Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tues Top Ten: Total Eclipse of the Sun

As you may or may not have heard one of the longest total eclipses of the sun in decades is about to happen. It's tonight in US time (we won't be able to see it) but tomorrow morning (Wednesday July 22nd) for the countries that will have a view like India, China, Japan and The Philippines for some examples. That ultra hot orb, life giver to us all, will be blacked out for six whole minutes from some vantage points. To commemorate the occasion I thought a top ten list was in order. What's more dramatic in a movie than a sudden cut to black?

But I kept coming up blank. Why aren't there more solar eclipses in the movies? It's such an exciting visual event. So I polled some blogging friends. We still came up short. This is not a preferential list so much as a list that requires your contribution for completion.

10 (er...8) Movie Eclipses

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
You don't technically see the eclipse here but it sets the plot in motion, the alien plant using the sun blotting as cover to sneak itself in amongst the the flower district's zinnias in order to catch Seymour's eye. The lyrics are so hilariously innocent in their da doo obviousness. Especially the punchline.
Seymour: He didn't have anything unusual there that day.
Crystal, Ronette & Chiffon: Nope, da-doo,
Seymour: so I was just about to, ya know, walk on by,
Crystal, Ronette & Chiffon: Good for you,
Seymour: when suddenly,
Crystal, Ronette & Chiffon: Da doo
Seymour: and without warning, there was this...
Crystal, Ronette & Chiffon: TOTAL. ECLIPSE. OF. THE. SUN.
Seymour: It got very dark.
Yeah, that happens with eclipses, Seymour. I always have to suppress giggles when I watch this movie. The giggling eventually wins out.

Baraka (1992) and Apocalypto (2006)
"It's even on the poster!" Glenn of Stale Popcorn proclaimed ...of course he did. He brought up the stunning all visual no dialogue 90s documentary about life here on planet Earth. Mel Gibson's sadist's confectionary about the ancient Mayans is also so enamored of its astrological event that it must be referenced in logo / poster form.

Dolores Claiborne (1995)
JA from MNPP immediately cited this Stephen King adaptation when I went fishing for examples saying
The entire film - hell, Dolores' entire life - revolves around what goes down during this eclipse. Sometimes I consider this Kathy Bates' finest performance (it's certainly an overlooked one), and nowhere is there more apparent to me than here in this moment when she lets us see a broken woman taking her greatest stand by not moving at all. Bonus points for the scene being shot so astonishingly.

The Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
This acclaimed Béla Tarr film was Nick's suggestion.
The first, amazing sequence has to do with a funny-sad-weird pantomime of an eclipse.
How does one pantomime an eclipse? I'm intrigued now. I know I should have seen and loved Harmonies by now but ever since I read about Sátántángo and the cat torture sequence I have been too wary to approach the filmmakers work. I'll just have to deal with derivations thereof (hi, Gus!) because I can't do movies that can't claim "no animals were harmed".

Pitch Black (2000)
This film was the first to come to my mind. I remember being terrified by the eclipse but not why. My brain is like a sieve so I asked JA if I was remembering this correctly, and he verified that I was...
Once that giant ringed planet blots out the suns the action doesn't let up ever again. There are monsters in that there absence of light and I don't know about you but I'd not so much mind finding myself hunkered down in the dark with a strapping, tank-topped Vin Diesel (at least pre-Pacifier) at my side in such sweaty...
JA is always wandering off into a NSFW place isn't he? He can't help himself. Pitch Black came out in 2000. Remember when it looked like Vin Diesel might be an action star for the Aughts in the way that Schwarzenegger and Stallone were for the 80s?

L'Eclisse aka The Eclipse (1962)
Guest blogger Robert suggested this Michelangelo Antonioni classic. I reminded him that there's no eclipse in it.
Dang Antonioni and his metaphors!
...he replied. But the list is thin and this is a classic so I say it counts. Antonioni had originally intended to include the literal event. He described his own eclipse experience like so...
I am in Florence to see and film a solar eclipse. Unexpected and intense cold. Silence different from all other silences. Wan light, different from all other lights. And then darkness. Total stillness. All I am capable of thinking is that during an eclipse even feelings probably come to a halt. It is an idea that has vaguely to do with the film I am preparing--more a sensation than an idea, but a sensation which defines the film even when the film is far from being defined. All the work and the shots that came after have always been related back to that idea, or sensation, or premonition. I have never been able to leave it aside.
-from the preface to Six Films

The last ten minutes of this, the best of the 80s fantasy films, is pure magic for epic romance loving moviegoers. Etienne (Rutger Hauer) and Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) have been cursed for years to never touch. By day she soars above him as a hawk and by night he accompanies her in wolf form. Etienne doesn't believe in the prophesied "night without a day, day without a night" that will break the curse. How can such a thing exist? But break the curse this eclipse does. At first they gaze into each other's eyes in rapturous disbelief and joy. Isabeau's ecstatic involuntary gulp of laughter/tears as Etienne lifts her from her feet, basking in her beloved's true physicality for the first time in years gets me every time. Total lump in throat, tears in eyes.


We only came up with 8. Perhaps you can fill out this top 10 in the comments. What other movies find the magic in a 'night without a day and day without a night'?

previous top tens


D said...

I haven't seen it, but I've heard good things about "Judy Berlin".

TheMedwenitsch said...

Independence Day!

verninino said...

