The Deadman (1989, Peggy Ahwesh & Keith Sanborn)

IMDB says ’87, websites say ’90 but the movie’s own credits say 1989, so there.

It’s not the first time I’ve watched a painfully low-quality downloaded video of a rare art film on J. Rosenbaum’s list of 1000 favorite movies only to come out scratching my head… and it won’t be the last. It’s impossible to tell if the handheld b/w photography is any good because my copy was so poor, but hey it might’ve been.

JR himself says the movie “charts the adventures of a nearly naked heroine who leaves the corpse of her dead lover in a country house, goes to a bar and sets in motion a scabrous free-form orgy before returning to her house to die. The film manages to approximate the transgressive poetic prose of Bataille (a mixture of elegance, raunchy defilement and barbaric splendor) while celebrating female sexual desire without the usual patriarchal-porn trimmings.” That’s Georges Bataille, famed French semi-philosophical writer, whom I know nothing about except from glancing at his wikipedia.

Marie drunkenly wrestles/dances with a dude in the bar:

JD Rhodes: “The film’s events more or less follow those of the story. Ahwesh has said that she was drawn to adapt the text because she liked ‘how Bataille does not explain the emotions of the characters’. The camera actually seems to savour its exteriority to the events of the profilmic. The use of silent film intertitles, all actual lines culled from the original Bataille story, reinforces the exteriority of the film’s narration.” Aha, Rhodes also says the cinematography is often under- or over-lit, so my bad copy might not have been as bad as I thought.

Me, I didn’t get it… but then I’m not all that deep, and while watching a nude woman romp through a “purposely” amateur-looking super-8 movie is still more interesting than the recent Batman flick, I never sit there thinking “ah, it’s exactly this film’s deceptive slackness that constitutes its philosophical and even political rigour: only through its superficially amateurish (often hilarious) elisions and dilations, its mordant tautologies and wilful omissions, its hokey dialogue and its raw display of female sexuality can the film succeed in forcing the kinds of questions it does from its viewers.” [Rhodes again]. Nope, just another WEIRD ART FILM to me.

Rhodes: “We think of Pasolini here, of Jack Smith, of Warhol.”
Me: Exactly.

Marie with the deadman: