God's Little Acre

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Lord, make way for gold

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
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Trash Humpers

Trash Humpers
broken, faked, MADE

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Re-watching David Lynch films in the Cinema: It came to Me in a Dream (an introduction)

There is a crushing force to how she lives; it is more than living, it is an all encompassing or always on the verge of obliterating pressure knocking against her incessantly.
She lives in dreams, and often nightmares.  Living for her is certainly real, but it is simultaneously surreal, with the weight of subconsciousness and uncertainty of WHAT and WHO is REAL haunting her.

She is Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), in David Lynch's TWIN PEAKS:  FIRE WALK WITH ME.

She is also  the Bill Pullman and  Balthazar Getty character in David Lynch''s LOST HIGHWAY.

Did i mention she is both female protags in MULHOLLAND DRIVE and Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) in INLAND EMPIRE?

Los Angeles is in primary focus in the latter three films, a witch who charms, casts spells, and plays a Medusa like role with her mesmerizing sea of serpentine neighborhoods and freeways.

Signs appear organically, but there is always a period of intense confusion at the outset.  From here, a sense of mystery is borne, driving the narrative.  But the spectator's experience of the mystery is more driven by ecstatic moments, where we feel the crush and the euphoria of the protagonist's sorrows and pleasures.

The value of life for a Lynchean person is upheld as the greatest privilege, a blessing that is delicately balanced, easy to break. One must live above all.  Vice is always a major tool in living, as it helps one  remain alive through hellish pain, abuse and injustice.

Laura Palmer is so terribly haunted and miserable because her consciousness obscures and confuses the exact nature of her life.

Nikki Grace is brought into sorrow and the crushing fear of misery when, as  a victim of another woman's traumatic pain (a woman on woman stabbing) she, like us in the Cinema, is driven to brutal emotions; an empathy unique to the Cinema of Lynch.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Loving the Addict: THE BLACKOUT and 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH

from publication in Italian journal LFU 2014... since ive been discussing both films recently w friends..here is a re print of my piece.

Loving the Addict:  THE BLACKOUT and 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH

Addicts are seers.  Sometimes they live by watching others, afraid to feel too much themselves.  Sometimes they cannot handle what they see, so they set about trying to alter their own senses.  
They feel so much self hatred or resentment that existence is unbearable.  One stays alive only to perpetuate the attempt to obliterate.  But how does one film such a head-space?
The souls of Abel Ferrara’s protagonists are screaming.    Two films of his explicit about evoking the inner mental and psychological state of an addict are THE BLACKOUT (1997) and 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (2011).  The main characters they track are tortured men who fight Addiction.   As addicts, they recognize the ugliness of society more brutally than the rest of us:  they see more clearly through society’s lies, and they feel heartbreak and disloyalty more potently than other humans.  When they suffer a loss, they are simply inconsolable, and when they fall in love, it is total.  Self pity takes over and one turns to drugs.   THE BLACKOUT tracks this most beautiful and intimate orgy of self pity into the poetic extremes that only the using addict can experience.
 The opening shots of THE BLACKOUT  feature music playing over glimpses of  the ocean at night.  It is a dark enveloping space, one that holds the potential for absolution as well as dissolution.   This is a gaze onto a dark yet inviting space that we see Matty looking out onto, longingly, throughout the film. Matthew Modine stars as Hollywood “It” filmmaker Matty, and as a creator as well as performer in movies, he not only watches but obsessively tries to see images of people he has lost.  His French girlfriend Annie (Beatrice Dalle) acknowledges the addiction he hides behind. He clings to her asking about “their baby” and she tells him she didn’t want to have a baby with a junkie for a father.  
This sets Matty on a sped up quest to seek a solution, or maybe  just relief, outside of himself.  His drug intake actually begins in the opening credits, timed with an arrival to Miami beach . He snorts coke in the limo from the airport.  There is video playing everywhere he goes.  Sometimes it is put up by constantly filming friend  Mickey (Dennis Hopper), acting as both director, prophet (“Video is the future!” ) and drug partner.  As more drugs are ingested, more events are filmed/recorded, and the reality of what is occurring and what is imagined becomes blissfully less clear. The world is intense, images coincide and collapse into other images to create a multitude of superimposed frames. There is a collage effect, where one must overdose on the abundance of images and sensations in order not to  withdrawal into the total emptiness and silence of the ocean.  The hypnotic world concocted in this part of the film is an inviting universe that expresses both inebriation and the pleasure in losing oneself;  a pleasure fairly unique to addicts. Fixated on the abortion, Matty clings to this concept of loss. Looking morosely into the ocean and into mirrors, he hears her words echoed in voiceover again and again. Haunted, he begins to blow lines of coke, drink by the gulpful, smoke rock and shoot dope.

