Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Welcome to Russelland

Okay, so if y'all think I haven't been watching much lately, or at least not writing about it, you couldn't be farther from the truth. As you may know, I have been watching the films of Ken Russell like a madman in order to write a lengthy article on (what has become) Hysteria in his films. So, to make up for a lack of writing (and an attempt to keep you from going totally crazy, hearing about Russell's films every day) I will deliver a one sentence summation of my thoughts on the films that I have recently watched.

Delius: Song of the Summer is perhaps more interesting to understand what Russell was reacting against. Though Delius is very well made, it's mannered nature is completely alien to those whose conception of Russell lies in the later films like Tommy. It is Russell gloriously bowing out of a 10 year relationship with the BBC.

Women In Love is truly quintessential Russell. A must for any cinefile. Take special care to notice the moment where the film departs from traditional narrative delivery as this is the primary focus of my forthcoming paper.

The more I read about The Music Lovers, the more I find it to be a well made film. Russell's faults are very apparent here, but so is his glory. The end sequence set to the 1412 Overture is BRILLIANT and Glenda Jackson is, as Mike Clark stated in USA Today, "brilliantly bonkers."

The Devils is Russell's undeniable masterpiece. Every pun is right on the money and every instance of shock editing works, a: because of the political undertone of the film, and b: because of the insanity of the subject matter. If The Music Lovers was described by Russell as a story of "a homosexual composer who falls in love with a nymphomaniac," then all one needs to say of The Devils is Vanessa Redgrave as a hunch-back, self-flagellating nun in love with an over-sexed priest.

The Boyfriend is an overdrawn mess of a lighthearted musical meant to follow The Devils as proof of Russell's ability to diversify. It only succeeds in being a glutinous exposé of Twiggy's mediocre talents. There are some great sets, but overall this film is a sugary dud.

Russell's Savage Messiah is a low budget return to his BBC days. The film depicts a early 20th century sculptor whom Russell himself would most like to be. The boy is impulsive, artistic and completely driven by his desire to create. Sadly it drives him to the fronts in WWI. This is Russell's absolute proof of his ability to restrain himself. A trait he would seldom use in the years that followed.

Mahler is a failure. What starts off as a promising experimental narrative becomes extremely haphazard in terms of timing. The film folds in on itself half way through, which is a pity, because the first twenty minutes are perhaps the most aesthetically glorious minutes Russell has ever created this side of The Devils

It would seem that Russell finally found the avenue to exert his OTT tendencies with Tommy. Most people have seen the film, and those who haven't really should. I actually have very little to say about the film, as all 111 minutes of it are distilled down to the 2 minute sequence in which Ann-Margaret writhes in the mixture of Soap suds, chocolate and baked beans. It says what Russell intended The Music Lovers to say quite succinctly in a minute fraction of time(though it seems like an eternity while you're watching it).

Lizstomania is unwatchable.

Likewise, Valentino finds Russell at his most uninspired. He was probably playing it safe after the box-office horror that was Lizstomania, but there are only a few pearls in this by the book biopic. Of course, Carol Kane's teensy weensy role is one of them

Taking a stab at Hollywood (all of his prior films being made in England), Russell found enormous success in Altered States. In a static way, the film is an Americanized version of a Ken Russell film. Though marking the first starring role from William Hurt, Altered States is a film all too self-conscious of its maker's visual expertise. It therefore becomes lazy and it's moments of psychedelic frenzy are less exciting than one might expect. Though a huge success, it would not spark greatcontroversyy like Russell's next Hollywood picture.

I cannot for the life of me believe that Kathleen Turner does not regret making Crime of Passion. The film opens with her reciting her Miss America acceptancespeechh, straddled in gynecological stirrups, being eaten out. This is onewallopp of a film. The moments of Russell's trademark hysteria are superb and when not dwelling in them, Russell discovers a brilliant use of the absolute mundane. The dull parts of this film are positively essential to the movie as a whole. Russell revels in both the boring and the sensational. The key scene of former being the endless shot in bed with the curtains moving in the breeze. On the other hand, there's the scene where Turner sodomizes the cop with the nightstick.

