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

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2014 Year in Debrief (Erich Writing Roundup)

CNN is excitedly reporting on the Paris comic strip massacre today. Pow! Whiz! But 2014 already had examples of how the media secretly thrills when humorless zealots react violently to satire. Evil has no sense of humor, but Anderson, Wolf, and Burnett get their sails filled with mighter-than-the-sword gusts: NK vs. Sony (The Interview), Daily Show vs. Iran (Rosewater), Homeland Security out after Bill Hader for portraying Julian Assange (SNL). That last one was a bad joke, but they all seem like Borgesian ficciones, though foretold long ago by Sartre, Joan of Arc, and Phillip IV. But they won't bother me for being a harbinger of the nonlocal future, a chrysalis (or pupa) beyond place and time, camel-threading through the noose's nose just to stay in Park Slope place, but it's all right, ma... I'm only receding / into the past / by my toes.

1. Hearts of Darkness, Lights of Madness: Herzog - The Collection

Bright Lights Film Journal - 11/14
"I myself hate the jungle, but I share Herzog’s abiding love for the magnetic charisma inherent in many forms of megalomaniacal insanity, for narcissism or messianic complexes in charismatic geniuses are the gasoline that fuels all the great artistic engines. I’ve followed such people off many a cliff, so part of me admires the way Herzog never falls in after them, only scales patiently, even tortuously, down the ravine. He never follows the ego so closely he’s burnt when it flies into the lightbulb. Some might call that madness, but it's actually the worst kind of sanity--the sign of a mind so rational it implodes without craziness to orbit..." (More)

2. America of Ghosts: Why Lana Del Rey is the new Val Lewton

"... both understand the ebb tide of childhood fears of abandonment stronger than any fear of death, and how when this tide washes through the land, the crap's washed away and all that remains are the immovable immortal icons in whom we first a source of protection that wouldn't abandon us: Elvis, John Wayne, Marilyn, and of course Jesus--all loom on Lana's heavenly plane like death coaches. On Val Lewton's plane there's no need for living pop culture icons; all that remains after his death tide are immortal archetypes from Greek and Egyptian myth: statues of Cerberus, Set, and San Sebastian: heaven, hell, and the dark doorway between them, motionless and waiting in crevices of the stone stairways and rustling cane fields and wine goblets and calypso songs, all-seeing through blank eyes, demons that are only vaguely fleetingly visible in the shadows, black on black like the cover of White Light / White Heat, only animated, a cartoon black splotch that resists all but the final Rorschach meaning.

3. Age of Asherah: ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)

"When we sense something is being kept from us, whatever it is gains in power as our fears project onto it, and projection is exactly how the coven operates: they chant together and use combined mind projection to astral travel along an associative nine-dimensional curve via an item belonging to the victim into that victim's optic nerves. This is the same 'reality' that paranoid schizophrenics and remote viewing agents live in; it's an ocean wherein all dreaming beings are as fish, surfers, sailors, drowners, whales, or dolphins. The Satanist sail on the surface (hence Rosemary's dream of being on a boat and seduced by a navy man, and Nicole Kidman's fantasy in Eyes Wide Shut - see Make-Up Your Mind Control)  while the psychedelic shamans surf, unconscious dreamers bob in the waves, and the schizophrenics drown in eternity. Rosemary's dream begins on the ship and winds up bobbing, then sinking, before clawing her way back to land (finding the secret passage between the apartments). In the end she joins the cult because her maternal instinct is too strong to resist. "What have you done to its eyes?!" she asks, horrified. "He has his father's eyes." And its the eyes of Guy's rival for his coveted part that are affected by the telepathic sabotage of the coven." (more)

4. Choose Death: Revisiting TWILIGHT's Junky Delirium:

"If you're like me, with a loud, bothersome anima who withholds great sentence structure and inspiration from your writing on a whim, then you know she loves movies that feature crazy women she can project onto; and so you know she will reward thee with vast acres of flowing prose when she gets to lock onto an Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted or a Natalie Portman in Black Swan, or a Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion, or even Anthony Perkins in Psycho. (Right at the moment I wrote his name, Bogie says "You're a good man, sister" behind me - synchronicity!) Twilight's rife with such crazy feminine presence. My anima loves that it is not life-affirming but a solid romantic mood poem-- as tortured as Edward Burne-Jones trying to score laudanum at the strip mall-- and an exoneration of the death wish underwriting everything from self-cutting and anorexia to just partying like there's no tomorrow or even sleeping late and missing school, going from rainy day Gloomy Sunday blues to hooking up with a pallid junky and getting involved in 'the life,' understanding what that means, fully cognizant of all that will be lost yet nonetheless daring to answer 'not to be' when Hamlet asks his twonky emo question." (more)

