Cinema as an image machine exhibits a vast abundance of archetypal characters, motifs, and qualities, which in astrology are embodied by planets, constellations and the signs of the zodiac.
Once a month Vesna Ivkovic will draw the connections offering insight into the cinematic representations and forms of expression for the current zodiacal sign.
The past Gemini-time was filled with so many diversions, and the mere variety of films and film genres corresponding to this sign made me work on this article far longer than I expected, hence it appears here with considerable delay. Very Gemini-like one thing led to another and I found myself rambling through film history, getting curious about further special interest genres, various filmmakers etc.… And there we already have two big Gemini-themes: diversion and distractibility, furthermore great curiosity and wide interests (often superficial though). Curiosity is an elementary feature of our first Air sign in the Zodiac, to which everything from wikipedia, drugstore brochures and yellow press to market rates, light comedy and state secrets is of equal value, as long as it provides diversion and exiting news.
Like all modern media cinema in its entertaining function as such already shows lots of Gemini-quality: stimulating and multi-referential, it often connects different levels of cultural variety and mundane communication contents. A basic feature of Gemini is to amuse in a smart and exhilarating way and the favourite genres for this purpose are evidently the classic comedy of errors, the criminal comedy and the screwball comedy, also the media satire, the episodic film and movies about espionage and secret agents. Tricks and cheats, misunderstandings and crosstalk, sharp dialogue, intelligence trafficking and varying settings are the themes and motifs employed to entertain and stimulate the audience. Accordingly the repertoire of characters (regardless of gender within the socio-historical limits) consists of detectives and spies, talented salesmen and flacks, struggling writers and shallow scribblers, crooks and gentleman thieves, nervous stutterers, confused scientists and knowledgeable professors… For the most part the entertainment value of everyday incidents is emphasized, situational comedy and wordplay, ironical quotations (in language and image) and a quick paced change of scene convey a light touch and engage the viewer’s mind in following many a reference.
Newspaper reporters hunting for an entertaining and profitable story are essential characters in famous screwball comedies like “It Happened One Night” (F. Capra, 1934), “The Philadelphia Story” (G. Cukor, 1940) and “His Girl Friday” (H. Hawks, 1940). The comedy in these films is achieved by their hilarious handling of (not exactly) ordinary situations, also by mistaken identity and misunderstandings and especially by the witty and speedy debates revolving around utterly trivial questions, such as the different techniques of dunking donuts into your coffee…
Beside their frequent Libra-themed hampered love story, movies of this genre generally have a clear Gemini-emphasis: The thorough confusion produced by errors and communication breakdowns between a love-struck chatterbox (Katherine Hepburn) and a timid professor (Cary Grant) in “Bringing Up Baby” (H. Hawks, 1938) made it’s way into film history and until today with every rerun on TV it is trusted to guarantee peals of laughter.
The subsequent decades had some of these light-hearted and humorous Gemini-like comedies too. I recall for instance Billy Wilder’s scintillatingly witty drag comedy “Some Like it Hot” (1959), which also has some Aquarian elements in it. His hilarious Cold War farce “One, Two , Three” (1961) was making fun of ideologies and thus evoking and at the same time mocking Gemini’s counterpart Sagittarius. Then there was “The Front Page” (1974), Wilder’s version of the play of the same title, which was already brought to the screen multiple times (1931 by L. Milestone under the same title, 1940 by H. Hawks as “His Girl Friday”) – this time Jack Lemmon starring as Hildy Johnson, the reporter on whom his editor plays tricks just to keep him from marrying and retiring.
The social trend of turning even bad news into entertaining news was already alluded to in the various versions of “The Front Page” and it is resumed and expanded upon in films like “Network” (S. Lumet, 1976) and “Broadcast News” (J.L. Brooks, 1987), in which the triumphant advance of TV-infotainment is addressed. “Network” tells us the story of an elderly news presenter getting fired and reacting in such a dramatic and unusual way, that an ambitious producer, who is getting off on audience ratings (the fabulous Faye Dunaway playing a manic Gemini-character), comes up with ideas for a sensation-seeking show, which immediately makes him a star. Following the new development on the network even a radical terrorist group gets a slot in the entertainment program, providing live footage from their assaults…
The political satire “Wag the Dog” (B. Levinson, 1997) caps it all by using the media machinery’s possibilities to divert the public from a domestic scandal with a fake war, completely simulated by the media. The quite critical message, which is being wittily conveyed here, adds some Sagittarius-quality to the film.
Yet Gemini’s ruler Mercury is not only the wily newscaster for an ancient pantheon, he’s also god of travellers, commerce and thieves.
