Man, was I wrong. This is where money goes to regroup and get its second wind... there's too much $$ invested in its real estate for the 1% to let it slide. No one is taking the accursed city down into the artistic abyss anymore, not without a grant, you know, to cover the insurance.
|Godard homage indicated by pose and striped shirt|
The film's had more than a few titles, CHARM, for example, which is moronically vague, but on Netflix Streaming it's RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE with one of those ubiquitous torture porn-looking covers. I don't know how it made it past my usual ignoring of such things (for I dread torture porn as it leaves me dispirited for years, even decades).
If you share my mistrust of all the nanny state health that NYC is touting these days, this is your movie!
|Celebrity friends should always be displayed proudly.|
|Godard and Truffaut T-shirts|
In other words, so many films or shows that want to be naughty are afraid to get all Alex and his Droogs-level challenging to our limits of audience identification. They want to be Scorsese but are afraid of telling Tommy DeVito to get his shine box. But once Malcolm does his first random stabbing in RANDOM, man, you know this Tommy be shine box splintered. He's no kibbitzer!
After a lengthy opening monologue, Malcolm stops addressing the camera on the greatness of pre-Giuliani NYC (when it beat out Detroit as "the murder capital of the world"), and we're off the known grid: someone answers the random door he's been knocking on, and we're expecting some kind of standard pre-arranged greeting scene (wherein a camera is already inside waiting for him as per so many reality shows). Instead, he grabs the unlucky inhabitant, throws her onto her couch and stabs her repeatedly and rapidly, without any drama or Bernard Hermann scissor music. He's suddenly moved faster than the cameraman and become a real threat. We're just not expecting it and its genuinely shocking. Even though we know it's not 'real' per se in the larger meta-scheme of things, it's hard not to shiver, almost painfully. So many fauxquementaries have tried to get to this spot, only to pull back like little pussies. Cahill dives in, and ignores our ashen complexions.
Your reaction will probably be centered around your own neighborhood: if you live in the suburbs even today sanitary NYC might seem scary just for being unknown, but to me the suburbs are far scarier. When I'm visiting friends there, I'm awake all night, freaking out over the quietude and feeling of vulnerability. There's usually at least three doors and dozens of ground floor single pane windows that even a child could break into, so how can I fall asleep? And it's so dead quiet after, say, midnight. Not a creature is stirring. Like Roderick Usher one better, I can hear the mice in the neighbor's walls. In NYC we have deadbolts on thick metal doors, and only one possible entry window (the one above the fire escape) and neighbors on every side who can hear any cry for help. But if your buzzer goes off or there's a knock on the door while you're watching RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE, I imagine it could be quite scary. And when Malcolm garrotes a guy for texting in what looks like the Anthology Film Archives' downstairs screening room it's fun to imagine seeing the film there and realizing you forgot your turn your phone off, afraid to even move to find it in your bag lest this guy be sitting behind you.
So even if it's a bit unnerving, one must applaud the filmmaker's full commitment to the tenets of starting a crime wave. And if he eventually turns on his director, and finally even his own French girlfriend, well that's to be expected. What's not expected is the deader-than-deadpan approach that never trivializes the violence Malcolm commits while never judging it either, so we end up in a very unique zone that's the opposite of HEATHERS' hypocritical inference that we're all so impressionable we need a pretty girl's buzzkill morals to remind us killing our high school enemies isn't "cool."
|Jamie Frey (of the Brooklyn What?) left -a buddy who showed up in a RANDOM tracking shot,|
a comforting indication that the raw edge of NYC ain't totally dead.
With its good sense of humor about the poverty-enforced ingenuity of these early filmmakers, it's possible to long to return to BLANK CITY's innocence and imagine how great it would be to see the whole films (knowing in reality they would be excruciating). I especially loved the snippets of ROME 78 - a re-enactment of the fall of an empire as filmed on the sly around the City's more Roman-esque landmarks --so while a kid in a toga dies in the Central Park fountain, 70s tourists walk by; a coliseum scene occurs in front of the Bronx Zoo lion cage, etc. It's the kind of gutsy shot stealing that makes New York City great!
|ROME 78 - John Lurie (bottom)|
And it's that money and the eighties that leads to skyrocketing rents, which means big real estate investments, which means the need to protect those investments, which means Republican mayors. So gradually, especially with the incursion of Giuliani in 1994, the herald of zero tolerance public smoking, the abolition of the 'brown bag' drink, and the Cabaret Law that Kevin Bacon fought successfully in FOOTLOOSE in the 80s but we lost in the 'real life' of the New York streets, the crackdowns on the drugs at Limelight, the rise of swing dancing, the rise of video, DVD, FCP, AIDS, the WWW, and 9/11 and my own near death over and over from alcoholism, we lost it all. I blame Giuliani for all of it. We could use a man like Ed Koch or Dinkins again.
You know, like with Friendster.
|Basquiat (I left the red loading circle in, for art's sake)|
There's this other documentary on Netflix, WE CAUSE SCENES: THE RISE OF IMPROV EVERYWHERE (2013), about a group of NYC hipsters who do big flash mob-ish pranks and I'm a little jealous of their huge turnouts, which would seem to contradict all I've said here. But on the other hand, I've never been good at highly organized 'spontaneity.' It's fine for some people but the New Yorker embodied by Cahill in RANDOM ACTS or the filmmakers in BLANK CITY might point out as I do that it's just conformity in a new package.
|Safe for mainstream consumption|
|Play that funkless music, white boy|
All else is just Sony... selling itself copies of it's older self... through the TV mirror.