The film actually works (for me) on two levels.  On one level it does tell a straight story of addiction and a man tortured by a memory that he must dissolve, replace and repress, through loss of memory, replacement of images,  and  massive drug intake.  It tells this in a creative way:  the replacement of images( the first annie replaced by a second, false annie), the new german girlfriend to replace the old French one)a collage aesthetic, with  superimposition of  images and the proliferation of televisual playback.  

beauty witnessed and experienced. the seduction of addiction, frame by frame.

On a second level, THE BLACKOUT can be read as a unique attempt to convey the mindscape of an addicted brain...one that can not see how he is a slave to his obsessions (to use drugs, to obliterate his memory, to kill himself, to implode his relationships, to replace his girlfriend, to erase an existence of his own moral crimes).  This is the world of a man who has not cut through denial.  
There is a large section in the film where the wild collage of images and televisual playback comes to a halt, and where the imaginative world of doppelgangers and dreamlife aspect is abated.  This is the section where Matty gets sober, he attends a 12 step fellowship, he has sober chips, he has a new life and a safe angelic new girlfriend (Claudia Schiffer)  in a home in New York.  

Sweet new girlfriend, sober chip, new life, but no love.
This world, though at first glance a successful one, is still drawn  from the point of view of the addicted mind.  This part of the film is a sterile, passionless  world, one where we as viewers experience his civilized malaise, and we share the desire to obliterate it’s confines.  Compared to the impressionistic dream world of the former part of the film, this section is almost ugly in it’s sobriety.  Did Matty really kill the waitress who became Annie # 2? Does it really matter? That question, and the sterile search for the answer with his therapist is the antithesis of the full throttle beauty Ferrara gives us when Matty returns to drugs to seek his answer.  
Matty’s triumphant return to sublime intoxication coincides with a glorious return to superimposed images
 Never has the pursuit of total obliteration and fucking delusion and fantasy been so damn seductive as it is in this film.  Any viewer or cinephile who has battled with addiction can  watch THE BLACKOUT and experience recognition.  That world of active “using”  may be filled with confusion and pain (Hopper shouting about reality and video while real and unreal things happen simultaneously to Matty .  Matty takes a hit of crack and he literally disappears into the black of the screen...) but this reality is the truth to those who know the beauty of saying fuck it and trying to destroy one’s mind. THE BLACKOUT is told from  Matty’s viewpoint  as someone in the thick of his disease and without any awareness that would come with recovery.  Matty runs toward the void, embraces loss and disorientation, fleeing to the ocean in Miami at night, as Schiffer finally catches up with him.
Matty recognises he is still in love with chasing unanswered questions, fucking up his head, and suffering the extremes of his perceptions.  

Ferrara returns to the plight of the addict in 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH.  The idyllic love nest of Willem Defoe’s two years clean  Cisco and Shannyn Leigh’s Skye is quite reminiscent of the briefly recovering Matty  and  Susan (Schiffer ) in THE BLACKOUT.  In fact, Modine and Schiffer could be Defoe and Leigh in a younger incarnation.  Again we are given a protagonist who is fighting with urges to descend back into active addiction.  Here, the balance is more towards recovery.  Cisco has been clean for multiple years and is in a successful romance.   Unlike Matty, our initial experiences in observing Cisco are seeing him in his sober life, living in a cocoon like railroad apartment and listening to (again, being televised) spiritual leaders discussing how our inner spirit determines the course of the world.
The film opens with the plucking of a sitar; at once spiritual and singular, note by  note, a sound to accompany inward motion.   His girlfriend Skye is quiet and artistic, painting a large piece, the canvas the floor of their home.
Where Matty was all outward action; throwing himself at women or pushing them away, grabbing crack pipes, drawing lines to blow...Cisco is all about withdrawal; both from the insanity of a past life on heroin, and the withdrawal from externalized sensations, living in a sort of artist’s sanctum.
The film begins as the end of the world has begun.  But the first time we hear this explicitly is from Cisco, stating this in an email.   Everything that follows perpetuates the idea that the end is inescapable ,and that it is coming very soon.   We as viewers have two options.  One is to experience the film as an impression of a final day, an insular and specific one.  Another option is to recognize the reservation of the addict who has not accepted that they can not use again.  To love heroin as only an addict can, is to know an all consuming love whose bonds are not immediately broken.  What follows Cisco’s email is a series of expressions of outwards rage or disgust at the world that does not seem to be shared by either Skye or any of the earth’s other inhabitants.  The ugliness and unfairness of the world  (he yells at a landlord about high rent) seems to drive him to his wit’s end more than it would to another.   One again recognizes the sensitive worldview of the addict.
Cisco cannot help but see all the suffering in the world.
In a key early scene, Skye soothes Cisco’s ruffled feathers with a shared meditation session.  Then the camera separates its shared coverage, focusing on close ups of Cisco, eyes closed.

