Monday, November 27, 2023

CinemArchetype 28: The Elemental


Getting into the pagan dark magic of the earth, air, fire, and water is as easy as doing almost nothing.... and as hard as doing less. Just like the truth about alien involvement in our evolution is--despite the mountains of evidence (19 seasons of the History Channel's Ancient Aliens and counting--almost impossible to fully accept consciously, our unconscious won't let go of it-- no one can stay truly neutral, truly objectively 'skeptical' (in the original definition) on the subject. That's because our unconscious--the basement of our mind--has connections... to the anima mundi. And the mundi has an airport.

Same way our phones handshake with the cloud, the deepest level of our dream basement connects to all other basements via this hub. And to the earth itself, filtering its blinding high-speed flashes through the lens of myth, rusheth other realities, McKenna's "high strangeness." Through this deep dream spelunking thou mayest widen the girth of your soul until it's a big as all outdoors. This is how you float to heaven; the demons cannot grab you when you're empty air, nor drown you when you are the ocean. 

We haven't really discussed the anima mundi here in the CinemArchetypes, and that's as it should be. We've been wrapped up in the Self's little whirlpool smokestack of archetypes, and now it's time to look at the world's gnarled, breathing roots. There is a tree we're all tendrils of, and one by one, its own archetypes appear in dreams--the elementals. 

Like a sock puppet slipped onto the hand of Gaia, so too slips a persona onto the amorphous shape of the natural world's unstoppable forces. A beautiful illustration can be found on a classic SNL sketch where Christopher Walken plays a "man who's very scared of plants" and so puts googly eyes on them--essentially creating earth elementals, showing--in a sort of emblematic sense--the reason for elementals in the first place. Which came first? Wrong! 

Saying these personifications are all in our head is forgetting we have barely a handful of breadcrumbs by way of proof we've ever probed our inner forests. Our ego wants us to forget those woods are down there. Like a jealous lover trying to alienate us from our biological family, the ego wants to keep us home nights. With science being so logistical, it's understandable why its acolytes would consider "all in your mind" grounds for dismissal of any phoenomena. They're scared of their own darkness, a force which nags at them that the world view they've embraced may be just a case of forest denial. 

When I say 'we' generate sentient autonomous energies through our belief in them, science scoffs, but exorcists and snake oil salesmen understand. We'll never know which came first, the demons or the humans whose fear gave them names and raison d'etres. But if they're not 'real' then neither are we. And as for faith healing, the snake oil heals all ills if the the salesman did a good job of pitching it. Placebos are the true miracle drug of our age, if you believe in them--which means you need a charismatic pitchman with the power of persuasion at their disposal, a kind of placebo reiki. 

Thus these forces are the basics, the root chords, the pigments from which our (cinema) 
archetypal world is painted. 

They're all in the world's head, of course.  Luckily there's a cure for that --and it's only a dolla. 

WATER

Both sympathetic and terrifying, like children of a certain age, these oceanic elementals can be temporarily captured and harnessed but never broken. Cage them and you rule the waves but gain an immortal enemy. Release them and you bring on yourself the mercurial mood swings of weather systems and underground earthquakes. Love them and be one with the sea, a drowned sailor slowly turning into both a jaunty skeleton and part of the sea itself. Now that's amore. 

1. Naomie Harris - Tia Dalma / Calypso
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
(series, starting w/ Dead Man's Chest - 2006+)
Dir. Gore Verbinski 

Say what you want about how exhausting these films get by their belated ends, Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean series is packed with termite imagination, ingenious art design and keen little details, all of which are impossible to absorb in one sitting (I like catching them on network TV already in progress, watching them in about one hour increments on idle channel-flipping weekend afternoons, often drifting off before the last reel from sheer overstimulation.) 

And for me a big selling point is the cosmic archetypal romance between the ocean-floor bound Davy Jones--a truly virulent and mind bogglingly well animated character whose octopus head is covered in breathing bivalves (an under-appreciated bit of CGI mastery)-- and the sultry Calypso (Harris), the ocean elemental long kept bound to land by some magic spell that has been allowing men to sail her surface without being crushed by her stormy wrath when it's 'that time of the month', lunar-tidally speaking. And so she runs a cafe/bar where everyone hangs out when not aboard some ship or stranded on some desert isle. 

Harris' Calypso speaks in this sultry Jamaican accent where she kind of grabs the backbeat of normal conversational tones, so that her voice becomes like warm tea or whiskey, filtering in through the cracks of sailing man's bluster, suddenly turning the world a little more full and magical through her voice alone. The sequence in Dead Man's Chest, wherein the pirates free her from her chains, to allow her to return once more to the sea (so she can wipe out the advancing British armada), is full of questioning: will a water elemental, long-imprisoned, feel bound to any bargain with pirates?  Why would the ocean keep a promise to the mortals who've long enslaved her? It's certainly a unique situation. 

But maybe if you learn to love the hurricane, your own elemental immortality may result. It's about letting go of the mast and, with a hearty yell, plunging into the maw of the kraken with the free abandon of a trusting infant being thrown into the air and caught again and again by their giant, loving father, never once entertaining the idea dad's hands may slip.  Thus cavorts Depp's Captain Jack, feyly staggering to and fro with ingenuity and immorality. And what water elemental can't help but smule?

2. Linda Lawson as Moira 
NIGHT TIDE 
(1961) Dir. Curtis Harrington 

A sense of desolate loneliness runs through Harrington's debut feature that makes it--watching it alone and sad at 5 AM--a little too close to home for comfort, yet comfort comes anyway, thanks to the lure of the sea. Harrington--hip to the power of elementals as part ot the California magick crowd--lets the sandy  isolation find solace with the caress of cold, lapping waves. So it is a a beautiful sideshow mermaid Moira (Linda Lawson) connects with a shy sailor on leave (Dennis Hopper)--the only other solo wanderer in all the deserted Santa Monica Pier, an eerie late night locale that feels like a NYC side street rolled up and smoked by the inky ocean. Harrington gradually let go of mer-perso mhystique as we realize another seafarer, a retired captain, is responsible, maybe for filling her head with whatever blarney will keep her tied to him. So will this Calypso find a new Flying Dutchman or stay landlocked with her retired captain semi-father?

Fortunately the film's unique spell is so strong (Harrington was/is all into magic with pals Kenneth Anger and  Marjorie Cameron --who has a small role as the film's equivalent to Elizabeth Russell's strange cat lady "sister" in Cat People - a clear inspiration') that any amount of sober explanation in the denouement doesn't detract from the archetypal spell. 

In the end, the young Harrington's lonely drifting "we're all ghosts here at the fair"-style poeticism captures well the personification of the ocean elemental (his style of occult magick gets most of its energy from these kind of forces, so it makes sense). Ask not if she's real or a wave morphed by pareidolia, just listen and hear her siren lure heard faintly in the roar of ocean wind passing ghostly through the sea snail coils of your cochlea. Yea, though she may be the corrosive effect of long term salt air exposure on your rum-soaked neurons and the prolonged sexual frustration of being too long at sea, that that doesn't make her any less real. She's the mystic crossroads where your desire and the Anima Mundi intersect, the phallic beam of your film projector giving shape and substance to the formlesss/all-forms silver screen ocean. She's the point of infinity wherein you may well disappear, for it is said no drowning man ever feels alone again. Wrapping you up in her permanent warm embrace, she's all you ever took to sea for. 


 (1978) Dir.  Tsugunobo Kotani

A kind of oceanic ghost story, the delectably weird and Jungian archetypal 70s TVM, The Bermuda Depths sails the same lonesome sailor's anima currents as Night Tide and even Beach Blanket Bingo's touching affair between Bonehead and Lorelei. It's such a perfect illustration of the anima (i.e. a sexually frustrated sailor's desperate paeredolia-spiked mirage, so seals, even rocks, take the form of beguiling women in the oceanic haze) it's practically emblematic. But we're discussing the elemental aspect as well, which is much stranger and more unknowable and she functions this way too. We may think she belongs to us, our personal anima, but she is the ocean's anima, not ours.

