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. 

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 )


(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)

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Sex Negative: Lucio Fulci's THE DEVIL'S HONEY (1986)

 "Sex is nostalgia for when you used to want it... Sex is nostalgia for sex." - Andy Warhol 

“The male has to will his sexual authority before the woman, who is a shadow of his mother and of all women. Failure and humiliation constantly wait in the wings. No woman has to prove herself a woman in the grim way a man has to prove himself a man. He must perform, or the show does not go on. Social convention is irrelevant. A flop is a flop.”  -- Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae

"War does something to a man, (it) takes away the gloss." - (film-within-film dialogue overheard while a sadistic sax player shocks his girlfriend by getting fellatio from his fey music producer in a Venice Cinema)- The Devil's Honey 

Can only an emotion as strong as grief wake you up to the emptiness of a love based on debasement and humiliation---even if that sex is super hot (and takes away your usual baseline suicidal ideation), in the way only sex with a crazy sadistic-abusive super freak can be?  Lucio Fulci knows. And he's using a distributor's brief to deliver another 9 1/2 Weeks (a big-ass hit in Europe) to answer the kind of tough questions9 1/2 director Adrian Lyne would pee himself in fear if you ever asked him. In short, if 9 1/2 Weeks is a naughty couples-only dip into Sandal's 'bondage night' (safe word posted on the wall in case you forget), Fulci's The Devil's Honey is a hard pistol butt thwacked in your face, followed by a little waterboarding in the romantic beach side surf. And not a lifeguard or a safe word for 5 kilometers in any direction. 

Don't say 'it's just sex' like you'd say "it's just leprosy.' Sex is serious. 

Our sex drive, it seems is itself a crazy sadistic-abusive super freak, demanding ever greater risks of safety, self-esteem and sanity just to get the same old rocks off. Safe words kill the fantasy as sure as condoms kill our 'sweet sensations.' With the intrusion of 'sanity', it's just play-acting.  like sooner or later an opiate addict needs too much for his body to handle, stranding him on the shrinking sandbar between the overdose abyss and the encroaching tide of withdrawal, so too the sex addict thrill seeker has to resort to Hellraiser- style "Jesus Wept"-style agonies for the same old kicks. Our common sense kicking and scream to be let off the ride, even as our subconscious paralyzes us with aroused excitement with every clank up the ramp. The alternative in each case is the hell of boredom, of safe healthy relationships and responsible bed times, wherein every life-affirming smile of your boring ass spouse, their big box of prophylactics and safe word rolodex ever at the ready, makes me want to rip your own genitals out and nail them to the front door.  

But wait, is that danger seeker even really us, or have we been taken advantage of by some sadistic lover who allies with our unconscious sex/death drive against our ego's judgement? On some level we know a lot of this abuse is all being done to please us. We forget how quickly our comfort zones shrink to noose size if left unassailed. And so we learn to hitch ourselves to loose canons, only to then complain when they roll all over our decks, crashing into mizzenmasts and crushing our toes? 

In other words, is it still rape if you call them for another date the next night? That question has been legally answered since the 80s, thank god, but there's a whole other line of moral questioning, posed only in brave films like Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Duke of Burgundy, Belle du Jour and The Devil is a Woman -- films which carry a lot of Criterion cred, that go all the way around to the back door of the same thorny issue, and are all considered art. But add a Lucio Fulci film like The Devil's Honey to their midst and those film snobs start sneakin' away, quietly striking your name from their bourgeois opening invite lists. AND I'M FINE WITH THAT! You can take those lists and stick 'em in your undiscovered country. 

Yes Honey, like much of Fulci's work, is too tawdry to the bourgeois types to give the same leeway they give to Bunuel or Fassbinder. And yes, it's a film where a saxophone solo is blown between a sexually supercharged girl's naked thighs in a red sound booth while his producer and engineer are out having lunch. And yes it's guilty of things that were having a last gasp back in the mid-80s, when every European filmmaker was chasing the elusive butterfly of 60 Shades of Grey, 9 1/2 Week$ but it's Fulci, not some perfume ad-music video hack. His genius stretches deep no matter what the assignment. He started out in dated sex comedies of the sort America has been largely spared (it has plenty of its own). And I think after cranking them out for the first Promise them Fatal Attraction, give them Guantanomo Beach. 

