I'm in the mood to let the great issues of American politics take care of themselves today and think instead about one of those cultural contributions of ours that flourish despite all political and economic vicissitudes. The movies, specifically. A video artist named Philip Scott Johnson has made two stunning little films with some still photos and some morphing software and posted them on YouTube.
The first, Women in Film, shows 80-some actresses morphing into one another, from Mary Pickford to Halle Berry, set to a haunting Bach cello solo. The effect of the morphing is hypnotic, and I'm struck simultaneously by the changes in ideal type, in facial structure and hair and make-up as well as in the expressions we expect our beautiful women to strike, and by the essential continuity of what we've thought of as beauty and glamor for the past 90 years.
Then there's Men in Film, in some ways less "easy on the eyes" but in others more fascinating, as it really lets us see what a greater variety of facial types we allow to our ideal men than our ideal women. Watching Fred Astaire stretch out of Erroll Flynn and then squish into Clark Gable is quite a moment.
I find them both endlessly compelling. It's hard not to just keep hitting "replay." The names of all the actors and actresses are listed, but I had more fun trying to identify them on my own several times first. Some surprises when I finally checked the list: the face that I thought was just a transitional morphing image between Gene Tierney and Ingrid Bergman turned out to be Olivia de Havilland (was that why she never quite made the first rank of stars?). And I strongly recommend watching them on full screen, with the sound on.