Thursday, July 08, 2010

Sickly Games

I'm ill and using that as an excuse to let my mind wander all over the place. It's a good manner of thinking that is only further enabled by this swealtering heat all of New York (and other neighboring regions, I suppose) is being subjected to. I love illness for this reason, sitting in bed with movies playing and countless books piling up in sweat covered sheets. There's an image!

I've watched some rather delicious films lately, in my state of immune system innebriation. In an attempt at using my brain, I hit Sally Banes' Greenwich Village 1963: avant-garde performance and the effervescent body, a book I am truly interested in and have recently picked up from the library. But the chapter at hand was about community and family and there's just something that didn't sit right about (assumedly) straight academics writing about queer sociality and community building. So I tossed the book to the sheets after a dozen or so pages and found true delight in the William Castle / Joan Crawford re-pairing, I Saw What You Did, a tale about 2 bratty 60s girls in pants who prank call the wrong house. John Ireland has killed his wife, see, and is pestered to reenter matrimony with his neighbor, Ms. Crawford. But the real star of the film is the woodlands that surround Libby Mannering's (Andi Garrett) house. Her parents are away and the fog rolls in. It's all rather Night of the Hunter in that delicious, black-and-white studio-production-of-outdoors kind of way. Though, given the 60s teen slant, it's kinda like Gidget's being chased by Robert Mitchum/John Ireland. There's some swell music that punctures the tension with its pop-goofiness, and the closing shot/line is beyond priceless: "The window can be fixed but I don't think we'll be using the phone for a long time!"

I've been musing about writing something on Curtis Harrington for a while, so I watched one of his big-budget studio pictures, Games. It's a sleek little thriller. Jennifer Montgomery (Katherine Ross) is rich and beautiful and so, she should have known something was awry when she went and married poor Paul (James Caan). And you know its double trouble when Simone Signoret faints on your doorstep! She's a medium who likes to play games which leads to some pre-Shyamalmdksdjaglan plot twists. Blood's shed and there's a nod to long-time Harrington producer Roger Corman's Bucket of Blood when a corpse is covered in plaster and exhibited as a sculpture - or is he? Harrinton's movies are intersting because they don't hold up as Hollywood features, per se. He went to film school with Kenneth Anger and made avant-garde films before turning to large productions, and the latter efforts carry through the oneiric quality of his earlier trance films. His films are heavy on atmosphere and alien, dream sensations, but lite on the kind of causality that usually runs a major motion picture. This film works in quite a few plot points that enable Harrington to bring to the mainstream some fo the imagery and Occult content that Anger trafficked in with Inauguration of the Pleasuredome (in which Harrington performs) and Invocation of My Demon Brother.

Then, I tried watching some AWFUL movie with Ashton Kutcher and Michele Pfeiffer about some post-grief-counseling humping, but it was just tepid, so I switched gears. I'm not sure if it was inspired by noticing a chapter on Jarman in the new Dennis Cooper non-fiction collection Smothered In Hugs that I'm mulling over in my state of sickly stupor or if it was just a coincidence that I hit that chapters minutes after finishing the film, but I put on Edward II which I don't think I've watched since I was 16. I'm wary of Jarman. He was an early influence and a kind of transitional figure for my love of avant-garde cinema. You could get him on video and his pictures maintain a feature length format that allows for distribution, but his aesthetic culls from the avant-garde endeavors of Kenneth Anger and Gregory Markopoulos. After discovering that avant-garde, I dashed my teen idol for a good half-decade. I think I still very much like the ethos and aesthetic that surrounds Jarman. Cooper had some very insightful things to say - with regards to allowing the moments of pomp and pretense. Edward II is VERY heavy handed, but at a time when being heavy-handed felt necessary, important. It's a delicacy that has not survived in this era of film production, hell, of thought in general. The allegorical elements with the ACTUP-esque group that emerges in Jarman's film felt palpable at the time, I'm sure. Now it kind of feels strained, but I'm not sure whose the worse for it, me or the film.

I just hope I'm better in time for Predators


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