Friday, July 17, 2009

Steampunk and Strangers on a Train

So, I've been on an Alfred Hitchcock binge lately, and, thanks to Netflix, I'm about a dozen movies into the entire process. I have to say, after seeing many of the portly fellow's films, that Strangers on a Train remains my favorite. There is something so enchanting about the anti-hero in that film, Bruno Anthony. Yes, he's a delusional sociopath, but he can be so charming, and he has a tie with lobsters emblazoned across it. He speaks French. He has a Great Dane. He wins the strongman contest at the carnival to get a kewpie doll for the lady. And he's a hoot at parties.

If you have not seen the movie, please, stop reading, go now and find it and watch it. It's deliciously funny, wonderfully suspenseful and smarter than most movies you will ever see. The focus on chance, on the impact that every meeting can have on your life, is a compelling theme. Farley Granger is wonderfully bland as the hero, Guy. The cinematography is gorgeous. The ending satisfies. And, oh, yes, there's the train.

The train becomes almost another character in the film. Our main characters meet on the train. Bruno is the dangerous stranger on the train in the film's title. The train figures singularly in most of the important plot developments in the film. It talks, it impacts, and it causes all of the action that occurs.

Which brings me to steampunk. You knew I would get there sooner or later. I love the gothic to Victorian nature of steampunk. The slightly skewed vision of the past and the present melded together. Steampunk objects are so lovely. If you have not seen any, head on over to the etsy website and type in steampunk, and prepare to be amazed. It covers a rather broad range of objects and views--everything from redesigned computer keyboards that have been altered to look like manual typewriters, to unusual vintage clothing (corsets, headdresses, footwear) that are part Dickensian and part new millenium, to some of the most gorgeous jewelry you will ever see.

The steam train epitomizes steampunk for me. Something about a time when people travelled so exclusively by train is both romantic and terrifying. I can't imagine not being able to hop in the car, or jump a plane, and reach my destination with the speed we have all become so accustomed to. I can't imagine actually meeting a stranger on a train, and talking to him long enough that it would impact my life on such a grand scale.

And the dark hilarity of Strangers on a Train also plays heavily into the underlying themes of steampunk. So much of what is created in the name of steampunk--outlandish goggles, wonderful writing instruments--has its feet planted firmly in humor, smart and dark humor. And the care used to create steampunk pieces, the precise and unbeliveable attention to detail, is akin to Hitchcock's precision in the creating of the film. A dark joy of minutae, if you will. Even with re-watching, re-looking at, you always find bits that you never noticed before.

So, Strangers on a Train has become, for me, more than a classic film. It's part of my inspiration, another spark that fires a necklace. And Hitchcock's creative legacy lives on.

I wonder what he would make of my entire idea!
imdb link to Strangers on a Train:

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