Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 2006, or earlater

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Ancient She-Shaman and her Shrooming Exhumer: SZAMANKA

The American holiday trifecta has already passed its first hurtle, Thanksgiving. Now the sluggish traffic and unruly Wal-Mart tazing begins in earnest and a skittish mummified shamanic Pisces like me turns naturally inward, for movies are the best way to avoid holiday shopping lines. All those commercials that try so hard to become a patronizing life coach for Americans, using the "we" not to mean their company but you the viewer + them, united: "we don't settle for anything less," and "we're always pushing just a little further" like they already know you, like a narc would if he suddenly appeared at the edge of your druggy circle trying to imply he knows people you know so must be 'cool'. So stay inside, like an urban hermit, and savor the unenlightenment, the peaceful darkness of the amniotic sac couch bog, and then just wait for nature to take its rotted course. One century soon, some decadent Warsaw university students will dig you up and put you in a nice preservative solution isolation tank, rummage through your bags and find your secret stash of mushrooms both psilocybe and 'flybane' (i.e. fly agaric or Amanita Muscaria) and then eat them, so they can bond with you, and warn you about the crazy woman fixing to devour your soul, SZAMANKA (or She-Shaman) is her name... and like so many hot girls in cold climates, she's fucking crazy. 

 (PS - All the collages in this post are made by me - so don't expect to see them in the actual film, I was just trying to help clarify the madness a little bit, on Zulawski's behalf, by throwing in some Bosch 'n shrooms 'n Lubitsch 'n Betolucci)

Speaking of crazy, those shrooms: Amanitas are currently legal, and it's easy to see why if you ever tried them --they suck. Too many can make you feel poisoned, not enough can make you feel like you're not getting off - and just the right amount gets the colors enhanced and the sweaty glow feeling of being connected to the world, but they also make that world smell like urine. You're supposed to drink your urine once they 'pass' through you, and then you get really high - but no thanks, bro. I have yet to do that, so can't comment. Maybe they were better in Poland or Siberia, 2,500 years ago, because the anthropologist played by Boguslaw Linda in SZAMANKA sure digs them (literally and figuratively). But even he learns the hard way: once you've submitted without fear to the full stripping away of persona layers, divested yourself of all attachment, unmade the trappings of self, remembered your own birth, bathed in the white light of pure love, and forgiven everyone everywhere, then what? No one gets where your coming from, or quite buys your mystic conversion. Your fiancee thinks you're nuts, and the people who do get you wear sandals and patchouli and eat too much garlic and look anemic from not eating meat.

So we need Chile's Alejandro Jodorowsky, America's David Lynch, and Poland's Andrzej Zulawski to guide us in a holding pattern 'til the rest of the world slowly catches up and we sink down into the post-Thanksgiving depths of Mordor Xmas. I save SZAMANKA for when I'm delirious or have been in the cave so long I've forgotten there's even an outdoors. Zulawski doesn't even need to show us anyone actually taking the drugs, the shit's in the celluloid.

I first discussed Zulawski's SZAMANKA in conjunction with Carrie Matheson and Claire Forlan's awesome Dewar's ad while back in November of 2012, during that previously discussed enlightenment breakthrough awareness state: "from boxes heart-shaped shapelessness, bags tossed as rubbish into the Warsaw mud, flown, Angus, darlin' - rather, a punk-en down Dalle Betty Blue-blackend bird spazzing through anthropology classes as her lover pilfers thousand year-old psilocybe and Amanita Muscaria mushrooms from a mummified shaman's pockets. Each wodka shot or peanut butter-covered stem tracking each punch and drunken stumble dream pie like meth and coveralls to grinding mechanical factory sex atop crumbling swamp corpse; grinding academics in their dancing and beer spillage and moving far away from the needle tip distance twixt the ancient fungal shaman's last expression train down through more more the turn style jumps, coiffed, jumps back through and gay references hurtled like Jack Benny's Polish theater troupe bombed and built anew under which in the shelter Zulawski slept as a child. (more)

I dig my crazy jive poetry from two years ago, finding references to everything from T.S. Eliot to SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS to the obscure Lou Reed song, "Billy," but I wouldn't write like that again if I could. I'm too jaded. I was on a holy fool pre-apocalyptic role back this time in 2012, as seen in The Scrooge Satori, all without a single mushroom, And I would never have made the TO BE OR NOT TO BE connection in my current cave-bound form. Yet when else is a Polish theater troupe the main character of a comedy film set and shot in 1942 Hollywood? Before you answer, quick imagine Roman Polanski skittering like a rat through the Warsaw sewers while Germans shell the city above and Russians wait on the outskirts, until the Resistance is wiped out, so they can step in an Iron Curtain the place. What a bum deal. Poland gets screwed double, so who can blame them for being depressed?