Maybe it's because I'm a Pisces, but I love this weird TVM, I'm even haunted by the theme song, "Jenny" ("Have I only imagined her?") I was dissatisfied with the end but, aren't we always dissatisfied when we wake up from dreaming about her? I watched it while switching back and forth to hurricane Dorian on the Weather Channel. Man, what a perfect symbiosis to my sailor psyche. I couldn't stop thinking about.... Jennie-- with her raven hair, perfect olive tan, waterproof no-smudge eyeliner and the ability to reflect light from her eyes so they glow like an inhuman fish, or like Dorian's twirling eye, which was heading towards Bermuda as I watched. What are the odds? It was like she and her giant turtle were letting me know they knew I knew this synergy was no accident. 

Though this literal dream girl trope ("have I only imagined her?") often irritates me in other films, it works here as there's plenty of evidence she's more than just a fantasy or a psychotic hallucination. The men who don't believe she's real are--after all--trying to catch a turtle the size of a Victorian mansion in a rinky dink tug boat-- so they're not reliable arbiters of reality. And besides, she's real to Magnus (Leigh "will soon play the dick EPA guy in Ghostbusters"  McCloskey) and to us. And she goes goes with the turtle, we learn, and the turtle might be the devil. Weird choice, Satan! 

No matter how far down the bizarre Bermuda Depths goes, it never loses its Jungian "on-the-one" beat. The film itself is a dream within a dream, and there is no waking, thankfully, only a renouncement of one layer of the dream for another, which may or may not be a transition to adulthood but is certainly a tragic end of innocence and a smart adios to the ocean. Only the sailors yet to be, not yet castrated by their entry into the social sphere, are naive enough to think there is any difference between the sea, the sun and the land, or between dreams and 'reality.' Hopelessly enamored and ever risking being dragged to hi death, Magnus does what I had to do with alcohol. He turns his back on the one thing he loves most. He chooses not to drown in the arms of his warm oblivion. He self-beaches. One a mythic level, this is more than the usual castration needed to enter the social order--this is fishing out that which was cut away (the Lacanian objet petit a) feeling whole for a brief minute, then throwing it back into the ocean. The alternative? Drowning, in all it uncut glory.

AIR
The Anima Mundi's most abundant and strangest element. It's neither here nor there. Bullets cannot harm it, only H-Bombs, "exploding even the air itself" (-Eros) --the ultimate cheat/imbalance thrower. The Air controls the birds of the field, and wraps the earth in its love embrace.  

 5. Lydia/Melanie 
THE BIRDS (1963)

Sure it's an oblique connection, but that's the beauty of Hitchcock's film. In going to Bodega Baty--leaving the toy shop (as they say)--Melanie brings the birds with her, but it's Lydia's sky. Everything you bring to it will be used against you. in this case to create a poltergeist-style crypto-incestuous manifestation of crypto-incesteuos  anxiety. Strong pre-Edenic human emotions,--the ones kept way down where Cronus eats his young--are the only fuel a 'Mother Nature' elemental manifestation needs to shriek its way into existence  When it reaches its apotheosis you can even hear its Michael Myers-like breathing / killer POV up in the sky, gazing down at the flaming Bodega Bay gas station.  

Notice that once Melanie is reduced to hysterical child--in shock and powerless--the birds are calm. Lydia doesn't have to worry about Mitch remaining in her nest, the threat has been neutralized. 

The air elemental has a similar elusive quality. It both is and isn't in any particular place at any particular time. When it inhabits a body, or any electromagnetic non corporeal matrix, it can always lift or melt away. Similarly the bird attacks are mostly terrorizing rather than deadly. They can get lucky and peck out some eyes or break the skin in enough places the victim bleeds to death (like Melanie's potential rival Annie) but basically it's the uncanny sudden surplus of them that's unnerving, that they can appear and disappear and choose their moment. The sudden surplus of Melanie's presence, too, in this very settled town, unnerves the locals who tie her to the disturbance, rightly, even thought they're not sure how. The beast's exitence isn't her fault, though, she's only the father. 

6. Anita Louise - Titania 
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935)

With that crazy proto-glam sparkling outfit, Louise shows a dancer's grace, waving and moving her hands as if she's the same density as the air around her, alight with night-tripping changeling stealing, breeze riding elegance. It's almost a relief that her falsetto voice is so annoying, maybe two registers above Louise's normal speaking voice, almost causing feedback in the recording equipment, but if she hit a low Hawksian woman register, like, say, Lauren Bacall or Margaret Sheridan, I'd probably have to kill myself to stop the pain of my ardor. Oberon, the king of the night, is also a night elemental but I just wrote about him in my Victor Jory appreciation. He the absence she fills, the black of the sky while she is the moon and/or stars. They are as one.

7. Rex Ingram - the Genie
Thief of Baghdad   (1940)

The more times I see him as God in The Green Pastures or Lucia, the Devil's son, in Cabin in the Sky  the bigger my awe of Rex Ingram. For Thief, he's a terrifying but ultimately good-natured 'chaotic neutral' genie or djinn- no Robin William pally-wally stuff for Rex's genie, so don't mistake his boisterous good nature for allegiance beyond those obligatory wishes. And if one of those wishes is to set him free, like Calypso in the above, you have to just pray this nonhuman force decides to keep its word. So it is, perhaps, that dealing with elementals is like putting the gun down first in a stand-off- we can only hope we don't get blown, burned, drowned or buried as we step out of our magic safety circle and contend with the mercurial unknowable forces of the world. We take their love for granted at our peril. From a Jungian angle, keeping humble and granting them autonomy is a way to give yourself your wildness back. Without that kind of lunatic trust in wildness, life gets mighty stale, and then symptoms of hysteria break out -- a numb arm here, an earthquake there, hysterical blindness here, floods there--and fire always waiting to burn you out of the equation. 


8. Sandra Knight - "The Girl" - THE TERROR (1964

While the Hellman style wasn't yet a recognizable 'thing' in 1963, after seeing his more acclaimed features (TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, THE SHOOTING),  you feel that innate "Hellman-ness" in THE TERROR's dreamy 'edge of forever' iconography: tidal pools, spinning compasses, crashing Big Sur waves., ambiguity of relationships, and the fluidity of feminine identity (they tend to be nameless, billed in the credits as "the woman" or "the girl"). Such anima ambiguity perfectly fits the ghostly figure played by Sandra Knight in THE TERROR, who is, like many of these elementals, also functional as anima. She can appear as a hawk, swooping or circling overhead amd/or swooping down on someone to kill them.  or wandering around the cemetery ether. Depending on which of the film's many directors was at the helm, she's an elemental hawk/girl spirit, a local girl possessed by a vengeful ghost, or a normal human girl who thinks she's a ghost thanks to hypnosis coordinated by the mother of the son who the Baron killed when he found her in bed with Ilsa, his young wife, or--as Wonka would say--reverse that. If that melange of identities seems unclear remember that Hill and Hellman were coming in for the second half of a project begun by Corman as a straight Poe-ish Gothic, and continued by Coppola as a folk horror tale of hypnotism and revenge. Rather than twisting further toward Corman's Karloff Gothic or Coppola's folk horror, Monte and Jack came along brought it farther out, turning Helene into an enigma reflecting transmigration of souls, the transitory nature of the flesh and the relentless ocean tide whiplash reframed as a mirror to eternity's corrosive caress --in other words, bring on the Hellman, and bring out the best. (full)


FIRE:

9. The Fire Itself - BACKDRAFT (1991)

Ron Howard is too earnest for me a lot of the times, but he's a solid director, a kind of William Wyler of his time, and Backdraft has one great aspect, the portrayal of the fires these guys go against as a kind of conscious entity, eagerly surging ahead to, well, who could top Owen Glienerman's masterful succinction:
In Ron Howard’s Backdraft, fire comes roiling across the top of a room in billowy, black orange waves. It gets sucked behind the walls, like a genie pouring back into its bottle (for a few seconds, the film seems to be running in reverse motion), and then, fueled by a surge of air, it explodes outward with ever-greater lightning force. During a climactic inferno in a chemical warehouse, it seems to come at the fire fighters from every imaginable angle — an elusive, shapeless hydra with a thousand incendiary heads.
Owen! You ruled the 90s, at least for me, with my free EW subscription and the world so much simpler.
10. Bob - Twin Peaks
(1991) 

There are several ways the dimensions between worlds--the dream abstraction of the Black Lodge, and regular mundane Twin Peaks, Oz and Kansas--can be bridged - one is deep meditation and/or DMT opening the usually closed halls and tunnels of the mind so that your consciousness can finally meet itself--another, is FIRE. Fire crosses over--if you look deep into the flames while listening to a story at night, the flicker acts as a kind of organic stutter-stop in a film projector, blocking the transition from frame to frame out of our vision. Bob then moves through those black shutters, jams up the sprockets so the film, whose images are so fleeting that, if one stays under the blazing lens for more than a few extra seconds, it starts burning a hole in the film. Isn't that what trauma does? It splits the film in two. This is how the Eyes Wide Shut / One Eyed Jacks crowd--also very big in Oz symbolism---use incest to turn young girls into normal people by day, sex slave assassins by night? To gain power you must corrupt the innocent, that corruption is the spark that starts the fire that--as the Log Lady warns Laura in Fire Walk with Me--is hard to put out once it starts consuming goodness. 

And so Bob is always burning--Lynch often glazes him in fire overlays---a fire elemental--but is trapped in the void where fire must wait, dormant, contained until he's able to enter the minds of those who allow him to, from there to corrupt and kill like the fire he is. Putting him out to take a whole season, as we learned in Twin Peaks: The Return. But fire walks with us whenever a match is struck, ready to light a cigarette or burn down half of Nevada. And anyway, you got to have him to keep warm, and to make the slain creatures you consume taste good. 

Smaug (voiced by Bennedict Cummberbach) 
- The Hobbit movies

More than some abstract monster in the giant lizard vein, Smaug speaks, has a great sense of smell, and a tremendous lot of gold to horde. In Jungian terms, he's the anal chakra, that sense of power and control when infants first learn to hold in their poopies. As a fire elemental he materializes the full empty obession of greed, the way greed can run amok, destroying everything in it's --'ahem' ---past, determined to burn the world down to save the gold it ultimately has no actual use for, aside from a bed. The mountain he sleeps in is the perfect model for what we might imagine contains fire, keeps it out of sight--fire sleeps in the mountains. 


Earth: 
"These little shreds shall, indeed, stand for all."
                                          - Walt Whitman

12. Poison Ivy - BATMAN & ROBIN
13. Deborah Reed -Creedence Leonore Gielgud - TROLL 2

Bottle cap glasses-wearing, hair-in-a-bun, horticulturists by day, sexy wild-eyed wild Earth elementals by night--each using their beauty, evil and chemistry to greenify an undeserving world--sounds like your kinda gal? Well, rejoice! One is a cult classic that just gets better with repeat viewings.and the other--shot at about 100,000x the budget--is unendurable, but in each they transcend in the earth elemental sorcerous hotness. 

In BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) Uma Thurman plays a bottle cap glasses-wearing horticulturist, hair-in-a-bun horticulturist by day, who becomes a sexy, wild-eyed Earth elemental by night, using psychoactive plant powders to create a green inflatable-muscled henchman (a way more fun Bane!), and to 'greenify' Gotham by eliminating its pesky human residents into mulch for her beloved plants. The rest of the film is awful as hell but she's great

Batman & Robin was poorly received with good reason--marred by terrible casting choices (Alicia Silverstone and Chris O'Donell are all wrong for Robin and Batgirl, like Sophia ----- as X-Men Phoenix). Hell, I walked out after the first ten minutes, to sneak into the movie next door (as one does at multiplexes). But now, later, catching it in a Sunday afternoon stupor on cable after seeing the infamous and much beloved TROLL 2 the night before, I officially love some of it it in all its terrible glory. The two actually make a great and terrible outsider fantasy double feature, especially when one considers the similarities between Batman's Uma Thurman (channelling Mae West) as Poison Ivy with - (channelling a tripping Margaret Hamilton) as Melora Cregar in Troll 2.

ALL THAT aside there's clear references to both the 1934 Black Cat and the 1932 Blonde Venus. And though her sub-par Mae West double entendre dialogue is badly written ("my garden needs tending" / "some lucky boys are bound to hit the honey pot"), pulsing with missed opportunities, Thurman seems to be having fun and looks great in her Miss Jolly Green Giant couture. Rolling her eyes, carrying on about Mother Nature having her day, and 'greening Gotham' after ridding herself of the feathered and furry caped crusaders, Uma alone finds that perfect balance between the high camp of the TV show (borrowing a page from Julie Newmar) and 'blockbuster'-style acting. As someone who always felt guilty over the purposeless murder of evergreen trees at Christmas, I applaud the tru-baller anti-veganism, which makes her the spiritual earth elemental sister of Deborah Reed in Troll 2 (1990)

And for TROLL 2, Reed is the bomb- overacting more than Batman and Robin's entire cast put together, she's truly a sight with her terrible teeth and wild hair as both the climactic full-on witch and the sinister-sweet librarian gardener of Nilbog. But she does have one scene where she sashays all sexy into the TV and trailer of one of the last morons standing and makes his cob pop something fierce. The bro just stands there, terrified, erect and immobilized, leaving us to wonder: is he waiting for a direction from off camera, maybe trying to hide his erection or not blow his first opportunity by saying or doing something awkward? Either way, his popcorn is soon so ready he'll want another bag.


Jennifer Lawrence is an idealistic pregnant Mother Nature who just wants to be with her man and have a quiet night at home while she works on fixing up the house and he labors on his poetry in the sky, or upstairs. But of course an out of control violent human population, driven mad with religious devotion to their poet hero, end up mobbing the place for an impromptu party that burns all out of hand, zigging up from the Old to New Testament. The way Aronofsky films the mounting chaos via going from room to room as J-Law tries to get these ragers from destroying her plumbing will ring eerily true for anyone whose ever had to call the cops on their own party to get the ravenous hordes of strangers out of their house before it's completely destroyed. Some critics and audience members can't handle certain scenes but anyone familiar with Catholic and pagan iconography surely won't object to seeing their symbols concretized. Lawrence has been very hit-or-miss lately but here it's a definite hit as she goes organically from happy wife to annoyed host to terrified home invasion victim and beyond into thunderous avenger of her own lost abundance. 


