Sunday, January 29, 2012

Archetype #2: The Anima


Jung described the anima--the ego of the feminine unconscious to the male conscious mind--as like the sphynx or the Mona Lisa - enigmatic, cryptic, mostly silent - neither alive nor dead nor undead, but a dweller in the space beyond such trivialities. Her refusal to be known fully by her outer male / consciousness is perhaps an underlying cause of so much patriarchal oppression in our world. We can't silence her midnight reproaches so we try to silence her outer projections. But it never works.

In order to placate her we must make an effort to 'find out what she wants' through much patient sitting in asanas and art. She is the ultimate 'unknown' that the male ego spends its life trying to seduce, make contact with, capture on canvas, harness, destroy, embrace... but she can never be fully known or possessed, only accepted as the enigma she is.  And thank god, because if she was ever understood fully, the world would open up into the pure white light of the infinite. And then what do you do with your time? Where do you find your inspiration?

Here's one of my attempts to show that, it's a Dorian Gray deconstruction of a scene from Nightmare Alley (1947). 

Erich Kuersten "Nightmare Alley" 2003

Man projects the anima into his girlfriends, wives, daughters, and then is crushed when she disappears from their faces. The girls of the movies and of his dreams are ageless and enigmatic, so they take over the job. So there's the ghostly obsession of Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo for the 'nonexistent' Madeline, Twin Peaks for Laura Palmer, the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, or the ghost vengeance of a Jess Franco nymphomaniacal heroine like Maria Rohm in Venus in Furs. Or there's her inescapable nurturing, her madonna-like perfection mocking your violent failings even as she consoles you, as with  Jessica Chastain in Tree of Life (below).


Eye's dark pupil, mirrored
Some feminist critics might decry these characters as unreal or male fantasies, but they miss the point - they are male fantasies but who is doing the fantasizing? The conscious man tries to understand his unconscious woman through fantasizing about her. Perhaps it is also the other way around, our inner anima fantasizing life as a man looking at herself in his mirror. Madeline is obsessed with the painting of her past life, like Jimmy is with her present.

Men can't control their unconscious mind (by definition) any more than we can (most of us) decide what we want to dream about when we sleep. If a man can make peace with his anima, either through art, meditation, astral voyaging, lucid dreaming, good deeds or just accumulated wisdom, he is en route to becoming a 'whole' soul. When he writes it is more like dictation. When he paints he just sits back and lets his inner woman guide his hand. The anima steps out of the shadows of the unconscious, halfway during dreams and art (and sometimes really good sex), and he steps into it, halfway, he lets go of the wheel and lets the wife drive for awhile --and then they are married in the Jungian reunification alchemical ritual.  But he will never understand her, never know her except that which she wants to reveal.
=====================

 The animas speaks in dreams, a woman you love more than any living woman,
but you can't understand her language...
one day you learn that the language she speaks to you is French,
It takes years to even recognize as French, but once you realize it's French it takes you years but you learn French and finally you get to understand her, finally she is yours for that one conversation.

But the next time you get a chance to talk to her she pretends to only know German.

So no you have to learn German,
and then she only speaks Japanese,
and so it goes, she runs through every language known to man, back into ancient Greek and Sumerian, Mayan, and lost Atlantean; you dog her heels every step of the way, even though decades may be spent learning each..

Finally all out of languages, she refuses to speak, she merely smiles the enigmatic sphinx and Mona Lisa smile.

When you finally match her even then, even learn this new language, the hardest to learn, the silence,
then the only thing left for her to hide in is what lies beyond silence, and you go there too, she surrenders at last, and
you are finally married.

But to get her undressed
you have to learn poker.
 
1. Kate Hepburn - Bringing up Baby (1938)

In comedy there is the Shakespearian / Hawksian elemental aspect - the sprite who raises mischief and chaos to fluster the male ego, to reduce its prominence in the constellation of consciousness by exposing it  to the chthonic forces of nature. Rather than civilizing herself like the old west, she wildernesses the civilized; she forces the westward expansion to, at last, contract. She is the inhale after the land grabbing exhale.  No one is better at this than Kate Hepburn in Bringing up Baby, Carole Lombard in anything, and Paula Prentiss in Man's Favorite Sport?

