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Today's haze

Posted by Wesley Morris  May 31, 2010 07:57 PM

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Safe.jpgBoston impersonates no other city. There are rumors that it is the Florence of the U.S. -- more mystifyingly, the Bucharest, too. But those seem unsubstantiated. This place is more unlike than like. So how real-yet-surreal just how much like Los Angeles Boston seemed today, hazy with a kind of smog. It hung over some of the city and simply descended upon the rest with a kind of lazy ominousness. It didn't have the nerve to pose a true threat.

Still, the state Department of Environmental Protection issued a safety alert open to interpretation ("stay inside," an official said, "and blow the smoke out"). But no one seemed all that alarmed. Boats turned the Charles into its usual boys bathtub. Along the river, runners jogged in mockery. It all merely enhanced the science-fiction misting the atmosphere. The city had been body-snatched, and so, perhaps, had we.

As it turns out, the smoke was second-hand. It had wafted in from Quebec, where forests burned by the dozen. (Stranger still, the Montreal Gazette ran a story today eagerly anticipating a series of concerts by the band Arcade Fire.) Locally, those people who thought it a quaint scrim of haze or a mild symptom of doom were surprised to learn that it was yet another stealth Canadian import, like, well, Arcade Fire or Shania Twain.


But, alas, it did sound alarms for Southern California and the pasty skies that greet you in the morning but then let up enough for the sun to do its thing. Movies that shoot in Los Angeles capture that without even trying. But present all day today were the altered atmospherics of "Gattaca" (not smoggy, per se, but logy, which in that film stands in for a smog of the soul, as pre-articulated by the films of Michelangelo Antonioni) and the way "Blade Runner" imagines the city as a futuristically underlit smoking room. Then there is "Safe," which is set in the subsuming San Fernando Valley and sprang to mind this afternoon while watching a chic woman pump gas with a scarf wrapped around her nose and mouth. It was a glamorously paranoid look only Julianne Moore in that movie would have understood.

Yet for those who didn't know better and were preoccupied with the world of non-soccer sport, it would stand to reason that the Lakers had arrived early and in the Hollywood spirit brought their own fog machine.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is's features editor.

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