We exist in a world bristling with pleasures and pains. Of the pains, cancer is arguably the worst. However, there is no argument about which pleasure is the best. The female orgasm. Science has gone to astonishing MRI lengths to quantify this fact..
Perhaps that explains why the intoxicating pleasure of sex is woven into 95% of every major film produced. The look…the embrace…the clinch…the final fulfillment. Somehow — even in the middle of the most horrific war in the most remote jungle or planet — somewhere there will be a man and a woman. Brought together to satisfy the audience’s need to believe that everyone-anywhere-can- know-love!
If climactic love scenes are iconic in our culture, there are others. Almost as required to winning an audience. Among these — the quintessential car chase. I mean, if passion is the name of the game, car chases are one of the trumps you play along the way.
As rigorously choreographed as Kabuki Theater, Hollywood car chases feature four essentials:
* There must be a hero we can care about, and a villain we can snarl about. The hero usually is driving along minding his or her own business. Suddenly the villain roars out in a black sedan or, whenever bigger dangers are called for, an ugly 18 wheeler!
* If this is happening in the countryside, the highway needs a minimum of a dozen sharp curves stretching over the most cinematically dangerous cliffs the advance team could locate. If this is happening in the city, there must be a credible maze of side-streets stuffed with food carts, fleeing pedestrian stunt men, and at least one smashed display window. An occasional erupting fire hydrant is always a nice touch!
* The crash — to satisfy the audience’s now ginned up energy level — there has to be some kind of climax. Fiery crashes are the standard. If in the city, well they just crash. Ah, but if in the countryside, they will always screech off the edge of those cliffs and tumble ton after ton into the ravine below. Where California wreckage services are hired to clean up the results at a very nifty fee!
* The payoff — and this also is playing to the audience’s appetites — is either the hero survives [one or two broken limbs are acceptable, but if possible not the face for the later clinch]; or the villain dies while the hero looks down triumphantly [but not too triumphant so as not to appear cynically happy]!
And you thought car chases just sorta happened. Next time a close look at another American cinematic icon — the Western gun fight.
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