sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar eats you.
A Netflix original directed by young Australian fox auteur Kitty Green, CASTING JONBENET is a true story, on both levels, the making of a movie about the thing, and the recreation via memory of what the thing may have been. Rather than just recreate the infamous events, Green kept the interviews and screen tests from the casting call of a "Lifetime"-style movie about the infamous JonBenet Ramsey case, utilizing local actors from the Ramsey family's Colorado hometown, many of whom who knew the people involved. So though technically a "making of-" documentary, the details of story unfold and the sidebars become the main content. Is mom covering up for either her weird son or her possibly pedophile husband? What about that three-page ransom note? Forced into the child pageant circuit by a failed beauty queen mom, JonnBenet may have been a brat or too good for the world; as screen tests of actors playing the real life characters (who seemed to be 'acting' at their press conferences) anything is possible.
Green's not after the truth but the elusive way truth vanishes in telephone game clouds on the horizon. Take for example the montage of auditions / screen tests re-enacting mom's initial phone call to the police: with a script in one hand, the phone in the other, several actresses carefully modulate the tremor or anxiety and desperation in their voice as they read from the script and feign possible feigning. Green trusts us to unpack the massive electric charge inherent in watching an actress audition by performing the mother's real life unconvincing (but possibly real) phone call. Seeing more than one actress try to nail this weird ouroboros strip paradox is to realize an even broader canvas, the mutability of the truth along a mythological axis (not just those low horizon clouds, but a spinning wheel like Dorothy's sightline after she's hit on the head during the tornado). Even if we've never heard the actual Ramsey phone call (and we don't within the film, nor do we see any actual images of the actual participants) we know the 'type,' and the child kidnapping/murder is a tabloid boilerplate fastened with adamantine bolts to the mediated public consciousness. Like jazz, the variations are endless but all recognizable as the same.
|Kitty/ Kitty/ Kitty Green|
Interviews with the auditioned actors and non-acting locals delve deep into issues not just of authenticity but how to play a real life character whose cards so close to their vest you yourself--playing the character--don't know what the cards are. Green stays Brechtian in her dialectic, bringing us back again and again to the surface, only for the whodunnit aspect to lure our attention back to analytical mode, and again back into conjecture and the dawning of myth, Green's film becomes ceremonial, like Lifetime Presents Kabuki small town murder theater, the events become mutable and irrevocably abstract by heightening their artificiality. We only gradually realize we'll never see the actual film she's casting. This, whatever it is, is it.
But whatever it is, it's great: the cast interviewed cover not just their own hopes and dreams but their thoughts on the Ramseys, both speculation, personal observation, and actor notes: they are fairly evenly divided between suspecting the mother, father, and brother as either guilty or in collusion and not-- as some thought initially-- the mall Santa the mom tries to finger or the skeevy pederast John Mark Karr (who confesses to the murder but who's proven to be nowhere near the scene); the actor cast in this role--Dixon White, below])--gives the creepiest most memorable performance; hearing how he prepares, entering this guy's mindset is to realize the true fearlessness of method acting, to essentially access one's inner creepy pedophile sociopath just for an audition is something most of us would avoid, but this guy plunges in and the film buckles a little bit under his intense stare once he goes into character.)
Lynch's 21st century masterpiece was originally supposed to be a TV series, but the network passed on it, so the pilot was melded with new footage to 'close it.' There was a similar thing done with the pilot of TWIN PEAKS, for some international markets where it was shown theatrically (see here). If you can find this addition footage ending you can see a midnight hot tip call-in bring Cooper to a remote boiler room and a confrontation with Bob himself, here in a weird human form, hence killable --followed by a telling "25 Years Later" Black Lodge coda that's remarkably prescient to the new series. When this MULHOLLAND DRIVE came out we figured it would be more of the same, and it kind of is, to a point --Robert Forster's homicide detective gets only a single scene, as does (thankfully for I find him a most unsightly character), the dreamer in the Winkie's and the dirty hitman guy also seems like he was to have a more involved arc-- they all seem unfinished - added more for their mood than story.
|The elderly exit the womb (Mulholland Dr.)|
Even if you have the old DVD, it's worth seeing on Netflix for the HD restoration with glowing flesh colors and a much greater depth of field to the many surreal shots of nighttime LA. It's designed for repeat viewings to make sense, like a mantra. And now, well even more than before, Lynch's LA ain't yer La-la Land; it's deeper --it's the LA of dreams where once you get off that plane, you're never quire sure what reality is, or if it's even still there. When someone says "Cut" while you're sitting in a restaurant do you automatically stop eating and look around for your director, only to slowly realize you really ARE just in a restaurant and whoever shouted it probably shuffling cards?