 Katharine Hepburn doesn't normally embody the anima; she's too independent, her own woman, too conscious and wily. But with an animal familiar, especially if it happens to a be leopard, she nails it. Cary Grant's absent-minded paleontologist has been keeping his right-brained feminine unconscious on such a tight leash it finally snaps in the form of the leopard but also golf balls, car theft, sock burning, crazy phone calls, clothes theft, bone-burying dogs, and finally a vicious leopard shadow twin to her trained leopard Baby, singing all the while.

2.  Laura Palmer - Twin Peaks / Fire Walk with Me

Bobby
Hey! Where were you for the last hour. I've been looking all over for you.
Laura:
I was standing right behind you, but you're too dumb to turn around. 

"Women who are of 'fairy-like' character especially attract such anima projections, because men can attribute almost anything to a creature who is so fascinatingly vague, and can thus proceed to weave fantasies around her." - Maria Von Franz

3. Maila Nurmi as Vampira
"I once loaned Maila a copy of Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols. In particular, I wanted her to read the chapter on the “anima,” Jung’s term for female archetypes – witches, goddesses, vampires, saints, etc. – that are actually fantasy projections of the inner male psyche, i.e., of the male’s unacknowledged feminine aspects. (When a woman does it, the projection is known as an “animus.”) After returning the book Maila declared, “I am an anima.” - C. Jerry Kutner (BLAD 1/11/08)
4. Brigitte Bardot
"It is better to be unfaithful than faithful without wanting to be." -bb
Bardot is a hero of mine for her decisison to use her money and fame to bring attention to animal cruelty, The Brigitte Bardot foundation. She understands her mythic anima resonance--her remote silence covers men in repfroachful invitation. We will never measure up to her staggeringly hot body, never quench the simple fire of discontentedness in her warm pout. She evades us as effortlessly as a swan evades a pool of sullen sharks. 

 
5. Marlene Dietrich 

"Mystery is a woman's greatest charm," Dietrich famously said. Like Bardot and Garbo she became reclusive once her looks could no longer be maintained. They are artists of the persona, sacrificing a normal middle-aged life so their anima cachet can resonate forever. They are the true vampires of our century, never growing old, siphoning the energy of our desire until we fall back, weakened by masochistic reverie. Our romantic memories, dredged up from our dating history and absorbed into the celluloid of the vampire anima, light up her skin through sleep's Von Sternberg latticework shadow. In withholding herself from her image, our inner projection of the anima finds its focus for the first time, like a dead ship igniting into windswept sails and mizzenmast hoisting. 

 6. Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958)
 "The movie turns on the slightly malicious question, "Who is Kim Novak?" a question which becomes more frightening, and unanswerable, once the secret of her dual identity within the film is revealed. The initial sequences, for all their beauty in summoning up the enchantment of the anima archetype, belong to a familiar-enough theme in psychology and art--the man as victim of seduction. The fall of James Stewart's character Scottie into "acute melancholia complicated by a guilt complex" is what he deserves from biting into this familiar apple. Indeed, the cumulative kitsch elements of the romance--the staginess of the exposition of the preposterous plot; the tourist's view of San Francisco's prettiness in the long, languishing silent sequence; the poor quality of the "museum painting" of the nineteenth-century woman Kim Novak is supposed to be obsessed by; the monotonous unreality Novak brings to the reading of her lines; and the ponderous earnestness of James Stewart as he becomes her victim--all have a wearying effect, much like the depression of coaddiction." - John  Beebe (The Anima in Film
7. Lana Del Rey