5. Blank Like a Panther: CAT PEOPLE (Blu-ray review) 

Bright Lights Film Journal - 1/14
"High on cocaine, top flight champagne, Vietnam disillusionment, European art cinema, and classy prostitutes (I assume) in the pre-awareness-of-AIDs era, these tubmates shot for the skies, for the dark literary Conradian heart of the American dream. As for their right to immortality, well, time has told and most film lovers agree: better one flawed crass attempt at Manly Greatness than a perfect little PC film of no particular reach or ambition. Julie Dench’s grey eyes reflecting a windswept coastline will earn a film all sorts of polite applause but the bloody nude sexy daughter of Klaus Kinski stalking a dream jungle in Paul Schrader’s lush-lipped 1982 hit Cat People will get those same applauders stamping and straining at the bit, either for or against, incensed, turned on, outraged. In short, it dares to walk the Eurocine walk between art and sleaze, and is very of its time..." (more)

6. Laureate of the Laid: Terry Southern and CANDY (1968)

"Candy comes from a time when intellectual men were still allowed to be men, and hipsters were not pale smirking skinny jeans wallies crossing the street to avoid second hand smoke or arguing in a mawkish voice against plastic bags at the food co-op. Southern's era had more repression and obscenity laws to reckon with, but they had the artistic clout to bash into them with dicks swinging and fists helicoptering. If Southern and friends had been at that food-co-op meeting they would be hurling the organic produce at that anemic hipster, bellowing like a lion, inhaling every kind of smoke presented. Back in their own time all they could do instead was rage against the dying of their pre-Viagra erections, and then die for real, as nature intended, either in WW2 or Vietnam or that Norman Maine surf from which no faded reprobate returns. Rather than clinging to bare life like today's greedy octogenarians, bankrupting Medicare so they can eke out one more month, the impatient specter waiting in the reception area, rereading that old Us Weekly for the eleven hundredth time while doctors stall out the clock since they're getting richer by the nanosecond, they die like men!" (More)

7. Eric Jonrosh's Spoils of the Red Desert 

"In Spoils, Cynthia mirrors Giuliana in Red Desert in that they both need to to waken from the idealized Edenic fantasy they nurture, the objet petit a renouncement that sacrificing love on the altar of propriety entails. Each has an idealized Edenic space to retreat to (i.e. the riverside in Written on the Wind), but the difference is that Giuliana knows hers no longer exists, it's been cut-off by toxic sludge, and that even thinking some new man understands her is barely substantial enough to be a pipe dream. If we've been presuming the signs in the film point towards it being one of Italy's countless 'red telephone' dramas of forbidden extramarital affairs, we're as confused as she is. But the signifiers pointing in that direction don't add up, they're more like one of those Salvador Dali dream sequences from the late 40s, only using smokestacks instead of scissors. Similarly, Cynthia pursues Devon because forbidden love is sexy and befits the very rich, for whom the only thing they can't have etc. etc. The signifiers don't add up in Spoils either, less out of seeing the world through the eyes of a crazy person and more seeing it through the eyes of an Ed Wood-meets-Harold Robbins-style Paul Masson-engorged windbag." (MORE)

8. It's only real if it wrecks your life: HER, THE WAY WE WERE, LOVE AFFAIR

"Love in the age of digital communication has led to something so instant it's impossible to internalize and therefore no change in the persona has been possible. We can't sit down at ye olde desk to write to our distant loves with Ken Burns' fiddle music mournful in the background because there's never a time when our lover's voice can't be there, here, wherever... Verizon... 4G. No distance or mountain high enough; you can be Sleepless in Seattle and wow a nation of ladies with a moment of near-but-not-all-the-way tearful sincerity in your voice on the radio, have them all fall in love without even meeting you, regardless of time zone, because of course they've all imagined a perfect animus-reflective ideal. But that's what you are, right, Tom? Just don't lose the octave-dropping edge of grief in your voice, or not be what they dream when you're seen." (more)

9. Dystopian Parables for the Masses: DIVERGENT, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER 

"But if grooving to a nine figure-budgeted movie spinning in your hardware can make you feel that you're part of a vox populi juggernaut revolution, even if only for two hours and ten minutes, facing danger unafraid, just by watching, dissolving into the breathless pace and riveting action... then just remember that while you were so motionless on the couch, six more species died in the rain forest.... and you could have prevented it, for just fifty cents a day, that's less than the price of a cup of coffee."

