Stage left, through a crowd, Nicky appears:
Stage left, through a crowd, Nicky disappears:
It is thirty years since Times Square was released in the United States. In Venus, Ben Schulman writes, “Thirty years removed from its release on October 17, 1980, the film. . . captures a physical place long gone. It’s an ironic turn for the places in which the Sleez Sisters slummed it up, and most important, a lasting influence of DIY spirit.” (MovieMan0283 notes, “Three decades after Moyle left his own production in disgust (producers were streamlining the story in order to make room for more songs) Times Square still sustains a healthy cult following.”) Thirty years!; I’m quite overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia and melancholy. What has been lost? (What have I lost?)
In her classic essay on the topic, Linda Hutcheon argues that “nostalgia is not something you ‘perceive’ in an object; it is what you ‘feel’ when two different temporal moments, past and present, come together for you and, often, carry considerable emotional weight. . . . it is the element of response — of active participation, both intellectual and affective — that makes for the power” (Linda Hutcheon, “Irony, Nostalgia, and the Postmodern”).
While I agree with Hutcheon’s assertion that to term a text “nostalgic” is “less a description of the ENTITY ITSELF than an attribution of a quality of RESPONSE,” nevertheless, I argue that the narrative of Times Square is itself predicated on the concept of nostalgia, on marking moments during which we are only present as they are already vanishing. We see this in the opening scene, as Nicky drags her belongings past the “Reclaim the Heart of the City” office, and past the miniature future city, clean, new and encased.
This imminent loss is notable, for example, in the film’s soundtrack. If Pamela has a song, it is probably “The Night Was Not,” the song to which she dances — but doesn’t strip! — and later sadly sings along to while waiting for Nicky to return after they have fought: “told me you were leaving though you loved me a lot/now I’ve got to live with what I’ve got/…in an illusion of love I was caught” (Desmond Child and Rouge). Nicky’s greatest moment of loss is accompanied by Patti Smith’s threnody “Pissing in a River”: “My bowels are empty, excreting your soul/ What more can I give you? Baby, I don’t know.”
But what I call the melancholy of (the) Times Square (narrative) is most succinctly presaged by the opening song, Roxy Music’s “Same Old Scene,” which also closes the film (after the abysmal “Help Me!”, by Robin Gibb and Marcy Levy, which we have all hopefully learned to repress.) And since the film is, if anything, certainly a love story, Nicky’s arrival soundtrack doesn’t bode well: “Nothing lasts forever/ of that I’m sure/ Now you’ve made an offer/ I’ll take some more/ Young loving may be/ oh, so mean/ Will I still survive/ the same old scene?”
For Nicky, this is an “always-already” loss; it is too broad to constitute a single or identifiable loss that would (only) necessitate mourning. Freud differentiates between the two states or conditions, stating that in melancholy “there is a loss of a more ideal kind. The object has not perhaps actually died, but has been lost as an object of love (e.g. in the case of a betrothed girl who has been jilted). In yet other cases one feels justified in maintaining the belief that a loss of this kind has occurred, but one cannot see clearly what it is that has been lost. . . . This would suggest that melancholia is in some way related to an object-loss which is withdrawn from consciousness, in contradistinction to mourning, in which there is nothing about the loss that is unconscious” (Freud, “Mourning and Melancholy”, Complete Works). Nicky alludes to this: after jumping in the river, she asks, “What the fuck is wrong with me?” Unlike mourning, melancholy does not confine itself to the scene of the crime; like suicide, it is infectious.
And thirty years later: a lost city? (a) lost love(s)? wasted promise? defeated and gifted? a body, thirty years older (no question there!) the trace of desire?
“Your body is not the same today as yesterday. Your body remembers. You don’t need to remember, to store up yesterday like capital in your head. Your memory? Your body expresses yesterday in what it wants today. If you think: yesterday I was, tomorrow I shall be, you are thinking: I have died a little. Be what you are becoming, without clinging to what you might have been, what you might yet be. Never settle” (Luce Irigaray, “When Our Lips Speak Together”).
And happy anniversary.