Next we see our first view of the fantastic: Cisco imagines himself lashing out with force, cutting a  massive tree down with an axe, being observed by a quiet stranger.  This is the first time we understand that the confusion and turmoil in the world is not something that is necessarily happening or not happening, but more so what is fueled by a specific struggle within Cisco.

4:44 can actually be experienced as a fantasy from Cisco the addict’s point of view.  The end of the world is a not uncommon reservation  to “ pick up “ that is shared by many addicts new to recovery.  One thinks, well if my mother dies or my baby dies, then I can use.  If i know the earth will implode tomorrow, then i will go out and use. .. It is in this way that the power of addiction keeps hold and the fantasy that heroin will love him back this time perpetuates.  And so, in the third act of the film, Cisco sneaks and lies, but he succeeds in scoring dope.  And the end of the world does indeed come upon them, fantasy intact, reservation explored..and filmed.

                                                                                                                              J F

Saturday, July 18, 2015

more people should hate him. IRRATIONAL MAN: A Closer View

Auteurism is one thing, but there is another process whose frequency capsizes as aging accelerates:  artists rewriting and remaking their past work.  Such revisions can be all bold strokes; pared down characters, dramas remade as absurdism, new forms of artistic representation, and nearer to end of life gallows humor.  Woody Allen's IRRATIONAL MAN is a clear example.
A comedic, tidier (and less impressive) MATCH POINT, IRRATIONAL MAN reunites Allen with a narrative in homage to Dostoevsky, and an obnoxious fucking female romantic partner who needs to be shut up at all costs.
The problems are plenty.
From inception, Phoenix's "Abe Lucas" is only Jewish by name default.  His troubles are interiorized. A miserable man who has suffered unlucky traumas in his past, the writing and tone of the picture capsulizes Abe more as a charming, laterally broader Cary Grant.  We are told Abe overindulges in negative thoughts, alcohol, solitude and Russian literature.  The only time we see this for ourselves is in the  breadth of his belly distension and lazily propped liquor cask in hand.

Abe with blousy Rita. Well matched.

power play.  With the always cutely coiffed and dolled up Jill

Two love interests waft in and out, deflecting Abe from his self imposed charismatic ennui. Parker Posey as fellow professor Rita; a breezy, sexy prisoner of her own unsatisfying life. And Emma Stone  as a precocious student,  Jill, inexperienced in life, and Schopenhauring her will to be interesting.

Though Abe quotes past traumas and losses in his life, they are quoted meaninglessly, and without personal depth, as if making conversation. This is how this character is written, and Phoenix personalizes the shallow and charming bibliophile/professor in ways one can't help but admire. Phoenix, Posey and a great supporting play by Peter Scolari,  all surpass the rote characterizations and inanity of Allen's conceit.  
  Early on in the film, as Abe is so offhanded in nature about deep tragedies, any rational person may see the calculation behind the charmingly bookish, nebbishy veneer.  
Phoenix allows a depth to his character not clearly enough established or alluded to in the writing.

One experience one cannot avoid in this picture is the irrational performance of Emma Stone.
She shouts her lines affectedly, and her cute, curt performance of love is never convincing.  Stone, who I liked in BIRDMAN although I did not care for that film, seems mis directed or mis cast.