This perfectly fits the character of the masterly gentleman thief with his typical sleight of hand, which certainly also is a Gemini-attribute. Trade and travel are of importance too in these films, since thieves usually need dealers to fence their loot, and quite often they steal from tourists and travellers or perform their burglaries and thefts while travelling themselves.
In the cult flick “The Pink Panther” (B. Edwards, 1963) an exceptionally skilled thief is referred to as “the phantom”, thus creating a connection to a more emotional and intuitive talent to disguise and deceive and including a hint of Pisces-quality. Yet the pilferer’s significant trademark is a glove, left always at the site of his crime – a very Gemini-like symbol. Highlighting the motif of mercurial finesse, the antithesis to his dexterity is the clumsy detective, who is pursuing him.
Finesse and cunning also characterizes the grand theft an international and motley crew is attempting in one of the classic caper movies: “Topkapi“ (J. Dassin, 1964) is set in Istanbul and unites two skilled artists, a resourceful inventor and a gifted forger under the leadership of a Swiss master thief in the enterprise of stealing the precious Topkapi dagger from the palace of the same name. A less masterful small-time crook, scratching along as a smuggler, impostor and con-man, is supposed to help them with the preparations, but due to his inaptness he’s arrested and coerced to work with the secret service… Watching this clumsy guy delivering messages, becoming the gang’s driver and even committing the planned burglary with them offers plenty of entertaining Gemini-moments.
So does the wacky comedy “A Fish Called Wanda” (Ch. Crichton, 1988), revolving around a diamond heist and its repercussions. The gang consists of sly leader George, stutterer Ken, wannabe-intellectual Otto and resourceful Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis!), who has a fetish for foreign languages. After the successful robbery George is sold out by Otto and arrested. His lawyer Archie Leach – played by John Cleese – works hard to get him out of jail, while Wanda and Otto go after the loot George has hidden in order to cheat them out of it… All this is followed by wild havoc with fireworks of hilarious situations and witty wordplay.
Petty crooks and gangsters are frequent characters in Woody Allen’s and Quentin Tarantino’s movies too, and the fact that the work of two so very different directors can be considered significantly representative of the Gemini-archetype is evidence for the diversity, which is so characteristic for Gemini.
Woody Allen has created an enormous body of ordinary stories about entirely ordinary people and urban neurotics (e.g. linked to a very Gemini-like medium in 1987’s “Radio Days”) in his career. Especially characteristic for Gemini are the following films: “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask” (1972) and „Manhattan Murder Mystery“ (1979) for the topics of “information”, curiosity and neighbourhood. „Broadway Danny Rose“ (1984), „Bullets over Broadway“ (1994) and „Deconstructing Harry“ (1997), where playwrights and other writers are struggling with various obstacles and challenges, and moreover “Small Time Crooks” (2000), “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” (2001) and “Scoop” (2006), which are about thieves, their robberies and the investigators tracking them down. Most of Allen’s films are jumping with sharp and funny dialogue, verbal duels and a wry humour.
In a slightly different sense this also applies to Quentin Tarantino’s movies. His post-modern eclecticism and very knowledgeable knack for quotations and references define his unique style and – combined with his inventive line-up of characters and the episodic form of many of his films – show a considerable relatedness to the Gemini-archetype. Just as his famous dialogues, dealing with banalities like the French term for Big-Mac-burgers or a discussion about pop-icon Madonna… If it’s „Reservoir Dogs“ (1992), „Pulp Fiction“ (1994), „Jackie Brown“ (1997), or „Kill Bill“ (2003 & 2004) – Tarantino’s movies revolve around the everyday life of gangsters, dealers, killers and small-time crooks. Thereby this brilliant director with the apparently encyclopaedic knowledge of film history and popular culture succeeds in entertaining us so marvellously, that every time I left the cinema wonderfully animated, delighted and inspired by the abundance of allusions and references, it took me some time to realize that the question for meaning or relevance left me with a blank. Certainly and at the latest since his newest film “Django Unchained” (2012) this seems to have changed. Despite its huge entertainment value “Django Unchained” however, is no typical Gemini-film and hence doesn’t belong here…
Vesna Ivkovic studied literature and linguistics, sociology, philosophy and history and as well took a profound interest in psychology, mythology and different belief systems. Along the way she also explored various paths of body awareness such as the martial arts of Kung Fu, Dance, Yoga, Qi Gong and several other methods of body work and motion arts. In 1993 she discovered astrology as an instrument of knowledge and graduated in 2004 in Markus Jehle's and Petra Niehaus' master class at the Astrology Center Berlin. You can find out more about the author and her work on her own website www.astrosemiotics.de