Notes on “Blues in Lewis’ Flat (Remixed)”

“Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music.”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Jerry Lewis makes his own sense, and by proxy, as do his films. His early, self-directed films (“The Bellboy”, “The Ladies Man”, “The Errand Boy”) are merely variations on recurring physical arrangements. These are comedies which excavate the divisions between socio-economic space and the corporeality of Jerry Lewis himself. The body and its gestures, its improvisation, are the primary colors of the mis-en-scene. Each scene composes a cycle which observes the body’s failure to assimilate within the social architecture. The compositions are flat, awkward frames which often leave little head room, lack depth, and Lewis’ hands frequently explode out of frame, severed from our sight. It’s as though the tableaux fails to restrain the accelerating accumulation of disassemblages. The artifice will not hold. Capitalism and its morticians cannot manage such radical incompetence.

It is within these tensions, these contours of division, that ripe conditions for an idea emerge. Of course, Lewis and his many dividing selves (Stanley, Herbert H. Heebert, Morty S. Tashman, etc.) can only express said idea in the privacy of his alienation, but to “see” the emergence of an idea is our responsibility as the audience. While these moments within the narrative will never be mentioned again, never brought to the awareness of the surrounding characters, we bear witness to their shapes, to these temporal moments which refuse narrative and reason and embrace music, rhythm and the imaginary. These lines of flight, these smuggled messages from Lewis to his co-conspirators (the audience) are what are most essential. In these sequences, Jerry Lewis and the audience are synthesized.

The body is a thought-producing organism and like all organisms, it will seek to multiply. And so we covet these smuggled messages, escaping with them from the dark recesses of the cinema and must find new forms to emit these ghostly transmissions.

Published by Zachary Betonte

Zachary Betonte is a moving image artist currently working in Durham, North Carolina.

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