Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Dark City

The other day I talked to JNo who just came back from Shanghai. He mentioned something very unusual to him, I guess to most Americans: All the lights on buildings are out at midnight everyday. Since his office was in a high-rise in Old Shanghai facing Pudong and he stayed up late a few times, it was quite dramatic to see all the lights go out at once and the city seemed dead. It reminded me of my favorite sci-fi movie Dark City (very comparable to The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor, both came out a year after), in which everybody in the city falls into a coma when the clock strikes midnight everyday due to the alien's power -the city freezes as all the motion ceases. This filmic city always appears grey and gloomy because sunlight is blocked by the aliens. But the real sense of darkness here is not about the absence of light, or the absence of action, but the absence of memory due to the aliens' manipulation. Places like "Shell Beach" only exist as a faded image, an unreachable destination.

Compared to the quick switches between day and night in Chinese cities to save electricity, Vegas is the opposite: there is nothing suggesting the change between day and night when you are inside a casino, no sense of time - it is going on forever.

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