15. Skinwalker / Evil Tree Spirit - 
EYES OF FIRE (1983) 

Films like this highly uniquely otherworldly and long-unavailable episodic folk horror film is one of those regional recent rediscoveries, like Blood Beat, Death Bed, The Child, Lemora, The Witch Who Came from the Sea, and The Bogey Man that reminds us how startlingly weird and fresh 70s-80s horror could be--the trick was finding them in the endless sea of hack cheap slashers. This one is drenched in horror-adventure period piece magical realism along the same general plot and time frame as The Witch --i.e. late-1600s America, when the wilderness was still largely the domain of Native Americans, a few British or French military-maintained outposts, wandering fur traders, and small, remote religiously uptight enclaves. And--of course--earth and fire elementals are around, luring and devouring the wee ones roaming unchecked in the woods. The elemental here is a witch doctor earth spirit hypothesized to be made from the blood of innocent creatures, killed to give life to other less-innocent monsters, pooling in the earth until it takes the shape on an avenging earth spirit. As with The Witch, we have a a delusional preacher patriarch of the kind that essentially made the laws privileging white males so deservedly obsolete--in this case an itinerant preacher who takes up with the wife of a long-absent fur trader and her gaggle of kids. They end up needing to escape downriver when the town tries to hang a redheaded girl stepchild just because she knows how to speak with the trees. Sailing on a wooden raft, shot at by Native Americans, they end up finding a place of their own in a patch of woods the local Shawnee fear to tread, haunted by a malicious soul collecting tree spirit magus who is soon sucking them all down to his web of interlocked roots and shroom filaments til all that's left is their faces jutting out of trees. Gradually the survivors barricade themselves into their fort walls defending against the ghost band of past settlers and Native Americans turned into a naked bunch of Woodstock style mud dancers, glowing with lysrergic red energy, and even an evil changeling shuttled into their midst that the preacher takes as his own. 

And hey -- the 20th century brought us new elements to personify, most notable HEDORAH, the pollution elemental, and....
oops we're out of time.

But check out this full list of all of Erich's CINEMARCHETYPES!


Sunday, October 29, 2023

10 Reasons PARANORMAL: CAUGHT ON CAMERA has Your Collective Unconscious Ripped Wide

A staple of the game shelf over every 70s rec room closet.

When you're no longer afraid of being scoffed at for not scoffing at it, when you can let go of the borders between de-classifying known phenomena back into monsters and magic, masterful deep-cover short form found footage, deeper into deadpan-meta than a double Heidecker, a kind of retrogressive folk horror "return to subjective reality' movement (i.e. a future where anyone dressed slightly vintage seen otherwise deserted forest, graveyard, or tourist trap  can become a black-eyed child when seen in an otherwise ordinary video), NY's hottest club is: Paranormal... Caught on Camera. Only on the Trvl Channel.

If you can surrender to its paranoid free association panel of experts, weird videos, stock footage and old time illustrations; if you can pretend the goalpost of conventional reality has been moved waay back; if you can be cool with intentionally believing yesterdays superstitions were never shamed into the Jungian shadows by conventional psychology., you can feel archaic primal electricity  roaring back through your neurons.  Jung has partnered up with the Travel Channel to usher those skittish superstitions back out into the sun of the 'visible' world. Come to the agrarian cult of the paranormal and get a taste of how wild and weird the world around s before stupid science came along with their stupid-ass naming and classifying and magicidal quest to bust up our myths. Take our diseases and ignorance, but leave us our myths, man. We need them. Disney can only string us along on fairy tale fentanyl for so long, if we don't get a hit of the real Grimm stuff soon, our roster of Jungian archetypes will rise up and drag us down to the mire, and probably take our place at the helm. Someone.... or some thing  knows where they'll take us - but we know we'll end up beaching on the rocks.

Luckily then, for Paranormal: Caught on Camera, which rips a hole open in the floor and let loose the accumulated pressures of archaic folklore, giving the archetypes the access to fresh air they were craving. They roar to life, erasing years of science from our blackboards. Familiar animals are made strange again. Videos invariably show something that could be taken at face value (aka pareidolia) with a little effort. Thus our eyes are restored to those of children to whom the world is a wild, unknowable place. Tall black rocks seen from far away are possibly Bigfoot staring at the camera; ropes covered with ice chunks drifting down the winter river are sea serpents, misfired rocket boosters are strange UFOs. Just because a flying shield might actually be the sun doesn't mean you will die in battle against ancient Rome. Our beliefs make this world into what we see it as. So even if we know from other TV shows that a paradigm-shattering sign of the apocalypse may also be a bunch of silver balloons, or a dead sea serpent blob thing actually a chunk of whale blubber, or a flying witch a spider traveling by web parasail, we should keep it to ourselves, like religious views at Thanksgiving, you're not going to convert each other, so just let there be two answers. It's not going to make a difference to your daily life unless they're asking you for money. So if it gives some people the thrill of mystery and the return of myth, why bust their bubble like some third grade Santa-truther? If we're ever going to avoid Civil War II, we have to begin with this mutual respect of each others' realities along the conscious/unconscious divide.

And besides taken as a whole as an object/record of folklore, not unlike an Alan Lomax recording library, the show offers the perfect fusion of past and future, of living myth.  Everyone now has cameras at the ready, along with infrared, and all sorts of ghost hunting apps - and they're using them to unearth glimpses of what before could only be relayed as campfire anecdotes. These videos which "catch" the uncatchable, make visible a small shard of our collective unconscious' broken dream mirror--even if we're just seeing what we want to see, we can at least see what that is, and just who inside us wants to see it. 

At any rate. we can interpret--along with the assembled and very colorful group of talking head experts-- but we're can never see enough to get the whole picture. We're always so close, but, season after season, we never get closer. Maybe it's important to keep it that way. Knowing none of it is real would be too sad, knowing all of it is real would be too scary.  But not knowing either way, we're like a cat chasing god's red laser pointer--if the cat gets frustrated that he never seems to catches it, well, he's looking at it all wrong. If he realizes the futility, gives up and goes back to loafing around, he's missing good exercise for his ancient hunter faculties. But if he suspects it's all an illusion, but still chased anyway, recognizing the benevolent hand of their owner behind the curtain but not letting on, that's myth in action. So even if you think you know the whole story, one way or the other, keep it to yourself, act 'as if' and don't ruin it for the younger kids!  

1. JUNGIAN MYTHIC RESONANCE:
 “I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud." - Jung

The Ouija board: there is perhaps no better illustration of Jung's collective unconsciousness and its ability to manifest autonomous threads into the fabric of (conscious) reality. With everyone's hands on the planchette--presuming no one is consciously trying to consciously move it--the combined unconscious energies fuse together to generate an autonomous spirit, a combination fictional collaboration wrought by our inner children, and perhaps some real incorporeal spirit that's been waiting for just such a surplus of electro-magnetic energy to cohere into 3D time/space reality (the invitation of the ouija users being the equivalent of removing the password on your combined WiFi.) Sure, the answers the resulting 'it' gives may be nothing more than a fiction generated by our combined unconscious desires. Then again, it may be disembodied autonomous spirit, a shared ancestor / past life, or even a nonhuman intelligence, like a demon, using your combined unconscious energies like modeling clay to sculpt itself into a form you'd recognize in your collective memory. Be the demons that manifested at the dawn of civilization (daimons), personifications of the repressed energies that allow modern civilization to properly function (demons) or even elementals dredged up from the slumber of nature (elementals), these beings may transcend the boundaries of self, reality, expression, tine, space, and consciousness. 

Then again they could be ghosts of people who lived in the area, or portions of their souls that never quite found the white light exit. 

Then again, it could just be a lot of giggling and saying "you moved it!" "No I didn't! You did." and then moving on to some other game. That's my memory of it. And that's just as valid, in its way--that's what Jung's mythic archetypal landscape is all about. Sure it's your own inner journey translated into narrative myth, but it's also 'just a dream.' 

But like all good myths, the Ouija board has evolved with each new generation of telephone game mythic improvisation. What was once a harmless spooky slumber party pastime has become the paranormal version of a loaded gun left in the dresser where your kid can find it. To the ghost hunters and psychics who've come to help you with your haunting, admitting you used one in the past has become the myth equivalent telling your doctor you still smoke three packs a day even though you have COPD. The look in their eyes says "you f**ked yourself'." Because you see, in today's world, demons are the ultimate catfish, the psychic internet predator to whom all prey--no matter what their age--are children. And everyone who ever used one, it seems, forgot to lock the front door before going to sleep. 

