This week I'll be doing a post each day that touches on watching or voyeurism. Let's start with a movie ...
One of the most memorable opening scenes from the early 80s was in Louis Malle’s movie Atlantic City. It zooms in on a kitchen window, apparently from an opposite building. A woman stands at the sink slicing lemons. Because it’s dark out, the sink light, though dim, illuminates and isolates her, rinsing her face and hair. She takes off her blouse and rolls her camisole down to expose her breasts and shoulders.
This could easily turn into a cliché male fantasy – the standard payoff for a voyeur violating a woman’s supposed solitude. But instead of deteriorating into something cheap, she starts to rub her arms and upper body with the lemons. She is practiced at it, as if it were a daily ritual. She is rough with herself, as if she didn’t inhabit her own skin. Yet she takes the time to perform this strange cleansing, she takes this care, however perfunctory.
In addition to the unbidden intimacy, for some time the audience must suffer the mystery of why the woman washes herself with lemons. We – the audience – later learn she works at a clam bar, and the trenchant smell of fish compels her. We – the audience – are an old man observing her from an apartment window across the street.