The critics who attack Del Rey for her 'makeover' from Lizzie Grant show in their hostility just how effective this adopted persona is as an anima. She is the Marlene Dietrich of her time and we should remember that Marlene too had a makeover upon coming to Hollywood -- losing thirty pounds and four back molars, among other modifications. There's not a single Hollywood star, I'm fairly sure, who is 100% 'real' according to Del Rey's detractors' definition. So it speaks to the raw archetypal sore spot Rey's poked that so many critics feel they must attack her, while others, like me, feel they need to defend her. When you become something to fight over, it's not even 'about' whether you're 'real' or not. If someone tells you they had a dream about a witch would you say, "Bro, that witch is totally fake"? Of course not. What's important is that Del Rey is the anima of 2012; she is the amnesiac succubus; she is the Diane Selwyn of Mulholland Dr. and singing over in Blue Velvet. Her seemingly augmented visage is like if Madeline / Novak had plastic surgery to resemble the portrait of Carlotta Veldez.... or


8. Rita Hayworth as Gilda (1946)

"They go to bed with Gilda but wake up with me." 

Del Rey's weird lips make her a kind of anime comic book version of Rita Hayworth, who showed she understood her persona's hypnotic effect when she famously said the above line. But Hayworth never bowed to the pressures of being an anima, of trying to be a living archetypal image. Rather, the anima rather bowed to her insistence that she was indeed a woman and not a phantom projection. Her image is strong enough it can thrive even in such a self-imposed prison--one literally imposed almost by force of her animus onto her in Gilda--thus Stephen King's novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" is about prison. That's why I always get a little sickly claustrophobic watching Gilda - the feeling of suffocation caused by her seedy choice of men, nameley the very square-headed and seemingly shorter than her Glenn Ford, who tries to rope her off the way those icky brothers all tried to rope BB in ... and God Created Woman (1957), by cockblocking her, stifling her libidinal-elemental archetypal freedom. I've hated him ever since, regardless of his role (he's pretty great in this, tho).

9. Ava Gardner as Pandora in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)

Di Chirico "The Profit," 1915

No one was going to cockblock or stifle Ava Gardner's libidinal-elemental archetypal freedom, not a possessive homicidal bullfighter, a racing car driver, or any of the would-be suitors who dash themselves upon her rocks in the haunting and underrated Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Only James Mason, the original flying dutchman who promises her deathless timeless love aboard his slick craft, knows what to do with all her aching archetypal beauty. And he embraces her enigmatic grace first by painting her before he even meets her (top), and then after she angrily blots out her face with white he incorporates the white into a De Chirico type mask, restoring and enhancing her unknowable elemental mystery rather than trying to reign it in like the other men orbiting her. An archetype himself, the Dutchman whisks her from the time-bound concerns of mortal men and into the constellations where she belongs.

 10. 3-Way Tie: a. Gene Tierney as Laura (1944)

Falling in love with a painting is easy; your anima projects right onto it like a silver screen. But if the painting comes to life (as you so devoutly and ill-advisedly wish) all of a sudden it's not a projection screen but a dark, swirling muddy mess of paint that never dries and thinks you're beneath her social class... or at any rate you think she thinks that. Detective Dana Andrews falls in love with her image while investigating her murder, but when his unconscious feminine ego is suddenly off the canvas and replaced by a real woman's byzantine reality he's shorn of footing.

b. Rebecca (1940)


The painting / initialed sundries, and sumptuous bedroom of truly dead Rebecca on the other hand is so fogged up in anima-projection that her still living and ever-brooding Laurence Olivier all but ignores his real life new young wife, played by Joan Fontaine. He loves young Fontaine at least in part because she seems pliable, young and as anti-anima as possible. Meanwhile Rebecca's ghost overflows all screens and no real woman can compete, lest she become more ruthless and wicked than Rebecca herself. 

C. Ligeia - Tomb of Ligeia  (1964)

All of the Corman-Poe cycle films are filthy with devolved animas but as the morbid end game of the de-evolution of a psyche where the anima projection screen endures even into death, Ligeia takes the metaphor deep. In Laura the woman in the painting was still alive; in Rebecca dead; and in Ligeia undead, alive in cat form and hot corpse-spirit possession form, i.e.  abstracted into necrophilia (this is one of the few films where 'pussy-whipped' is a genuine action).

