Monday, May 10, 2010

Conversations 2010 #11

Conversations 2010 #11

The old sky cake dodge.

With an (even more than usual) abundance of asides that break the flow of "conversation."

Brandon wrote:
{I haven’t seen THE SEVENTH CONTINENT so I can’t comment on “systematic dismantling“ or “metaphorical self murder” but if Haneke believes that the argument of modernism’s logical conclusion is suicide or senseless brutal murder (Funny Games) then I feel bad for the guy.}

For the record, those phrases in quotes are my own, not Haneke's and the argument is one that I see there, regardless of Haneke's intentions.  If you need to feel bad for someone, feel bad for me.  The Seventh Continent is also "guilty" of being filled with cracks for the viewer to project meaning into.  I don't know how many folks would come to the same conclusions about it that I do.

[Really, I shouldn't have brought up Haneke.  I don't really want to defend him and I agree that his attitude in interviews is often smug, condescending, and generally atrocious.  Whenever I re-watch Funny Games, though, I'll write the defense you've been waiting for.  Then, we can really go at it.]

Brandon wrote:
{I’m not a fan of nihilism in general, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am unable to enjoy, that’s not the word, appreciate art that harbors it. When I’m referring to “it” I mean those (artists, their works, or both) who believe that life is meaningless and therefore morality should not exist and we should either “eat drink and be merry“ or sulk around all day.}

I think you have that backwards.  It's not so much that "life is meaningless and therefore morality should not exist." It's more, "there is no morality apart from humanity's arbitrary whims, therefore life is meaningless or only has what meaning we assign to it," but your wording works fine enough.

If life and morality are not fixed (by fixed, I mean unchanging) (and, to be clear, I am unashamedly theocratic in insisting that moral law is both fixed and external of man), if it is not fixed, then man is indeed the measure of all things, or there is no measure.  

It's all well and good to have the opinion that man should always act in the best interest of other men (and animals, if you insist!), but, apart from an external law/measure, that opinion is no more true or valid than the opinion of the guy down the street feeding men and women to his crocodile.

[One of the funniest elements of Eaten Alive is that Judd insists that his pet is a fancy imported crocodile and not an alligator.  I'm sorry that I gave the impression that I had a miserable time watching it.  It wasn't all miserable and there were a few praiseworthy elements.  It's already provoked more writing from me than any of the Rohmer shorts I adored.  Take from that what you will.  Back to content, you are right.  There is a lot of screaming.  The last 20 minutes or so is pretty much exclusively yelling/screaming.  Also, I almost mentioned the Tarantino homage to Eaten Alive, but giving a little nod by rhyming 'Buck' and 'fuck' in your own movie isn't much more clever than it was in the source material and it didn't seem relevant to my post so I omitted it.  It's amazing to me that Tarantino is so steeped in 70's trash.  It's definitely part of what makes him unique as a director/critic.]


Some will theoretically defend someone's right to live as they please apart from any moral law, but this defense usually falls to pieces when this person is chained to a wall and slowly being tortured.  Then, all of a sudden, right and wrong are as real as a hot poker to the groin.

I love Hitchcock's Rope because it exposes the pretences and inconsistencies of intellectually rigid moral relativists.  Also, as we've noted, Hitch had a better sense of humour than almost anyone. 

To beat a dead horse (to use what I'm sure is one of your favorite metaphors), I need to quote you again:
{When I’m referring to “it” I mean those (artists, their works, or both) who believe that life is meaningless and therefore morality should not exist and we should either “eat drink and be merry“ or sulk around all day.}

You seemed to take strong issue with my saying that "Haneke follows the argument of modernism to its logical conclusion, suicide" and my implying that it also leads to brutal murder, yet you then define nihilists as those who either "eat, drink, and be merry" or sulk around all day.  These two things are exactly what I'm getting at.  "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die" (wrongly understood) doesn't have to, but can and does sometimes lead to "pillage, rape, and feed my crocodile for tomorrow we die.".  Sulking all day doesn't always lead to suicide, but it's always a real option for the serious sulkers.

I don't know if you deny these things are true or if you're getting tripped up on my use of the word modernism, an epistemic system that has been demonstrated to lead historically straight to nihilism and our current "postmodern" situation.

In no way was I arguing that every modernist and/or nihilist should kill themselves or each other.  I was using broad language and maybe being a bit hyperbolic to make a point while contrasting two horror films.  

All of this matters and is relevant exactly because of one of the reasons you state for appreciating the horror genre.
{A lot of the horror genre is a wake up call, much like hip hop and punk music, it brings unpleasant realities/attitudes to the foreground for us the consumer to evaluate.}

If it is horror's "job," so to speak, to shake us up and make us more aware of the unpleasant realities of our current mental landscape...  And I agree with you, I think, that it is...  If this is true, then horror ought to horrify us.  My argument was that Eaten Alive provides a few thrills, then ultimately reinforces a safe familiarity and love for the way things are. The Seventh Continent, on the other hand, actually leaves one unsettled and unwilling, at least for a moment, to maintain any kind of deadening status quo.  

If it helps for me to stop mentioning Haneke, I'll throw out Cronenberg's Videodrome as a masterful horror film that shakes foundations of knowing/seeing/acting and does this questioning in a very visual, frightening and even almost primal way.  Videodrome is just as exploitative in its own way as Eaten Alive is, but it does not let anyone off the hook in its explorations.  Somehow it rides a thin line and uses a theme of exploitation as a critical running commentary on its own very real exploitative content.


Well, I wrote all of that on Monday night.  Today, Wednesday, I saw your Gummo post and I think that, as usual, we mostly agree.  We just sometimes strongly disagree about particulars.  

I hate Halloween II and think you give it way too much slack.

You fly off into a blind rage each time you see the name Haneke.  :)


As far as Korine goes, I think the problem many people have with his films is that the horrific (for example, a father washing his grown schizophrenic/mentally retarded son with a high powered garden hose while spewing degrading insults at him) is so uncomfortable and ridiculously inhumane that our (in)human response is to laugh at it or walk away from it.  Instead of denying this, Korine embraces the seeming contradiction and allows it to stand as is.  He creates what is just as close to realism as anything Rossellini ever achieved.

You wrote: {it’s deliberately hyperbolic and yet it strives to relay some sort of backwater realism.}

Yes.  Absolutely.  And "real life" is often filled with gonzo nuthouse maniacs who aren't killers and don't live in asylums.  They have families.

And obviously in JDB the father is doing something insensitive here at best, abusive at worst, but we need to remember that the father is not a monster.  We may want him to be, but he is not.  He is a flawed and troubled man with his own mental challenges, raising his children as best he can on his own.  I hope you don't think I'm crazy if I say that I can relate to even the worst of this character's actions.

A Lifetime Movie Network (or typical Hollywood) treatment of schizophrenia and low-income low-intelligence urban family life would make us cry and rage against the injustice of it all.  We need to save these people!  In so many ways, it would reaffirm our prejudices and confirm our smug superiority.

You and I both know well that even when the media types want to make a movie about the oppressed and disadvantaged, those "suffering" from mental retardation or mental illness, it is always the CR8s that make the news and get the praise and get the movie adaptations and TV series.  No one on the outside sees much of CR5 or even CR1.  We get Corky, not shit in the hair or "shut your fucking face, you fucking ass mouth, is it time to go home yet" which is always both extremely funny and extremely sad.  

Those who think that last part is only funny (like the punk kids glorying in the depravity of Gummo that you mentioned) are usually wicked and cruel.  Those who only think it's sad/awful usually think that it's sad/awful for the wrong reasons and won't ever understand the immense satisfaction of smearing shit on the wall as a token defiance of all who would seek to enslave the weak rather than serve and protect the weak.  We need to both laugh and cry simultaneously because neither one will suffice on its own.

Korine, at his best, seems able to hold that tension.

Korine does insist that "the least of these" have a place at the table.  

I honestly believe that Korine loves his actors and characters.  If he's laughing at them, it's in the same way that you or I would laugh at P.G., because the Giants won 17-17, because we love him and value him, not because we're so much smarter or better than he is.  

Anyhow, it's been a long time since I've seen Gummo.  I'm sure it does have traces of juvenile schlock and isn't quite as pure as I make Korine sound.  Maybe it is fair to think of him as mean-spirited at times.  But, how often do we love purely?

Korine has matured with each successive picture.  Julien Donkey-Boy is still one of my favorite movies of all time (I saw it three times in a short time span while it played in London and I've watched it multiple times on DVD since).  Mister Lonely is really beautiful and probably Korine's best film yet.  I am excited about seeing Trash Humpers eventually, but also think it looks a bit silly, which may be the point, I guess.   


Now it's Friday, and Jason, I just read your post.  Thanks for responding.  You hadn't posted in a while.  I thought we might have lost you.

Reality disconnect.

I do understand what you're saying here, and certainly I'm excited about Iron Man 2 and Jonah Hex and Robin Hood which will give me my thrills and make me happy for a couple of hours without having to think too hard.

I think my problem with certain horror may be that, in the horror genre as a whole, I'm looking for something that scares me, not something that I can have fun with.  For the most part, I don't like the over-the-top tongue-in-cheek horror that fans of the genre seem to adore.  I don't see much to like.  Degradation of women?  Heinous acts of violence and cruelty?  Really?  I'm supposed to smirk alongside the director?  These movies alsojust aren't all that scary.  They're annoying.  

