dances.
- she walks. she runs.
- on being a LIGHT SLEEPER
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