Note figure running in distance

2. LEGIT Creepines:  Shadow People, Skinwalkers, Orang Bunian, Gnomes, Duende & Black-Eyed Children, Kuntilinaks, Reptilians, 

I can take or leave all the videos of unsightly 'paranormal researchers' breaking into abandoned properties in search of subscribers to their YouTube channel. It's funny when they start yelling at ghosts to get a reaction, then running away shrieking in a panic when the ghosts oblige. And I can take or leave the nighttime UFO sightings - they could be anything from that far away. BUT those maybe-accidental captures of shadow people, poltergeist action, trail cams, security cams, and shaky stuff shot by quick-thinking normal people who suddenly see something really weird and remember to film it. Favorites include a strange naked woman/dog thing running around in the jungles caught by accident on some jungle snake expert's nature show; a sleeping panther/human caught on Skinwalker Ranch; a Belgian cyclist's glimpse weird lizard man dropping down into a creek bed in Thailand; a pair of deformed, shadowy orang bunian lumbering out of the darkness towards a foolish ghost hunter in Indonesia (lots of terrifying stuff coming out of Indonesia!); black-eyed children in the background of videos of some kid dancing around the living room' jet black shadow people suddenly peering around the corner or standing in the dark of the basement, darker than dark; babies and dogs reacting to some unseen thing in the corner; weird little monsters captures accidentally running around behind cupboards or reaching out to touch the hand of a kid playing in the closet, or appearing in a basement stairs doorway like some evil little black imp. I'm getting pleasantly scared just thinking about some of this stuff! And I'll take scared of the unknown vs. scared of some real thing. 

I also love what I think may be legit ghost when there's an orb shooting by right before something weird happens, and it sometimes elongates or takes a kind of shape before melting away into some action. If any of this shit is real, it's these--and if these are real, than goddamned we live in a crazy world with dimensions far beyond what our human eyes can normally see, an' shit. 

3. Earnest witnesses who are either great actors or legit scared out of their skulls 

Sure there's a plethora of scabby dirtbag ghost hunters, a most unsightly lot in general (the American ones in particular, no offense) which casts--bearing their yen to acquire YouTube subscribers in mind--doubt on their findings-- but then something happens to them in their videos and they're scared out of their minds, running out of the room, shrieking in a high register nobody would ever intentionally fake. I mean, it not a good look. And either way, horror film actors should really take a good listen.

Most of the witnesses though are normal people from around the world who just happen to catch really weird shit almost accidentally, like little hands reaching out from corners to touch the child they're filming playing in a cupboard; shadow people peering around corners; people on motorbikes in India who pass some bizarre glowing white sheet wearing figure or large naked lady in the rain walking backwards - it sends them driving past, screaming at the top of their lungs. Nothing can stop the involuntary high-pitched shout and exhale screams that come roaring out of their mouths before we lose sight of the thing and the picture goes all chaotic as they race for their lives down the road, or stairs or back to their cars.  I especially love the Muslin djinn hunters' in the Middle East, their panicky but rather lovely prayers when things get weird, all translated with subtitles on the show almost like poetry: "I seek refuge with the complete word of god, from the evil which He has created." one man shouts when things get weird. "In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful " all rattled off in this mounting panic as they hear doors slam shut. It's worth its weight in gold. 

Then again, they freak out over a smudge on a window because it's almost a face and they never think twice about pareidolia, which throws everything into question. 


4. Folklorist Lynne McNeil 

Here is the kind of folklorist/paranormal expert I like: Lynne regularly espouses the correct dualistic approach towards the paranormal, recognizing that a perceived phenomenon may eventually have a scientific explanation without losing its mythic heft. In a landscape marred by reductionist either/or-ness,  McNeil brings this eternal paradox into the mainstream. She gets the fluidity of meaning, so concentrates instead on gut reaction, the relevance of folklore's eternal function as the sonar we use to sound the abyss of our collective and personal unconscious. And she knows just what to say that makes the video scarier, even while slyly placing it in the context of folklore rather than conventional reality.

She has the best understanding of how beliefs affect reality as well as vice vera ("You actually draw things to you with your attention to them.") as anyone I've heard, outside of Jung, Patrick Harpur, and Graham Hancock, because she's not afraid to seem like a flake rather than professor, and at the same time is clearly vice versa. G'head, Lynne, keep this shit grounded in a mythic folklore contest, even while treating it all as possibly real as well as psychically symbolic. It's all three, and more.. "We romanticize an openness to belief in children, and we pathologize a belief in adults--we think adults should be over that by now, and that's incredibly unfortunate that we do that because belief is one of the most therapeutic tools we have - if we could get over this inclination to either totally oversell it or totally over-pathologize it, we might actually be able to do something really important and useful with it."

Well put, sister. Belief in a higher power is endemic to survival if you're an alcoholic--fight it as ye may--and the tighter mainstream science circles its wagons, the closer they get to the church that used to burn them. Getting the two to work together--like Col. Potter pitching placebo pain killers in MASH after the drugs run out--and almost nowhere else.... except if ya like to get campfire urban legend-style scared!! 

5. Brian Cano

Stoic, slightly wistful, Cano's gently measured brand of freeform sincerity and soul-eyed extempore is the gentle heart of the show. To paraphrase one of his own comments, he makes me question my skepticism. He talks like the camera like he's working the Burning Man chill-out tent, distracting some dosed-out 16 year-olds with supernatural wisdom so they don't start screaming again. (In other words, America).

It's important to remember that all the paranormal expert talking head reactions are presumably unscripted and with Brian it sounds like it, but that just works to his and our benefit, as he lets each para-phenomenal gust of air lift his Socratic wings aloft. Most of the pundits keep it pretty real, not ever-reaching for some kind of profound summation of the human experience but Cano 'goes for distance' and that's why he--so quietly--rocks. I wrote out three my favorite Cano-isms to give you an idea:

On a Loch Ness video:

"Why are people fascinated by lake monsters and things of this sort? Because it infuses wonder back into our world .... The thought that, all right.. there's something out there... that maybe something is eluding us and evading us, and maybe that means all our other hopes and dreams... are possible."

On a UFO video: 

"Unidentified flying object: it just means there's something in the sky and I don't know what it is... but I feel like someone knows what it is --and even if I'm not aware of the explanation and.. even if it's not something for public consumption... someone has to know... what that is."

And on a unicorn video:

"While this video isn't definitive proof unicorns exists, it does raise.... questions. And where there are questions there has to be follow up. Maybe someone will want to follow up on this video and go 'you know what? Let's see if we can track down this unicorn..."

I hope if he reads this he doesn't think I'm being snarky. My own freeform talking head style is not too far off. To do it right you have to trust your inner self -- just leap into the air of a thought and hope there's. another there to catch you... it's high wire stuff.

Aaron Sagers "are we ready for that?"

6. ALL THE OTHERS

They're all well edited together to brainstorm all the wild theories they can within the brackets of commercials, for the oddness they've seen, to deliver a smorgasbord of opinions, precedents, past folklore and modern phenomena. With those ring lights surrounding their pupils like some otherworldly intelligence marker, casually talking at or past the camera in a way that's not alienating (unlike the experts in the British version, Unexplained: Caught on Camera, which does everything wrong that Paranormal does right). Aside from when they sometimes use "spirit" as a singular name/noun even for plurals (like "deer" or "fish" ) there's no one amongst them I don't like. I like especially Aaron Sagers, for his sharp sartorial sense, calm but not cuck-y demeanor; the always visceral and funny Ghost Brothers (in the later seasons, when Travel starts cross-promoting/synergizing) who've been in many recent seasons and provide the unashamed total fear response, and the sweet Susan Slaughter, the blonde babe of the show--i.e. the one with bleached feathered blonde hair, substantial but expertly applied eye liner, and beguiling matte lipstick-- prosaic but informative--especially about cryptids in Central American (her area of familial origin). Saphire Sandalo is the hot brunette, sweet and full of gorgeously gruesome details about the vast and lurid lexicon of cryptids from her own ancestral home of the Philippines. Derek Cayman is the grounded facts-relaying guy, with his podcaster hat and another fine beard (these guys all have jet black beard stubble) Mark Moran with his pale, shaved countenance and ever-present black (Civil War?) infantry hat gives us a measured, thoughtful analysis. Rachel Evans is the one with the quirky glasses and seems to have the most natural, intelligent reaction and seems genuinely amused, genuinely into it in a way that she makes kind of vivvid by contrast to the others who labor a bit towards professorial seriousness. 