11. Christine Gordon as Jessica Holland in I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Jessica is a great example of the unassimilated anima; the one that will not fade all the way back into the shadows nor merge into the male consciousness even in part; thus she is a cross between the madwoman in the attic ala Jane Eyre and the painting of Rebecca. She was evidently Rebecca-esque in life--i.e. manipulative, slutty, and bi-polar--and now she is halfway into becoming as dead as Rebecca, as undead as Ligeia, and as immortal as her own (nonexistent) painting.  And as an anima she serves only to cockblock her nurse and tear a tropical island family apart, all while Calypso singer Sir Lancelot recounts her misdeeds in his honeyed, irresistible voice. 


I'm not the first to question Leo's insistence on dead wives: check out Nathaniel R's awesome Dead Wives Club poster above. The question is, why? An anima has actually more power in her 'dead' state, yet is less of a threat; she is neither bound up in the eternal sleep of zombie Jessica and the sleeping Snow White nor alive like Laura or Bardot. She is free to rule the psyche of the 'male' consciousness without worry of clashing with the 'real' thing. In other words, unlike Dana Andrews in Laura, Leo never has to worry about his obsession suddenly coming to life and doing un-anima things like taking too long in the bathroom or nagging him about his drinking. He can just stay up late and guzzle hooch and stare at her framed photo--eyes welling up with tears. This is the ideal state for all actors afraid of being upstaged- the dead wife allows all the anima interaction to occur deep down in the dream state, so she can't embarrass you in front of your friends. And it's a great excuse for binge drinking... and not stretching. AMen


Thursday, January 26, 2012

No Sex! It's a Gentleman's Agreement...


Design for Living (1933) centers around a "gentleman's agreement" that there will be no sex between sketch artist Miriam Hopkins and best friends Frederic March and Gary Cooper. There's a very good reason for this: they like each other so much, they don't want to fuck it up. American ex-pats in 1930s Paris, they meet on a train, so neither March nor Cooper can claim to have seen her first and have any 'finder's rights' and Hopkins refuses to choose one over the other. She is 'very fond' of both, so the agreement is she will be a 'mother of the arts' and spur their work--March's plays and Cooper's paintings--to success, which she does, and friction will be sidestepped by their gentleman's agreement, its offshoot artistic sublimation in part responsible for their triumphs. But once March is off to London to shepherd his play's West End opening, Hopkins takes Cooper into her boudoir to console him over their mutual loss, and beds him for she is "no gentleman."

Meanwhile her boss, advertising mogul Everett Edward Horton, patiently waits his chance to woo Hopkins. He hasn't even 'gotten to first base' with her and as is the case so often with such lame duck lovers who are never quite all the way spurned or accepted, feels it's his duty to attempt to shoo the other boys away but of course he's little more than a fly at a picnic thinking it's the other way around. That is until he eventually 'wins' by default, even though he's too beholden to Eaglebauer to give her a, well, it's a semi-long story.

But what price no sex with guys as gorgeous as Cooper and March? And in this film they are tall, well-dressed and full of callow insecurity coupled with 'they don't know how hot they are" extra hotness -- and the result my favorite performance from either of them.  I don't think I've ever seen March more relaxed, less like his usual coiled spring thespian self, or Cooper more beautiful, almost feminine with his eye liner and creaseless face. Look at his visage in the top picture; not a furrow on either's brow. Or look into Cooper's haunting eyes, has he ever seemed more alive or intelligent or sensual? Together they display the kind of rapport you seldom see in men outside of a rock band, the military, or Howard Hawks movies (Hawks collaborator Ben Hecht wrote the script loosely patterned off of Noel Coward, for whom the boy-boy romance was surely more complicated).