If Bunuel or Von Sternberg were around today, would they know what to do without the heavy breathing hypocrisy of the censors lending their every cryptic gesture a portent at once sophomoric and heroic? When forced to bury sex under mountains of respectability, that you get sex through somehow anyway is heroic, the way drinking during prohibition was considered patriotic by many of the writing class ('hic') I have the same problem now with marijuana, when you could go to jail for having a single joint, being part of the in-crowd carried outlaw cachet. Now, you're just another consumer, so who cares? A Fulci special isn't going to shock with sex when sex isn't shocking. He's too 'gone' for that- he'd rather bypass sex altogether, to get at the ugly truths not of love but of 'what it takes to keep your partner's interest, and your own' - the sex drive is, as Camille Paglia point out, very un-PC. Nature observes no moral code aside from might makes right, it's the whole reptilian cortex kind of shit, domination and sublimation. The only way out is through awareness, real Lacanian confrontation with the hideous staring eye at the center of horror of raw, undiluted existence, where Kali rips heads off of soldiers with one set of arms, and screaming babies out of bloody wombs with the others. So. much screaming and yelling - the only way to drown it out is to scream yourself. Fucli says, hey - go ahead. 

Because you see, gore and eyeball mutilation are the specialty of la Casa Fulci. Sex is something for Jess Franco or Jean Rollin, or even Joe D'Amato. Fulci wants no part of it. You can call some of his films misogynist, but he never fetshizes female suffering or the female body (beautiful faces and hair, yes, shapely figures, no) he presumes instead upon a Carol Clover kind of "Her Body Himself" projection.  There's no objectification of the female form with Fulci since in nightmare logic there can. be no 'satisfaction' or cuddling. Lust is a prison where the only release from your cell is enough gratification to stop the biological belittling for a little while, it buys you some time, like a $10 tray that at least takes your gorilla jones away, to paraphrase Girl Scout Heroin Gil Scott-Heron It's sex as a hungry ghost pining for the time before it mattered. 

For Fulci it's all just a dead end to the path of the 'stare' - not the 'gaze' but the 'stare' back at the gazer. Someone like De Palma emulates Hitchcock but Fulci 'one ups' that kind of scopophilia by emulating Dali instead - i.e. going right for the eye. Like Oedipus, Fulci knows that that the smallest of return stares can snowball into the murder of children (Don't Torture the Duckling) or lesbian neighbors (Lizard in a Woman's Skin). So the safe move for all humanity is if we just gouge those offenders out right now. Ah, but what movie do you see when that cloud editor's knife ravages your one good moon like a Melies rocket? You already know the answer. 

Fulci makes movies for the post-envisioned, forging a detour through the dream pineal pipeline, the dreamer's magic box, wherein we can behold our own blindness with rueful amusement, fully aware of the paradox but just not giving a shit. 


For someone like Hitchcock, the handcuffs and short leash of censorship and his own Catholic guilt, keep him 'peeping' through keyholes to the end. For him and his disciples, Catholic repression is the ultimate aphrodesiac.  Hitch could funnel acres of sex into a single drag on a cigarette. With Fulci, the funnel spills out on the ground, the soggy cigarette explodes and the smoker vomiting ever last acre of sex back up and all over the floor. For Fulci, if a naked woman is presented for our gaze it's scary because she's looking back at us--to use Rear Window parlance, it's as if "Ms. Torso" suddenly whirls around and stares back up through Scotty's zoom lens in a way that would make Lars Thorwald pee his big boy pants. 

(1986) Dir. Lucio Fulci
"There isn't any reason, and I wouldn't want you to go around thinking that there was." - Ned Beaumont to the DA, The Glass Key (Dashiell Hammett)

In the sordid psycho-sexual chamber piece that is The Devil's Honey, the two male characters in the film straddle the disinterested whore of time, as if two aspects of the same man - one the tired, middle-aged male surgeon (Brett Halsey) with the stricken look of men my age when we finally see what lies at the bottom of the hill we're finally over (and we realize the car we're locked in has no brakes, or reverse, or door, or seatbelt, or steering wheel), and the younger, sadistic adrenaline junky colossus of the lite jazz saxophone scene who flies into a rage if his girlfriend ever wants to cuddle. In other words, he's on the upside of the hill, where the top is all he can see. He considers himself immortal, a god. Sex has made him into an ogre, the sadist, but is he like that because he 'gets' his girlfriend, knows how she sexually responds to being a 'piece of meat' to him?  