Taken as a whole, they're all either endearing for trying to sound like an authority at a lecture, pointing out good mythic anchor points, or expressing their natural reactions, it's like a whole camp-out campfire of people with cool stories their grandmothers told them about their own encounters back in wherever, and endearingly flaky insights... and...this being the age it is, they have their videos on their phones to pass around, making everything seem twice as possible. 

7. NO BUZZKILL COUNTERPOINTS

I imagine there are some people who get a smug satisfaction when a video later turns out to be a hoax, or misidentified natural phenomena, or pareidolia but those types have been mostly weeded out of the paranormal TV landscape. The powers that be finally realized no one is watching these shows to hear that ghosts aren't real, or the UFOs are swamp gas. And now that UFOs are finally destigmatized, those rubes look especially foolish and dogmatic  and can ghosts be far behind? One gets the idea we're never gonna know for sure either way, so let's ride on it being real--it's more fun. As long as the hoaxers are willing to fully commit to the story, and it looks realistic, it's real enough to get the shivers we want, which are the reason for watching it, then let's do it. I'm in. It worked with Blair Witch (see my piece in "Frightened Male Monthly") And if any of it is real, which I mean centuries of eyewitnesses and mountains of evidence can't be all wrong, then this is the frontier!! Just don't spoil it, science!

Just like civilization mows down the forests in its expansion, so too science crowds out the mythic and magical by incessant investigation, and the magicidal urge to name things, to file them away in phyla and kingdoms and trace their DNA until all their mystery and monstrousness is gone. They ask for a hair from a Buddhist relic of a yeti scalp, so they can find out it's from a bear and just ruin the party for half of Tibet. The doofus mythbusters find the secret water supply inside the weeping virgin Mary statue out behind the church, thus rendering a thousand hopes and dreams dashed. Placebos can work miracles, but not when these buzzkills are around. 

And hey, they aren't around... on Paranormal: Caught on Camera.

8. The Wry and 'on it' Stream-of-Consciousness Editing and Music

The ability to zip up and in and provide almost everything we think we want to see to back up the theories espoused and witnesses testimony, showing the clips' over and over, zooming in on the creepy parts and freeze framing, each segment opening with a big red blob plopping down over its place of origin; masterful cuts of movement editing, slow-motion zooming in and out of the frame, inserts of TV static between shots, closeups of lights and outdoor security cameras. A lot of stock footage images of helicopters, hospital staff, computer screens with shadowy tech guys, close-ups of newspaper clippings, friendly dogs gazing lovingly at their owners, plenty of old paintings woodcuts, cave drawings, old time sketches of Native Amrericans beholding grey aliens, drone footage of the region,  sketches, Northwest forest tracking shot, mountains, volcanoes, dragons, olde historical photos, magic marker illustrations of weird cryptids, enough to keep a dozen interns busy searching for royalty free images off the internet and enough to make each segment so much more than just the video and expert reactions.

I'm not necessarily a fan of their constant use of spooky music even during scenes where we should be straining to listen for creaky footfalls. But generally they do quiet down if we're listening to some EVP or crackle in the attic. And they know just when to insert some Carpenter-style piano, Hans Zimmer-style coxic-buzzing drones, and grinding surges of drums, string samples, and mounting synth tension.

9. THE MYTH-REVIVING MIRACLE OF THE BLOB-SQUATCH

Another great illustration of the collective mythic unconscious in action - 'Blobsquatch' - how so many videos seem to just show a black blob in the distance, as if the Squatch has the ability to blur out his own image on tape, like the producers do for T-shirt logos. Similar to the night time UFO lights - these can have the feel of a 'RORSCHACH BLOTS - CAUGHT ON CAMERA - with the experts all talking about what they see and think it is, letting their pareidolia run wild and free. 

Sure it's hard to believe the skunk ape video where he looks like a skinny guy in a black sweatshirt, so waterlogged it sags dow in the arm inseam, trying to run through the swampy muck (it's no easy thing to be blurry and indistinct yet still unconvincing) but in general I like to give them the benefit of the doubt (i.e. that they're not just hoaxing it to sell skunk ape keychains) but that's genius or pareidolia, we have no control over it--our brains will try to make a recognizable face out of just about anything. 

But I also believe Sasquatch is real--on some level-- because when I accessed the Akashic records back in 2008, they told me so -- he's the descendent of the nephilim, who live for over hundreds of years. They're hiding from the greys who had a mandated from their extinction via the Great Flood, from back five or six thousand years ago. The ones who survived fled to the mountains where the water never reached or underground in vast caverns full of oxygen-producing moss and trippy mushrooms. Don't think they are ancient just because we still see the same ones that survived the flood (antediluvian people, like Enoch. father of Noah, lived for hundreds of years). They are actually only a few hundred years old since they avoid the greys by skipping through time via alternate dimensions. (When making us, their replacements, they de-activated the DNA strands that let us hop time and space, and also gave us--not unlike that bastard in Blade Runner, a shorter life span, lest we become a threat through our accumulated power). That's why even though they are more primitive in a lot of ways, they're still way more powerful than us. We'll never catch them because they were never really here, or there-- yet they've always been here, more than us. 

Yet they are hungry or encroached on they will you and your pets. So if they visit your backyard, leave them some apples or leftovers. Maybe the blobs will come to enough focus you can get a close-up, like this bad boy: 

I believe in this pic - caught by a guy who says they're more human than ape. I think people
confuse them with guys in gorilla suits ala the old dark house movies, or 2001, showing the difficulty
we have with imagining a true missing link. But they're just as much hairy
giant humans as they are apes. I might be wrong, but this pic is so outside the expectations 
we have  I feel like it might actually be real.  This and the recent Colorado train sighting -- 
where he's taller than Chewbacca and blends in  so well one wonders if his hair changes 
to golden brown during droughts. 

That's the Pisces dualism in me: I believe it's all a pareidolia hallucination but I know it's real --more real even than we are. Us trying to trap one is like a sketch of an orange trying to trap a falcon. Or vice versa. 

10. Paul Kaup's Narration.... is always..., dependable

Sure he always phrases everything exactly ..... the same way, with that build up...and then.... the point. When he says "Whether it's someone..." you know he's going to pause then add "or some thing."  After awhile you can finish... his sentences,  while you fold... laundry. And though I miss the kind of voiceovering that was over-the-top ala the old Scariest Places in America show, which ran on the Travel channel 10 years ago-ish, and was awesome in a totally chintzy, Impact font-using melange of tour guides, B-roll, weird insert shots of screaming interns in cheap wig and period costumes--or the grave importance of the guy who does A Haunting, I accept and enjoy his more hinged delivery and less..... hammy... speaking style. Kaup, you're all right.

IN CLOSING

In case you think I'm a flake for loving this show, you're right. But I'm also a die-hard Jungian. and fascinated by the sociologic need this show fulfills. I know Jung and fellow comparative myth analyst auithors influenced by him like Joseph Campbell, Bruno Bettelheim, Maria Louise von Franz, and Robert Bly would all dig it.

