Tuesday, March 17, 2009

So farewell, hope; and with hope farewell, fear; Farewell, remorse! all good to me is lost; Evil, be thou my good;

I've been really sick. So, yesterday, while laying in bed, I watched Adaptation and Let the Right One In. If I ramble even more than usual, blame it on the fever.

I don't think that self-loathers like other self-loathers.

I actively dislike Adaptation and its primary auteur, that fat, worthless schlub (who writes insanely crafty scripts and is lauded by most of his peers) Charlie Kaufman. But, I'll give the movie some credit. I did laugh loud and hard when brother Donald's body is forcibly ejected out of a car window. Still, I'd rather watch The 3 than watch Adaptation again. I think that Hoberman nails it when he writes, "Narcissus may be a flower, but in Kaufman's earthier formulation, solipsism is synonymous with onanism."


Let the Right One In is another story of self-centeredness and self-loathing. Except that Eli, our 12-year-old Vampirella wants to claim the [a]moral high ground. She says something like, "You would kill because you want to" to Oskar and then says, "I kill because I have to," then asks Oskar something like, "Be me for a while, please."

Poor girl.

Except that I don't feel sorry for her or Oskar. Their effortless amorality is a dangerous message for the 12-year-olds who will no doubt see (and be comforted by) this movie.

The movie is subversive to the extent that it makes the audience feel happy for Oskar in the end instead of terrified of his future descent into slavishly murdering for his beloved. I've read a few critics that find the relationship and the ending horrifying, but I'd argue that this is based on individual moral judgments and not based on what the film presents.

Let the neogoths have their tragic hero (hell, the title of the movie is taken from a Morrisey song!). The comfort she affords is fleeting and leads to the devil knows where.

What irks me is that so many serious critics love this film! Brandon, I dare you. Watch this movie again and tell me that the music isn't so much Hollywood manipulation. Seriously, we're in Bucket List territory here. My theory is that the music goes unnoticed by most, here and elsewhere, because we're never manipulated into crying, which is usally the only time a critic singles out the music in a film.

Also, the 'love' story between two 'lonely' creatures may be touching to you, but I find it the most horrifying aspect of the film. This isn't love. It's a Contract of Depravity.

If Twilight is for the mainstream girl who wants a little Mormon Mom naughtiness, then Let the Right One In is the same sort of fantastic romance for the alienated goth crowd, the remnant, the kind of kid that listens to old 4AD records or joins in Nitzer Ebb's chant without ever setting foot in a Hot Topic.

Which is maybe why I feel justified in trashing Let the Right One In. I was that kid.

At least Kaufman tries to get over himself and find meaning in allowing that "you are what you love." Let the Right One In allows only for unity of persons in suffering and revenge, without ever relenting in its seriousness. I don't know. Maybe this is just another expression of "you are what you love."

Let the Right One In never winks at us, which is a strength, but also the source of its perversity. Because it is serious in all of the wrong ways. All good to me is lost.

As Ebert says, it is a deadly serious vampire movie -
"Let the Right One In" is a "vampire movie," but not even remotely what we mean by that term. It is deadly grim. It takes vampires as seriously as the versions of "Nosferatu" by Murnau and Herzog do, and that is very seriously indeed. It is also a painful portrayal of an urgent relationship between two 12-year-olds on the brink of adolescence. It is not intended for 12-year-olds.

Ebert is naive. I agree that the movie should not be for kids. But, the very fact that it features 2 kids already breaks this prohibition. I highly doubt that the filmmakers would say that this movie is intended for 'adults only.' I watched an interview on Youtube with the the main actress and she gushes about the role and how she'd love to have this vampire girl as a friend if she could. This movie WILL be watched by 12-year-olds, which is both appropriate and scary because it has a malformed 12-year-old's understanding of the world and its pains.

It's no surprise to me that this is being remade by Hollywood. Besides some above average cinematography, there's not much to distinguish this from your typical Hollywood disposable art, except perhaps that at the moment our pop culture has only reached the Stephanie Meyers level of the abyss. Twilight has just shot up on my to-watch list. I'm at least going to wait for Let the Right One In 2: Van Helsing vs. Eli and Oskar.

No apologies - these thoughts come straight from the gut of a Buffy:the Vampire Slayer fan.

I'm waiting for a Haneke vampire flick.

5 comments:

Summer People said...

ouch!
If you are correct here John, this will be the first film in which twelve year old children gather around the television to read Swedish subtitles. That's not likely, instead it will be enjoyed by neo-Nordic worshiping mid-twenty to early thirty something losers like myself who still read critic top ten lists and take them way too seriously.
I knew after my second viewing that you would denounce this movie, and your recent moral qualms only prepared me more for this lashing. I stand behind my opinion that his film is exceptional, and I agree with your interpretation of the ending. There is something disturbing about Oskar's fate as Eli's food scrounger. However, you're fever induced worries about the dangerous affect this film will have on our youth is better directed towards films that youngsters will actually see. Now the Swedish youth, that's another story-- at least until this movie gets remade, which I stood and still stand in opposition to.
As for the music, I honestly wasn't paying attention, the cinematography was just too distracting.
ps your last five reviews, your love for Bangkok Dangerous, and the fact that you seem to be preparing to further debunk Let the Right One In by praising Twilight makes me wonder if Armond White is now getting the best of you.

