Saturday, August 27, 2011

Connecticut River Valley Journal II: Return of the Secaucus 7

 Thomas Eakins, albumen photograph; Hallie Cohen, digital photograph 

John Sayles’s Return of the Secaucus 7 is a nostalgic look back at a group of sixties radicals. There’s a wonderful skinny-dipping scene that takes place at a swimming hole and recalls the famous Eakins painting The Swimming Hole (1885), a work that also integrates the notion of primal innocence. The luddite radicals that Sayles depicted sought a kind of innocence that had been stolen by the world of conglomerates and military industrial complexes. Both the Sayles film and the Eakins painting hearken back to the self-conscious pursuit of something like Eden, which by definition has been disappearing from the world ever since Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Can such consciousness and innocence coexist? If you are ever passing through the town of Norwich, Vermont, in the Connecticut River valley, go north on Route 5 for about a mile, then ask one of the locals where the local swimming hole is. You will come upon a setting that seems lost in time. A raft sits in the middle of a pond and parents and their children dive off the dock and swim in the icy water. The light is dappled through the trees, and despite the occasional scream when a body first touches the water, there’s a silence that makes you feel as if you’ve fallen down a worm hole—it’s your own Secaucus Seven or Swimming Hole, in which the pressing world outside is temporarily held at bay.

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