While we usually classify films in terms of their genre, or their director, or the actors, what if, instead, we looked for visual patterns that linked them?
An auteur theory based purely on images, not the director.
As I was watching David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006) the other day (and it was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day here in Michigan, maybe one of the last truly great summer days before fall, so the fact that I was hunkered in the dark basement watching this twisted movie tells you something about what a fun guy I am) a certain scene seemed right out of Kiss Me Deadly (1955), and that in turn reminded me of a scene in Alien (1979).
Each of these scenes features a woman in trouble, pursued not so much by human beings or aliens but by a fierce, piercing light that illuminates and isolates them in terrifying ways. The films are linked in the imagination not by genre or time period or director, but by these weirdly convergent, spooky moments. I’m sure there are other films that have similar scenes, and I’d love to hear of them.
In the meantime, here are the three images, as well as the fantastically paranoid and transgressive ending to Kiss Me Deadly.