 These days we don't necessarily get grandparents and nannies sharing the weird folk tales and cryptic encounters told them by their own old country grandmothers the way we used to. Cable TV has stepped in to fill the gap and man is it coming through. Its cup runneth over by rolling with the "it might be real" half-fulls rather than the "but it's probably fake" half-empty skeptics. Sometimes you feel like you've taken crazy pills sometimes when the talking head gallery doesn't roll their eyes at things that are clearly projector images on clouds, box kites covered in foil, big silver balloons running out of air and attracted to the cooling asphalt at night so it looks like they're walking down the street, video artifacts, or barn owls peeping over roofs, possums with broken tails, and so on, but that's just part of the myth-building. This is a zone where the demystifying classifications of science are undone, so known animals are returned to their phantom monster status. 

Magicidal (if it's not a word it should be) science is like the gaggle of pinch-faced moral majority bitties running Claire Trevor' chthonic mythic archetypal prostitute out of the town at the start of John Ford's Stagecoach. Luckily there's a border (1) these prim types will never across, to a place where we can be "safe from the blessings of civilization," Those rancid rationalists and false skeptics (1) may pretty brave in town, but dare not follow us into the Geronimo country where truth and reality fall away from each other like amok booster rockets, and found footage horror fiction, analog horror creepy pastas, and  real phenomena (which is which?) all swirl together for the ultimate TV equivalent of telling true ghost stories by the fire, PARANORMAL CAUGHT ON CAMERA! 

\Further Reading:

 Erich's 2012 Guide to Cable's Paranormal Ghost Shows

Frightened Male Monthly: Blow out the flickering student in celebration! Blair Witch Project's 20th.

Zelots of Doubt: Why Skeptics are the New Cranks

Demon Sheets: Sleep Paralysis Theories

Bigfootage: Blobsquatch (2009)

NOTES:
1. (the paranormal is alive and well in Mexico)

Friday, September 29, 2023

Kubrick Variations / The Acidemic Stanley Kubrick Conspiracy Reader


Facebook reminded me I posted the above collage 10 years ago--they must really want me to write about it. I made it, and many others, after being bowled over by Rodney Ascher's ROOM 237, for my gushing and very paranoid review of same (here). Apparently, my unconscious drive really admired it for he was all over making weird collages bringing numerous Kubricks together. Like the above, called 'The Ultimate Trip" is about the realization that when we no longer have eyes, we cannot shut them. Or open them either. The Ludivico Technique can't harm you now. There is no shocking the third eye--it sees everything all at once and and so you shouldn't open it until you are 'prepared,'  The twins are the last thing reflected in your soon to be plucked pupil.  Taken before Anubis by our murdered twin psychopomps. Forever and ever, Danny!

So here's a round-up of my best Stanley Kubrick pieces over the years. Any conspiracy theory stuff--please note the dates--precede the Q-Anon phenomenon (I'd never write about that stuff now, so as not to enflame the already out of control fire.) It's dangerous stuff. Extreme paranoia does weird things to reality. And what of Stanley's real intent, his veiled message? . 
"I think for aa movie or play to say anything really truthful about life, it has to do so obliquely, so you avoid all pat conclusions and neatly tied-up ideas." .... When you tell people what things mean, they don't mean anything anymore... As a member of the audience I particularly enjoy those subtle discoveries where I wonder whether the filmmaker himself was even aware they were in the film" - Kubrick

 I posit the above quote as an introduction to my first piece on this list, a praiseful awe for ROOM 237. I was going to add some quotes of the 'if the filmmaker didn't intend the message to be there, then your interpretation is wrong!" kind of thing. But why not just link it?

(original post title: Room 237 Ripped Off Little Danny's Decal --Oct. 3, 2013)

Call the critics and theorists in ROOM 237 paranoid, overreaching, seeing too deeply, perhaps paranoid schizophrenic on some level. Go ahead! But don't mind me if I leave with them (We Pisces adore a lucid crackpot) and vamoose from your presence (we loathe a reductionist. I don't have to think they're 'right' if I don't see what they're talking about. But that's art, man.  I prefer an engaging crazy theory over a dry Bordwell-ian analysis any day. I don't think filmmaker Rodney Ascher is making fun of these lunatics or encouraging them to die on dangerous hills. The film would just be a snarky bore if he was. The film just illuminates how deep Kubrick's rabbit hole goes if you watch it 100 times. Which you should. Never the same film twice, that's the dream. (full)



Anyone who's been to the psychedelic mountaintop, transcended space and time, and/or archeived the 'Absolute' as per the Gateway Process will surely have some chills of recognition in room 237. The room itself has cabin fever (shorthand for losing touch with consensual 'reality'). Room 237 has slipped loose from the bonds of linear time, warping the perceptions of those who enter it like an innocent needle finding itself on a skipping record. Without a 'majority' rule of perception (during the tourist season) to block the infinite with their tunnel vision reality, 237 bathroom opens its black hole. That black can envelop you in its ink and you will be flushed down the pipes of Aboriginal 'dream-time' into the sub-basement of the sleeping anima mundi before slowly spiraling out of Marian Crane's open dilated pupil in PSYCHO, or out of the pistol barrel fired into the camera of Mick Jagger's brain at the end of PERFORMANCE. Viola, you've wormholed from one movie to another. The drain's small black hole slows down the world around it in an inescapable clockwork pentameter--hypnotic in its steady unwavering mechanical rhythm. It is the earth, the sun, and the wheels within wheels revolving in Ezekiel's or 2001's spaceship. The vocalizing drones on the soundtrack work to achieve this revolving sense of hypnosis, as does the slow, dreamlike movement of the camera and actors. The whole film up to that point has been a slow hypnosis. The banal pleasantries of the beginning convey the inadequacy of language to sum up non-ordinary experience ("that's quite a story," Jack tells the Overlook manager, a parallel to Heywood Floyd's "looks like you fellas really found something" in 2001) but that just paves the way for the break from space/time that' coming. But first, the spell. Notice the way Jack continually winces at his wife's banal pleasantries throughout the film--for her language is just a thing to say to make sure the other person knows you're there--the words have no meaning. But with his mantra-like repetition of certain phrases--"Gimme the bat!" or "Danny! Danny, boy!" or "My responsibilities!" (or the "dull boy" thing, of course) Jack shows the best use of language is to use it to step outside the structural limits of language and into some kind of gone catharsis.

And what a good student is little Danny - chanting "Redrum!" over and over until his Jack magically comes out of the box. Kubrick is justifying why he's so OCD with take after take after take. 
(10/13)

It might seem like I'm saying the Monarch 7 and SRA conspiracies don't exist, but to me it goes beyond something so trivial as 'reality.'  The tribal initiation, the paranoid schizophrenic fantasy, the Salem Sabbath, and the the Illuminati mind control conspiracy are all part of the same collective subconscious--which it isn't the same as 'reality' since it feels even more authentic than reality itself.  There is a vast wilderness beyond what our ego and mainstream liner science allows as 'fact' (a term the ego doesn't even like to examine, as like HAL 9000, it refuses to see itself as it truly is --an illusory construct). 

If you saw the screen you're reading this on 'as it really is' for example, solid matter would just be low frequency light-energy emanating from closely interwoven buzzing atoms. And that's no way to go through life. Our ego is our blinders that lets us avoid distraction from all the pretty sparks, but we shouldn't kid ourselves which side of the blinders lurks 'hallucination'.

