MAY 2018 at the SALON

"The World of Tomorrow" Re-Considered
presented by Jim Jackson, with special guest John Crowley

This month’s Salon offers a special two-fold benefit:

We will be screening The World of Tomorrow (1984), a “found footage” documentary (ostensibly about the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40 and events surrounding it) that profiles the collective mindset of a nation on the brink: specifically, the brink of economic recovery, the brink of war, and the brink of technological breakthrough (to name a few). 

The World of Tomorrow draws from many sources: theatrical newsreels, government informational films, corporate promotional footage (most notably a 55-minute “featurette” produced by Westinghouse) and even a Max Fleischer cartoon short. 

Chief among those many sources are a number of home movies which help “The World of Tomorrow” capture, conjure and perhaps even channel its unique, first-person perspective. 

It’s that perspective — brought to life and given voice by none other than the Academy Award-winning actor Jason Robards — that gives this modest little production its staying power. Robards’ narration performance is so affecting and natural, so effortless and understated — and so introspective and intimate — it’s hard to tell which aspects of the narrative voice are genuinely his, and which were written for him by somebody else. 

In order to help us deconstruct this dynamic, we will be turning to that “somebody else” for insight.  And as it turns out, that “somebody” isn’t just anybody, either.  

John Crowley — who will join us LIVE via Skype — is not only the screenwriter of “The World of Tomorrow,” he has since emerged with something of a polymath pedigree that belies his unassuming production credit here. 

Crowley is an accomplished writer-novelist of the highest order: the award-winning science-fantasy author of “Little, Big” (2006) and, more recently, “Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr” (2017). His first novel (“The Deep”) was published back in 1975. According to the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center (where many of Crowley’s archives are held), he began teaching courses in Utopian fiction and fiction writing at Yale University in 1993. Crowley has graciously accepted our invitation to attend the evening’s post-screening analysis / discussion. 

Jason Robards and John Crowley
Hence, the two-fold benefit: 

First, it’s a chance to re-discover “The World of Tomorrow” itself — not just for its numerous nostalgic novelties, but for the unique ways it proves to be as relevant today as the day it was made (if not more so), even in spite of other outwardly dated technical and stylistic appearances; 

And second, it’s a rare opportunity to hear firsthand from someone who knows a thing or two about writing (in general and from a documentary writer’s personal / anecdotal perspective) who is uniquely qualified to speak on how this particular work came together. 

Ultimately, it’s an event that extends the possibility of even more insights into a work that is nothing less than a masterpiece of understated, narrative subtlety: at first brought to life — and then elevated — by a “narrative voice” (of writer+narrator combined) that somehow takes it to a whole ’nother level.

Thursday, May 24
6:30p  Food & Social
7:00p  Screening & Discussion