Scarlett Johansen she is not.  MATCH POINT was so evil and cold all around, the tone and performances cooled together into a viscous gel both crystal clear yet thickly complex.  Whenever Stone 's character speaks in IRRATIONAL MAN, I'd ask myself myself if she reads so immature and horrible so her performance indicates her own calculation and machinations under her fresh faced bourgeois veneer.
I'm just not convinced.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Love hangover: I woke up today with the bleary eyes of Alain Delon


  Extremity is my bloodline.  I could fall apart without an obsessive purpose or interest.  My two decades of  movie love bears witness of this.
THE PROFESSOR ( also known by INDIAN SUMMER/ LA PRIMA NOTTE DE QUIETE) , directed by Valerio Zurlini (1972) stars Alain Delon, hung over from extreme outlets of his desire. 
Bleary eyes and pretty pout, Delon 's visage could burn paper.  He is not unlike Caan's character in Reisz' THE GAMBLER, who carries a burden in the space under the eyes, a hangover of a passionate man, an addict; be it one not addicted to substances.
 Delon comes into town as if from another galaxy, love hangover in tow.  His loves expressed at the outset are cultural. His tastes make his mind and soul explode, and most inhabitants of this bourgeois seaside town fail to intoxicate.   Flat out telling them all he gives a shit about is poetry, it only takes one night out on the (small) town for him to start gambling and subsequently falling in love  with a student, one also marked by some singular severity, and lack of cheap joy that the rest of the dullards in class seem to so easily come by. 
As nights out increase, the obliterating effect of boring days intensifies the need to experience stimulation. We witness transgressionin the clubs and casinos: shared sexual partners, cocaine, gambling.
The professor falls in love with his student though both are committed to others. The dynamic is a physical crystallization of the poetry that he lives to teach.
The film, at this point, seems to me to have a lot in common with THE GAMBLER ( both versions, actually.). Less of the plot turns and suspense of Toback's script, the danger in this film is more somber, melancholy, equivalent to any expected dread of eventuality for someone who can only bother to live for extremes.  It is the same to expect a horrible ending whether one transgresses or not.
And if transgression is the only thing that makes you wake or move without pain, then the choice is nonexistent.
      There is a scene where the fantasy of the extreme lover is answered. The other man who shares his lover is kicked down on the ground. Shared fantasy concretized. A movie lover's movie, imperfect at that, but who else is the picture speaking to?  
Pay heed others who love hard, movies, books, girlfriends, boyfriends, drugs ... Illustrated is the projection of shared fantasy cleaves the sadness and weakness that makes us heavy.
The harder we love the more we lose.

The projection fulfilled on screen is redemptive, even if we are the worst enemy of ourselves, dooming our final acts. 
The film's tone is curious, not unlike a nuanced somber tonal poem, one with lilting melodies that hit high and then low, yet continues for a long time, denying any thing except repetition of the same notes. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

pretending its real (part one)

"-- nothing at all to her except what I read into her."

  -- F. Scott Fitzgerald   "This Side of Paradise"
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

"So! You escaped the birds.  Just as well..."

- Durand Durand to Barbarella in BARBARELLA

I identify with cinephilia, meaning my actual emotional register is effected by my love of watching films and going to the cinema. I can understand because I live it, though the fact of this love and of repeatedly being a spectator, both at home and in public, can be cause for concern.

There is an article that I read, called 'Cinephobia:  To Wonder, To Worry' in a recent issue of Adrian Martin and Girish Shambu's great Lola Journal.
Sarah Keller, author of this article, focuses on anxieties a bit different than those I imagined it would be in relation to, based on my immediate impression of her title.
Keller speaks of anxieties of being surreptitiously filmed, in relation to films acknowledging the peephole, such as PSYCHO.  Other definitions of these anxieties include uncanniness and authentic replication, regarding the fear about what being filmed captures, as in the spirit of a person.  Lastly, Keller covers the worries about moralities depicted
and, most interesting to me,  issues of time passing, i.e. the annihilation of what had been filmed.

The piece interests me, mostly as a kindling for different, more personalized worries i associate with movie love.

I'd locate my own anxieties less as anything called cinephobia, and more as worries couched in the very limits of cinephilia itself.

These worries and dreads include the loss of differentiation:

Losing oneself in the text or in characters or emotions that are being expressed.
Finding over identification, and the anxieties associated with it, spilling past the temporal boundaries of the film into one's own conscious life.

There is the issue of projection vs evasion. The conscious choice a cinephile makes to immerse oneself psychologically or to not feel or have a personally emotive /psychological echoing of the emotional palette touched on in the world of the film.  The F. Scott Fitzerald quote which opens this entry refers to that choice.  In context it refers to a man who chose someone to fall in love with, and the cinephile who chooses to feel love and project personal memories and experiences onto a film is not so different.