Paris, 1933 (March - right)
Now that Criterion's awesome blu-ray is out we can forget about trying to find it elsewhere and savor the lush image and Kim Morgan's awesome essay, "It Takes Three." which is included in the liner notes:
What’s so touching about this threesome is how much they genuinely like each other. When you see them giggling on a bed (feet off the floor), they could just as easily be braiding each other’s hair or challenging one another to a wrestling match. Sex gets in the way, of course, but equal intelligence is an asset here. And since Gilda is essentially a good woman and not a mere indecisive tease, she can’t tear these two best friends apart. Rather than torture them with bedroom flip-flops, she sacrifices her own happiness for . . . Edward Everett Horton.
Morgan's tight journalistic prose and willingness to gaze without flinching into the murky abyss of feminine desire is an inspiration for my own writing and I appreciate her approach to the film is a lot more about the desire while mine is about the 'agreement.'  I found out early on that if you love beautiful, intelligent women, but don't sleep with them, or even hit on them, ever, just love them and let them inspire you, then your art will bump up several notches and you will keep the beautiful inspirational women as friends for life (as lovers you'd lose them after a few months or years and never be inspired by them again). If Deneuve's traumatized beauty had a friend like that in Repulsion, she may have been able to just cook the rabbit and watch some TV. God forbid you hit on her and get rejected! you'll never write again, but if you can do the trickster thing and resist temptation you just might have a shot at getting actually good at your craft, and not getting pregnant or slashed to bloody ribbons in the process.

One of my own personal gentleman's agreement-style bonds is captured in the picture below, circa 1991. It wasn't quite the gentleman's agreement of Cooper and March and Hopkins because she was his girlfriend but the effect was the same as in Design for Living, a three way love affair for alcoholic ages: he and I were in a band together and housemates; her and I played a lot of gin and drank a lot of gin. The three of us went everywhere together. We were like Design for Living times Performance! In some ways, my relationship with the both of them was 'purer' then theirs as a couple. They fought and sulked and needled and I rose above it all like a third wheel spinning in the sky; my own girlfriend snug and quiet in her genie bottle of Old Grandad (green label).

N. Myrtle Beach, 1991 (me - left)
Losing her in the mid-90s to a conventionally successful and 'grounded' E.E. Horton / Ralph Bellamy type helped make me the critic of marriage I am today. No offense to him personally, he's a right enough chap, but he's not... us. I've lost so many great friends to marriage, it's like small pox, or Logan's Run (below). Right around the age of 30 they float up to the altar at the 'carousel' and are zapped off to the suburbs. Suddenly they can't stay out late because they need to catch the last train home and or relieve the babysitter. I'm happy for them if they're following their bliss, but if they're following the herd I say halt, herd!

"I do."
But! I am for group marriages. Maybe a three-way marriage could have allowed sex to flourish within the tri-bond of of Design for Living.  I wished I could have married all my friends in a big collective group back then, bound to each other body and soul (well, soul anyway). Instead we live with the daily injustice that we may be best buds with someone for 20 years and then can't visit them in the hospital or share their inheritance, while some chick they drunkenly married a week ago in Vegas suddenly owns half of everything we watched them earn and shuts us out of the visiting room on detox day. I know at least two beautiful, smart girls who never see or hear from their dad anymore because of his jealous second wife. And that's your 'noble institution' in action? No wonder wits like Hecht and Coward and Lubitsch were so suspicious of it. Much better to cherish those friends you love via the gentleman's agreement, so that the mystery and sublimation need never cease its sparkle.

And of course, breaking that agreement then becomes doubly exciting.


PS -- if you're happily married and getting pissed off reading this, forgive me, I'm really only talking about the media's sickly  unconscious Horton-esque sanctification of the suburban status quo (i.e. new baby sitcoms like Up All Night) and overall avidya-style short-sightedness compared to the witty out-of-the-box genius of Design for Living. I do know many fine marriages where I revere and love both members and even their children or lack thereof. It's only because no one else is even trying that I would widen the shrinking aperture of what the media shows as success and happiness in this most dying and overpopulated of all possible worlds.

