…where the newly-triumphant, newly-tragic Dr. Horrible (having, through the same act, gained membership to the Evil League of Evil and killed the woman he loved) strides through a bar, receiving as he does kudos from various villainous patrons.
The bar is full of movement, but not the movement of conviviality or of joy. Instead, the pumping, almost hydraulic, up-and-down movement of the patrons – which, in the case of the cowboy trio with their stetsons and handlebar moustaches, tips over into the grotesque – has an edge of franticness, and of insistent hedonism that has left behind pleasure. The artificial lights, the looping lo-fi music, and the alcoholic drinks, abundantly visible, and aggressively brandished by the cowboys, complete the impression of seediness.
If I ever had the opportunity to put just one question to Joss Whedon, I would be tempted to ask him whether, when he staged this scene, he had in mind the cinema of Max Ophuls, and more particularly, the story of ‘The Mask’, the first part of the ‘triptych’ presented in Ophuls’s French film Le Plaisir (1952). My highlighting of insistent up-and-down movement above derives from a memory of reading a similar feature being pointed out in the presentation of a dance hall in Ophuls’s film. I have quickly checked Wood’s Personal Views, plus this online piece by Wood and this one by Perkins, but I cannot find the passage I had in mind (perhaps it came from Pye’s article in MOVIE, not available online).
Movement does not permeate Whedon’s output to the same extent that it does Ophuls’s, but there are passages of movement that offer thrilling moments in Whedon’s television texts. A small example (from ‘Consequences’): Angel walking, in a single sustained travelling shot, out of his mansion and away from a captured and chained-up Faith, whom he is trying to steer away from the darkness, to Buffy who, to our surprise, has been waiting outside for him to emerge and report. A show-offy example: the elaborate, exhilarating and often-hilarious long take at the beginning of ‘Anne’, Buffy‘s season 3 opener. And finally, my favourite example (and probably the subject of a future blog post): the ‘overture’ to ‘Once More, With Feeling’, where Buffy’s depressed stasis is magnified via a contrast with the going-on-ness of the world around her, which is conveyed, of course, by the movements of her fellow characters, and the camera’s movements which capture them.