Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Twilo When I was Young: TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN Part I

"Sexuality is a murky realm of contradiction and ambivalence. It cannot always be understood by social models, which feminism, as an heir of nineteenth-century utilitarianism, insists on imposing on it... It cannot be "fixed" by codes of social or moral convenience, whether from the political left or right. For nature's fascism is greater than that of any society." - Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
"I can't help it / if you might think I am odd
If I say I'm not loving you for what you are
but for what you're not." -- Bob Dylan, "I'll Keep it with Mine"
 Haters love to dismiss the Twilight films, sight unseen, but they do so at their own peril. The New Sincerity, you can't escape it, any more than my parents' collective rattletrap beachfront condo can escape the wrath of 2012's rising tides. Will you be drowned in the pool of tweenage tears, or stand up and be counted, neck seared by the puncturing flames of angst along the water's edge? I have my answer. I am walking on air.

When I flew down to visit my mom and grieve my late father this weekend, pictures of all white jogging outfit-clad Kristen Stewart rubbing her flat white belly were all over the USA Todays and NY Times papers floating around the airport. In the rush of pressurized cabins and the endless boarding calls, these pictures took on an unheimliche aura that I found irresistible.  Then, watching ECLIPSE and NEW MOON on my mom's huge flat screen in our off-hours, I could appreciate the films' sublime mix of gorgeous scenery, operatic brooding, and mythic family dynamics. The latter in particular is so strong --the sense of belonging or wanting to be belong, or about to be initiated into a pack of cool older kids--and so central to any alienated youth fantasy's success you'd think it would be a regular feature of teen movies, but you'd be wrong, and that in itself shows what idiots most filmmakers are. Like overpaid hack Joe Ezterhaz's Catherine Trammel, who is given Lecter-like powers of manipulation thanks to her 'Bachelor's in Psychology', Mormon author Stephanie Meyers wins by default, because her fantasy world is genuinely Jungian, not Freudian, not smarmian, not dickheadian. It never snickers or leers, and even when confronted with a bunch of muscled Native American males, there's never a wolf call. Just as the douche bags and dillweeds never make it past the chicken wire fence of our psyches, so too is the Pacific Northwest of Meyers' imagination a perfect mirror of a genuine dreamworld. That it's a 15 year old girl's dreamworld and not mine matters not. In dreams we are all ageless, and gender is as flexible as set and setting, we all dream Tiresias. All that matters for true myth to function is that the chivalry of Camelot meet the wild woods of Hans Christen Andersen; that the nightmare projections of lonely girls making out with their tear-stained pillows in the dead of night sometimes come to life in white-as-a-sheet complexioned animae; that cool music by Bon Iver and Mazzy Star-studded chanteuses find ultimate visuals in the misty mountain hops of the Pacific NW.

As an older viewer I identify neither with the Edwards nor the Jacobs, but with the moldy old-growth forest bearing witness to their duels; the Merlin-Green Man bearing fathomlessly patient witness to the unfurling events from the vantage point of the fern camera. And since most straight guys in their 40s like me wouldn't give the Twilight films a viewing even if they were forced to on a plane, I take it as a duty to flaunt my championing, even as I question the 'rightness' of it. I'm not sure I'll ever actually pay to go see Breaking Dawn in the theater, but I salute its existence eventually on DVD rental. And when I'm old and enfeebled like T.S. Eliot I'll probably buy the complete set on blu-ray to watch all alone in long sittings when I'm emotionally disturbed and afraid to leave the house. But until then, come with me into my past writings on this great series. First, ECLIPSE:
"...the realization of modern myth requires teenagers to resonate, as all fairy tales involve the very young. Never forget that in the days of King Arthur, the oldest person–Merlin–was probably in his early 30s...  Considering the sexist neoconservative consumerism-product placed orgasm-oriented flicks that predominate so-called ‘women’s pictures’ or rom-coms, TWILIGHT alone understands the supernatural power that can be had in rejecting bland hand-me-down values. The pro-virginity aspect is the 21st century Antigone move, the way not being a virgin was in the 1920s. I know very well the way a woman you haven’t had sex with can inspire like no other muse, and the way a 100-year old lecher in a teen idol’s body can wreak merry havoc on pouty-lipped teenager brain stems, and I know these things to be true, and that as an artist or writer, that kind of inspiration should always trump the pitiful and misleading call of the proprietary orgasm. Edward knows it too…. sigh (Bright Lights, 1/11)
Then, on the first two films and the general 'concerned mom' backlash over the second film I wrote the feature length (for Bright Lights Film Journal)