Am I going somewhere with this, as some ancient astronaut theorists believe? Shamans are waiting for you to exhume their ancient stashes! Did you hear in the news that a 747 recently crashed in a cemetery in Poland? The Polish officials have so far retrieved 2,000 bodies! (1)

SZAMANKA (1994), aka SHE-SHAMAN, is one of them. Great judicious synthesizers underwrite Andrzej Zulawski's uber-bizarre panic movement-ish meditation on the nature of primitivism, Neanderthal train sex momentum, insanity, eating brains to gain that person's wisdom, and the lack of mores or coherence in 90s Warsaw. And the script was written by a woman, Manuela Gretowska, who co-founded the Polish Women's Party and ran for office... So best believe it's way darker sexually than even Zulawski would normally go. But thanks to his own 'maturer' madness, he makes a pretty good movie around it, way better than that punk Jean-Pierre Leaud was making in LAST TANGO IN PARIS (below, overlaid by me with a Bosch detail for easy decoding).

I mention this because Zulawski and Gretowska clearly know SZAMANKA is a lot like LAST TANGO IN PARIS, and that star Iwona Petry looks and foams at the mouth like Beatrice Dalle in BETTY BLUE which lest we forget ends with Dalle going totally crazy, getting electroshock, and winding up smothered with a pillow ala ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. As with Bertolucci's film, Zulawski's crazy roving camera chases sexy nutcase Petry, running everywhere--onto trains, off of trains--upstairs and down--and at times there's obscene perverse men leering from every corner and it begins to almost seem like some perverse sexual nightmare, ready for a Kali mantis like Beatrice Dalle's in her holy trifecta - BETTY BLUE, TROUBLE EVERY DAY, and INSIDE.   One of her lover's pals notes of some people being "God's fools, with souls so big there's no room for brains," Iwona Petry's "Italian" is at least smart enough to realize they're talking about her, and to knock over their table accordingly. So while Boguslaw Linda goes on his lecture, she's illustrating his tales of Neanderthal shamanism by mouthing a display case and "careening through the streets of Warszawa like a culturally inept marathon runner who's afraid of clowns" (2). While Linda pursues a doctorate in medicine, she's studying engineering at the same school, so it's a metaphor to the division of labor and culture in Poland, and of woman's sexuality as something so archaically Precambrian as to devour the entirety of Apollonian civilization in a single sparagmosticated brain bite.

Her hotness making her a one-woman cliff for Warszawa's lemming males, it's as if she's constantly trying to keep them at bay by behaving in a way that turns even the staunchest stomach; she also foams at the mouth, eats cat food out of her landlady's cat dish, and in short behaves like a proper panic movement-era primal screen actress, which means undergoing convulsions like one does on, say, too way way way WAY much acid. Four times what you usually take, I guess, is enough to get you to that level of walking down the middle of the street with no pants on, screaming at the top of your lungs, each root of hair in your scalp tingling like fiberoptic tendrils pummeling signals from space past all your normal blinders and defenses; from every web string of time and space, sensory impression magnified to the point of distortion, contradicting the other impressions, so that you literally hear your own thoughts talk to you in the roar of a passing truck or the bark of a dog. In case you can't tell, I've been there: everyone you see looks like melting Cubist seventh dimensional sculptures, all laden with pulsing blood just millimeters from the surface. And it goes on like that for upwards of six hours (or if on DOM or STP, up to 36 hours). The only salvation is benzos, or whiskey... lots and lots, like you're a raving bull elephant huffing Ketamine in a vain attempt to put yourself under before being slowly clockwork fed through a paper shredder. Sometimes open mouth kissing display cases, salting your clothes, peppering your hair and spraying perfume on your lettuce, will at least help you break free from the normal behaviors of your social and cultural position, behaviors now revealed to be little more than straitjackets pulled past suffocation tightness.