Performance is always a reliable subtext for art cinema: it instantly layers the meaning--and the more you let the seams show, the artsier (not sloppier!) you're being. Instead of an actor playing a role you have an actor playing an actor playing a role and somehow all those quadruple negatives become a super positive, achieving a level of truth impossible even in the relatively artifice-free realm of mundane daily life, at which time Brecht's withered corpse claps quietly in his crypt. If you're in the hands of an myopic visionary like Charlie Kaufman you may, on the other hand, overdo it--to the point even have an actor playing an actor playing an actor playing another actor and there accrues so many layers that the actor himself winds up trapped inside them and it becomes just that two-headed coin of narcissism and insecurity.
(AS AN ASIDE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT CHARLIE KAUFMAN)
(WERE HE DEAD HE'D HAVE WANTED IT THAT WAY)
We never see, for example, Laura Palmer doing charity work-- but we hear all the raves from the elderly lives she touched via Meals on Wheels, reading to the blind, etc. (and romance with doe-eyed 'good' biker, James) are the opposite of the bad girl self, whose arc we follow with more interest, though we later learn the murderer is just as likely to be on the 'good' side: we see the after math of her drug use, her running with the bad crowd (wild-eyed Bobby, Leo) and eventually the trauma that caused the split (her incestuous Bob-possessed father coming to her bed "since she was seven").
By contrast, we can well imagine the Kaufman avatars being amongst the dysfunctional rubes simmering with desire for Laura on one side of that divide or other, (powerless to leave the house like the one wet--eyed agoraphobe) trapped in the mind of a powerless infant unable to speak to a hot girl without spitting up on his bib, fuming with unspoken jealousy while she goes out on the porch to talk with some guy in a leather jacket who just pulled up in his Harley. Lynch's idea of these druggy parties at remote cabins has the surreal prepubescent nightmare current to them of a virgin child's wildest jealous imagination and infused as a result with hyper-surreal nightmarish quality, what McGowan calls Lynch's fantasmatic dimension.
To study the making of films in Hollywood (and the world) and the on-set drama that goes on, is to be faced with tales of these jealous infants and their fevered imagination; viewers/husbands/lovers fuming in the sidelines as their beloved gets it on in full nude scenes with some despicable monster she or he barely knows while eight gaffers heavy breathe behind the kliegs. In Mulholland's torrid audition scene in Mason Adams' office (it made Watts a star) we have the makings of a master thesis on the proximity of acting and prostitution. As I wrote in 03: prostitution is itself "acting" as in to not just engage in sex for money but also (presumably) to seem to enjoy it. Indeed, a prostitute may actually enjoy herself during the contracted sexual act as long as she pretends it's pretend enjoyment (if she is seen to be too into it, he may expect his money back - who's servicing who?) Within her domain (the boudoir), the prostitute may be--more so than outside in the 'real' world-- completely "herself," - she may be experiencing that moment of complete subsumption into character which is at the heart of good acting. When "cut" rings out (or whatever the mutually agreed-upon safe word happens to be), she can resume the waking dream of societal expectations. (In Drive we have no inkling of Betty's capacity to get super quiet-erotic at the audition - does she?)
Of course that can lead to a kind of karmic celluloid looping (the actor who plays the same role onstage the same way, for a three-year Broadway run) that's escapable only if the script is deviated from, without warning, like Camilla's journey in the beginning of MD ("we don't stop here" - as if they've made the journey a thousand times - and they have, more or less beginning and ending the film with it). The crash that forces us to wonder if it's the hit taken out by Diane against Camilla, or if there's a more sinister reason besides the treacherous curves and idiot teens combination of the titular drive. The deviation that sends Camilla down the hill to Aunty Em's house can be read as both the deal with the devil/mob hit (she's taken out of the car at gunpoint but then whatever was planned is interrupted by the crazy kids/concussion) and her own deal / deliverance - escape into a new identity (echoed in, for example, the presence of the same actress as Laura Palmer's cousin--but with dark hair this time, in TP; the prison cell switch from Bill Pullman to Balthazar Getty in Lost Highway; the recent splitting up of Agent Cooper in the new TP, etc.)
