The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema (2006, Sophie Fiennes)

“Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire; it tells you what to desire.”

With his focus on the “traumatic dimension of the voice… which distorts reality”, I must believe that narrator Slavoj Zizek, with his heavily accented voice, is watching and interpreting slightly different versions of these movies than the ones I have seen. After all, I watch films and he watches “fillums”.

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A few bits: the three levels of Norman Bates’s house representing the id / ego / superego… the power of the voice represented by Dr. Mabuse… “Music is potentially always a threat”… a look at the intersecting fantasies in Blue Velvet, and the related horror themes of Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive.

Calls a scene in The Piano Teacher “the most depressive sexual act in the entire history of cinema.” To think I once showed that movie to my girlfriend’s parents!

Wish Katy had finished watching this with me, could’ve helped defend my position on David Lynch movies. And for stupid cinephiles like myself, who love Lynch movies (and The Piano Teacher, and Eyes Wide Shut, and Blue) but get lost in their images and atmosphere without thinking too hard about their psychological implications, he handily explains the stories and characters from a psych point-of-view.

“I think that flowers should be forbidden to children.”

The movie might teach the rewards of closely analyzing a few great movies instead of trying to watch every potentially great movie. This is a lesson I will not be following. Maybe one day…

I feel so vindicated that he picks Alien Resurrection as a film worth discussing. When oh when will that gem get its due? Only the second of the series (after the Ridley Scott original) to count as a horror film, plus it’s good sci-fi and an innovative sequel/reboot that hasn’t been matched since (well, maybe those Chucky movies).

“All modern films are ultimately films about the possibility or impossibility to make a film.”

He compares Cecil B. DeMille to the Wizard of Oz to the mystery man in Lost Highway.

“In order to understand today’s world, we need cinema, literally. It’s only in cinema that we get that crucial dimension which we are not ready to confront in our reality. If you are looking for what is in reality more real than reality itself, look into the cinematic fiction.”

Southland Tales (2006/08, Richard Kelly)

Set in the near-future of summer 2008, which would’ve worked better had the film played more than a couple film festivals in its intended release year of 2006.

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I could go on and on summarizing plot strands and talking about story bits like Liquid Karma being harvested from the center of the earth and injected into Iraq war soldiers to give them psychic communication powers, TV ads that feature cars fucking each other, multiple sets of identical twins, triple-crossing double-agents in an undercover war between government spy corporations and the neo-Marxist underground… but it’s not worth recounting, really. I find the following bits more interesting:

1. The casting choices. Are they meant ironically, humorously, or meta-post-something? Admittedly some of these people are good actors, but it seems like stunt-celeb casting akin to Steve Guttenberg dancing in a reality show. These people actually appear in this movie:
– teen idols The Rock, Buffy, Seann William Scott, Mandy Moore & Justin Timberlake
– TV comedy vets John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz and Will Sasso
– SNL comics Nora Dunn, Cheri Oteri and Amy Poehler
The Princess Bride‘s Wallace Shawn
– Christopher “Highlander” Lambert
– The ghost expert from Poltergeist (now in her 70’s)
– Donnie Darko’s uptight teacher, but with an unpleasant fake accent
– Donnie’s dad Holmes Osborne
– Janeane Garofalo (somehow I did not recognize her)
– Kevin Smith in heavy old-man makeup
Mulholland Drive‘s Rebekah Del Rio (below)
– 80’s movie nerd Curtis Armstrong (Cusak’s wired friend in Better Off Dead)
– Miranda Richardson of Spider and Sleepy Hollow
– Bai Ling of Dumplings and Sky Captain

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2. Apparent product-placement for Bud Light in both the movie and the comic, and empty references/namechecks of Robert Frost poems and Robert Aldrich films and Philip Dick novels. A location called “Fire Arcade” could fit in this category as well.

3. The post-modern fractured storytelling aspect, complete with lots of internetty technology business in plot and presentation. Doesn’t work as well as it did in Redacted, and it remains to be seen whether this concept will ever work completely in any movie (a fixed-length linear medium) or whether movies should simply not try to emulate DVDs, CD-ROMs and websites. At least the story was told in chronological order (as was Redacted).

A scarred and blood-drenched teen idol, who must’ve shot a lot of scenes that got cut out of the picture since he never quite seems to fit in:
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4. The gall of this thing to exist, with its bad acting, big budget and mishmash story. It truly feels like Kelly was afraid that this might be his last film (it won’t – his Cameron Diaz and Cyclops starring follow-up with hardly any stunt casting is in post-production) and wanted to make it about every single idea he’d ever had all at once. Global warming! Internet privacy! Individual identity! The US perpetual war machine! Fart humor! Religion! If you want to be unkind you could say the fractured storytelling wasn’t even purposeful but just reflects Kelly’s total lack of focus on a single story or concept.

5. Commonalities with Darko (Kelly’s continuing obsessions with pop songs, 80’s culture, time travel and memory).

Parts of the comic, like the rapidly-growing baby and the bit about certain people evolving beyond the need to defecate are missing from the film except in coded messages. You poo too?
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But these are the most interesting aspects of a kinda uninteresting movie. I’d have to say the whole enterprise was a waste of time, time better spent watching Stephen Chow kick stuff in Royal Tramp II. At the end there is an explosion, a young guy who goes through a rift in the space-time continuum, and someone who is shot in the eye. Why would a studio pay $17mil for a crappy remake of Donnie Darko? Then there’s a line about the messiah being a pimp. This is the way the movie ends. This is the way the movie ends.

