Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ode to a Fountain


How I know I am a red-blooded American:

Nothing makes me happier than the fountain shows at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Nothing. Is that so wrong? I mean, honest, they practically bring a tear to my eye. I watched three separate performances this weekend, just couldn't get enough. The first was in the afternoon, some Sinatra tune I didn't recognize. Then, after dinner, Mary and I each bought a 60-ounce strawberry frozen margarita in a souvenir plastic Eiffel Tower container from the stand in front of Paris, and watched over to catch a fountain show done to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." Good enough, but luckily, we waited another 15 minutes for the next show. Wait for it...

"Time to Say Goodbye" by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli.

I swear to god, there is nothing better than strawberry margarita, dancing fountains, and Italy's blindest best. If late capitalism can bring us the Bellagio fountains, then sign me up for late capitalism.

And I am not alone. My friend Kelsey pointed me towards this amazing article in the Guardian on the guilty pleasures of famous academics. Homi Bhaba loves Project Runway. Anthony Giddens loves pro wrestling. Stanley Fish loves country music. Slavoj Zizek likes violent computer games. And although I won't name names, I have had conversations about the Bellagio fountains with many other academics. And many of these other academics admit to secretly loving the fountains, even to being quite moved by them.

I wonder why. A lot of pleasure comes from the simple conjunction of music with moving image. "Mickey mousing," as film music types call it, especially in a live situation, is always a good time. It's similar to a fireworks show, with escalating climaxes in music and image.

Also, there is the medium. How often do you get to see water dancing around? And man, those jets shoot high up into the air! But more than that, I think one of the greatest thrills is the resemblence of water to human bodies. It's most evident when the center circle of fountains does this move that looks like dancers leaning backwards. (This picture kind of shows it.) And obviously the choreography of the fountains is based largely on basic ballet choreography, with lots of synchronization. Like ballet, the synchronization is both mechanical and imperfect; the coordination is impressive, but the use of water means that it is not entirely controlled. Drops and mist fly around in the wind, and the changing light plays off the lake differently every time. It's not like watching a screensaver. At the same time, the fountains obviously are more than human. They are mechanical, and they exceed human limits. One of the common fountain moves is for the fountains to jet off in a line across the thousand foot installation, culminating in an explosion of the tall center jets. You see that kind of move in human dancing all the time--think the Rockettes kicking their legs--but it's something else to see it happen on such a gigantic scale.

You can see some videos here.

1 comment:

Marianna said...

I shamelessly enjoy the Bellagio fountains. I saw them do Copland's "Rodeo" one time and got genuinely pumped. Also, don't forget how much Baudrillard loves Disneyland. Sure, he uses it in his work, but I bet if he's honest with himself he enjoys the corn dogs and Space Mountain too.