After fleeing from Hollywood because of his complete distaste for the city (can you blame him?), Russell, direly in need of money, signed a five picture deal with Vestron Home Video. This would prove to be a grand relationship yielding the second most prolific period of Russell's production. Gothic was the first offering. I must admit I am biased. Gothic was the first Ken Russell film I ever saw, when I was an impressionable youth no less. The film scared the shit out of me and to this day I think it a wonderful and terrifying film. Russell decides to exorcise the adage, "there's nothing to fear, but fear itself." The "scary" in the film is fear, and our outrageous cast (Julian Sands, Gabriel Byrne and Redgrave's daughter,Natasha Richardson) finds creepy manifestations of their worst fears around every corner. Notice the credit sequence. It perfectly states Russell's attitude to not only the film, but the genre as a whole.

Salome's Last Dance finds Russell in top form. From a bare bones budget, Russell creates universe in which all of his stylizations and indulgences make perfect sense. Leave it to Oscar Wilde to yield the material with which Russell can most be himself. This is Glenda's last hoorah for Russell, as even though she appeared in his later D.H. Lawrence adaptation, The Rainbow, this is certainly the last time she exerted her ferocious camp wonder over the likes of a Russell film. An interesting side note, Imogen Mallais-Scott, the actor portraying Salome is in fact deaf, though one could never tell by merely watching the film.

Russell's greatest camp following is based around his adaptation of Bram Stokers The Lair of the White Worm. Again, Russell descends into Russelland with wondrous results. The budget restraints prevent him from going too far over the top, but just enough to revel in the absolute absurdity of the film. Amanda Donahoe(pictured left) steals the show as the snake woman Lady Sylvia Marsh. It is when she is on screen that Russell's glibness shines. It is also worth mentioning that purchasing the older DVD edition of the film is truly in your best interest as it features the most side-splitting commentary I have ever heard with Russell, proving once and for all that he is, in his words, even, "totally mad."

The Rainbow was Russell's attempt at revisiting safe territory in hopes of restarting his career. In re-envisioning Lawrence, Russell disregarded all of his trademark stylizations that made Women in Love an exhilarating film, and made, what I assume in his mind was a proper English countryside movie. Now, to anyone else, this does not include graphic, gratuitous lesbianism. It is, sadly, a positively dull film.

With thatabysmall film under his belt, it would seem Vestron slashed his budget, as Whore is Russell's most low rent movie to date. Staring Theresa Russell (no relation), the film promises a gritty look at the life of a streetwalker. If by gritty you mean economically meager and energy deficient, Whore lives up to its promises. It is so bad that at times it is almost good. Take for instance, the editing of Theresa's epiphany at the movie theater. This becomes the best moment of the film because it is so unabashedly poor.

Mindbender is proof that it was only down hill from here. This is the positively dreadful film of the life of world famous spoon bender Uri Geller. Not even Terence Stamp saves this from being, not even Russell's most poor, but also most uninteresting film ever.

As Russell drifts into obscurity, he secludes himself in his house funding his own films, which he films on DV using himself, family members, and those talents that he can afford, namely strippers. The Fall of the Louse of Usher is one such travesty. Russell merely lets every dick and shit joke loose, discards narrative for a malaise of camp carnality and puts himself in the actor's seat as the "mad scientist" who, I have yet to finish the film though I started it mid summer (it is really that much of a chore), a friend informed me at the halfway point in the film, Russell looks dead into the camera and says, "you think this is bad, you're only half way through." In some sick place, this is tongue in cheek. Sadly, that place is the land which Russell occupies now, and from where he shall probably never return. Our loss.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Out tomorrow!! Picks of the week for 1/31

In theaters this week: Manderlay, Lars Von Trier's second installment in his halted USA: The Land Of Promise trilogy. J. Hoberman has already knocked the film for adding very little to the world created in Dogville. Even though I love J. Hoberman more than I love Lars Von Trier, I will certainly see the film and give you my two cents when it opens this weekend. Until then, we can merely enjoy this picture of Lauren Becall with a rifle and imagine she's pointing it at a certain Scientologist actor who's twelve-year-old girlfriend is expecting his hellspawn any day now.