ALSO

Your point about Kaufman's self loathing would lead me to believe that you would hate the Herod of all self loathers. But alas, Funny Games remains, still, way too high on your list. On top of that, Funny Games' trailer was one of the most deviously manipulative advertisements to ever lure a 12 year boy into the theaters. AND that film was misogynistic, cruel towards its actors (especially the 12 year old boy), it glorified plausible acts of violence, and encouraged a general hatred for humanity. Worst of all, it is pretentious in ways that films have never been.
This is not a beautiful meditation on human suffering, it's a bare butt spanking for those who with their pants around their ankles begging to be to punished.

If I had watched a single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I would attempt now to make fun of you for liking that too.

You are truly unpredictable but that just makes me more and more excited to read this damn blog. Well Done Mr. Owen, your curmudgeonly entertaining posts have me coming back for more. Although I long for another Still Life agreement sometime soon. I'm batting a low average.

trawlerman said...

12 may be a little early, I admit, but by 14, I was steeped in adult comics and was watching any strange adult (not porn) video (including plenty of subtitled stuff - do you have any idea how many kids watch subtitled Japanese animation every day?) that came into Star Video, usually recommended to me by the store owner himself. I didn't have the Internet, but I had Siskel and Ebert that I watched faithfully every week, a store owner that knew I loved strange stuff, and weird friends that helped spread word of mouth findings from their older siblings. Let the Right One In will be available in video stores and talked about online. Certain American teens will see this movie.

I think I focused on the 12 year old thing because of the age of the characters (and the real actors involved) and because it resonated with certain feelings of my younger self. But, I think that the movie is just as dangerous for the 20-40 year old hipster crowd. Also, I maintain my claim that the story either intentionally or unintentionally manages to work on the level of a malformed 12-year-old conscience.

You and I already briefly discussed child actors when talking about Chop Shop.

For the record, I don't think that I've had any sudden moral "qualms." I can't help but read films morally anymore than Rosenbaum can stop from reading them politically. Armond White is the furthest from what I'm trying to do, which is to react honestly to everything that I see, informed by whatever meager film knowledge I've managed to pick up, but also, I know, to engage films with my personal interests and prejudices. I'm not trying to deny these. If anything, I put these idiosyncrasies of mine out in the open as a way of keeping myself honest.

I'm not sure how my response to the last 5-10 films I've seen is any different to the last 100 that I've seen, except that I explicitly called attention to what I thought was exploitative sex and violence in The Wrestler as a starting point for conversation. So, I may have seemed to move certain issues to the fore, but that wasn't my intention. The sex and violence weren't my prime objections. What I perceived as exploitation was the issue.

Believe me, I'm expecting to hate Twilight in the same way that I was expecting to really like Let the Right One In. That I had such a strong dislike for Let the Right One In was a surprise to me. If I end up liking Twilight (I really doubt it), I'll be surprised.

The cinematography is just not that great. Some of it is good, but lots of it just feels cold.

I'm not going to tolerate any more digs at Bangkok Dangerous until you watch the thing yourself. I never said that it was a great movie, only that it really surprised me by being quite alright after receiving so many negative reviews.

As far as Buffy goes, you best step down now and walk away. I'll forgive your ignorance.

As for Funny Games, I'll let you have the last word for now. I stand by my generous reading of the film, but I understand why others wouldn't.

I'm still sick, but hopefully most of this is somewhat coherent. Please see Romance of Astrea and Celadon. I'm dying to know whether you'll like it or tear it apart. I can see you going strongly either way.

trawlerman said...

To be clear, I am denouncing this movie. Not only as morally deficient, which it may or may not be, but as a poor work of art, which doesn't live up to any of its hype or critical reception.

Japon is a film that I find morally questionable at best, but it's still within the top five best films that I've seen on DVD so far this year. I can easily say that without too many qualms, but I also wouldn't recommend the film to too many people. It's just good cinema.

Let the Right One In doesn't convince me of any worth based on cinematic efforts alone. But I also admit to having certain biases and filters that may be further influencing my response.

I don't like Let the Right One In. But, I'm more than willing to hear arguments in its favor.

Summer People said...

I'm just teasing. Like I said, after my second viewing I realized that you were going to have some troubles.

The moral qualms you have are good, if not a little baffling considering some of the films you advocate for. I'm not trying to play the devil's advocate here, you stick to your guns on boobs and whatnot. Truth be told, your a better man than I when it comes to moral aptitude.

Once again it was all said in good CR5 Movie Club fun. It's funny you mention Siskel and Ebert because I think we had our first major disagreement, at least one where I didn't just agree to disagree which of course I'm doing now. I'll stop my Funny Games comments because they are just getting redundant. As for comparing your reviews to Armond White, that WAS a low blow. But then you go and use the word hipster in your rebuttal. What am I to think? haha.
You certainly are more Rosenbaum than anything else, which is a great compliment by the way.

As for the damned children of America... Let the Right One In is the least of their worries. I've been writing in favor of the Apatow movies which have much more of a chance of ruining our poor youth's minds.

I'm happy to start writing more about older films, one's that you and I share a common interest in. I'll try and see Bangkok Dangerous so that my "digs" become more tolerable.

keep up the good writing my friend.

trawlerman said...

Yeah, I knew you were teasing. I've got thick skin. Please, get out the paddle and dish it out. Haneke's not the only person I'll drop my pants for.

But, any Armond White comparisons are going to raise some hackles. I had to scrounge up some sort of defense.