 

See also other films that recognize the gentleman's agreement: My Best Friend's Wedding, and The Good Thief or what about the electric synergy of Fred and Carrie on Portlandia?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quilty Makes This World: 12 Tricksters (CinemArchetype #1)


This post commences a series on Jungian archetypes in film and media, wherein we gather an assortment of characters, icons, and public figures who all fit the same archetypal mold, the better to unravel our iconographical lexicon. The first archetype celebrated here is, naturally, 'The Trickster' for he is the most psychedelic, just ask Ken Kesey or Timothy Leary, if they weren't dead....Trickster makes this world!

For sake of polarization of type we've limited this to males, but of course the trickster is by nature beyond gender. Beyond personal gain as well, for he lives in a state of identity flux, bound to no one persona (though perhaps a cause, like 'the paper') and is seldom on the level as far as sincerity and yet this allows him perhaps greater leeway in his altruistic ambitions, for he need gratify no urge if there is no there there to 'want' anything. If a trickster helps you on your way be grateful but not indebted. And beware: for every two or three favors he gives, one wry screw-over is guaranteed. But you can't just walk away after two favors, what if the third is legit, too? Dude, turns out none of them are favors, they're gin and tonics. He'll confuse the simple and clarify the incoherent, and never justify anything, let alone means or ends. Take Elliot Gould's doctor in MASH for example,who seamlessly incorporates an operation on the child of a prostitute into his Tokyo boondoggle and just as effortlessly employs blackmail of the resident officer to make it happen. He expects no reward or condemnation, neither a freebie nor guilt trip; he doesn't think ahead or crave validation - he's just a dancer in the Shiva flame. That's a trickster.

1. Peter Sellers
"The woman always goes for the trickster, because he cannot be shamed; he is too transparent, always able to drop his 'story' (in an EST sense) the moment it gains any weight, a series of roles each easily discarded for the next. The James Mason types by contrast inevitably resorts to violence, for they presume their warped idea of dignity and ownership is an essential right, worth killing over; they feel  justified in the use of firearms against the trickster who mocks them — and in the 1960s it was because the repressed guy was closeted, or abused, or a mélange of the two like in Bertolucci's The Conformist. The trickster's game involves exposing these straightedge characters for the damaged bullies they are, and so they can't help but leap across the mess hall table and start strangling Donald Sutherland (Burns in MASH) or shooting Quilty, so we realize the whole time they've been festering in their self-made prison of masochistic desire. But even here the trickster's power is healing and transforming — his opponent's straightedges have been rounded off against their will. Maybe now Burns will learn to smoke pot and lift weights in his garage, like American Beauty or get a motorcycle like in Wild Hogs!" (All Tomorrow's Playground Narratives)
2. Stephen Colbert

"...Conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. " - H. Lamare (The Irony of Satire)


3. Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) 
 The meta-textual similarity of Joker's burning money scene to the wasteful expenditure of the film's vast budget and its justification via huge box-office profit -- all for what amounts to a big loud explosion of nothing -- is eerily prescient. For Dark Knight is really a big, loud, leftist version of Dirty Harry with our sympathies reversed. We can imagine Batman rushing in to save that burning money, cradling it in his arms and screaming to the sky: "Damn you, fire! This money had just one more day 'til retirement!" Meanwhile we look on in horror, not at the burning money, but because we realize the Joker is the only sane man in Gotham, the only "true" soul in this dark mess, the only one with inner Zen stillness and joi de vivre; the only one not hypnotized by their "life story." No matter how harshly he's screamed at (Batman growls and shouts until he's hoarse), the Joker never loses his mellow-gold cool; he's already at peace with himself and his mania. He's in the flow like one of those old drunken masters in the Shaw Brothers films. (see: "Burn your money!")