New DVD Pick of the Week: Only because I'm a honey for J. Hoberman and, for some reason, he regarded this film quite highly last year. To me it seemed like a pointless recapitulation of the aesthetic (not to mention cult phenominon) of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Where Nightmare's energy came from the fact that there had never been anything like it, ever (at least on the level that it was distributed), Corpse Bride was a bit too familiar for it's own good. But maybe I am very wrong.

Retro DVD pick A: David Lynch's for years anonymous adaptation of Frank Herbert's cult novel finally gets the glutton treatment with a nearly-three-hour edition of the not-all-that-good-in-the-first-place Dune. It's really a mess of a movie. Now perhaps this will be rectified with clarifications presented in this extended version (god knows I'll have to sit through it with my boyfriend), but all previous viewings of the still-long-feeling shorter cut made me ponder was how Lynch got so far in under his head.

Retro DVD pick B: I have very little to say about When a Stranger Calls except for the fact that CAROL KANE IS SO SCARY! The first twenty-so minutes of the film are terrifying, then it all dies. But I guess it's never been on DVD. Rent this instead of going to see When A Stranger Calls Your Nokia which just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Retro DVD Pick C: Out tomorrow on DVD is a movie I have never even heard of. Let Me Die A Woman is a piece of trannie exploitation cinema. I hold very few things precious (if you can't laugh with it, then you need to grow a greater sense of humor, especially where smut is concerned!), and this is not one of them. I assure you, I will rent this little maybe-gem of a movie and let you know.

And don't forget to buy Pornocracy by Catherine Breillat today!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Updates! Part 2

So, I detest him, but other people read this, so I feel that it is my duty to inform you that Gaspard Noe has taken part in two "numerous-big-name-directors-on-DV-contribute-shorts" "films." The first (and more logical) pairs him with Marina Ambramovich, Matthew Barney, Marco Brambilla, Larry Clark, Sam Taylor-Wood and Richard Prince. Destricted is "Art meets sexuality in this unprecedented compilation of erotic art films made by the leading visual artists and filmmakers working today". Noe's film is aptly titled, We Fuck Alone. Hmmm...

The other is "just called 8, and it's an anthology project featuring short films by eight different filmmakers. [Jane]Champion's segment (!) is called The Water Diary, Noe's segment is called HIV. Six of the eight filmmakers have been confirmed. They are; Jane Champion Jodie Foster Robert Altman Jan Kounen Gaspar Noe Shinya Tsukamoto

That means there is no feature in the works (awww!), and no, Monica Bellucci will not costar.

Gregg Araki also has a new project. It seems as though he will return to all-too-familiar territory with his Sci-Fi Valley spook, CrEEEEps!

And speaking of familiar territory, in the onslaught of musician biopics, we have a Keith Moon bio starring Mike Meyers, Anton Corbijn's Ian Curtis biopic, Control, of course there's Nico, starring Tilda Swinton, directed by David Mackenzie and written by Blade Runner writing duo David Webb and Janet Peoples, Todd Haynes', I'm Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Bob Dylan starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Colin Farrell, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Richard Gere and Julianne Moore all portraying Dylan at different points in his career (how very Palindromes of him!), there's Untitled Dusty Springfield Project and I've heard rumors of an Edie Sedgwick bio (of which I can find no information) and an Iggy Pop bio that the rumor mill claims will star Elija Wood! Ha!

Neil Jordan is working on two new projects. Me and My Monster sounds very Little Monsters-y. The thriller, Borgia takes place "In fifteenth century Italy, as Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia is crowned the new pope, he looks to consolidate his power by manipulating his various family members." Sadly, it stars Colin Farrell, who I recently described as, "a monkey; and not even the smart kind of monkey who presses the green button and gets the taco."

Cronenberg is in the middle of filming I Kill apparently. Poor David, having to live it up in Montecarlo. London Fields was supposed to be his next after Painkillers (his first original screenplay since Existenz) was finally scrapped. It's still on the list, but IMDB reports that I Kill is shooting. Finally, Cronenberg is set to direct the pilot episode for an HBO series based on his wonderful film, Dead Ringers

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Hold that America! Danish enfant terrible Lars Von Trier has halted his US trilogy.

Variety.com reports, "In Cannes, von Trier announced that he has postponed the final installment of the trilogy, "Washington," intended to be set in the nation's capital during the '40s, saying he needs to wait because "I'm not mature enough" to make it now. "

Let's hope Nicole Kidman's too old to do it by the time he decides he's "mature" enough. Whatever that means.

Also, good old Nic Roeg's at it again! With good old Donald Sutherland to boot. To bad the title of this project is Puffball

Synopsis: This haunting thriller is the story of Liffey and her husband Richard, whose lives are almost destroyed by infidelity, the paranormal and bad weather when they purchase a remote, dilapidated cottage in the English countryside.

Roeg's other new project is the improbable (yet phenomenal sounding) Adina starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Neve Campbell (who has really won me over with her work with Robert Altman)

And speaking of Altman, his A Prairie Home Companion features the unlikely pairing of Lindsay Lohan and Lili Tomlin. Guess Paint, his artworld film is history. Oh well...

Good old Catherine is working on three films. It would seem that Un Vieille Maitress (An Old Mistress) is the first in line. Starring Asia Argento (UGH!!!!!), Louis Garrel (double UGH!!!, though his is rather hot) and Jeanne Moreau, it is "a costume drama based on Barbey D'Aurevilly's 1851 novel Une Vieille Maîtresse (An Old Mistress), the tale of an impoverished aristocrat obsessed by his former mistress." Film two seems to be an adaptation of Henry De Balzac's La Fille Aux Yeux D'Or (The Girl With The Golden Eyes) staring print model Laetitia Casta. And last on the list is a film version of the ancient story of Blue Beard. Breillat told Film Comment that she used to torment her sister with the grisly tale in her youth. The film is to star unknown Isis Eutrope.

And for anyone who cares, our friend Ken Russell has three new movies either ready to go or in pre production. The Hot Pants Trilogy, the revenge Thriller, Kings X, and finally, Charged: The Life of Nikola Tesla.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Vive le livre!

If there's anyone else out there who is as great an endorser of Catherine Breillat's most recent offering, Anatomy of Hell, as myself, rejoice in knowing that on Monday of next week (that would be January 30), the novel on which the film is based, Pornocratie or (translated into the American title) Pornocracy shall finally hit U.S. book stores. Hopefully, if anyone reads it, this will dispel the notion that Breillat is merely a provocateur. She is a great literary power, and, seeing as only one of her titles, A Man For The Asking, has been translated into English - in 1969 no less, we on this side of the globe, would have no way of knowing it. Now, however, we can. And will! You could order it online here

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bunch o' Stuffs

Okay, It's been a little bit since the last post. Sorry. Deep in Russelland. First thing's first,

On Sunday night I saw Underworld: Evolution. I've gotta see mindless mayhem somewhere. Thinking about it after the fact, I can see how our children have issues with context. Doesn't it seem like every shitty action film that has any stakes in history then rewrites that history, taking actual people who existed in a convenient time and make them... oh, a Satanist or a Vampire or if it's a he then it's really a she. Things like that. Or if they don't take actual existing people, they make it sounds so similar to an existing one that little old me (who quite truthfully knows fuck-all about world history - midwest public education, folks!) can hardly tell the difference. Well, Underworld, keeping with the vast terrain of vampire cinema (especially Interview with the Vampire and my personal fave, the Subspecies movies) creates for itself a histrionic which, if you were so obliged to see the first one, which I did not, may make sense. I don't know though... After realizing, five minutes into the film, I could not discern Corvinus from Lucian, I just sat back and went along for the visual ride. This was alright, but the pretense of the film is SO dependent that you follow this bloodline (he he he) that it becomes muddled in plot. Now, is it just me? When I go to see Vampires versus Werewolves do I want to be troubled with plot? No. Yet perhaps this is why Underworld has a cult following. Does it do for today what Dark Shadows did for the sixties? In creating a complex lineage, did Len Wiseman and Danny McBride (the films' creators), ensure a following who thought that decoding this complex world was worth it? Or perhaps it is just another one of those videogame things that I do not understand and feel quite the better for it. I'm just really trying to sit here and figure out why they made a second film...