I understand "wake-up call" horror.  I don't understand amusement park ride horror.

It's often the attitude of these films that I object to.  

I know that my continuing to defend Funny Games opens me up to all sorts of charges of hypocrisy at worst and/or inconsistency at best.  But, I do think that Funny Games has a fundamentally different attitude than other straight slasher genre films.  Like Videodrome, Funny Games walks a tightrope in using genre elements to relentlessly question the audience's motivations and responses.  There's also a sense in which Funny Games works precisely as a slasher flick, the same way that Videodrome is precisely an exploitation picture.  Paradoxically, this simultaneously strengthens and undermines the arguments of both films.  Both are flawed and fascinating.

Enough Haneke already.  Enough Cronenberg, too.

Now, here's the thing.  I love genre fiction.  I dabble in LitFic.  I read the occasional Western, Crime, and even Horror novel.  I stay away from Romance, but I acknowledge that there probably are some great Romance novels.  Robert Morgan's The Truest Pleasure is a really great novel, a favorite of mine, and is essentially Romance, though it gets shelved with the LitFic.  

My chosen genre, though, is Science Fiction.  Off the top of my head: Hard SF, Space Opera, Science Fantasy, Time Travel, Future History, First Contact, Utopia, Dystopia, Alternate History, Slipstream, Terraforming, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Fabulism, Interplanetary Espionage, Robotics, Singularity, Whatever, etc.  I'll read it all.  From Asimov and Blish to Weinbaum and Zelazny.

I guess I'm just bringing this up because I don't want you guys to think that I'm just taking a dump on the horror genre or even the slasher sub-genre.  I'm just not steeped in it.  I don't love it, either blindly or with eyes wide open.  I'm looking at it from the outside and I still don't understand it.  I see such tremendous promise and I see it too often squandered.

That's enough.

Breathless.  Yeah, it seems overrated now.  I too was a bit disappointed by it.  But, then again, few films have been hyped the way that that film has or share in its lofty reputation. It is very hard to see that film today the same way someone in 1960 would have seen it.  I agree that it doesn't quite hold up, but it's historical importance is impossible to deny.

The good news is that Godard went on to make a LOT more films through the 60s, each one seemingly better than the last.  My favorite is Les Caribiniers, but I confess that it is least like the other films he was making at the time, though it definitely shares many commonalities as well.  As far as films more representational of Godard's style at the time, I'd suggest Pierrot le Fou or, as Brandon suggested, A Woman is a Woman.  Godard also made a decent SF/Noir hybrid, Alphaville, at least a decade before Blade Runner, but if you don't like Godard, you won't like Alphaville.

Somewhere, Godard said or wrote that all he was ever trying to do was make a Howard Hawks film.  Along the way, he discovered that he couldn't make anything other than a Godard film.  I think his films are to be appreciated at the very least as singularly brilliant expressions/demonstrations of the idea of director as auteur.

Also, Godard just isn't for everyone.  If you don't like him, you don't like him.  There are plenty of happy cinephiles who can get along just fine without him.

To end all of this...

Lost is fun again.

Breaking Bad's 3rd season continues the series' high level of excellence.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus satisfied this Gilliam fan.  It's a fun revisiting of Gilliam themes and, as such, is a worthy celebration of Stories and Storytellers and Silly Imaginings.


And now it's late Sunday and confession time.  Another Hollywood Video is going out of business.  This is the one right in downtown Ithaca across from the Barnes & Noble and right next to the new skate park.  My first mistake was stopping at all.  Once there, I told my self that I was only going to scan the foreign titles, the Westerns, and the Classics.  Fortunately or unfortunately (I'm still not sure), the Classics section was pretty great.  3 for $12.

The Charley Chase Collection (McCarey)
Go West (Keaton)
Behind Locked Doors (Boetticher)
The Kennel Murder Case/Nancy Drew Reporter (Curtiz/Clemens)
The Titfield Thunderbolt (Crichton)
A Run for Your Money (Frend)
Whiskey Galore! (Mackendrick)
Passport to Pimlico (Cornelius)
The Baron of Arizona (Fuller)
I Shot Jesse James (Fuller)
T Men (Mann)
The Paleface (McLeod)
Summer (Rohmer)
Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong)
Dear Wendy (Vinterberg)



Alright, it's Monday the 10th and I'm finally going to post all this.  I got paid to see Iron Man 2 tonight.  I wanted to walk out.  I actually had HUGE expectations.  I was sorely disappointed.  

Oh well.  Robin Hood is next on the summer list.

Eventually, Shyamalan will make things better.

Yup, that's a joke.

Oh, I've begun to dread the wave of Summer films that I was so excited about just a few weeks ago!  

1 comment:

Peter said...


Have you watched this trailer?