Saturday, 14 July 2012

Week 29: Nevada

"These tables are haunted by the ghost of Las Vegas,
 Their chips were once mountains but they came here to play;
 They could take me if they wanted but I have nothing worth counting,
 And like the sands of Nevada they go drifting away..."
 - 'Sands of Nevada',
 Mark Knopfler

Bright light city's gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire. There, like a diamond burning bright, like an oasis amidst the desert, is one of the most implausible cities on earth. A paradise of excess surrounded by an excess of nothingness: Las Vegas, Nevada.

We know Las Vegas. In our convertible we scream out of the desert and down The Strip, neon flashing overhead. And then we're out the other side, back into the desert. Vegas is just one brief bright glare of civilisation - or, depending upon your view, barbarity - in the expanses of the Nevada basin. Sands and rocks stretch off towards California, Arizona and Utah.

Nevada is a state of boom and bust. It is also a state of mind, a fever dream of getting rich quick. It owed its birth to the riches beneath its barren wastes: it is officially known as the Silver State. The Comstock Lode of silver produced a fortune for a few and desperation for so many more. And now Nevada is synonymous with new dreams of the big time: casinos.

The casinos in Reno and Las Vegas have their history of mob ownership. There is an anything goes morality that has led to Vegas's nickname of 'Sin City'. Visitors can drink and gamble to their hearts' content. Love is cheap too at the countless wedding chapels. Or even cheaper (and possibly not love) at the state's legalised brothels.

Nevada is a state of extremes - great wealth and great poverty, won and lost on the throw of a dice. The great glittering city of Las Vegas and the barren empty wastes that surround it. The style and glamour of the Rat Pack and the 'style' and 'glamour' of Siegfried and Roy. I'm hoping that we can capture those extremes.

We could fill a week just with films set in Las Vegas: Leaving Las Vegas, Bugsy, Honeymoon in Vegas, Diamonds are Forever, any of the various incarnations of Ocean's 11. But I'm going to try, where possible, to get out from the city. My three films are:
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
  • Casino (1995)
  • Tremors (1990)

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