Saturday, September 25, 2010

...another damn work dream, but this one I like; plus Larry Fessenden digression

Having just had a panic nightmare of being ill-prepared in class (see below), I've had a second dream involving work. What's interesting is that I think I can identify and interpret the elements in this one, slightly more complex as they are. The dream revolves around a pair of boots.

I own a pair of Blundstones, see? ...Those Australian slip-ons. My friend Dan suggested them - he's a devotee, and they're a great boot, but he must waterproof his or such, because mine, after a few years' heavy use in conditions of shitty BC weather and total neglect, have kinda started to rot, according to the boot repair dude I took them to. They've split along one side, where the boot meets the sole. They're still wearable, but not so useful if walking on a very rainy day, because the split will take in water; they can be patched - but, unless boot repair dude was just trying to convince me to buy some new boots, there's not much point; these boots are bound for glory.

Now, it just so happens that Dan and his gal came to my apartment in the suburbs the other week, and we ended up watching a film - Larry Fessenden's Wendigo. (That link is to a Wiki page; see here for Fessenden's website and some of his writings, or here for his page on Wendigo). To digress briefly - there's an article by Adam Nayman in the "Decade In Review" section of Cinema Scope that praises Fessenden as one of the most interesting new cinematic voices of the 2000's, and at least as far as genre cinema goes, I agree; Fessenden makes artful, intelligent horror films that are idea-driven without being didactic, and his four movies are the freshest horror films I've seen, no shit, since the last time I looked at a Val Lewton. No Telling is a horror film for the vegan-and-animal rights crowd, combining "mad scientist" tropes with the very real issues of animal research and genetic engineering. Habit - his masterpiece - is a vampire film about loss, grief, compulsive relationships, fathers and sons, and addiction, either to substances or sex. Global warming informs his most recent movie, The Last Winter - a copy of which I passed on to Dan And of Bison BC (a different Dan) after a gig, since I didn't have a Wendigo to spare, discovering in the process that, though he loves horror films set in frozen wastelands, and has written a series of songs about the Wendigo, reflecting his part-Algonquin heritage, he hadn't seen either film yet (which hopefully he has since remedied). The story involves an oil company team investigating the melting permafrost in Alaska, for the purposes of building a pipeline, not realizing that the thaw has released ancient spirits that are hostile to their presence. Wendigo, however - his previous thriller - looks at loss, fear, anger and violence through the eyes of a young boy, who witnesses his father getting shot during a stay at a snowy cabin in, I guess, upstate New York or such. The film, in its most interesting aspect, deals with how heroes, Gods and monsters help us organize childhood perceptions of life on an archetypal level, though it bends the figure of the Wendigo a bit so it plays on the side of the good guys - an agreeable bit of poetic license, because if you've got a Wendigo on your team, the other side better look out. A very significant image in the film is of the traumatized boy contemplating his father's boots, in the hospital after he is shot.

Back to boots. In the dream, I'm at a work-related union meeting. In reality, with the economic downturn, things haven't been so stable at my workplace, and I've been wondering if there's any way in hell I can give up my dayjob and make a living at writing. The meeting is a very relevant discussion of the situation at work, true to a few such meetings lately; but the location, as usual, has been scrambled. My sleeping brain either has a hard time connecting places with what happens in them, or else relocates things to make a point; in this case, it's quite curious, because the union meeting appears to be taking place in the building where Dan's apartment used to be (Dan my friend, not Dan And). For some reason, prior to going into the room where we're discussing things, we've all taken off our shoes, leaving them in an outer room. I've been wearing my rotting Blundtstones, as I sometimes do to my job; it happens that - again, in the dream, though I've been contemplating doing the same in reality - I have bought a new pair of Blundstones, which are in my bag.

