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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Tree Falls in Brooklyn, + New Bright Lights, + Simon of the Desert and Swar of the Saints

"Discard your lustful fantasies; waste no more time on unrealizable desires."
Bright Lights Film Journal. Issue #78. is up and there's a hilarious and heartbreaking article on slasher films by A. Loudermilk, who discusses the final girl in horror from the "Sissy Spectator" point of view, a rare and fascinating (and funny, horrifying, and affectionate) piece called Last to Leave the Theater:Sissy Spectatorship of Stalker Movies and the "Final Girls" Who Survive Them
"I watched these movies as anxious about the Stalker on the screen as the Basher in the balcony. An interloper on demographically defined turf, I was constantly looking over my shoulder much like a Final Girl. After the movie, I lingered inside to avoid bullies lingering outside, daring each other to start something, anything. I wasn't going to be caught by them again, I'd tell myself. Obviously I felt more than alienated by the "group" of filmgoers Dika assumes unified. I felt physically threatened by them...".
I would recommend you read it if you call yourself a Carol Clover fan, or just a fan of horror movies. It's a rare and important glimpse into the brutality of the early 1980s, wherein homophobia and hate crimes were all but encouraged by the reigning social order, as I remember.

But then there are bad movies and it takes a true warrior to love them, such a Michael T. Smith in his Nine Techniques for the Bad Viewer: A Manifesto:
Boredom is not benign. We need to change our concept of it as innocent, a waste of time, a minor state, ignorable, small or insignificant. It is dire, heavy, severe; it is Nero burning Rome, James Dean without a cause, a wasteful delusion of nothingness; it is not a matter of small potatoes. Boredom is a time-bomb, an uncontrolled catalyst, a solar event that cannot be bottled; it cannot be sold, and it would not be bought. It is the fall of an economic system, a flux in an otherwise operable machine.
Re-signify it: understand boredom is not a state but a potential. It is the awareness of energy but not the use. Let the screen be a fuel, a rocket, a hypnotist. Access your mind through a different door (if you can find it). A film is topological, it maps a route to an unknown destination (even a cliché picture can be viewed differently each time it is seen). Carpe diem. The energy is there. You are there. We are the children of images, of dancing lights and shuffling frames.
 Here's the link to my review of Maitland McDonough's Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento, the Expanded Edition: "There are times when McDonagh becomes hamstrung by the need to justify a deep intellectual deconstruction of Argento's work: "One may well ask why it's worth expending the considerable effort needed to decode a film like Deep Red or Tenebrae whose conventionally intellectual concerns are threaded in among elements generated by crassly commercial considerations" (233). She might well be talking about film criticism in general, i.e. what some call the new criticism, wherein deconstruction deliberately probes aspects of the film that the auteur behind it most likely never considered, which some casual readers find irksome, feeling nothing can legitimately exist in a film unless the artist put it there."

2.  A TREE GROWS (and fell down the street from me) IN BROOKLYN 

Your humble author had a crazy spiritual 2012 ascendency a couple weeks ago when on election day I couldn't turn the channel from TCM (since I gave up all judgment, which makes it hard to change the channel) showing A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945), which I've refused to see all my life because I hated that family memoir small town or tenement stuff, you know, mom movies. At least I used to. Now I had earned my first shamanic merit badge, the Retired From the Bench (tm) badge that comes with the condition of no more judging, no more resisting anything just because of old tapes, old behaviors, old ideas of who you are vs. how others see you, let go of old fears, when you let go of your dread of boredom it turns out you're no longer ever bored! So I let it play on, the TREE, and within minutes I was balling hysterically. This was about me! My life as an artsy ectomorph stuck in amidst the squalor, or at any rate, humanity of Brooklyn. It might have been set in the exact Brooklyn apartment building I was watching it from, except it was apparently set in Williamsburg and I'm in Park Slope. "My cup runneth over" --indeed.

There's something very emotional about election day anyway, the way it's all volunteers and everyone's kind of doing it for the first time again, milling around wondering where to go, fascinating and reassuring to think that all of the hundreds of millions of hours and dollars spent campaigning were just for these average workaday people's lever pull. It made me, for a precious moment, stop being such a judgmental paint-yourself-into-a-lonesome-corner-with-your-hubris aging hipster and suddenly Wham - I became less like my cynical pharmaceutical market research dad and more like my open-hearted, nonjudgmental Christian Scientist mom. It's perhaps 2012, perhaps the mid-life crisis ne plus ultra of old age, the morphing into Tiresius, when the booster rocket testesterone falls away and leaves you in a nice orbit all peaceful and sexless and everything is literally rose-tinted. You were funny hats like the old King Lear-ish patriarch in RAN:

Why did I waste so much time avoiding TREE? As the intelligent girl growing up in near-poverty, Francie, Peggy Ann Garner is amazing, (she earned a special Oscar for that year) and as the stiff, occasionally cold but ultimately benevolent mom, Dorothy McGuire is among other things, a dead ringer of sorts (in beauty and rule-obeying temperament) for my own Brooklyn-Irish girlfriend. And as we say in AA, I really ID-ed with the drunken dreamer dad, Jonny Nolan (James Dunn). That's not even to mention Joan Blondell showing she had more than just moxy and pre-code vavoom in her arsenal. I didn't even mind all the period clothing. Why didn't I believe its director Elia Kazan would include nary a false or trite moment? It was a real wake-up call on how my past memories of being bored in school watching similar films had crippled me in my filmgoing life, all for no reason, except egoic clinginess to some outmoded idea of who I was.

