Posted by: Necci – Jun 03, 2011
dir: Vincenzo Natali
The discussion and analysis of gender politics can be some tricky shit. My own personal approach to the topic is one of strict intentional avoidance, as it is inevitable that if my mouth should open during a conversation about gender politics, it will momentarily be forced shut by the stinging contact of some angry lady’s palm. I’m an intelligent and insightful person disguised as an idiot, my own boorish comments doing much to incorrectly belie the fact that my outlook is essentially feminist and (hopefully) in direct opposition to the chauvinistic tilt of our stinking, stupid world. I just lack the mundane pigheadedness necessary for making every single conversation an active framework of a dedicated and unwavering worldview. I enjoy conflict, argument and full-fledged devil’s advocacy. Plus I like jokes, however politically incorrect they may be. Also, I’m really into tits. C’est la vie, ya’ll. The gender politics in Vincenzo Natali’s absolutely RIDICULOUS Splice could themselves fuel an exhaustive array of shouting matches between a cartoonish cross-section of absurdly pierced lesbian riot grrls, shirt-tucking virginal academics, porn-addicted philosophers, and genetically mutated rapists. There are no clear answers here, which is all fine and good in my opinion. I’m a fan of cinema that raises more questions than it answers. I’m also a fan of bizarro science fiction that features DNA-assisted incest and genetically modified nudity. I was a huge fan of Natali’s Cube (1997). I have never been a fan of Adrien Brody (he looks an Art Spiegelman illustration of a penis) but I’ve been pretty into Sarah Polley since Avonlea. Am I a fan of Splice? I have no idea. It’s a great credit to Natali that I feel like I should watch this one at least 2 or 3 more times before I know for sure what I think of it. Not quite as flattering, however, is the admission that I may not really want to. It just might not be worth it. Therein lies the problem; this is essentially one of those Magic Eye visual puzzles where you finally discover the hidden image, but it’s just a crudely drawn question mark. Intriguing ideas with spotty delivery. Natali is capable of better.
(More movies, y'all, after the jump...)
Black Death (2010)
dir: Christopher Smith
I’ve got a lot of hate in my heart. I can’t help it. It’s always been there and over time I’ve mastered the art of maintaining it, although it can occasionally flare up and spurt out, devoid of any legitimate target and usually just blasting up against whatever unfortunate soul happens to be standing nearby when my computer miraculously erases all of the music from my iPod like some goddamned mysterious wizard of asshole magic. When the floodgates are open I regretfully have little to no control over the shit that pours from my foaming maw, usually lacking any semblance of justification or reason. It’s a sad state of affairs. The same could possibly be said about Smith’s latest film, itself a strange amalgamation of Lars von Trier’s phenomenal man vs. nature vs. sex vs. everything Antichrist and Nicolas Winding Refn’s ghoulish allegory of spiritual imperialism Valhalla Rising, both oddly enough from 2009 (clearly a dark year for mankind); although Black Death lacks the ambiguously nuanced moral quandaries and full-fisted adherence to visceral jolts, respectively, of those two ultimately superior works. Smith has impressed me in the past, specifically with the surprisingly effective comedic horror effort Severance (2006) and 2009’s eerie mind-fuck Triangle, but he seems uncharacteristically maladroit here. The film is impressive from a technical standpoint, as the director has an excellent knack for shot composition and mood-suitable shifts in color and tone. This is especially bleak stuff, yet his handling of the underlying thematic debate comes across as both undedicated and lazy. One second it feels like a vitriolic damnation of organized religion and the violence it piously seeks to justify; the next it could be just as easily read as a brazen condemnation of misguided paganism. This refusal to staunchly defend a specific viewpoint could have been utilized as the film’s greatest strength if both sides of the argument didn’t come across as simultaneously brazen and disinterested. Likewise the film’s unnerving sense of underlying misogyny, itself never quite supplanted by a last-ditch (and probably rooted in bashful, half-assed guilt) effort to flip the script and condemn such misogynistic practices in a society even more patriarchal and dangerous for women than our own. Smith is blindly wielding hatred like a cumbersome medieval weapon here, distressingly unconcerned with whom or what he may strike. I can’t completely deny his nevertheless effective presentation, however troubled I may be by what he’s trying to say or—even worse---the fact that he himself might not even care what is coming across. Maybe I see a little bit too much of my own foolish negativity in the film, and though it can sometimes be cathartic to recognize our own faults in the works and ideas of others, it can also be pretty goddamn embarrassing when such works are executed in such a frustrating manner. Ultimately, though, Smith is a talented filmmaker who has at least made some—but not really enough—effort to transform his fleeting thoughts and emotions into a coherent piece of fiction. Meanwhile, I’ll still just be the guy sitting alone in his room after a long day at work, listening to a Prurient album on headphones and trying to decide what I hate more: myself or the rest of the world. J/k, it’s always the rest of the world (I rule).
I’m the Angel of Death: Pusher III (2005)
dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
Slim Thug once said “I’m a good dude, I just got a lot of addictions.” I know that’s right. My brave, always-game girlfriend and I recently forced ourselves through 5 days of a 7 day brown rice cleanse, essentially trying to purge our wrecked and tainted bodies of the poisons and abuses that we’ve each managed to ingest and/or accomplish over the past 2 decades of Motley Crue style hard livin’. It was an ordeal, to say the least, although not nearly as hellish as I had initially imagined. The lack of proper meals--at least as I have come to understand them--wasn’t so bad considering that I was able to gorge myself on as much fresh fruit and vegetables as I wanted. Seeing as how I almost never eat either of those fundamental building blocks of life it was a nice refreshing wake-up call that has hopefully nudged me into the right direction of a healthier lifestyle. The only real downside as far as food was concerned is that fact that brown rice fucking sucks. I don’t care how much salt or pepper you pour onto that mess, it always ends up tasting like a handful of soft gravel disguised itself as a wet paper bag and tried to sneak into the intestinal tract of a sickly beaver. Of course, alcohol and coffee were completely out of the question, and therein lay the most startling revelation of my brief foray into the world of giving a shit about myself: I am legitimately addicted to both caffeine and whatever the fuck it is about alcohol that gets you buzzed, yet when I abstain from both of these substances I gradually end up feeling consistently better than I have in years. Addiction is some wild shit like that. It remains to be seen whether or not I’ll manage to overcome my own crippling case of social anxiety through the natural highs of a well-balanced diet and regular exercise or just slide back into a blurry existence of coffee-fueled morning rushes of productivity and alcohol-drenched evenings of asinine conversations with weird strangers who eventually reveal themselves to actually kind of suck. Either way I’m just glad that I’m not an aging Danish drug kingpin struggling to overcome my own addiction to heroin while grasping onto a fading empire and preparing for my spoiled daughter’s wedding. Refn’s film is technically the third in a triptych that shares a single location (the city of Copenhagen, where it is apparently always nighttime), several characters (various underworld thugs and hustlers) and a number of thematic elements (some legitimately fucked-up shit to people like us, but just another day on the job for people like them), yet it is unnecessary to have seen the previous two entries in order to understand or appreciate this one (by far the strongest). Refn’s style remains uniformly impressive throughout the series, rendering these underworld tales with such precise fluidity and a refreshing sense of humanistic sympathy that manages to endear us to his exceptionally (although subtly) fleshed-out characters regardless of their nefarious deeds. His is a singular talent, and with a series of increasingly impressive and surprisingly eclectic winners under his belt, Refn seems poised to become the most important and idiosyncratic Danish filmmaker since everyone’s favorite misanthropic joker, the absolutely necessary Lars von Trier.
By Cole Hutchison