4. Groucho Marx
"Let me know when you want to be attacked and I'll be there five minutes later to defend you."
5. Bugs Bunny
Bugs Bunny gets a charge out of driving people crazy. And that may be why he lasts. He doesn't seem like a character of the '40s, but rather a character of today. His wisecracking, gender-bending, anti-authority antics broke ground long before punk rock, or David Bowie, or Jerry Seinfeld. He's impossible to pin down in any specific sense.  --J.J. Sutherland, Trickster, American Style
6. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
"Me? I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It’s the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly, stupid."
7.Eli Wallach as Vacaro - Baby Doll (1956)
When Vacaro and Baby Doll have been alone in the house all afternoon neither Archie Lee nor we in the audience know if they did or didn't have sex. Rather than confront them directly, Archie Lee hems and haws around the issue, and Baby Doll and Vacaro play up their flirtations... for Archie's benefit! The play the same game Dietrich and her young bucks were working on Von Sternberg's masochistic stand-ins back before the code. What makes this scene so “dirty” is not the seductive play between Vacaro and Baby Doll, but its performative aspect towards Archie Lee. They exaggerate their seductive fire for each other in order to enflame the jealousy of Malden. Their kisses are passionate in direct relation to Malden’s proximity; the harder Malden tries to control things, the steamier their interaction gets.
.
8.Robert De Niro as Conrad Brean - Wag the Dog (1997)

Conrad: 
And it's most certainly NOT about the B-3 bomber.
Aide:
There is no B-3 bomber.
Conrad: 
I just said that! There is no B-3 bomber. 
I don't know how these rumors get started!

9. Elliot Gould as Trapper John  - MASH (1970)
Peterson:
You can't even go near a patient until Col. Merrill says its ok
and he's still out to lunch.
Trapper John: 
Look, mother, I want to go to work in one hour.
We are the Pros from Dover and we figure to crack this kid's
chest and get out to the golf course before it gets dark.

10. Cary Grant as Walter Burns - His Girl Friday (1944)

Walter Burns
Look, Hildy, I only acted like any husband
that didn't want to see his home broken up.
Hildy Johnson
What home?
Walter Burns: 
"What home"? Don't you remember the home I promised you?

11. Roy Scheider as Dr. Benway - Naked Lunch (1991)
 "You'll see how elegantly this works. The black will disappear completely. There'll be no smell, no discoloration. It's like an agent, an agent who's come to believe his own cover story. But who's in there, hiding, in a larval state. Just waiting for a time to hatch out."
12. Max Von Sydow - The Magician (1958)

Bergman's film itself refuses to guess whether Sydow's character is a poor beardless blonde actor begging alms for his attempt to entertain and terrify, or the actual mystical creature he appears to be in the beginning and by the end. Even the embittered empiricist for whom most of it all is being performed can't tell, and he's at least wise enough to see that the denuded magician / beggar is just another persona for this mysterious "faux-magus" (which is redundant).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vampire Morality Blues: Underworld: Awakening, We are the Night

 

We all love vampires, but what's the deal with all the 'good' ones in films like We are the Night (2nd down from top, below), Interview with a Vampire, The Lost Boys, and Near Dark, wherein people become vampires presumably to be badass but actually only to also become hypocritically pious by refusing to slaughter humans, and giving the vampires who kill and drink humans a rough time (these phonies are worse than vegans!) Give them a goblet of blood they'll drink it and never ask where it came from, but killing humans is, like, wrong, just like the 'good' Terminator can only shoot humans in the legs, and Batman risks the lives of god-knows-how-many innocent bystanders to not run over the Joker (The Dark Knight).

We are the Night
In Germany's We are the Night, the protagonist--a femme Nikita-type punkette--is badass as a human but once she newborn develops a conscience, refuses to kill and even refuses the advances of the hot Teutonic blonde leader of the clan, all just so she can get all boringly hetero with some handsome copper. So rather than perch in the rarefied aerie of Vampyres, The Black Swan, Xena, Daughters of Darkness and Bound, this (Sex and the City materialist-brand) edgy horror-action drama trudges down to the the last-minute heterosexual imperative dungeon, already crammed with films like Kissing Jessica Stein, So Close, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and others too boring to remember.