Cause really, what you've got here is Kate Beckinsdale looking like the love child of Aeon Flux and Catwoman (Burton's not Berry's) jumping around and shooting the fuck out of anything that moves - especially if it has fur or wings. The location harks back to Subspecies. Even though it was shot in Vancouver, the sets and people would have you believe its some eastern European locale like just outside of Bucharest or some similar Romanian town (though some characters speak French?). And then you've got Scott Speedman! Oh, good god! What an actor. The man has one, count them one method of delivery. Whether it's a scary scene, an action sequence or a love scene (and Undeworld does take a stab - he he he, I just can't help myself, can I? - at a racy sex scene which seemed to be hindered by non-disrobing clauses in the "actors'" contracts. One arm here, raise that leg a little bit more), Speedman speaks with the sad attempt at James Dean-esque sexyness. It's all hushed brooding from Speedman, who actually becomes more interesting with three inches of make-up all over his body. But just a little. The Vampire and the Werewolves (i.e. the raison d'etre) are so caught up in being gross and scary that they gorge themselves on the former and nullify the latter. I guess you could say there's some atmosphere, but for god's sake, you want atmosphere in a Vampire movie? Noone has ever topped the atmosphere Dryer created in Vampyre. There may be no: guns, t & a, werewolves or helecopters exploding, but it's still about the best film ever made about vampires (except the Subspecies movies, of course!)

If you know nothing of Subspecies then by all means, Click Here

The new DVD pick of the week is... FLIGHTPLAN!!! Yay! Now you will no longer need to wonder 'where's my daughter?' You'll know. She's right there on your DVD pile, right between Female Trouble and The Fly (new Special Edition, of course). You will, however, wonder if Jody Foster has ever taken a shit in her entire life.

The "in theaters" pick of the week is the new Michael Winterbottom film Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story I've been reading a lot about it, and though I thurroughly hated Winterbottom's 9 Songs, there's not that much else out at the moment to write about. I may see it, who knows. But you should, or so I read...

Retro DVD pick of the week is Baba Yaga the positively BIZARRE Italian film about a photographer seduced by an eponymously named older lesbian witch. The photographer's camera soons starts killing every subject who stands before it. Keep close attention at the end when they apparently run out of money and end the film so abruptly that it becomes a narrative classic (at least in my sick mind)!

I don't know how this one slipped past me, but Full Moon direct has released the Subspecies 5 DVD BOXSET! That's right, all of those times you rented Subspecies from the local video store in weathered VHS cases have come to an end (which is a very sad thing, truly). But you can pick it up here

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Utopian vision for an Unwanting Spectator.

So last night, I saw the 17-minutes-lighter version of The New World. It will not do well with contemporary audiences who are used to Doom or The Fantastic Four. But I have two exclaimations that sum up my opinion of the film. Wowee! Yum yum! Alongside Tropical Malady, The New World is certainly the most beautiful film of the year. Ever single moment of the film is considered, composed and constructed. Every rippling brook shines with promise and wisdom. Every tree, majestic and hopeful. There are shots that absolutely take your breath away in the way only Film can do. The world is not merely new to the subjects of the film. Malick forces the viewer to experience this (of course, idealistic - this is Malick, afterall) as new and beautifully as the settlers might - those who have never laid eyes on this land. We, too have never seen the world that Malick depicts partly, yes, because Malick's world is oversaturated in innocence and idealistic wonder, but also because it is a world uninterrupted by modernity. When the settlers finished fort is finally shown, the oncoming havoc of this inhabitation becomes grossly evident. Theirs is a city built on utilitarianism, rather than the Natural's city of ideality.

Malick's direction of the film is a subtle mixture of complexity and intuition. His depiction of the colonialization of America is not, as I had feared, a histrionic. Instead, he does focus on the relationship of people in a world of newness, but what is astoundingly fresh about The New World is that its focus rests not merely on the settlers, but on every individual who comes across this idea of "newness." What we have is a character film, bottom line. The development of the original colony of the Americas is only specifically depicted when it benefits the further understanding of the characters involved. And, thankfully, the character with whom we become most invested in the tacit figure of Pocahontas, whose name is never actually stated in the film. We understand her through her depiction in both her original world and contrasted in "the new world." (Of course, which "new world" the title intends is never specified, but instead shifts meanings dozens of times throughout the film.) She expresses herself gesticulating and in voice over. First time actor, Q'Orianka Kilcher is so fantastically expressive that her voice-over, which consists mainly of poetic declarations of love and innocent musings on nature, might seem unnecessary, yet taking into the consideration Sissy Spacek's hauntingly subtle voice-over the runs through Badlands, Kilcher's voice-over exists primarily as a tapestry for the visual abundance of the film. It is like a shaman spell, and as she is indoctrinated into her "new world," her narration becomes more specific, less rooted in nature. Malick relies little on subtitles (thank god!) when the Naturals speak to one another, and our alienation works quite well to feeling of Newness that commands the film.