Next step was to find this documentary on Werner Erhard, inventor of est, Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard (2007) on Netflix Streaming. I had a lot of respect for that as a kid in the 70s, because adults would come back from these weekend workshops transformed from bitter, drunken old disciplinarians into happy, young, freedom loving dads and moms who would initiate fun games with us like Monopoly, Kick the Can, and so forth. It was suddenly a great time to be a kid, suddenly, as adults were transformed by this man's work. In the documentary we learn why EST fell apart at the end, through media persecution, a bit perhaps like Scientology is persecuted today. But all I can say is that through all of our human history the only true enemy to progress is perhaps the media itself, always shrill and hysteric in trying to rabble rouse, believing its own exaggerations until it works itself up into an alarmist fervor. But then again, I shouldn't even judge. Retired from the bench I am!

So there was the Obama victory, the Sandy catastrophe --which spared my Park Slope neighborhood completely, but I'm sure the huge amount of energy in the air helped put me 'over the top' Frankenstein's laboratory-style as far zapping my inner freedom for nonjudgmental compassion along with: that crazy Scotch commercial with Claire Forlani; the crazy vindication of Carrie in HOMELAND; the crazy of Zulawski's SZAMANKA (see my twisted rant on all three here) --which showed me that bi-polar madness was 'in' so why not let it all hang out? So I been.


With a huge molecular change a bit like alcoholic DTs coupled with a day at the spa and a pink cloud of AA. I could feel the toxins of all that held-in stress swimming around in my nerves. All was/is love and light. Porn stash deleted the way one scrapes off scraps from a dinner dish into the trash no longer edible; clothes given away like Richard Burton in BECKETT; Buddha prayer print hung like Richard Gere after his first meditation class. Now I am like the foolish but noble end product King Lear RAN with his old man hat of flowers and mad clown for company; diet switched to vegan with stomach all but refusing to digest meat, just like that -- shazam; all injuries and selfishness forgiven (yours, theirs, and mine), all relatives' written to in love (soon, I promise!), hair turned white and long like Stephen Chow at the end of GOD OF COOKERY.  Fear and desire let go of with a deep shuddering molecular thunk. Then accidentally opening a book on 2012 I bought a few years ago and never read, and there it is, right on the same page I opened to: about every last detail of this huge change - right down to the ache in my chest from an expanded heart; the sudden vegan necessity itself known; the huge amount of water consumption, and fluctuating vision making seeing with or without glasses occasionally a challenge. I'm not even mentioning the huge amount of coincidental counterpoint dialogue coming from the TV. Call it pronoia, manic episoding, hallucinosis, magical thinking.... but if string theory has taught us anything is that if it feels like everything is nothing more than vibrations of various intensity, that the world is made of sound and light in constant flux, then you're not hallucinating but rather finally seeing things as they truly are. 

hmmm - (time passes)

Last week the fall foliage was gorgeous and I was busy at work but now that's all gone - the leaves are brown and the sky is gray, and the branches barren. The mood has changed, as it always does. Only a fool keeps a leaf after its crumbled. The students are all winding their way home for the break. My heart is still bigger than it was, my diet still restricting like a coiling serpent, rejecting first just milk then all dairy, first just veal than all meat, first just green vibrance then a dank forest.... but the honeymoon is already semi-over. Noooo, don't be negative, nooooo. too late - arrrgh. Am I going to lose my shamanic merit badge if I don't somehow preserve or restore my Kundalini electric prana?

 Well, not really. I managed to get down a ton of notes for a new project, all but dictated to me by the coiling metallic dragon serpent Quetzlcoatl, to create a new multi-media project involving alien chest bursters representing the heart chakra enlightenment and combining elements of Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Zen, and Hindu daemonology competing to decide which religion is the most truest . Different combinations burst out of the chest or forehead of the enlightened - ala ALIEN. If ALIEN/PROMETHEUS met at a spiritual meditation retreat. So check it out over at my new blog site MEDSITATION. I got to keep Acidemic edgy and bi-polar and media-obsessed, but Pswar will be over-the-top with nonjudgmental compassion and high strangeness, including weird ass collages, Buddhalacathological treatises, rules of this bizarre Aztec game we must recreate for Quetzlcoatl to return in full feather, and daft rambling naturalism, fillies of the lield considered.Will you come with me there now? Aummmmmmmm

If you cringe from such things, hey, I was one of you once, thrice, and maybe shall be again and I believe in separation of church and state, and I am against dogma in all its forms, though that includes the scientific dogma of materialism and overly stubborn skepticism (it's own form of dogma) and the dogma of jadedness, the wallow, the hidden heart. Awake, Q summons! Michael Moriarty hollering "eat em!" as he runs down the stairs.


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