The point of Keller's I found most relevant is the issue of annihilation and films self consciously about/ encompassing an exploration of anxiety itself (her strongest part of the essay, the one on TAKE SHELTER.)  Tangentially, I find , as a cinephile, not a cinephobe (and i can't say that i know or even know of any cinephobe) would love to further explore the contagion and containment of dread.

The immersion that occurs when an anxious feeling incurred through watching a film, or even outside the film; something related but occurring simultaneously in the theater, bleeds into the person's conscious life in moments when they are not film going.  The anxieties about this occurring, or the inevitability of it's eventual onset, is hand in hand with the fear of not being able to forget or replace an image.  The flippancy involved in the ability to forget may be anathema to the very core of someone who is bound to be a cinephile.  This sentiment is part of the tone of the satiric BARBARELLA.  In the quote at the top of this entry, one sees only the most flippant of mentions made to a near death in the previous scene.  The film is self consciously commenting on the onslaught of new images; one replacing another, often belittling it.

  On the other hand, the inability to retain memories may be inescapable the longer one IS a cinephile, due to the erosion of the mind and the constant newness of movies.

There is a conscious choice that a seasoned cinephile is highly aware of:  when to immerse and when not to immerse.  Using the example of 12 YEARS A SLAVE.   One can a) choose to watch the film with separation; fearing the torture , historical burden and psychological damage depicted, a cinephile may choose from the onset to watch disconnectedly. Or b) one can watch the film with a choice in mind to engage, somehow,  to locate any semblance of the emotions and damage Solomon experiences within one's own psychoemotive history.

The fear enters the picture only when the choice is no longer one that can be controlled.

I find it most likely that most cinephiles, such as myself, are less concerned with the anxiety expressed within the actual films, and more concerned with a lack of one's own ability to experience anything worthwhile of the memory and strong positive feelings that can be attained from filmgoing/film spectatorship.

These are all fears and dreads that are not at all, as the things Sarah Keller posits, the antithesis of Cinephilia  (as she defines as Cinephobia), but rather they are extensions and internalizations built upon intensifications of Cinephilia itself.

link to Sarah's piece:


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Person is a Thing..

2014. People make movies purporting to be stories of characters; a human tale. AMERICAN SNIPER (2014) is both a personal portrait, and, more accurately, a story of a machine.
The machine is also the person, and the human story of this machine is about the emotions felt behind its focus upon its target, and the emotions felt when blocking out either the present or the past.

The more the gun can take on the decisions of the human...the more the human can move as swiftly and stealthily as the weapon; the two are married; enmeshed.

The industrialization of our culture is more readily noticed in 2014 via the further marriage of the self and the technological.  The finger and the voice both control the phone. The phone is the computer and it is now always on the body.

Just as  David Cronenberg has depicted the part industrial part human integration (of automobile and driver in CRASH and to a subtler degree COSMOPOLIS, e.g.)  the sniper rifle of Clint Eastwood's film is a humanized machine.  We track the protagonist who is not a person, but more accurately the "person + Gun" when the two are are successfully acting as one: the human infuses the machine with thought and strategy; the gun abides the human's commands, performing with accuracy and exceptionialism never possible from a person alone.  There is a sense I felt watching  it,  as if being exposed to the bold energy of a new idea, yet one that ultimately is not committed to radical thought.  Some passages retain that light: there are sequences shown during his first and second tour when everything is blocked out but the focus of quick decisions; when to shoot and when not to.
The strength of  mind and body in committing murder to serve one's national security is executed both mechanically and with the uncanny semblance of human hesitation...these sequences fascinate.

In JERSEY BOYS (2014), also directed by Clint Eastwood, the commitment to ideas felt total and clear.  The main character is our protagonist, yet he is amazingly stiff, heavy , like a young man suddenly old during much of the film.  He is only briefly alive, at the film's beginning, and then everything goes down hill, burdened by the failings of the band and family around him; his desire to maintain, survive and REGAIN that youthful dominance is everything in the world. Why does he seem robotic or affected?  My reaction following my viewing was that this man was only young for a brief moment, and the rest of the film he was actually an old man desperate to regain and replay his life, his artistic zenith, the 15 minutes his spirit soared and glowed.

JERSEY BOYS: Frankie weighed down by threat of traumatic loss

Now i also think that Frankie is not just an old man but a movie itself, a piece of media, a technologic wonder that dances and sings and is chasing a happy ending that feels increasingly impossible, until, just like the final moments of De Palma's OBSESSION, it suddenly comes, and it conquers.


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