Cinema Purgatorio CP05

Cinema Purgatorio #5 regular cover, art by Kevin O’Neill
Cinema Purgatorio #5 regular cover, art by Kevin O’Neill

Annotations for “The Time of Our Lives” 8 pages in Cinema Purgatorio #5

Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Kevin O’Neill

>Go to overall Cinema Purgatorio annotations index
Go to Moore-O’Neill Cinema Purgatorio stories annotations index

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In an unpublished interview, Moore describes this issue: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.

Maxwell the Magic Cat comic strip written and drawn by Alan Moore

A time theme permeates quite a bit of Moore’s work – from 2000 AD’s Future Shocks to Watchmen to Jerusalem. In Alan Moore’s Twisted Times (1987) Moore states:

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.

Page 1

panel 4

  • 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)

panel 5

  • 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.

Page 2

panel 1

  • “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.

panel 2

  • “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?”

panel 3

  • 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.

panel 5

  • 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.

panels 6-8

panel 8

  • Sweat sock” is a North American term for a typical athletic sock.

Page 3

panels 4-6

  • 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.)

panel 7

  • The furniture and curtains are now reflecting styles from the late 1950s or early 1960s.

panel 8

  • The man is showing signs of aging: getting somewhat heavier, wearing his coat unbuttoned.

Page 4 

panels 3-6

  • 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.

panel 7

  • Similar to the clock above, the characters assume the trope device is defective.

panel 8

  • Another film trope to indicate the passage of time is an ashtray getting full of cigarette butts.

Page 5

panel 1

  • The calendar year is up to 1970.

panel 3

  • The calendar is now up to 1973.

panel 5

panels 6-8

  • 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.

Page 6

panels 1-4

  • 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?

panel 5

  • Again, the stairs flow left to right, the wrong direction – see P5,p5 above.

panels 6-8

Page 7

panels 1-5

  • 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.

panel 5

  • “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.

Page 8

panel 1

  • 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!

panel 2

  • The ad text is a mordant restatement of the main theme of this installment: our lives speed quickly towards death.

Panel 3

  • “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.

panel 4

  • 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).

>Go to Purgatorio Annotations Index
>Go to Cinema Purgatorio #5 index
>Go to Cinema Purgatorio #6 index
>Go to Cinema Purgatorio #6 Moore and O’Neill annotations

14 thoughts on “Cinema Purgatorio CP05

  1. This was another excellent issue across the board, with Moore and O’Neill’s segment standing out (as it usually does). A couple notes:

    The reference to Orson Welles’s role in ‘Citizen Kane’ (page 1, panel 5) is quite pertinent to this issue’s focus on the passing of time. In one of the film’s most well-known sequences, Kane’s marriage is shown crumbling through a montage of dinner sequences, edited so that they almost appear to form one conversation. The topic remains the same (Kane spending too much time working), but their costumes change, the years pass and the married couple grow cold to one another (

    I also found Moore’s use of compressed time reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman’s ‘Synecdoche New York’, which similarly shows the fleeting nature of time. The film is from the perspective of a self-obsessed character who goes from scene to scene without noticing that hours, months or years have passed. In the opening breakfast sequence, if one looks at details on the calendar and newspaper it becomes apparent that weeks are passing. Kaufman is also parodying cinema’s reliance on cliche ways of showing the passage of time – but Moore condenses this to 6-8 pages, rather than 2 hours.


    1. I love Synecdoche New York (well, any of Kaufman’s movies, but Synecdoche especially)! You’re right, there are a lot of parallels between that film and this story regarding the passage of time!

      It’s been years since I’ve watched that or thought of it, thanks for the reminder. The next time I feel like being both fascinated and depressed I’ll have to give it another watch haha.


  2. I finally got my copy today, and all I can say is: “it’s about TIME!”

    This one made me sick to my stomach, not because of the life-passes-by-in-the-blink-of-an-eye thing (and not because I’ve always found picket fence sitcoms to be creepy as shit), but because of the confusion tangled with loneliness at the end. So sad.

    Great annotations as usual! Haha “American International Pictures” – that is funny. Very interesting point about the stairs going right-to-left being the “wrong direction.” And that Citizen Kane clip is great!

    And good catch with the wedding ring situation. I don’t know who this Richard guy is, but he sounds like a Dick haha.

