Susie and I watched Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore on Friday. This is a 1972 movie starring Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson, and Harvey Keitel. I don’t want to write about the movie or its significance or its stars, but instead to think about some passing reactions to seeing a film in a distinctly different time.
First, maybe it was the sun soaked views of a far more empty American West or the highly saturated film stocks shot for interiors in the movie — I don’t know what specifically, but images can evoke memories like few other things. I suppose the important aspect of the film is the landscape shots of their small station wagon wandering across a limitless horizon. The image is of small people in a world that seems very big.
People make fun of the 70s. Mainly, that fun pokes at clothes or music or other fashions. Alice, the character whose name makes up the subject for the title, wears clothes that would fit better with a little lycra and drinks beer from cans with peel-top lids.
But say what you will, the 70s had a lot going for it. After the chill of Silent Springand the OPEC embargo, people really shared a sense that they could do something about this big world, if they just got together and did something about it. And they did. They got together and did some things. You can see it in the laws they passed – like the Environmental Protection Act or the creation of a Department of Energy. You can see it in the President they chose — Carter — Or, you can see it in the light filled landscape sensitive housing that was popular back then.
It wasn’t all great — I think Generation Y will best them for public service and certainly people coming of age in the 70s consumed some products that are best left not emulated.
Thirty four years later, Alice and her son have finished their journey. We have, too. The world is no longer limitless. In fact, every day it feels as if it is growing smaller. You can choose to forget about it, wall up in an SUV and turn on your IPod, but can you really run from bird flu or President Bush’s surveillance? Nope! Globalization and its partner, digitalization, are the things that define this decade.


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