The New World is filmed from a screenplay penned by Malick in the Seventies, and it shows. It is a film from a time when adult films existed; films that do not cater to the rapid shot MTV style of viewing that contemporary viewers are so familiar with. Malick's is a dense new world never fully taking a good/bad stance, but allowing the viewer to make this decision for himself. In fact, he never asks that the decision be made. This is not a world of "good" and "bad." Of course, the settlers are not glorified, but in their suffering, we do not revel. The film takes on its own life and its trajectory is far different than one might expect. We eventually experience the "old world" which, of course, becomes the "new world," in this context. And the film becomes an Orlando, of sorts, much to our surprise.

The New World finally becomes a heart-breaking film, epitomized by one scene. It's a fast scene which could be easily missed. It's a scene which should not be taken at face value, but Malick, whose metaphors range from whisper-quiet to hit-you-over-the-head throughout the course of the film, presents us with a shattering reality of the situation. Take great care to notice who works the tobacco fields. This is not meant as a literal act, but my god, if this isn't the most heartbreaking thing you have seen in a god long while, then you need to turn off that television.

Friday, January 20, 2006

"Nobody Gonna Sleep Here, Tonight"

I recently rewatched Dogville because of the impending release of Manderlay next month. Let me just say, it is a damn fine film. From the offset, Dogville presents the viewer with an environment that cannot be taken for granted. Dogville's famous soundstage makes the town a parable, but what's more, creates what is perhaps the greatest meta-cinematic construction ever presented on the silver screen. At no point in the film do you take Dogville for a real town. How could you? Likewise, the characters become types rather than characters proper. Von Trier's near perfect screenplay is taut, searing and witty (admittedly, at times, too witty). Dogville is also a Godless town in perpetual wait for the minister that they know will never arrive. Instead they have Tom, the local "philosopher," who is too busy in thought to have ever written more than two words. In the opening of the film, Tom lectures about the latent evils in Dogville - a side that the town has yet to expose. But his arguments are weak and it is, of course, he who later proves to be the one most severely displaying the perils against which he preaches. In assuredly the best performance any director will ever wring from Ms. Kidman, Grace is an ever-optimist and perhaps Von Trier's greatest achievement here is eventually convincing the viewer that the martyrical stance that Grace takes is, in itself, arrogant. By placing herself above these people, she can only labor under the whim of their self-serving intentions. In seeming selfless, she invents a paradigm in which the villagers can only find advantage in her offerings and eventually (morally) fail because of this.

Dogville is, to Grace, but a trinket in a window. A gaudy plaster figurine: glazed, idyll and patient. It is fitting then, that Grace meets her breaking point when these figures are smashed to the ground by the very town that they resemble to her.

I don't know how I missed it when I saw Dogville in theaters, but at one point, Von Trier informs the viewer precisely how the film will end. Since the film is based around Brechtian theatrical(in both spatial and formal) structures, during one of the more menial chores she is forced to do (this is only after Von Trier has near broken Grace with 2+ hours of selfless indignation), she utters a line penned by Brecht and his musical counterpart, Kurt Weil. It is remotely inconspicuous, though Von Trier makes certain to highlight it with special care in the narration. As Grace removes a soiled sheet for cleaning, she mutters the line, "Nobody Gonna Sleep Here, tonight." It takes her completely by surprise, yet the knowing viewer should recognize this from the Weil song 'Pirate Jenny.' The songs is a tale of a maid who dreams of the day her black pirate ship will come sailing in and she will kill everyone who ever did her wrong. "They pile up the bodies and I'll say, 'That'll learn ya!'"