    Our protagonist looks at her hands at the beginning and then declares that she somehow knows that she is not dreaming. I wasn’t sure how viewing one’s own hands would imply that one wasn’t dreaming, but then I thought that it might not be her hands that clue her in to this. In the third panel where she actually says (thinks?), “So. So this isn’t a dream,” she’s looking at the “Cinema Purgatorio” sign. Supposedly it is almost impossible, or at least very difficult/rare, for a person to read words while dreaming. It could be that she realizes that she can read the sign, and is therefore not dreaming?

    The manager’s Hitler-style mustache makes another prominent appearance at the beginning, which made me think that maybe this is just an indication that he is “from” some time period prior to World War II? I believe that this was just a regular style of mustache until Hitler came along and ruined it for everyone (although that didn’t stop Michael Jordan from sporting one a few years back haha

    No offense to the poor usher here, but the term “with a bad leg” makes me laugh any time I hear it because of that hilarious Alan Moore/Stewart Lee conversation for Chain Reaction a few years back ( (This connection was really just an excuse to plug that, but you have to admit that page 1, panel 5 does include the words “bad leg!”).


    1. That’s her character trait! Shut up!

      Looking at your hands is supposed to be a lucid dreaming technique, and a general method to know when you’re dreaming. I’ve heard of it before but I dunno where it originates. Might be something Alan knows more about. She checks them again at the end, before “definitely not a dream”.

      You’re right about the tache, nobody would have one of those post-Hitler. I’ve half an idea he is Hitler, though that’s not how Kevin would usually draw him, perhaps he’s Hitler on his day off, Hitler if he managed a cinema.

      The bit at the beginning about how confident the staff were of seeing her. It’s inevitable, she doesn’t come to the cinema out of choice.

      I wonder about “she drove them all away” (including Richard). Is that a daughter, maybe? Our protagonist had a daughter who she sees as ruining her relationships with men? Of course some women have very bad, ill-advised relationships with, and relations toward, men. Maybe her daughter was right. Domestic disaster is one of the themes in Purga. As is failed love, or love gone wrong, done wrongly.

      We can also tell from our unwilling cineaste’s hands, that she’s quite old. The adverts in the cinema, for death and infirmity, I think are about that, as is the theme of time zooming by.

      Actually since we’ve had 5 issues, and the central point of this comic is “Who is this woman and why is she at that awful cinema watching those weird films?”, I think we deserve a bit more exposition by now. Fill us in, Alan! The films are creepy and usually pretty great, but my curiosity has been hooked now, I want to know what’s going on! Enough dim, smoky insinuation, turn on the house lights!


      1. Haha yeah that “bad leg” character trait really fleshes out the usher as a fully formed, two-dimensional character. Stan Lee would be proud.


  3. For page 6, the heights of the mysterious children are clearly appearing from nowhere. The 2’4″ in panel 3 isn’t in panel 2, and in the first panel there are no markings at all.

    What’s also weird is that the markings are appearing during the 1950s, while it’s 1973 downstairs! Get out of the house!

    On the last page, the characters on the left are kissing and looks like they’re deliberately falling down toward the seats. The bloke on the right looks like he’s dropped dead! The middle two, at the front, are smoking obliviously. Nobody at this cinema pays much attention to their fellow patrons.

    I was thinking the usherette may be some reference to Asmodeus, but maybe she’s just a tribute to Stan Lee. The “bad leg” comes from an interview from Alan with Stan’s grandson, Stewart.


    1. You make a good point.

      Regarding the Lee family, I think it’s important to note that no matter how funny Stewart is, or how “iconic” Stan is, it will always be Bruce who is the cool one!


  4. Interesting that this movie couple visually reminds me of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn more than any other movie couple,
    (Bringing Up Baby) (The Philadelphia Story) especially the man’s dialogue,
    Although Grant and Hepburn were more late thirties to early forties.
    I wonder if that was intentional on Moore & O’Neill’s part?


  5. Another noticification:

    “We’re all in a hurry to get to Abraham’s Funeral Care, not far from this cinema!”

    In the film, the stars were in quite a hurry to get to their funeral. And for our poor protagonist woman in the meta-story, perhaps Funeral Care isn’t too far from the Cinema… in the past direction.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The couple in this story resemble Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, and their flirty banter is reminiscent of the screwball comedy genre.


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