Interview with a Vampire
And not even to harp on that issue, but We are the Night is made by Germans. Germans! Why not take a risk and dare us to identify with a genuine human-killing vampire, i.e. one who truly is the night and isn't just kibbitzing? Do you think humanity itself will cease to exist if we get to see a happy lesbian vampire for a change? You parachute this glum boy cop in there like the film needs him. We don't need anymore hunk c***blockers --sent in like heterosexuality's overcrowded real estate agent to dull the works. I thought we buried this type of clueless beard back in D.E.B.S (2004).


That's why this new Underworld: Awakening (released next Friday-ish) looks good to me. After Melancholia and Rise of the Planet of the Apes it may be the first movie to wise up and root for the other side; to trust we're smart enough not to start biting people because we saw the protagonist do it, or that we'll hate humanity like we don't all ready hate ourselves worse than we ever could our killer.

Awakening's plot is that Kate Beckinsale and company are now hunted down by humanity instead of werewolves (The werewolves are to apes as vamps are to humans in the Underworld - Planet of the Apes continuum). As humanity has become a dreary bore lately, what with the old white devil sea / Republican debates, I'm sure I'm not alone in rooting for our extinction: in his review of We are the Night on Spellbound Cinema, Daniel Orion Davis brings up Sartre's concept of 'bad faith:'
Inevitably, comes the turn, however.  We are socialized to reject "vampirism" in all its metaphoric capacity.  Taught, for very socially beneficial reasons, that might can not make right.  And so we must deceive ourselves, practice "bad faith" and call the fantasy a nightmare.  If it is wrong to dominate others, then it must be wrong to fantasize about dominating others.  And so the figure of the brooding vampire, the repentant sinner, the...sigh..."vegetarian." 
I say a humanity that can cheer its own demise is a saved humanity, for it is our objective perspective about ourselves that saves us -- what exploited, tortured laboratory chimp among us will feel vindicated by Rise of the Planet of the Apes? None, but we made it anyway. That's good. What vampire action group will howl in outrage if the good vampires don't stick to their 'animal blood' diet? None, but filmmakers seem to think a whole contingent of nervous 'defamation of the undead' anti-lobbyists are outside on a picket line/ A morally ambiguous approach would add all sorts of modern resonance and it is not here. The misanthropic approach of Rise and Awakening is ballsy bravery;  Night is squeamish cowardice.


And why is killing a human more offensive than killing a chimp, or a deer? If you had a choice between one human test subject dying and ten thousand test  chimps which would you pick? What if it was between three dolphins or a pedophile? A thousand kittens vs. a foul smelling old vagrant who never had an altruistic thought in his life?

You chose the kittens?

Dude, that smelly old vagrant... was me.

Just kidding! BUT you get the point.

Bill Paxton. Too bad the 'hero' is someone else: Near Dark
Animals are always innocent; ourselves almost never, and PS-we should learn to eat insects, as nature intended, and I will only accept your decision that it's gross after you've killed and skinned at least one of the mammals you've eaten, if ye be eating them, and told me it's less gross to kill and eat a squirrel than to fry some crunchy buttered grasshoppers. That our vampires are too squeamish to do what thousands of brave slaughterhouse workers, snakes, wolves and micro-livestock enthusiasts do everyday is just embarrassing, a sad offshoot of our see-no-evil carnivore guilt; even our vampires are of cowardly conscience made. At least in Germany.


The Underworld series on the other hand isn't great, but it's no worse than the average story in Heavy Metal magazine and it employs a lot of classy Brit thespians like Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy and Beckinsale, who is a good actress, foxy, and damned hot without being tacky or sleazy in her skintight leather outfit. And they all play it dead straight. Sometimes something can be great just by being better than Resident Evil or Bloodrayne, and that's always been true if the greatness includes daring to return to moral ambivalence. So go get us, Kate! Believe me we deserve it.