Scenes from the Films of Konkowsky



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Konkowsky shovels until droplets of sweat fly from his whiskers, until the teeth of the fire crash through the houses on Strandvägen. As the flames leap his barrier of dirt and roses, Konkowsky dashes down into the vault. Throwing the shovel aside, he grabs an armful of film reels — but no, his home is melting, raining down around him; he must retreat back into the vault, must crawl beneath the heat and smoke, and limp-crawling now, his films still crooked in one arm, he swings the enormous door shut behind him; yet even here the hot air pushes in, in on his face, in and in, pressing and pressing, until a final mad and heat-maddened inspiration seizes him: laughing that laugh of his that knows no language and no limit, Konkowsky heaves open the vault door so the flames may enjoy access to his life’s work: yes, picking up the garden spade, and, the sweat pouring from his beard, shoveling cans of film into the fire like some maniacal engineer on a train to Hell.

For film is a train, its windows fleeting by, each an image filled with color, framed off from the next; and a train is a film, the strip of colored landscape seen from behind one of those train windows, the world hemmed in, squared off, encapsulated in an arbitrary border, which is to say the world transformed into a film of the world. Angle, reverse angle: either way you look at it, a film is a train and a train is a film.

The frames in a film are railroad ties, the tines of a zipper, stitches sewn in injured flesh; and the images in a film are cars on a rainy highway, flagstones on a garden path, lilies floating downstream, their upturned faces reflecting moonlight and the water reflecting nothing, zero, black: black as the night cut by a searchlight, a searchlight announcing, for example, the premiere of a film; a searchlight which cuts the sky and cuts a film from the sky, from the smog, from the pigeons; a searchlight which, shined down instead on the street, cuts a film from the city, from asphalt and concrete, brick and mortar, flesh and cloth, and the people lining up to see a film become actors in another film of whose existence they remain oblivious.

For film is a train and a train is a film. Run a length of movie film through your hands, long and long and narrow like the path of a human life: a train is a film, the frames of a film, the colors in the frames of a film, the empty images in the frames of a film by Konkowsky, a train braking on the edge of town, a train pulling into a station, the film flapping in the projector, a train stopping, a film ending, a man dying.

So now Konkowsky’s films do not exist. Do not exist, at least, as long colored strips of cellulose acetate rolled up in disc-shaped aluminum cans.

But though a train may break down, wear out, derail, explode, may meet a thousand fates, nothing can destroy the memory of the places it has been; though a book may be burned, nothing can burn its contents out of the mind of the reader; and though a film may rot, may mold, may crack into a hundred pieces, may disintegrate into a million particles of dust, may incinerate into a trillion atoms, its images, once created, once communicated, can never be effaced. For just a train is where it takes you, just as a book is what is in it, so a film is whatever the viewer uses it to create.

I have taken the long way to say that Konkowsky’s films still exist. To say that Konkowsky’s films were not destroyed in the Great Fire of Stockholm. I see him, shovel in hand, cans of film in shovel, shovel in fire, sweat dripping from beard, laughing that laugh of his that knew no language, no limit, no stopping, no end, laughing because he knew that the only thing going up in smoke was a sixty-two-yearold film director who stood five-foot-three in his boots and weighed one hundred and eighty pounds without them.

Konkowsky was a spinner, spinning threads from the colors of all he saw; and he was a weaver, looming the threads into a bolt of fabric thirty-five millimeters wide and as long as his life; and he wrapped his fabric around him and around him until it was a shawl, a veil, a jacket, a straitjacket, a coat-of-many-colors, a mummy’s bandage; a bandage that at first protected his skin, then stuck to his skin, could not be removed from his skin, could not be distinguished from his skin, a bandage that grew into his flesh as his flesh grew into the bandage, until warp and woof were cell and cell; and when finally this bandage, this bandage wrapped so tightly, engrafted so deeply, when finally this bandage of film was peeled away and borne aloft by fire, Konkowsky had become the bandage and nothing of him remained inside the bandage: ascending on an updraft, Konkowsky reached down, took hold the last scrap of bandage, of fabric, of film, and pulled the last scrap up after him.



Go to the Instant Konkowsky pages



Appeared in different form in Boulevard


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