On the other side there's no doubt the burnt-out (Fulci-stand in?) surgeon played almost too well by Halsey, is trying to treat his hooker like a piece of meat (1t) , or at any rate she treats him like a temporary annoyance that's over before she can figure out if she even likes it, peeling her still-warm chewing gum off the mirror on her way out - no sense wasting it, and he treats her roughly the way a crippled kitten might play at being a lion for a few seconds before shrinking back into a world of consumptive coughing. His wife meanwhile longs for some sexual contact, wishing he'd man up. She's forced to say embarrassing things like: "Treat me like a whore," and, after she leaves him: "There's no use coming back unless you take me to bed," He'd rather mope, and never thinks to take his phone off the hook long enough to get her where she needs to be. 

Though he's extra stricken by her departure, he's stricken like Florence Pugh's boyfriend in Midsommar, cowed by some ego ideal he feels he needs to embody even while every fibre of his being is struggling to rid himself of her.  After she leaves and Halsey's eyes say it all - he'd rather be abducted and brutalized by an unhinged hottie than deal with Corinne Clery and her big haunted pleading eyes. Needless to say, he never goes home after this, 

Fans of YOR! (and who isn't?) know exactly how this feels; Clery does the insecure possessive clinging GF almost too well. She's got all the goods in all the right areas, but there's something about her that makes you want to chew off your own arm rather than wake her up and there's no clear reason why other than her neediness. Halsey is maybe a little too adept at seeming world weary and flaccid to the point we viewers long for his delivery from feeling obligated to feel bad about her wanting out.  Nothing is more tiresome in a movie than a character halfheartedly trying to stop a girl from leaving him that you feel deep down he wants her gone too, but can't admit it, because he's told himself he's not that kind of a guy. We saw this most recently in Midsommar, but it goes back to the start of Antonioni's L'Eclisse (1961) where we watch the morning after some apparent all-night breakup, as some lame dude lopes miserably after Monica Vitti, until we finally rejoice when she closes the gate on him.  Antonioni knows we hate this guy on principle, just like we hate the guy in Midsommar, that he drags us through it all anyway shows us that, like Fucli, he's a sadist in ways not quite associated with pain or mastery. 

Above all he plays against expectations, and every camera move or line is 'off' in a telling way. There's the absurd idea that there could ever be a lite-jazz sax player with a groupie (in the US especially). Eve  shot of Jessica walking outside, mourning him by wearing his sweater, seems unreal. A long tracking shot as she glides down a line of white fencing on her way to the doctor's car, in the rain, is given a surreal gleam, as we seem to be gliding along after her. And when she pulls out a knife to threaten our abducted doctor - the music doesn't get predictably ominous but surges into big guitar stings and jangly 80s air rock.

The Opposites Subtract Effect

It would be nice if we saw any change in Halsey's tired demeanor after this drastic turn of events. But aside from the dog scaring him so much he pees his pants, or when he watches her smash up his car with a hatchet, there's not much he offers in the way of reaction-- his eyes have that stricken sad guy look, the kind of mid-age crisis where you're over and start going down the hill - and see the spikes at the end, and there's no brakes or steering wheel, no way to unfasten your safety belt. All you can do is stare in that stricken way - and let it come. 

I tell you what though, Blanca Marsillach is rather amazing as Jessica. Singing and laughing to herself, eyes wide, staring - staring at him saying "Why did you let him die?" over and over, smiling gleefully - laughing ("so the great surgeon has peed in his pants."), Marsillach, you're one for the ages!!

"I can look straight into your eyes," she says 

As she walks around the beach house, moments from her past with Johnny seem to be happening at the same time. He seems always around the corner, coming down the stairs or out from the beach; the only difference is in lighting filters. When he says "You know I always come back," we wonder if he's a ghost, until he says "I can't live without you." Dude, I wouldn't worry.

Unless we've seen some Argento movies we may find it strange she's made so violent by the death of the man who treated he so meanly. But we who've seen The Stendahl Syndrome, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, etc., we know better. We also may know if we found ourselves adopting some of our ex-lover's habits after we separate from them, drinking their brand of whiskey, etc. We unconsciously move our habits around to accommodate for the sudden absence. Here it's forcing the doctor to eat dog food. Forcing him to operate on a doll she got from Johnny that he later broke in a violent rage. ("I love you I love you. Can't you say anything else?" he shouts, as if her string is broken). Eventually her memories stray from the house into Venice, made Don't Look Now uncanny, with Fulci once again making things super weird without half trying, through the simplest of close-ups - such as the sudden appearance of a smiling Nicky.  

I won't spoil the end. But of course they are in a Venice cinema, with a movie in English playing (we never see it only hear its stilted "WW1 vet coming home to find wife with another man' kind of British drawing room drama. 