We think we want to find out who we really are, to chase down the clues, but we don't, really. For in finding out we also realize our entire life is merely a distraction, an elaborate puppet show to distract us from our chains to the conveyor belt sawmill Molloch, left with barely enough time to repeat the dirty trick on the next generation, and if we're artists, to maybe sew together some new puppets. The search for the meaning of the self always leads to the morgue. The trail of who post-accident Rita is always ends with the discovery of Diane Selwyn's dead body, a bit like Candice Hilligoss if she saw her own body being recovered from the river --even in the Salt Lake Samara she fled to; or Jimmy the sax man in the surf at the shocking conclusion of Jess Franco's VENUS IN FURS.
The Ingenue/Mistress to the MobJust as, in Lynch, the women are all the aspects of the same woman who is one aspect of a single psyche (the collective unconscious celluloid through Lynch's projector), so too the dark chthonic 'devouring father' is an aspect of that woman; if say, Betty/Diane is the unconscious anima to the male conscious ego (i.e. Lynch himself) then the unconscious's ego in turn has an inner male, a dark force of conspicuous enjoyment, the terrible father (ala Mr. Big in LOST HIGHWAY, and Frank Booth in BLUE VELVET), the one who separates the child from his mother, and who 'enjoys' all the women while the boys sulk and bide their time in the tall grasses; in MULHOLLAND he's a very shadowy nebulous figure in a wheelchair behind thick glass (the locked door to the ulterior basement of the unconscious mind, i.e the basement's basement) who sends his own agents and provocateurs out into the workaday world to inflict his seemingly trivial bidding (we're never permitted to learn why he is so insistent that Camilla Rhodes is "the girl" - is this payment for a separate 'deal'?)
THE META LYNCH-IN
(A Sleepy Viewer is the Most Awake)
(A Sleepy Viewer is the Most Awake)
There was something quite reassuring about all this combined with the film; it made it seem like we were all sleeping over at their inn during some New Delhi storm; it made sense. I fell asleep halfway through the (around the time Naomi climbs in the window of the dead girl); and yet was somehow still following events; it became clearer actually, I even remarked to myself--the way one will when they realize they're asleep yet still self-aware--that through some weird force I was dreaming while watching- third eye-open and trained on the screen; it like watching a movie in 3D and finally realizing I was wearing the glasses backwards. The theater was one of the old type where the ceiling was low and the slope downwards small or almost nonexistent and the projector beam seemed to shoot right over head, the light making a visible beam in the air where a tall man would have blocked a lower portion of the screen; also we could hear the loud whirr of the projector in the quieter passages, or which there were a lot - considering the post-modern meta cinema qualities of the film, that all fit is so perfectly. I know I myself was falling asleep to that soothing projector whirr, the blue light it cast especially matching the Club Silencio and when Rita -- sings her a capella "Llorando" and the pair of lovers cry from her passion, I could hear sobbing too in our own theater, as if our natural defenses had been lowered by the comination of being sleepy at a midnight show, the hour and the quiet nature of the film and the whirr of the projector all lowering our big city defenses so we had no ability to shut out the torrent of emotion the song + the response of thse two women (after their steamy hook-up) engendered.
When we all were released after the film it felt like we'd all had a marvelous weird dream together - bonded; and outside was this weird warm mist. Everyone else on the NYC street was gone - the streets were dead empty - odd for NYC even on a weeknight no matter how late it was. And we all parted from each other hesitantly, almost like we would say goodbye to people we knew; we walked together as long as possible, barely speaking - the magic of the film following us home. As if to up the weirdness, I read a Voice piece (that I can't find) mentioning the magic of their own screening and--from the description--the same theater, maybe even the same showing.
|any similarities to a TV screen strictly sublimacidental (my guess is a formative sexual-musical moment in Lynch's life occurred in front of a 50s-early 60s TV set, when some facsimile of this group came on Ed Sullivan or Bandstand or whatever|
AUDITION AS VOYEURISTIC ILLUMINATI SEX RITUAL
This audition scene is hot enough to give wood to the dead, but it's also very odd for this same reason--what is the difference between this kind of focused sexual heat, turned on and off in the moment, with an escalation of lines (and an imaginary knife)--with Watts'->Betty's performance veering very close to targeted seduction, she could very easily plunge down a rating into the seedy world of X-rated movies and then, who knows, bumming scabby cigarettes from gross scumbags before getting it on with them (presumably) in the back of a van in exchange for--presumably--money for crack and the promise to keep her eyes open for any new girls that might come staggering down from the Hills. But she reverts to Betty at the conclusion, safe amongst the small mostly female and neutered male (bald or elderly) assemblage as she would be at a post-church reception with her grandmother.
