Annotations for “The Time of Our Lives” 8 pages in Cinema Purgatorio #5
Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Kevin O’Neill
Note: Some of this is obvious, but you never know who’s reading and what their exposure is. If there’s anything we missed or got wrong, let us know in comments.
General: An unnamed couple moves into a new home. Various cinematic time-fast-forward tropes age the couple to death.
In an unpublished interview, Moore describes this issue:
For my money, the most distressing episode yet was “The Time of Our Lives” in issue five, which wasn’t any kind of exposé of Cary Grant or Kate Hepburn, but which examined standard Hollywood passage-of-time devices in a genuinely upsetting and near-universal human context.
Moore (under the pen name Jill de Ray) touched on this issue’s theme in an early Maxwell the Magic Cat strip – published in 1984, and collected in Volume 3 of Acme Press’ Maxwell collections.
There are few things as intrinsically fascinating as time. […] I can remember the awe and delight accompanying any cinematic display of a flower speeded up, a gull slowed down or almost anything running backwards.
- The clocks allude to the theme of the passage of time.
- Continuing the theme of purgatory, “Rio Miserable” translates to “River of Sadness”, which would be Acheron in the underworld of Greek myth.
- The poster profile looks like American actor John Wayne who did three unconnected “Rio” movies: “Grande”, “Bravo” and “Lobo.” This could be a missing fourth. (Thanks Bob Heer)
- Note the engagement(?) ring on the narrator’s hand.
- “Orson Welles” was a prominent American filmmaker.
- “Citizen Hughes” conflates Welles’ film Citizen Kane and reclusive entrepreneur Howard Hughes (who bears some resemblance to William Randolph Hearst who Kane is somewhat based on.)
- Commenter Victor Rees points out that Welles and Citizen Kane are very pertinent to the film time-compression tropes that are this issue’s theme. In one of Kane’s most well-known sequences, the protagonist’s marriage is shown crumbling through a montage of dinner sequences, edited so that they almost appear to form one conversation. The costumes change, the years pass and the married couple grow cold to one another.
- “American Introspective Pictures” is a bit of a contradiction in terms. This is probably a riff on the real-world American International Pictures (whose name is also a bit self-contradictory).
- “The Time of Our Lives” is the name of a 2013 Australian TV show, though that makes no sense as a reference here. Moore and O’Neill do not appear to be referring to a specific movie, but more generally a commenting on time, especially the cliches films use to show the passage of time. This is perhaps a commentary on how shallowly “unbearably fast” films generally move. It is also in contrast to sitcoms (and superhero comics) where characters do not appear to age, and settings remain the same season after season.
- “Swiftsands” seems to refer to the sands of an hourglass slipping swiftly away.
- Panels 2 and 4 form a fixed-camera sequence. From one panel to the next the gate shows wear and tear.
- Note the time indication: “This is, what, late forties, something like that?”
- The couple are never named. Commenter Paul Evans suggests that they and their banter are reminiscent of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in screwball comedy films.
- First mention of Richard, apparently the (past?) love interest of Purgatorio‘s unnamed female protagonist and part of some kind of love triangle. It might not be a triangle, per se, if it turns out to be the protagonist talking about herself in the third person.
- These form a fixed-camera sequence. The tree changes seasons rapidly from summer to fall to winter.
This different seasons at the same location trope is the first of numerous cliche time-compression montage (or time passes montage or fast forward mechanic) film techniques employed/parodied by Moore and O’Neill in this issue.
- “Sweat sock” is a North American term for a typical athletic sock.
- These form a fixed-camera sequence. The clock jumps from 4:05 to 7:20 to 10:10 apparently during a single kiss.
This time-compression film trope is known as spinning clock hands. As films often do, Moore and O’Neill employ the time-compression montage tropes when characters are acting romantically (like a film cutting away to a montage during a sex scene.)
- The furniture and curtains are now reflecting styles from the late 1950s or early 1960s.
- The man is showing signs of aging: getting somewhat heavier, wearing his coat unbuttoned.
- These form a fixed-camera sequence. The calendar pages indicate time flying, again. The man and woman age visibly, with hair lightening and facial wrinkles appearing.
- This time-compression film trope is known as the exploding calendar.
- The year on the calendar is 1968.
- Similar to the clock above, the characters assume the trope device is defective.
- Another film trope to indicate the passage of time is an ashtray getting full of cigarette butts.
- The calendar year is up to 1970.
- The calendar is now up to 1973.
- In this panel, the characters go upwards to the left, which is the opposite of the direction the human eye reads. Some comics critics, including Art Spiegelman, suggest that this is generally wrong or improper. Perhaps Moore and O’Neil are employing this deliberately, sending their characters in the “wrong” direction to portray their decline.
- This fixed-camera sequence uses three time-compression tropes: the flowers wilt, the dog in the photo dies, and the setting outside the far window goes from night to day.
- This fixed-camera sequence uses three time-compression tropes:
– the furniture and drapery in the room change
– the doorway and walls go from pristine to worn
– dated height markings appear. These would generally be marking the height of a child or children, in contrast to woman’s statement in panel 1: “maybe it would have been different if we’d had children.”
Also, note an ambiguity only possible in comics: are the new markings actually appearing on the wall, or are they merely being revealed progressively by the placement of the word balloons?
- Again, the stairs flow left to right, the wrong direction – see P5,p5 above.
- These form a fixed-camera sequence.
- This fixed-camera sequence uses accumulating calendar pages piling higher to show the passage of time. This is similar to film tropes that show water filling a drowning pit. The dates advance from 1992 to 1996.
- “It’s not like it’s a horror story, or a fantasy.” This somewhat inverts something Moore said in a 2005 interview: “My experience of life is that it is not divided up into genres; it’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you’re lucky.”
- “Unbearably fast” describes the film cliches depicted above. And, of course, life itself.
- Panels 1, 3, 4, and 5 form a fixed-camera sequence.
- The patrons visible in silhouette at left and right gradually sink towards the floor, forming one last time-montage, this one in the theatre, not the film!
- The ad text is a mordant restatement of the main theme of this installment: our lives speed quickly towards death.
- “There’s something obvious that you’re ignoring yourself” apparently refers to the mounting evidence that you (Purgatorio‘s protagonist), yourself, are dead, and in purgatory.
- The hands repeat P1,p2. These are the second panel and the second to last panel of the story, so they perhaps show a palindrome, or repeating/cyclical narrative, in contrast to the linear progress (decline) portrayed in the film within the comic.
One subtle difference is visible in the hands here: the toning has a bare spot on the left ring finger. This may be a (wedding?) ring or an untanned area formerly covered by a ring. The difference may be a coloring error, as the hint of a ring appears on P1,p2.
This (marriage?) may be one of the things the protagonist is ignoring (see previous panel).