As someone who's suffered from depression all my life, in one way or another, and had a lot of bad psychedelic trips as well as good ones, I can vouch that nothing snaps you out of a funk and into the moment like pain and fear. Thus masochism is often a remedy for depression, and the pain of one thing can be transmuted to ease the pain of the other, a kind of focusing/exorcism. And no pain is worse than severe depression --cutting, etc. is a relief. And if all it takes to forget your marital and malpractice troubles is to suffer a massive head wound, or wake up in some strange house with a naked psycho hottie named Jessica giving you the full Guantanamo, then hey where do I sign? 

And if you're Jessica, suffering to the point of madness because your now dead thrill-seeking dom boyfriend kept you constantly in that state of the "now" through abuse alternating with love and affection (like how Fulci treats the viewer), how natural it would be to spread the love/anti-love by subjecting the doctor--whose depression indirectly killed the man who was killing her depression (because the doctor was failing to cure his wife's depression he couldn't concentrate)--to an even more violent and domineering extended session of abuse. 

Is this Fulci's way of looking for some kind oar artistic underpinning to his life's work, as if his art itself is waking up to the abusivness of its 'total' self? A kind of apology by way of Italian art as espoused by Camille Paglia.

By the end, the meat treating will be almost completely purged from both grieving objectified girlfriend (sifting through her memories of his behavior and gradually realizing which came first, the chicken d'Sade or l'ouvo de Masoch) and the ennui-crippled midlife crisis special called Halsey-- whose wife shouted she'd rather he let his patient die in the OR than miss date night (in the end he does both)--will find himself still caught in his premature ejaculation problem (never mentioned but c'mon- you can count the amount of thrusts he gets --pants still on--with one hand, so to speak --at his age there's no excuse for that) but maybe at last - he'll have some idea how to enjoy sex without all the sub/dom booolshit..


That's really the point though of Fulci's feminine orgasm, perhaps and a sick kind of capstone. The outrage, the onus is on the woman and the complex web of her attraction and repulsion to the constant forcing of anal sex, thrusting at her from behind while she fumes and fusses as if always ready to try and surrender ("no, please, it hurts!") but determined to resist and fume. The idea of whether a masochistic part of her responds - they really need a safe word, but what are you going to do?-- feeds into the eroticism is, in Fulci's clever handling, always open to interpretation (does even he know?) Either way you can tell this lite jazz colossus doesn't really give a shit about her orgasms. He can't afford to, if he's to keep 'em coming. What a delicate dance, if that's what it is. 

And maybe it is, since the moment he's not pushing or pulling, she sulks. She sulks if he abuses her and she sulks if he doesn't.  She's sulking even on the ferris wheel. When he tries to be nice she pouts and fumes, angry that she had to leave him even just so he could finish recording his album, so desperate for him she hurls herself against the soundproof glass of the recording studio as if his horn's magnetic pull overpowers her, crotch first. And yet, if he does anything to please her, she'll lose all interest, like the secretary in Fassbinder's Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Without the cycle of anger/abuse/make-up sex (and as Camille Paglia always points out, that's why abused women often stay -- after he's all contrite and sweet later one, the make-up sex-- sharpened by all that fear and dopamine)-is almost worth it (ala the "Stella! Stella!" sequence in Streetcar).

By the end, the cycle of abuse will be almost completely purged from both grieving objectified girlfriend (sifting through her memories of his behavior and gradually realizing which came first, the chicken al l'abuse or l'ouvo de Masoch) and Halsey's ennui-crippled midlife crisis special. As if any doubt is still in your mind, when his needy wife shouted she'd rather he let his patient die in the OR than him miss date night (in the end he does both) she loses all sympathy (get that lady a pool so she can have a pool boy, bro). Free of both of their misguided guilt (Halsey's real guilt comes from refusing to admit every fibre of his being is screaming to escape Clery's claws; and Johnny's girl's guilt over accidentally killing her animus projection before any closure can be attained), maybe they stay together out of a kind of shared post-traumatic paralysis. Maybe they've burned out each other's mopes, both realized they don't even really want the heavy trip of their previous love's insecure brutality. If abuse overrides depression, then maybe exhausted release of past self-perceptions overrides the need for any kind of resistance to the initial depression in the first place. Few negative emotions live for long when you no longer fight them. 

And yet, our poor doctor will still find himself still caught in his premature ejaculation problem (it's never mentioned but c'mon) and at his age there's no excuse for that. Physician, heal thyself (you know what I mean).

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