Ray Harryhausen 1920 – 2013 – Infinity


The thing about lost worlds is that we live in them more vividly than the ones we really see. We walk in the paths of dinosaurs and the trails of forests felled by our very existence, but these pull on the imagination that the everyday drives us to. RAY HARRYHAUSEN’s genius was in a vanished genre that exerts an omnipresence on our imaginative space, as visual effects and perceived reality loop ever closer together. His medium disappeared decades before he died, but he had always brought to life sights we knew were central to existing though no one alive, or often ever, had seen any for themselves. Pre-digital, hand-positioned models moved micron by micron to add up to kinetic miracles, giant lumbering statues and flailing spaghetti sea-monsters and most famously an army of skulls and bones. These crossed swords with mythic heroes, themselves remnants of what we want to believe, but the stars were the special-effects phantoms themselves, realer in their proof — the assembled footage –– than in the green-screen trance the actors would swing at their shadows in. The machine would chase the ghosts away, digital production surpassing the pains taken as the camera’s eye watched real seconds snap in sequence while Ray’s models came to life. But nothing would make Harryhausen’s artistry obsolete, because he was seeing the big picture composed of flickering bits that computer designers themselves envision, predicting a future of perfect cohesion that closes a circle with the mythic past’s self-sufficient magic. The full picture seen by a god, one higher than Olympus, the invisible hand whose touch we want to be aware of, in the flaws and textures that he with clay and CGI programmers with pure light work to make and remake real. His eye was stilled yesterday, but what he set in motion has no end.


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