The union meeting in the dream is as unexciting as union meetings tend to be, but where it gets interesting is afterwards, because, as we go to put on our boots, it transpires that someone has apparently mistaken one of my old, worn Blundstones for their nearly-new pair of the same, and - though how they didn't notice is beyond me - put on one of my boots and one of his, and left the meeting. I search everywhere, but after everyone has filed away, there are two boots left, and they very obviously don't match. I try them on briefly, and they look and feel ridiculous; the "wrong" boot - the unsplit, right-foot one, I should note - is perhaps a size smaller than the old one, and pinches my foot a bit. What to do? I run out of the meeting in mismatched boots, searching my coworkers as they walk up Davie Street (one of the clues to the relocation, since my school is not near Davie, but Dan's apartment used to be). None of them seem to have my boot. I go back to the room and search again, then try to see if I can match the "new," wrong boot with the new boots I've bought - but again, they don't look at all the same, and the dream becomes a sort of stress-and-searching dream, as I try to resolve my problem. Nowhere does it occur to me to just put on my new boots and be done with it; all I try to do is match either my old boot or the "wrong" boot with one of the new ones, as if it is somehow a rule that I must wear one of each.

(Note: people who intend to seek out Fessenden's Wendigo should be alerted: spoilers follow). With pregnant film imagery swirling in my mind around boots, relating to the loss of a father, from Fessenden's recently re-watched film; with my attempts to adjust to life since the loss of my own father - to "fill his boots" in taking care of Mom; with the division that has led to between my old life in Vancouver, and my new life back in Maple Ridge (my old hometown); and the burgeoning division between my old life as an ESL teacher and what may or may not be a new life as a writer - one I'm not sure will be workable, mind you, which is why, I suspect, I don't just put on my new boots and be done with it - it is very, very obvious where my dream got the boots from, even if they're a bit overdetermined as a symbol.

I think I'm going to buy some new boots today.


Dan And said...

Allan, it's Dan And here. I always wanted to thank you for giving me that copy of The Last Winter. my girlfriend and i enjoyed it a great deal. i still have yet to see his other films but i somehow stumbled across your blog and am right now downloading the Wendigo. the tension and isolation of Last Winter reminded me a lot of The Thing and even some of my other (non frozen landscape) favs like the Abyss and Alien. Even 30 Days of Night wasn't too bad but i wonder if the snow didn't make me biased from the get go.

i don't know if you've seen it but there is a Kenneth Branagh movie about Ernest Shackleton that i absolutely love. i managed to buy a box set of it along with 3 documentaries about Shackleton for insanely cheap at Welk's Discount Mart on Main and 19th. there's no demons, spirits or aliens but the Shackleton story has been the center of my arctic isolation obsession for as long as i can remember.

i find it also ironic that you live in Maple Ridge because i have sporadically worked out there as a set dresser on low budget film and TV shows for the past four years (in a studio on Kingston behind the Canadian Tire and the new roundabout under the highway...right behind Emoli-1, the nearly abandoned energy warehouse). one of said TV series was a supernatural crime thriller called Blood Ties that had an episode about the Wendigo. it was, however filmed mostly in a provincial park in PoCo and at Riverview but still...Maple Ridge represent!

Finally i am the proud owner of a pair of steel toed blundstones myself and love them like there's no tomorrow.

That is all, thank you sir.
-Dan And

ps. Ravenous was actually pretty good too. As was Alive and Cannibal: the Musical.

Allan MacInnis said...

Hey, Dan And! When I saw a Dan had left a comment, I thought it was the other Dan that I mentioned... He's the steel-toed Blundstone guy, I just get the regular kind.

Re: Shackleton, thanks! I've long wondered if that Branagh movie was any good - I'll take a look at it. I actually did a big New Model Army thing for The Skinny where Justin Sullivan and I talked about Shackleton, whom he is also fascinated and inspired by - there's a reference to him, or at least one of his vessels, in the song "Ocean's Rising." I can't find the article online, but the song is here (the full band version - it also appears on a Sullivan solo album):

There's also a pretty good novel by SF author Kim Stanley Robinson called ANTARCTICA that I imagine you would love... we should start a "frozen wasteland" fansite (just kidding...).

Anyhow, really glad you liked The Last Winter - you would also definitely like Fessenden's Wendigo movie; it's the better of the two, and it's pretty damn snowy. By the way, I'm waiting for Ox Fanzine to mail me an extra copy of the article with my German version of our interview(s) in it. Bison BC have press in Germany! If it doesn't show up soon, I'll fax Metal Blade a copy of the page, it has a GREAT Femke van Delft photo of you, James, and Masa onstage in it - one of her best ever photos, in my opinion, given the amount of intensity visible.

Thanks for commenting!