Saturday, May 12, 2007

Double-feature mindfuck

Subject: Cinema
When I added these films to my Netflix queue, I made a point of seperating them by adding a couple of recent or otherwise non-serious discs in between. It must have been the case that everyone else was watching those discs though, because I got these dumped on me at the same time, far sooner than I figured I'd be ready for them.

First up was the 2001 cult-classic-ish "Donnie Darko". That is to say, it's a cult classic for a lot of youngsters who came of age around then, because it's pretty much geared toward the angsty too-smart-for-thou high-school set. And it's a bit twisted and unusual and untypical and all that. When I started it, I was a bit off-kilter and not really in the mood, so I was easily distracted and irritated by the "oh-aren't-I-ironic" attitude it was copping. And, of course, just as I was starting to get into it, it takes a sudden turn into the WTF, and then ends just as abruptly.

I guess it took me a while to get into it then, because it wasn't exactly a short movie.

I'm sure there were a lot of good and interesting things happening here, and if I were a little more receptive to it, I probably would have happily gone along for the ride, but as it stood, I was a bit too annoyed with the yet-another-teenage-anthem quality in a way that the late-80's in-jokes didn't manage to overcome. Besides, my high-school years were the first half of the 80's, so I was definitely too old for it even in that perspective. Oh well. But it still was a bit of a brain-bender, albeit a bit nonsensical and ultimately unfulfilling.

Next up was a film I've kind of been afraid of ever since I heard of it. My favorite "I've forgotten he's a favorite" director is Terry Gilliam, and he recently released a very personal, and very, very disturbing film called "Tideland".

And ultimately, it wasn't that bad, though. Though it started building more and more towards "Why the fuck are you going there" as it went on. And it starts out with the young girl lead helping her father shoot up with smack. So you can just imagine how far down the road it goes to elicit an even stronger reaction.

Gilliam does a bit of an intro where he warns the audience "some of you will not like this film". He tries to warn us that we should just discard the notions that we have as adults, and try to see it all through the eyes of the little girl, and the innocence therin. Like he's totally challenging us to ignore just how fucking nuts and borderline psychotic this is going to make you think he is after watching this. He says "remember to laugh". Ummm...

Okay, there were a number of places where it was very much the absurdist Gilliamesque grotesquery to the point where it was amusing. Grimly, ghastly amusing, for certain. And there's no escaping the fact that he's drilled deeply into the subconcious and extracted a very strange place indeed. Again, he disclaims "I have found my inner child, and it's a little girl". While in a creepy key light, looking like he hasn't shaved in a while.

And it could be that he's right. That kids are very resiliant and imaginative and you can throw the worst imaginable shit at them and they'd still be imaginitive kids and cope with it on their own terms. And he redeems the poor, amazing little thing at the end (the young actress doing such an amazing, convincing performance that it's all the more insidious). And again, the absurdity of it, contrasted with the amazing beauty and starkness of the cinemetography and setting and detail, truly help offset the literal interpretation of narrative events. As horrifying as the thought of a lot of what's going on if it were described to you in writing (which I really can't bring myself to do), it seems to be all about the context, and you find that you can accept it that way.

Well, maybe you can. A lot of you probably won't, and that's fine. It's really fucked up, and a deep-dive into the subconcious. But it's oddly accessable as such mindfucks go. And maybe in some ways that's a little dissappointing, that maybe he didn't go far enough. But then again, if you stick with the literal events of the story, you probably miss the point. Not that the point is entirely self-evident, but it's something to think deeply about, while the fucked-up-but-beautiful imagery infects your subconcious for a while.

All the same, I'd rather he'd been able to spend his time finishing "Don Quixoute" instead...

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