We can perhaps understand more about MULHOLLAND if viewed as a sequel to LOST HIGHWAY, the "hers", BLACK SWAN / to "his", WRESTLER. LOST saw a man (Bill Pullman) literally split in two along his Moebius strip tape splice. His Bill Pullman side is in guitly of murdering his brunette wife--something he has no memory of doing but which is on tape--but then transforming into his younger alternate incarnation, Pete (Balthazar Getty). Betty similarly becomes Diane Selwyn, that hardbitten mediocre talent who brings her cute giriflriend on an audition and finds herself being eclipsed. Soon the director has signed her lover, Camilla to a contract and she becomes a young mob ingenue (maybe one of their daughters or mistresses?) or devil's subject (she sold her soul for the part, and the mobsters and cowboy act as agents to fulfill her dreams before they claim her soul) while Diane/Betty winds up on the outside, punished for being a good person, and then driven to petulantly seek damages.
You could arrange it all too along Hithcock lines, especially VERTIGO and THE BIRDD; there's even a Midge, so speak, Diane's ex-lover (presumably?) moved out as a kind of Midge / Anne Hayworth type - the also-ran still in the peripherals making a weary to-do of coming by to get the last of her stuff - in effect positing Diane in the attraction change of the endless upwards spiraling triangle of desire, everyone chased by an old lover who still wants to be in the picture even as a friend or peripheral and the one who's recently thrown us over and we stalk or try to avoid or drink at; who we cry while masturbating to, and eventually put a hit on, sign a deal with the devil so to speak, the way Bill Pullman did with Robert Blake's devil man (below), who can be two places at once at the same time (everyone else has to wait for a change to strike, for that tape splice).
From a paranoid mind control Illuminati angle we can also connect the Betty audition to the striptease (she calls it a 'job interview') Alice is forced to do at gunpoint for Mr. Eddy and his contingent in the LOST HIGHWAY flashback. The split subject then is explained through the elaborate mind control rituals, of which the connection between both HIGHWAY and DRIVE audition scenes connecting to conspiracy theories about Monarch 7 (1) or the collective subconscious and its tendency to arrange its repressed libidinal desires around pentagrams and black candles in some hidden room of one's parents' basement - with parents, grandparents, strange carnally-attuned neighbors with pointy glasses (like Nicki [Michele Hicks] below as the assistant to the casting director). Note the odd, knowing, carnal, paranoia-engendering gazes into camera below.
|Ready to bring you "over the rainbow" (2)|
PSYCHE FLOOR PLAN
Second FloorAbstract thinking / super-ego / higher reasoning / artistic /: TRUTH OF (FILMED) EVENT
(Controlled by the Flow of True Events)
The Fishing Pier
(Controlled by the Flow of True Events)
The Fishing Pier
Laundry chute to basement--> creative function / film (i.e. hearing down from the depths and translating to narrative for the upper floors
steps - transitional - performance/ duty / expression, from effort to finished film.
(Controlled by the Ego)Waking Consciousness: (pay checks / paint brush cleaning / disclaimers / jail-time)
POINT OF SEMI-CONSCIOUSNESS
(the fishing line)
steps down - transitional from awake to asleep'
THE BARRIER DOOR
(controlled by the Anima)Incestuous desire or childhood repressed fantasized sexuality depository (imagined spanking/ child is being beaten/ desire for neighbors, fellow classmates, friends, etc.) - Little fish
Ulterior door/ barricade: Cover memory / split personality
Laundry Chute 2
(Whatever lies beyond our conscious/unconscious' control/will)
(where Cronos is Chained)
(controlled by the Anima's Animus OR Illuminati/Reptillians)
(where Cronos is Chained)
(controlled by the Anima's Animus OR Illuminati/Reptillians)
Any actual (real physical space-time) incest / abuse -TRUTH OF (Traumatic) EVENT (repression depository for memories of actual incest, satanic abduction)By the above Lynchian hierarchy of consciousness we can pinpoint the problem with False Memory Syndrome - actual horrors endured are hidden below the sub basement level of merely repressed libidinal desires and fears, colored through lenses upon lenses warps upon warps etc. The traumatic real event from the basement (Mrs. Bates' actual withered skeleton in the dress) reaches up like a hand through the sock pocket of repressed unconscious desires (the frock and wig and Norman's mind), the hand reaching up through the laundry chute to kill women who arouse him (there's no lock on any of the doors between the floors of the psychotic, schizophrenic). The falseness of some recovered memories under hypnosis involves reverse-direction sock puppeteering that doesn't go far enough down, mistaking the sub/libidinal fantasy basement for the ulterior basement of actual truth. During the 80s Satanic panic it took the feds actually going down there and physically digging where all the bodies were supposed to be, under the foundation to where the ulterior rooms are, to realize there was nothing there - not ever (not yet anyway); the police were believing in empty sock puppets, because the puppets were covered in the sediment of their own deep wells, the collective subconscious hot button issues igniting us all to mob-style violence and outrage.
