“Instead of memory, there is a culture of permanent playback” in which Barbara Steele, Alexander Nevsky, D.W. Griffith, Zombie Holocaust and a hundred thousand other cinematic images flicker in and out of our consciousnesses. The Phantom Empire is an elegantly written, dreamy rumination on how we have absorbed motion pictures into our individual and collective psyches. At various levels, it is about the creation of the spectator, the way movies initiate us into society, and how time distorts when we see old actors in their youth and dead actors living on the screen.
At the same time author O’Brien relates nothing less than a condensed history of the cinema itself. “The screen,” he writes, “was a second sky, where what you saw was nothing compared to the anticipation of what you might at any moment witness: a shooting star, a spaceship, an apocalypse.” Hypnotic and thought provoking. LP
Hardback: 281 pages