The following is an excerpt from a long and finely-wrought review I meant to write about the film Covadonga. In it, I give some useful historical context of the film, after doing some research to that effect, and a brief synopsis of the plot—before diving into the real artistic merits of the project. Because I never got around to doing any of this, though, and am really much more interested in a flurry of emails the director and I exchanged during my pre-release private viewing (“it’s all feeling,” he wrote, “which I think is the most sincere thing we can offer”), and in particular in one scene that seemed to encapsulate that exchange, I’ll just cut to that chase.
Full disclosure: the director and I share an alma mater. Though I never met Sean Hartofilis, and don’t really know him personally, I feel somewhat heartened by his reaching out over our alumni discussion board, really very much in the spirit of spreading art made with love, and on top of that I’m in the kind of de facto solidarity with him that having an overlapping undergrad comes with (go Tigers!). None of which is really of any consequence to you, as it won’t affect your viewing experience come Halloween, but it’s worth noting by way of ethos—my credibility, or lackthereof, or, my favorite, my credible lacking of credibility (the confession winning us over in spite, in lieu, of actual expertise, or so I always tell my students in Comp 101).
Full disclosure, part two: this review is meant to be a teaser for not just Covadonga, coming out as mentioned on Halloween, but for the Entropy Reviews Halloween Special (not too late to submit!), in which we share our scariest moments from books. Again, as mentioned, “scariest” loosely speaking, “books” similarly, and even “moments” I’m willing to budge on. Really all I’m concerned with is whether the review engages with the prompt and asks the question: What of art lasts? Because it’s Halloween, I’ve filtered that through a spooky lens (blood-red tint, I guess), but really the question is about what from text, widely construed, we just can’t shake, can’t let go of or won’t let go of us. That last, spooky indeed.
Which brings me to the actual moment in question, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. This is the moment that Sean Hartofilis, playing perhaps a version of himself (though pretty obviously fictional), dances around the room with a mop. The dance is set to music, the music of Disney’s Fantasia, in fact the very music of the mop scene in that psychedelic (for Disney) musical. I won’t rewatch the scene, either Disney’s or Hartofilis’s, since the point is to say what lasts and thus the only way is going from memory at risk of error (a kind of scare in itself, and actually, now I think about it, a plug for Brian Blanchfield’s book Proxies, which I’m reading to host him on an upcoming panel). Why this?
Well, apart from the white wet mop flopping over the rafters, in a ridiculous display of unnecessary cleaning; apart from that rediculousness extending, then, to the mopping of the walls in this lone cabin in the woods, the mopping of the dining room table set for one (though later accompanied by the man held hostage, rope-bound to the chair and salivating over the delicious meal of roast chicken), the mopping of seemingly the air itself; apart from this tragicomic horror bordering on the absurd, when the camera swings round and round with the mop stood on its handle end in painful pas de deux; apart from all this we see, in a pareidolia’d flash, the face: metal clasp of the mop head’s attachment, long white hair falling back in twirly array. Sean Hartofilis is dancing with his mop. His wife is dead (though haunting the place), and the lope-de-dope of Fantasia is playing in his head. What makes this so scary?
At risk of this becoming one my student’s five-paragraph essays (perhaps the scariest of all essays), I’ll end with a sixth-graf and thesis statement: what’s most scary about Disneyfication is the reminder of what we’ve grown–and grown up–accustomed to.