Film: All-Purpose Anxiety
By Henry P. Raleigh
ART TIMES Summer 2014
There are still many of us around who are survivors of the “Age of Anxiety”. That was back in the 50’s. You know - radiation, the Cold War, communists all over the place. Hollywood movies obligingly gave shape to our fears real or imagined in scary mutations, a sun too hot (or too cold) roasting us (or freezing us), invaders from space- why you couldn’t turn around without bumping up against an enormous bed bug or flesh eating cockroach emitting jingly sounds. Some of us spent the age in home bomb shelters, other sought shelter with psychoanalysts. The 1964 film “Fail Safe” pretty much summed up that nervous decade.
It was a relief for most of us when we managed to make it into the 60’s and the Age of Aquarius. We traded in the psychoanalytic for the psychedelic- flair pants, headbands, really big hair, sandals. “Bob&Carol &Ted&Alice” in ’69 welcomed up into the ‘70’s, “Annie Hall” showing us how to live in Manhattan and be fashionably neurotic. The moves were always around to remind us how cool we were.
The ‘80’s slowed things down a bit, the decade starting off with “Where the Buffalo Roam” and ending with “Drugstore Cowboy” in ’89. The war on drugs that officially began in 1970 didn’t seem to be getting any where so movie studios, figuring if you can’t beat them, join them, spent the ’90’s giving us “Naked Lunch”, “Bad Lieutenant”, “Basketball Diaries”, “Trainspotting”, and “Boogie Nights”. So before you could say “Titanic” and sink beneath the waves we found ourselves in the Millennium along with more vampires and zombies than you could shake a stick at - these the icons of what is the current “Age (so-called) of Generalized Anxiety.” The new terms may seem a bit weak-kneed, suggesting we’re too exhausted or spineless to tackle our fears head-on but consider the encompassing sweep here- I mean there is nothing now that doesn’t give you cause to run for the hills. And the filmmakers are performing yeoman service seeing they all get covered. For avarice, corruption, and chicanery in our financial and political institutions there is “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “American Hustle”. Take a cinematic stroll through the cultural wasteland of despair, false hope and violence that ginger up “Nebraska” and “Out of the Furnace”. The warmth and joy of family gatherings? - “August: Osage County” will show you how that goes nowadays. Think maybe the next generation will prove less mercenary than yours has been? Well not if “The Bling Thing” and “Spring Breakers” is any indication. But wait, won’t love triumph over all as it always had in the “Paradise- Love” and “Before Midnight” and don’t forget that poor guy in “Her”- even an affair with his own software couldn’t work out for him.
There you have it- Generalized Anxiety: an all-purpose neurosis to fit everyone’s needs, adaptable to every situation in today’s hectic life.