To Each His Cinema, part 2 (2007)

Second half of shorts listing from Cannes 60th anniv. celebration (first half is here):

It’s A Dream by Tsai Ming-liang
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Occupations by a hatchet-wielding Lars Von Trier
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The Gift, more weirdness by Raoul Ruiz
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The Cinema Around The Corner, happy reminiscing by Claude Lelouch
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First Kiss, pretty but obvious, by Gus Van Sant.
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Cinema Erotique, a funny gag by Roman Polanksi with one of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s large-faced actors.
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No Translation Needed, almost too bizarre to be considered self-indulgent, first Michael Cimino movie since 1996.
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At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World by and starring David Cronenberg, one of his funniest and most disturbing movies.
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I Travelled 9,000 km To Give It To You by Wong Kar-Wai.
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Where Is My Romeo? – Abbas Kiarostami films women crying at a movie.
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The Last Dating Show, funny joke on dating and racial tension by Bille August.
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Awkward featuring Elia Suleiman as himself.
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Sole Meeting, another gag, by Manoel de Oliveira and starring Michel Piccoli (left) and MdO fave Duarte de Almeida (right).
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8,944 km From Cannes, a very pleasurable musical gag by Walter Salles.
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War In Peace, either perverse or tragic, I don’t know which, by Wim Wenders.
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Zhanxiou Village, supreme childhood pleasure by Chen Kaige.
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Happy Ending, ironically funny ending by Ken Loach.
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Epilogue is an excerpt from a Rene Clair film.
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Not included in the DVD version was World Cinema by Joel & Ethan Coen and reportedly a second Walter Salles segment.

Not included in the program at all was Absurda by David Lynch (reportedly he submitted too late, so his short was shown separately). I saw a download copy… some digital business with crazed sound effects and giant scissors.

Inland Empire (2006, David Lynch)

Yay!

A purely textural, immersive experience, defies all description or explanation. The actors in a film become their characters, teleporting to Poland, psychics and unknowns, and of course, Rabbits.

Sam writes: “most impressive to me was its function as a purely visceral machine. The sound in the theater was booming, giving his shock-moments of menacing narrative intrusion a physical as well as mental impact. The endless distorted close-ups, his use of darkness and blinding brightness, and the excellently interpolated sequences of abstraction (and those verging on it) contribute at least as much to this effect. Perhaps this is what has been missing in his films since Eraserhead: his attempts at messing with our imagination were only interesting inasmuch as we were interested in his, while in these two very medium-specific movies he ropes our physiological responses into the mix, and cuts far deeper in every way. In an era when the loudest and flashiest action films can actually seem boring (even when combined with artistic pretention as in Children of Men), the emergence of a truly shaking cinematic experience is good news indeed.”

Katy didn’t go.

Rabbits (2002, David Lynch)

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Rabbits! Eight episodes of rabbity nonsense, with Laura “Rita” Harring, Naomi “Betty” Watts, Scott “scenes deleted” Coffey, and Rebekah “Del” Rio.

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The rabbits seem to be having an actual conversation, but all the lines are out of order. So if you try to remember the dialogue in an episode, at the end you can piece it together, sort of. Or it probably doesn’t matter. And thrice there’s an episode where there’s just one person singing.

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And sometimes this happens.

David Lynch shorts (1966-1995)

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Six Figures Getting Sick
is exactly that. With an annoying siren.

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The Alphabet
is my favorite David Lynch short film so far.

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The Grandmother
is so disturbing on so many levels.

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The Amputee
is lame, but it was a one-off overnight project so whatever.

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The Cowboy and the Frenchman
is pretty damned funny, actually.

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Lumiere
is neat, with some simulated cuts and visual effects.

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Lost Highway (1997, David Lynch)

“Dick Laurent is dead” bookends the film, spoken and heard by Bill Pullman.

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Pullman becomes Balthazar Getty for a while, long enough to get involved in a shady robbery of a rich guy leading to the rich guy’s accidental death. Not sure if the Mystery Man really exists or if Bill or Balthazar even exist, but one or all of them kill Dick “Mr. Eddy” Laurent.

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Below: Robert “Dick Laurent / Mr. Eddy” Loggia with Patricia “Renee/Alice” Arquette. This movie and Spider are sort of the opposite of That Obscure Object of Desire when it comes to casting the female lead. Then again, this movie is sort of the opposite of itself. And its own companion movie. Argh.

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Below you can just see Gary Busey running out of his house to see something that is never properly explained to us. Nothing is really explained. It’s a seductive movie though, more so than Mulholland Drive because the tone stays the same, always slow and dark and headachey, always barrelling down the highway towards an unknown fate with no hands on the wheel. Mulholland gives the appearance of control before yanking it away again, but Lost Highway stays lost the whole way through. I’m starting to prefer it overall. Or maybe I just never got to properly compare them because by the time Mulholland was easily viewable in theaters and on video, Lost Highway had been out of reach for years. Nice new DVD changes things.

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Small final role for Jack Nance (overplaying it) and small final role for Richard Pryor, as coworkers in Balthazar’s garage. Might turn out to be Robert Blake’s final role too, unless he has a post-murder-aquittal career comeback. He overplays his part to utter perfection. Marilyn Manson overplays his tiny part too. Pay more attention to Patricia Arquette next time you watch this instead of trying to figure out the whole wife-murder identity-crisis videotape-surveilance detective story.

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Below: Bill plummets down the Highway, possibly finally aware of who he is and what he’s done. He’s transforming again, but now that Balthazar is also a murderer, that might not help. Similar ending to Mulholland Drive, I guess… wake up, reality closing in (or giving chase). Wicked David Bowie song.

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Katy might have actually liked it. Except for the part where the guy gets his head split open.

Darkened Room (2002, David Lynch)

“I have a friend,” the first girl says. And I settle in for what will surely be a darkly weird six-minute short. But nope, it’s just three girls talking to a DV-cam. The third girl is psychologically torturing the second for putting a hole in her stocking. Whatever.

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