And pile up the bodies she does, as the people of Dogville have used Grace beyond her purpose, and what's worse, by this point she has highlighted all of the towns hypocrisies - especially, in a strikingly poignant scene, making Tom realize the fault in his own convictions, they turn her in. And this is truly the turning point that makes Dogville a far superior film to anything Von Trier has released thus far. For when They ("the ship, the black freighter" now a band of thirties automobiles) arrive to take Grace away, the film embarks on a philosophical endeavor concerning the personal trappings of man. They, end up being Grace's father and his band of gangster thugs. Grace relents, for what could be worse than the township of Dogville(?), and she enters the car in which her father waits. The moment inside the car (and it is brief) is the only moment of traditional cinematic delivery that Von Trier allows the viewer, and even so, the dialogue is heavy with a purpose that transcends mere familiar conversation. Who is in fact speaking is open to interpretation. I firmly believe that here Grace is meant to represent Jesus and her father (perfectly played by James Cannes), God. They discuss man as if they were apart from him. It is their damning hand that will destroy this township in a barrage of bullets and fire. You see it coming. Von Trier makes you want it to come. When the gangsters gun down the children, Von Trier forces a nasty and redemptive smile to creep across our faces. "If there's a town the world could do without," Grace decides, "this is it."

Jast as a little addendum, if anyone would like to read Scott Foundas' bitch slap to Herr. Ebert, you can go here to LA Weekly's new-yet-not-that-all-together website.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Critical Bitch-slaps! Just what we need in this world. Something, anything to wake people up. Or maybe this is just my version of Lindsey Lohan crashing her car and tugging on tara Reid's hair, which is either really sad or much more intellectually stimulating (post highschool Debate class anyone?). I would like to think it's a bit of both. Either way, what fun! While the LAWeekly website needs to get their shit together, in the current tangible issue of the Weekly, our dear co-patriot Scott Foundas has lashed back at our enemy, the still-really-wrong-looking Roger Ebert (what's up, yo?). That's very mean of me. But really, he deserves it FOR BEING SUCH A STUPID PASSIVE LIBERAL. If you will recall my post on "Burn An Effigy Of Roger Ebert Day, " (See right) good old Rodge attempted to cling to his decision that Crash (which I might add placed #1 on my worst of 2005 list) was the best film of last year by ignorantly and simplistically bashing Scott Foundas' apt review of this cinematic disgrace. Well, mister Foundas has published a rebuttal in the new LA Weekly. And what a searing one it is. Put that fool in his place, Scott. NOW IF ONLY LAWEEKLY.COM GOT THEIR SHIT TOGETHER SO THAT I COULD LINK TO YOUR WITTY LETTER TO DEAR ROGER! Instead, I will transcribe my favorite bit. "(To answer your rhetorical question, Roger: If I were carjacked at gunpoint by these two guys, I wouldn't "rise to the occasion with measured detachment and sardonic wit." I'd merely wait for Ashton Kutcher to appear and tell me I'd been punk'd.)" Oh god that's funny. Especially since you're putting it to Fatty (or should I say, Suspectly-No-Longer-Fatty.) I wonder what Rex Reed has to say about all of this?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The man who started it all... well a lot anyway

Shot in 1959 by Bob Flieschner as a comedy/horror film to be assembled some four years later by Ken Jacobs, Blonde Cobra is a remarkably freeflowing tale of ..well ... we are seeing (and most often not, as Smith's fullest stories are delivered to black leader) a downtrodden young man allows himself to be washed away in the mire of images that clutter his mind. We've got Jack Smith doing what Smith truly does best. He ranges from childlike to perverse in the same syllable, slipping from male to female between shots. Blonde Cobra does not stay on one genre for any extended amount of time and this is assuredly one of Jacobs' most astute decisions. Starting off more a nod to the Noir, Smith vivaciously "ravishes" a "corpse" who laughs all the while. Smith then divulges the back story of what could be the man on the screen, though the little boy of Smith's tale enviably knows more luxury than Smith's figure, who inhabits a pre-shabby chic New York apartment littered with cinematic paraphenalia. Of course, donning more Arabian wear, Smith lists the reasons for Maria Montez's fabulousness. Smith will become Madame Nescience (funny how Smith is far more recognizable when he becomes the scary pancake-make-up clown/drag queen that he later embodied in his still photography than the almost innocent and effeminate boy who also appears in Cobra) who runs around screaming to mother superior, who in her own right throttles droves of nuns who have been masturbating with a plaster statue of Jesus. This is underground film before the anal-rosary beads of Multiple Maniacs and even the depiction of Horror precedes many Horror films to follow. Smith really was completely ahead of his time, and Blonde Cobra is absolute proof. For an essay on the film Click Here