10. Taming the Tittering Tourists50 SHADES OF GREY, 9 1/2 WEEKS, EXIT TO EDEN, SECRETARY + SHE DEMONS, Franco, Bunuel, Josef von Sternberg, Alain Robbe-Grillet

"True masochism pre-dates the Oedipal complex, it moves towards total reunion or separation, peek-a-boo, as it were, of the oral phase gratification, the return to a total reunification with the mother and the annihilation of the self, Eros and Thanatos conjoined. There are no images at this stage, the eyes are closed and pressed against the heavenly breast. But movies can't go dark, so they'll never get there. Even without ruining a BDSM fantasy with buddy cop comedians there's already something faintly ridiculous and sad about bondage onscreen, ala that night at La Nouvelle Justine. It's like fiction within fiction, a double negative, which may have some value only as metatextual abstraction or intellectual discourse, which is why it's so beloved of French intellectuals like novelist/theorist Georges Bataille (Story of the Eye) and filmmaker/novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet (or Lacan and Deleuze), but no matter how arty the lighting and fractured the text, the bondage and discipline stuff in Robbe-Grillet's films always looks a little sex shop goofy. There's no way to de-goofy it without going really dark." (more)

11. A Reptile Dysfunction: De Palma + Argento 

"And so it is that the ideal object that arouses or fascinates the killer is one that never looks back (portraits with the eyes cut out aside), allowing unchallenged staring. When the portrait of LAURA suddenly appears, in a raincoat and bad mood and the enchantment is instantly dispelled. The murderer's fantasy is to keep his prey from being able to return the gaze (by turning around, taking the killers' mask off). The vision of her killer clears up like a post-PSYCHO shower bathroom mirror from her pupils. Unless the cops scan the last image your eyeball saw and project it onto film (as in 4 FLIES ON GREY VELVET), or you come back from the grave, you'll never be able to identify your killer or your final thoughts." (more)

12. Dawn of the Dinkins: RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2013), BLANK CITY (2010)

"Shooting your own shit is so easy now it's hard to warrant a film festival at all, hard to motivate people to go find some shady address and sit on the concrete floor for three hours when the movie you're showing them is a mere click away on the home screen. But back then if you had a projector and a camera you could make a movie on Monday and show it to a waiting crowd that weekend, since everyone knew everyone else and half the people were squatters, and half the people were in the movie anyway, it would just happen. Huge crowds packed into abandoned buildings after seeing your DIY underground mimeograph poster taped to the street lamp. I used to love that! Showing my movies to a big audience was great, but Youtube has made public screenings too unreliable - there's no word of mouth anymore because word of mouth itself has vanished, and posting invites to Facebook is so easy that there are now so many options none of them end up being anything interesting. Man, I remember when shit was still immediate, urgent, vital - you know, like with Friendster." (MORE)

13. 13 Obscure Horror Films to Watch This Halloween

Slant - 10/14
"This list of 13 weird movies all seem to reflect fear of their own obscurity: aging actresses camping it up before the mirror with highballs and axes; younger actresses having Antonioni-esque meltdowns; and space ships following the Alien slime breadcrumb trail. They throw normal reality to the wind, yet never lapse into whimsy or sentiment. They explore collective human mythos with a stout heart of darkness, and with scant budgetary means. At the very least, they can hold your attention, and deliver decent chills, especially with a nice buzz and low expectations." (more)

14. Not with a Wimp but a Banger: KICK-ASS 2, HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, ENDER'S GAME

"We must fight Morris Chestnut's call to safety and fight with all our strengths unimaginative dogmatic Hollywood's glorification of 'being a kid.' Already they have gone back and digitally removed all the cigarettes, replaced the guns with flashlights, removed the nudity and much of the cursing, from our cinema heritage. They will not stop until everyone wears helmets even to bed. Stop them before they jab their safety-first overhead florescent lights even into the darkest recesses of our most secret-sacred heart. Because you know they intends to try. I say roast him on the open fire of aimless youth rebellion! Richie in OVER THE EDGE, thou shalt not have died in vain! If only you had a cool keychain I could buy to prove my fealty." (more)

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