Kubrick peppered 2001 with eclipses, apparently they somehow trigger the mysterious monoliths.

Emily said...

There was a dramatic solar eclipse in Apocalypto...

Pedro said...

I agree with Verninino. 2001: A Space Odyssey is full of eclipses. That was the only one that I remembered. Come to think of it, in the movies about the apocalypse, aren't there eclipses also (the one with Demi Moore, where she dies at the end, didn't that happen during an eclypse? The Seventh Sign?) And in The Exorcist, isn't there an eclypse somewhere? What about The Ten Commandments, during the plagues? And the movies about Christ, doesn't he dies during an eclypse (once again, Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ)?

Sorry, I know I am rambling.

Agustin said...

I don't know the name of the movie and I can definitely assure that it wasn't a good one, but there's one were a girl from the present (80s) travels to the middle ages. I remember she had a camera with her, and took photos to scare people away. At the near end of the movie, this girl predicts that the sky will turn black, knowing that there will be a solar eclipse. The eclipse then happens, and the entire town goes crazy, thinking the world is coming to an end.
Maybe I exaggerated.

Luis said...

Thai horror movie "Nang Nak" opens with a total eclipse, therefore settingthe mood for the eerie story that follows

Chris na Taraja said...

There is an Eclipse in A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHURS COURT, a 1949 flick with Bing Crosby.

I vaguely remembered an eclipse in the opening of 2001 A Space Oddessy, but after watching the eclipse clip again, I'm not sure if that is the moon or the earth in that shot (or just a painted tennis ball for that matter!)

There is TOTAL ECLIPSE with Leo, but I don't think there's an actual eclipse in that movie.

Isn't ECLIPSE the next part of the TWILIGHT series.

Wasn't there an eclipse in one of the Indianna Jones movies?

And Bonnie tyler sang TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART!

Robert said...

Werckmeister Harmonies is, quite franky, the best film of the decade. It's a great addition to this list, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Pfangirl said...

Speaking of Mel Gibson, I'm pretty sure there was an eclipse at a pivotal point in Apocalypto as well. Again, linked to the "end of a world/civilisation" concept.

Wayne B said...

I think an eclipse was used in "The Seventh Sign" an '80s Demi Moore film about a coming apocalypse.

Runs Like A Gay said...

My memory triggered by the countless references to Mel Gibson I've rembered that Ben Hur ends with a bit of a solar eclipse.

Apparrently it cures leprosy.

I'm also pretty sure that knowing the exact time and date of a solar eclipse saves the adventurers in King Solomon's Mines. Although I don't remember much about the film other than Paul Robeson's divine singing and a rather lot of upper class accents.

Glenn said...

You guys, Apocalypto is mentioned already in the article.

Also, I didn't say it when you asked, Nat, but I just remembered: The Ring. Don't they flash to one during the video tape?

Curtis said...

Just watched "The Brothers Grimm" today and it had an eclipse as well!


Glenn. I KNOW. nobody reads the articles anymore (sniffle)

thanks for the suggestions people. now send me screenshots ;)

Robert said...

Mermaids. It's a tiny scene where Winona's character talks about her only memory of her father. It was during a b&w solar eclipse and he was telling her to put her special glasses on to watch it.

Love that movie... Cher! Winona Ryder! Christina Ricci! Jake Ryan!!!


i love all these reminders. Keep them coming.

Glendon said...

Heroes has an eclipse at a pivotal point every season, each with an unexplained/stupid reason.

Alison Flynn said...

Oh my God, I love Ladyhawke. In some ways it's obvious how cheaply it was made but that never mattered to me. A great fantasy movie and I loved Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer in it.

Total lump in throat, tears in eyes.

Definitely. Just reading your write-up about it brought a total lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

J.D. said...

Ugh, I've been thinking all day about a movie that keeps springing to mind that I can't name that has repeated shots of an eclipse that may or may not have to do with a climactic event. It's probably recent. It could be a TV movie. I DON'T KNOW. AAAAH.

chris na Taraja said...

Nat, I read the articles...well done.

DawnTreader said...

"The Watcher in the Woods"

My 6th grade teacher put this video on for us. I think I was the only person in the room, besides my teacher, who knew who Bette Davis was. Good movie. I haven't seen it again since then. I do distinctly remember a solar eclipse being a pivotal part of the plot though....I need to give this one another viewing some time.

M said...

"Syndromes and a Century"

Christine said...

You wouldn't be referring to the remake of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" with one Keshia Knight Pulliam, would you? I think there were also a couple of other remakes in the 80s too.

Agustin said...

YES!! It's that movie!
I didn't know it was a remake, and I didn't bother to check out the 1949 one with Bing Crosby when it was mentioned because I knew it wasn't that old.
According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Connecticut_Yankee_in_King_Arthur's_Court)there are other remakes but I think the one I saw is this Tv movie cause every other remake had either boys, adults or Bugs Bunny.

Seeing_I said...

Hate to disagree with my estimable Film Experience Blogger, but you DO indeed see the total eclipse in "Little Shop of Horrors." Everybody on the street is looking up at it, which you should NOT do, since it (a) burns your retinas, and (b) make you look the other way when carnivorous alien plants zap down to earth.

micmac● said...

There's a Slovak film known as Sun In A Net which begins with the furore surrounding a solar eclipse, but is really about the troubles of young love. Excellent film, and some beautiful photography. Read my review here:

Sun In A Net @ Celluloid Breakfast