For clarification purposes, the photo above is not from Blonde Cobra but just a still of Smith.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sick shit and boring shit...

And believe be when I say sick in one of the most flattering of ways! (The boring shit is discussed later, because, believe me, this stuff was anything but boring.) Last night, I attended a five person screening of the Vienna Aktion films of Otto Muehl. The films SODOMA, LIBI 68, AMORE 68, OH SENSIBILITY, SCHEISS-KERL (though I'm not certain that they were shown in this particular order) were very necessary viewing for me at this moment in time. Having been removed from the more (or perhaps, extreme) experimental film world - in terms of viewings that will never make it to a Hollywood video near you - I have forgotten the important sides of viewing that really makes it worth while as a viewer. Muehl's works are probably some of the more difficult ones ever committed to film, yet, in the true sense of experimentation that has been all but forgotten, they more often than not bear the joie de vivre of high camp. And this is the pre-Waters definition of camp. Camp is dark. Camp is nasty. Camp is both utopian and extremely suspect of utopia. Camp, to quote the late great Susan Sontag,

sees everything in quotation marks. It's not a lamp, but a "lamp"; not a woman, but a "woman." To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater.

Everpresent here is, not just the playful attempt at subversion of societal codes, but also the lasting social effect of World War II. In one sequence, a man covered in newspaper is being whipped repeatedly by a nude woman in a commando helmet with star sunglasses on and two other scantily clad men. An observer looks on through a glass double door wearing a trenchcoat. Both the woman and the this coated voyeur are painfully referent to the ideas of, not only surveillance, but the inability to completely subvert the reticent ideology of a people.

In SCHEISS-KERL, by far the most...um...beautiful of the five, documents the meringue pie meal of a ?prostitute? In a dingy basement and her later aenema which flows (FANTASTICALLY!!!) like a volcano from her asshole, leaving a trail of shit down the middle of Muehl, who lies beneath her. An extremely obvious drag queen in a red vinyl skirt watches at a distance. The shit is smeared all over Muehl's front and a healthy portion is gathered and placed in his mouth. At this point, a greater context for the entire film is created as Muehl wretches. This performance (and of course, one must consider the prior performances to this as well) is something birthed in the bind. Yet we have documented here the disconnect of mind and body. Muehl the performance artist necessitated the consumption of the woman's feces, but when the act came down to doing, his body rebelled. And it is perhaps body rebellion that runs through the thread of the films. It seems that they all finalize in a great anticlimax. And that anticlimax, as one of my fellow viewers last night mused, was the impossibility of the flesh. The (human) flesh is never broken in these works, and there is a sadness to its confines that works against the grain of the joking language of the films.

And now some thoughts on the results of last night's Golden Globes Awards ceremony:

Well... glad that's out of the way...

The Theatrical Pick of the Week is The New World.

The New DVD pick of the week is Puppet Master Vs. The Demonic Toys Starring Corey Feldman and directed by Ted Nicolau of Subspecies Fame! (What, do you actually think that I would recommend Lord of War? It's slim pickins this week, folks! Anyway, Puppetmaster has the potential to be horrifically wonderful).

And the Already out on DVD pick of the week is François Ozon's Water Drops on Burning Rocks even though I've already said a lot about Ozon lately. Hey, this is a personal website. I do what I want. At least it's not a Ken Russell film.

Retro pick of the week is Back Street with Susan Hayward. It's not on DVD so you'll have to pick this one up on video, but really it's "all lowercase letters, very classy."

Oh,and if you want to pick of Muehl's work, click this link here. I have ordered from him and he comes recommended.