Thursday, June 4, 2009

A movie I saw and whatnot.

If I studied linguistics I know they'd tell me that embedded in the construction of our words, phrases and general articulations, our verbal habits and idiosyncrasies, are portals into which our personalities can be peered. I've heard about this. It makes sense. An erudite linguist could uproot many of my personality traits through an examination of the sentence structure in this blog alone. S/he could tell me the meaning of my usages and the implications of my syntax. I think about this a lot: it goes beyond education because to a certain extent I have to write the way I do because I am the way I am.

I don't study linguistics, but I study film. And I know certain filmmakers pretty well. It was nice to see Sam Raimi again this year. He was all over his new film Drag Me to Hell, which is a terrific genre film and theater experience but an even better reentry into one of American cinema's most imaginative minds. Separately his impact on the creativity of the filmic camera and the narrative could be discussed, but I won't discuss that, but I will really quickly remind the readers of the kinetic, impulsive, and bold style found in his Evil Dead films, and even his Quick and the Dead and Darkman films. To an extent everything he directs bares his mark, but a director's mark is far different from a director's soul. Raimi is one of the lucky few (compared to the unlucky many) who found a way through his artistic medium to expose entirely his human soul, and that soul I haven't felt to the extent I felt it in Drag Me since the Quick and the Dead, which wasn't a very good movie. Drag Me is.

Drag Me to Hell comes to us from out of the depth of the idea Raimi lives by, and I was there at Century City to experience the mingling of laughter and shrieks, the unease of the audience, the unpredictability of the screen and the adventure of the narrative. There's ostensibly a moral center to the film, like any great genre film, but like any great genre film that moral center is only there to glue together the separate elements and to insulate the narrative. It should have nothing to do with didacticism or sentiment etc. It doesn't here, so forget it. I don't want to hear it. The center of Drag Me is Raimi, and the surrounding nexus is comprised of ideas Raimi has formally presented previously in his Evil Dead series initially, then his other films and certainly the horror films he has produced over the last several years.

The horror films he's produced have always taken flack in the community for being PG-13, and no less than Clive Barker has come out and positioned this mass-audience approach as an insincere alternative to making 'adult' horror films (I don't really believe in an 'adult' or 'mature' horror film, really, because the best audience for a horror film will always always be a child, for reasons we can speak of later but are pretty obvious). I kind of thought Barker was right too, but then again I was one of the few unfortunates who had seen Boogeyman. We were wrong. Drag Me is PG-13, and it's the most exhilarating, unnerving, entertaining, and effective horror film I've seen in years. I know I'm right because I saw it in the theater, and I heard the laughs and I heard the screams. The audience, all adults, became one unit tethered to the screen and sharing the experience of one long moment of agonized enjoyment. Raimi reminds us with Drag Me that there's a craft (!) to the horror enterprise. His tools were character, narrative, and structure, not exclusively gore, immorality, camp, gimmick, or nudity, the components which alone are meant to describe the mature horror film. They're mostly all present though, too.

I know I'm not really talking about the film, but describing a horror film is exactly like describing a joke. In fact, comedies and horror films are almost inseparable by nature and critical panning (didn't one reviewer, quoted on IMDb, say something to the effect of "The film is good but Raimi could be doing better things"? And what the fuck does that mean? It seems to imply that Raimi could be doing better things than making good films, which I don't know if the critic wants Raimi to enlist in a different trade or what). Maybe you wouldn't like it, I don't know. I doubt you wouldn't.

What I want to say here is that Raimi made me feel, and he penetrated the numbness I hope to be penetrated when I enter the theater. What film can go beyond that and what other purpose can film have? I wish someone could explain to me that the way I fear is different from the way I suffer, or the way I enjoy, or love or laugh or whatever whatever, it seems that a film which itself exhibits all these emotions together will be well received, and films which offers us chamber drama will be, but a film that offers chamber horror won't be. Why not? Emotions exist freely and fluidly together and a certain mark of admiration is given to films that make us feel dramatically and deeply sympathetic but not to films that make us feel frightened or giddy. Bullshit to that. And bullshit to the notion that this idea perpetuates because the latter are single-dimensional. Here are the dimensions: the dimension of Raimi as a filmmaker exposing his fear and laughter, the dimension of the film in itself, and the dimension of the audience responding. You're a moron if you think those are three dimensions easy to control, I mean it (if you wish to dispute that you are a moron, or think I wouldn't call you a moron in person, you can leave your number in the comments section and I'll call you). (Just kidding we're all friends I'm just tying up here with a certain amount of hyperbole, anyway you probably all have my number!).

It's basically my goal to accomplish what Raimi accomplishes in Drag Me, which is the accomplishment of erasing one's presence from the narrative and establishing oneself as the narrative's receptacle. Most great fiction and non-fiction do this to an extent anyway, even the truly great autobiographical stuff which simply uses the narrative as a doppelgänger (copy and pasted for the dots above the a).

P.S. I know I'll never get around to writing about it, but I think an excellent paradigm for what I'm talking about could be found by modeling the "white-trash" (as I hear it called) Escape from NY against the white-collar (we'll call it for the purpose of contrast) CQ. I believe these two movies ride virtually the same train of thought, the key difference being that Roman Coppola allows himself a surrogate character who defuses and interprets the filmic peculiarities. I also believe this method might make CQ more believable and palpable, but not more natural, honest, or artistic. Coppola writes himself as an observant arbiter. That's fine. I like CQ. I love Escape from NY. I love it because Carpenter participates in his apocalypse. He doesn't write himself into the movie. He doesn't need to because if you know Carpenter, and you can know him by watching his movies, you'll know that Carpenter's personality is the vessel through which we are receiving his film. A great visual symbolism for this would be to imagine Coppola sitting next to a projector, spooling the machine. Imagine Carpenter then projecting the film through his eyes (an image not too dissimilar from a certain scene in his Cigarette Burns, oddly). America's general failure in perceiving this is testified by our overall refusal to call Carpenter anything above a genre filmmaker, while in France and England etc they call him what he is. An auteur.

Carpenter's The Thing plays midnight at the Nuart, coincidentally. Great fucking movie.

1 comment:

joe said...

this is, by far, my favorite thing you've posted here yet.