For Lynch, a figure like the cowboy is a herald from one floor of consciousness to another, a sock puppet sent up from the lower basement, the agent of his own dark undersoul; the conveyer of actions dictated by the unseen monsters of power (seen here in big dark empty rooms --with nervous supplicants speaking to them from behind clear glass walls, a metaphor for the divider between unconscious and conscious, the way ideas and decisions are passed across a slot in the wall from the depths of psyche into action or art).
The levels of heavy power invested in these characters is impossible to understand until one translates their meaning across three spectrum - the meta outer spectrum (the blue-haired 'ultimate viewer / voyeur' at Club Silencio; the inner viewer (Camera POV) and innermost (character 'identification'). That a childhood icon (a popular plastic toy) like a cowboy to deliver these ultimatums is no accident: he's outmoded but recognizable, an ageless archetype as fitting in its proud anachronism as Sam Elliot in THE BIG LEBOWSKI.
Similarly JONBENET the film operates with multiple layers - with the innermost core being the mystery of 'whodunnit' the unknown story that no one could successfully descramble and so has fostered endless speculation; the outer--the narrative recreation; and the outermost - the casting and personal interviews - the telling difference which separates this from fiction of MULHOLLAND DRIVE is that the truth has a habit of doubling back around on itself while fiction tends to just reverberate out into the wilderness, i.e. the difference between bloating in a bathtub and dissolving in the ocean. So here the actors auditioning for the roles turn out to be friends and neighbors of the Ramseys, each with their own piece of the mosaic as precious yet macabre as a handkerchief with some of Dillinger's blood.
In Lynch's film, of course, there's no real blood, and all the handkerchief's have the same initials. The guy in the wheelchair is really one aspect of the same self that includes the cowboy, the mobsters, and both women; the fictive world of the film is as a universe exploded from the same ball of psyche. On the other hand, saying it's all one man's psyche doesn't mean its cast of voices is smaller than the Ramsey case's 'real' people cast. Events are rooted in time, relationships of cause and effect mutable only in the varying vantage points from which they are witnessed and remembered or performed, as if some endlessly variable mythic template (the way, say Pagans perform the roles of sun and moon during solstice). The world soul and the individual psyche are linked in ways that are beyond limitless. The brain might look like a ball of gray oatmeal but it's bigger than all the oceans combined and, if you try and get too close, will take a broken shard of mirror and fuck you up real pretty. But in the end, you will understand the most important truth--that there was nothing to understand at all. You can comb through that gray oatmeal for a thousand years and you will never find a thing, anymore than you can find George Jefferson's little shoes inside you TV set.
1. I'd rather not go down this lane, as I'm as susceptible to hot button outrage and paranoia as the next man, and reading this stuff disturbs me. The result of getting too far into it is clear via the ridiculousness of armed civilians crashing the Bohemian Grove or Pizza Gate. Regardless of if it's true or not I personally can't believe it, for my own peace of mind, but the very hot button of it all is what fascinates me, the way our paranoid collective subconscious so mirrors the reports of actual programming that one can only assume it's intentional - either they imitate our dreams or our dreams imitate them.
2. Read the copious conspiracy theories Monarch 7 program's use of the Wizard of Oz as a hypnotic/programming tool (as seen in EYES WIDE SHUT)
4. Read my work-assigned synopsis/review here ("course description" at bottom)
5. According to my Argentine socialist ex-wife, talentless gangster progeny wanting to make movies are a problem in any country with corruption and a state-funded art council, like Argentina, Italy, Spain, etc.) In other words, the hack scribbling of the Great McGinty's nephew gets made word-for-word into a feature, not the talented visionary work of someone less connected - (since there's not even the public box office taste really relevant as a factor)