this is your brain on drugs

Zulawski's been there, too. Petry and Linda know all the tricks, and maybe so has Gretowska, I'd imagine, because in SZAMANKA even engineering lectures fuse sexual-reproductive organs into the discussion in a way that would probably blow Cronenberg's mind.
"Zulawski said the animus inspired by his film was mainly directed at his uninhibited actress. The press “hated her and destroyed her, and she disappeared.” He has not made another movie in Poland since: “This country is still in the Middle Ages.” - J. Hoberman NY Times March 2nd, 2012 (my birthday!)
Still in the Middle Ages. I agree, half of America is right there with them, and as Petry's performance is clearly meant to have a certain 'the whole Cro-Magnon Thing passed my evolution by" -style idiot savant savage ambivalence, she's a living contradiction to all the Texas Board of Education--and by extension the International Film Critics Circle-- holds dear, he said, reading aloud from his notebook while running it under water in the sink, then dripping the blue ink all over her naked body. Clearly, he (Boguslaw Linda) is tripping balls. But it's for science! And he doesn't need a frickin' medical hothead standing by overacting like Charles Haid (in ALTERED STATES), or even a shot of him actually taking the mushrooms. He's just suddenly on them, and we're left to guess when he's under the influence. He doesn't even need to mention reasons. But he says what they are eventually: he just wants to find the shaman in modern paranoid schizophrenics, realizing that "drugs, hunger, danger, darkness" -the constants of life in the dark ages--kept these primitive humans in a paranoid schizophrenic state 24/7. the way too-much acid vibe. To prove this point, Boguslaw starts slowly devolving along the same lines, craving that mystical union with the power of what he does yet know via any ceremonial sex magic or 2,500 year old mushrooms he can find. And like all Zulawski films I've seen, no narcs.

In that sense, no one does it quite as shamanistically correct as old Andrzej Zulawski --Jodorowsky is too bawdy-vulgar, Emir Kusturica too twee-whimsical, Lynch too straight, and Gilliam too bent. None are the types to take "fucking flybanes" at their science lab and pitch a doctoral thesis to their advisor and future father-in law while rolling around on the floor in the hospital chapel. In other words, to offer fusion of the dramatic, forward-thinking, mystical, druggy, and socio-political all without whimsy, vulgarity, weird-for-weird's sake-ism, or any semblance of humor... or drama... Because Poles, stuck in those Middle Ages, just don't give a fuck. They sidestep altogether the things that trip up America--for all its talk of freedom--in unhackable tendrils of churchy censorship and narratives in morasses of need to explain things to the rubes in the cheap seats. These students don't need to worry about narcs or rubes, due to the joys of free socialist education. If they find some shrooms in the ancient pocket of the exhumed shaman, they're going to do them. And wait for the shaman in the dish to make the first move. And they're going to hide that they did them from even us, so you have to know what the signs are. And the signs are indistinguishable from 'everyday' Warsaw life in the 1990s.

Dude, I've been on all sides of that equation, everyone except the mummified shaman. And that, according to my spirit guide, is what's waiting in fall 2015. Because let me tell you, without our space mushroom brothers as co-workers, we'll never get off this rock in any conveyance other than space ships. What's it gonna be, big dollar-intensive conveyances just to wind up back with Jessica Chastain in the Pre-Raphaelite TREE OF LIFE shirt reflection, where we could have been all this time through some simple deep breathing meditation and/or a handful of nonlocal mushrooms?

these are Amanitas not psilocybe cubenses, but they're prettier

By the power of Terence McKenna, I hereby confirm that psychedelic mushrooms are standing by in petri dish agar solution somewhere, ready to work hand in stamen with the next generation of psychonauts, and the future's alien skies are limitless. Let the shrooms be your NASA and orbit is instantly transcended... just first make it past the screaming terror as you crawl upon your Scrooge tomb slab, breathe and pray your way past the hottie primitive from the Middle Ages eating your brain on drugs as it sizzles apart in the heated pan of pure consciousness, and the cops inside the marrow of your bones.

Maybe the dollar-intensive conveyances would be better, frozen forever 'til some far gone destination, comfy in the couch-like peat bog of the 'old freezarino' in deep empty space. But not even INTERSTELLAR sleep lasts forever. No matter how long they drag it out, the exhuming from the bog of cine-dream will inevitably occur, and one will wake up to house lights, as the terror of an empty screen once more reflects like a DOS prompt on your empty helmet. Fucking flyboys...

1. Old Polish JokeS
2. The great Yum-Yum, House of Self Indulgence (5/30/13)

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