"Eternal virginity via sacrifice in the Twilight-verse thus equals the preservation of youth, of sparing a beautiful creature the passage into the world of cruel, devouring nature. This is essentially what Edward works towards in refusing to punk Bella out to the vampire way of life, to prevent her from having any traumatic or otherwise significant experiences, to keep her isolated from "the real." Yet the imaginary level he exists in hinges on promises of danger, sex, and being turned into a vampire for it to hold any interest at all. For Edward to, in a sense, "exist" in Bella's life, she must stay virginal; the blood he drinks is supposedly from animals or something, but it's clear his spiritual power is derived from keeping Bella sustained in perpetual adolescence." - "Someone to Fight Over Me." (Bright Lights #68, May 2010)

I bring in this Neil Diamond song as 'Shilo' is an excellent anima example, Shilo as the Edward to Neil Diamond's Bella: "When no one else would come / Shilo, you always came."And of course, Twilo (left) was a once very popular, now closed, mostly gay but extremely hetero friendly all-night dance club - the place to go when the rest of New York was finally closed, and the pink dawn was breaking, and you were still too high on ecstasy and/or cocaine and/or acid and/or shrooms to consider going to sleep.

That breaking dawn vibe of your heart beating like mad at the thought of bedding one of the three girls still up with you and how to sneak away from the others, and where the hell your keys are but you're so high you don't care, that's what the Twilight films conjure up for me, that and the aching soul vibe that my mom's LP of Neil Diamond's 12 Greatest Hits gave me as a six year old in the 1970s, where Kate Jackson was my Shiloh, and she always came, after I had to go to sleep though (Charlie's Angels came on past my bedtime)

And, from 1/7/08 (The Beautiful and the Darned) after the first film came out:
"TWILIGHT it must be remembered, has nothing to do with "real" high school or "real" horror films - it's a fantasia of maturity deferment; a snapshot of how pregnant with dangerous, giddy possibility the world seems before one gets their first "bite." It's permanently frozen at the moment of rapture/rupture, right before the disillusionment of the first sexual experience (see also: THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) with a guy who promises you the world, then splits. The idea of an ageless vampire here becomes an excuse for the eternal virgin prepubescence; an eternity dwelling at the edge of the cliff that all your friends are now beginning to dive off of (and looking kind of busted when they resurface, if they ever do).

"Aren't movies primarily vehicles for escape? In the case of TWILIGHT, what the girl demographic is escaping from is their own wooden stake penetration, the pink dawn of the mighty crowing cock. Who can blame them? I remember my revulsion at seeing hairy 1970s nudist magazines being circulated in elementary school. Could people really be doing these things with their... ? It seemed unsanitary, violent and most of all, painfully humiliating. The giddy night of the prom starts out flowers and anticipation, it ends up pig's blood and Trip Fontaine splitting before you wake up in the wet grass of the football field.

"What eased the fear of this sullied maturation when I was of TWILIGHT age? Pamela Sue Martin as TV's NANCY DREW, Kate Jackson in CHARLIE'S ANGELS...much of TV at the time fostered a dependable sexlessness, the promise of an eternity of hand-holding and chaste confessions of love and adoration, as opposed to a humiliating orifice merger."
  Finally, from 1/20/09, Tortured Longing is the New Coke:
"TWILIGHT fuels the fire of sadomasochistic alchemy wherein torture becomes pleasure, denial becomes acceptance, submission becomes freedom. Through recognition and release of the associated fear, not having becomes having it all. The girls of TWILIGHT ween themselves off desire through recognition of its impossibility. They’ve been set free, like Jonathan Pryce at the end of BRAZIL, looking out at the clouds while one of his torturers (Michael Palin) sadly realizes, “he’s gotten away from us, Jack!” These TWILIGHT girls have gotten away from us, Jack. They’ve found a streak of neo-Victorian repression that leads them clear away from Big Brother and his sublimation dream wheel."

And PS - there's nothing gay about... THE IMMORTALS!


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