Seeing ROOM 237 last week (review) is what set me off on this tangent. If you see that film you naturally have to see THE SHINING right afterwards, and then keep going, applying the paranoid deconstructions from 237 to Kubrick's other films. But I warn you, keep out of EYES WIDE SHUT with your ray of paranoid layer uncovering! Just stay out! A few luridly detailed 'recovered memories' of trauma-based ritual programming later and--whether they're true or just paranoid fantasies-- you might be wishing you could put those blinders back on and get back to your relatively Edenic cud-chaw pasture. (full)

...Pollack is brave and focused as an actor, especially for his willingness to play with moral ambiguity, to use his own aging, hairy bourgeois Zionist paranoia-engendering monstrous 'anal father'-ism as an example of what William Burroughs once described as "the cold, dead look of heavy power." Tapping into a common racist/classisct/ageist phobia that rich old (semitic) Svengalis are stealing off our shiksa Trilbys through the use of their gypsy magic. Like Christophe Waltz in BASTERDS, Pollack uses deep, relaxed but heavy nasal breathing to make you feel very close to him, as if he's leaning over your shoulder, and you don't want him to be; you feel like he's stealing something from you and you're afraid to ask for it back, or even what it is. There's something incestuous about the way we're conditioned to accept him as a "good guy" via his ease with signifiers of wealth. He seems to turn the viewer into a prostitute through his nostrils and through his use of anonymous but gorgeous younger women for sex, the way most people wearily order pizza, "again" for a dull dinner. (contrast with him talking about a prostitute "with a mouth like velvet" and dating a younger woman (!) in Woody Allen's (!) Husband's and Wives - coincidence? Not to conspiracy paranoiacs (who might be 'right') like David Icke! 

But with that heavy serpentine weariness comes the knowledge that as a representative of the power elite (the modern equivalent of the monstrous cannibal incest father of old, killed by Zeus, wiped out by the flood), it's his job to posit himself as "the one who enjoys," to situate the rest of us as outsiders in the fantasy realm so that we can keep ourselves in a distracted orbit around the real and thus preserve the gravitational field by which society functions (Slavoj Zizek.... will explain). This is a man who lives his pleasures close to the hairy surface; he's tactile. He forces us to imagine him having sex via his physical looseness, his hairy chest exposed. Cruise by contrast is repressed, i.e. 'normal' - he's not used to being touched unless it's in a mundane sexual way by his wife (and really he just wants an excuse to get off to himself in the mirror and have it not be gay or narcissistic), and like us, he worries the whole world is a continual orgy the moment his back is turned. He can't help but feel that he, and he, alone, is the odd man out, the one everyone hides their stash of libidinal enjoyment from, even when they're fully undressed in his doctor's office. The truth is, he keeps getting offers to go 'over the rainbow' but he continually chickens out., (full)


The Illuminati, Hypnosis, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Kubrick, and Tom Cruise (Divinorum Psychonauticus - May 19, 2016)

"... A key aspect of the fantasy-traversing orbit is the desire to 'retrace one's steps,' to find the fork where you and your fantasy parted ways (for we always feel that we were once living within the fantasy rather than orbiting outside it, even though we never really have, nor can we, no matter how convincing our maskies). In EYES, this is what Cruise's Dr. Bill does the next day after his orgy dismissal; the return is always built into any orbit, with the illusion of linear time transcended. Danny retraces his steps in the Overlook maze snow; the star child returns to earth, presumably to drop down into the lap of the very same ape who had tossed the bone up at the start of 2001; Alex re-encounters all the people he hurt in the first part of the film; Humbert's visit to the pregnant, bespectacled, de-sexualized Lolita mirrors his visit to her mother in the beginning, and the shooting of Quilty both opens and closes the film. Kubrick loves a long orbit. 

This is why the ultimate realization scene for Dr. Bill is when the odious Ziegler begins to back up over his 'charade' story and he realizes he's met a man even more of a fake than he is. That's what nails him, more than the mask, which is just another reminder of these rich elite's powerful omnipresence, but that it could be Ziegler himself who is the mastermind of all the things, right down to the call girl O.D, which may be fake anyway to scare him off. Is anything real at all? In clouding the issue Ziegler shows Dr. Bill the very painting of his fear, the refractions created by falseness and the empty cold of his cocksure grin, which its smug wearer presumes sweetens any amount of evasive bullshit. (Full)


(from Bright Lights Film Journal, 2009)

Like most of Kubrick’s work, Lolita (1962) reflects this gradual rotation ever further into the simulacrum but from an earlier epoch; going from the refinements and closeted perversities of old Europe to the postmodern “no tell” motels of modern America. There are three levels of time passing in our filmic discussion: the span of time since Lolita the film was released, the span of time of the actual movie (2 ½ hours) and the time spanned in the movie’s mise en scene (as in “3 years later”). Kubrick in this case ingeniously unites all three. As the film progresses, it moves from shrill bedroom farce to tense Freudian scenes of insane jealousy, the film gets darker, moodier. The progression is similar actually to another of Mason’s roles, that of the cortisone-maniac dad in Bigger Than Life. The monstrousness of his actions becomes apparent only later, when he’s struggling to keep his mask on in the face of all the subterfuge and self-fulfilling jealousy. Simultaneously, Lolita the film heralds our movement as a world into a sexual revolution, using its heavy bourgeois rep to smash through weakened small town idealism, and rockieting the male libido into a simulacrum fog.

(Nov. 2010)

Over the passing decades this film's been many things to me, but this last viewing it seemed to be about art vs. censorship and the way the promoters of 'childhood wonderment' and the Peter Pan 'if you can dream' aesthetic--the Norman Rockwell fishing boy logo of Dreamworks and the mouth agape wonderment of E.T.-- are the both the exploiters of children and culprits who bring us the hyper-awareness of the dangers of pedophilia. The two are entwined, a double exposure of exposing, like a cobra with the head of a tail-eating mongoose. The more you pine for and prize a 'perfect nuclear family' the more pressure-cooker force you put on those latent incestuous, pedophile dark desires. Cronus is ever ready to devour those foolish enough to believe in a perfect unity. Pedophilia--which is a key element in SRA conditioning according to your neighborhood Monarch 7 conspiracy theorist. It makes sense, for it's a short cut to creating the desired split personality, that which will then prime them to grow up as Manchurian candidates. In reality it's even more vile--to the point even hardened criminals feel the need to stomp on pedophiles in their midst. It makes sense, it goes deeper than Oedipus, down into the murky swamp behind the Bates Motel,, and it's always just a trigger phrase away. It's what lies beneath our modern trend towards the deification of children and their 'innocence.' Is it any accident that the two main architects of this hypocritical saintly children-izing in the early 1980s were Michael Jackson and Steven Spielberg?  Maybe I'm just spoiled, having grown up in the 70s when kids were treated like wild animals, running amok in unsupervised packs, with ambivalent parents with social lives of their own. When I was a kid, it was considered far worse to be overprotective than permissive. Today it's the reverse. Parents drop off and pick up their kids every day, like some kind of terrified chauffeur. know why, don't we, Gen X-ers? We were the ones that ruined it for future kids maybe, by running wild --but we had great 70s dads, who regarded their progeny with both fierce lion-like love and complete disinterest.  (full )

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coda;

(From Divinorum-Live Journal 2009)

My granny is cruising through her 90s in a warp that sucks me in by number.
All through the long visits I felt death pull me like gravity, like time pulls the meat off a chicken bone, like it pulls the planets along behind it as it sucks and roars along,
like stringed tin cans on a baptism-cum prom-cum wedding-cum-funeral car, or a chained together lineage on a pirate ship, condemned and chained in order of age, with the eldest thrown overboard, their children watching the disappearing link of chain, powerless to stop its disappearing.

and then all just raw conscious thoughtlessness - a dull roar of white static, in which you may at times think you hear the ocean, or vice versa... all voices that you hear are your own, you realize, in this 2001-Kubrick room of the self [you knew I had to shoehorn that in here-EK 2023], and outside that, the serpent swimming through the blue veins of your aging relations, swimming both towards you and away, towards you and away...

I've been unable to leave the house, no matter where I go. (EK - 2008)
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