St. Louis MO
serial re-watcher of david cronenberg's crash (1996) and telescope editorial intern : ~ )
Transforming the quiet of the apocalyptic wasteland from a foreboding absence of danger into a sort of solemn peacefulness, Girls Last Tour finds humanity in desolation. Yuu and Chito’s charming naivete in relation to the brutal historical circumstances implicated by their surroundings gives the show an unexpectedly pensive atmosphere, revealing meaning in the existential grind of living as slowly as the girls travel through their world of urban detritus on their Kettenkrad. A super lighthearted and affecting addition to the Slice of Life genre that I would definitely watch again!
I have never in my life seen a human being move like Isabelle Adjani does in this movie (and that is a HIGH compliment)! I was totally engrossed by the ridiculous physicality of the actors throughout this entire film. Possession feels like a succession of bodies straining to move and speak with a modicum of emotional reserve- from the anguished post-divorce Mark’s pronounced yet robotic tossing and turning to Anna’s hysterical phantom linen-folding (not to mention the iconic subway scene)- the performances in this film are entirely alienating in their excessive emotionality and misplaced movements. Even the dialogue, seemingly delivered in a series of cursing screams and bizarrely-placed non-sequiturs, cements this film in a sort of tense, inhuman halfway point between bourgeois melodrama and body horror, or an otherwise delightfully perverse offspring of the two (not unlike Anna’s own monstrous creation).
Going into this film with the full intention of spending two hours making ironic “we live in a society” quips to my partner next to me, I was frankly shocked when I realized that I, too, had fallen victim to one of the Joker’s most sinister tricks: I actually liked this movie. That being said, I hesitate to say that this film was particularly well-executed aside from Joaquin Phoenix’s excellent performance. Wedged between crypto-Marxist class analysis and a slogan on a Hot Topic t-shirt, Joker bludgeons you over the head with its various predictable welcome-to-my-twisted-mind-isms to a groan-inducing extent (although anticipating them can be a fun little game for you and your moviegoing friends). HOWEVER, I genuinely and emphatically loved Joker both in spite of and because of these flaws. As someone with chronic mental health issues, I found the waifish and unstable Arthur Fleck to be an endearingly relatable character, like the tragic and romantic heroine of a melodrama onto whom I could project my insecurities and working-class anxieties. While perhaps unintentional, Joker serves as a poignant critique of the modern neoliberal austerity state and the various way in which those maligned as “villains” are often the victims of callous divisions between those who have wealth and power and those forced by their material conditions to suffer in obscurity. While I wouldn’t recommend it to all of my film-loving friends, for some, Joker is just right.
Through rugged grunting and near-constant physical altercations, Pattinson (Winslow) and Dafoe (Wake) deliver an unsettling portrayal of two men caught up in the twin deliriums of loneliness and desire- exhibiting a sort of strained tenderness through drunken ramblings one moment and dramatically bristling at the slightest inkling of provocation the next. In fact, one of the most compelling aspects of this film was the sort of frustrated homoerotic/ homosocial relationship between Winslow and Wake, constantly bubbling beneath the disquieting shadows of isolation and the blinding flashes of the sublime at the surface. The horror of the Lighthouse seems psychosexual at times, with Dafoe’s character wavering between a sort of perverse father figure and German expressionist monster, constantly thwarting Winslow’s attempts at obtaining his object of desire (whatever it was) with a crooked, devious smile, highlighted by Eggers' masterful use of darkness and light. In any case, The Lighthouse was my favorite film of 2019! Perfectly punctuated the horrors of repression and ennui with humor and melodramatic spectacle.
As one of the newest entries into the body horror genre, Raw relies less on gross-out corporeal augmentations and more on the potential terror of extreme social maladjustment to punctuate its gruesome thrills. The specter of the outcast haunts the film far before the cannibalism even begins, manifesting itself in the struggle session-esque hazing rituals thrust upon the young Justine as she begins her life at vet school. Raw reminds me of Ginger Snaps in this way, detailing the relationship between two sisters with a gory secret that threatens to expel them from the familiar (dis)comforts of normal society.
To say Climax was a bad trip is tantamount to saying that the Donner Party was a friendly cookout. More anxiety-inducing and nightmarish than Aronofsky’s Mother! (2017) sans the heavy-handed allegory, Climax is a hysterical, depraved look at the black hole of drug-induced psychosis and the complete disintegration of the self (and I say this as a compliment). While surprisingly tame for a Noe film (which isn’t saying much), this would definitely have to be my favorite of his in light of the emotionally disjointed, practically alien performances of the dancers and the gradual build-up of the psychedelic terror into a fever-pitch of misery.
While it does manage to deliver some delicious moments of intrigue and disgust, especially with its plentitude of intricately choreographed dance and torture scenes, Guadagnino’s Suspiria is ultimately bland. Delivered entirely in a sort of self-serious greyscale, this iteration fails most strongly in the sense that it lacks the characteristic giallo camp of the original. This is compounded by the Holocaust subplot, which is pretty ineffectively woven into the original’s main witchcraft narrative. However, I did greatly enjoy the integration of body horror into the main plotline as a marked departure from the original and thought that Guadagnino’s grotesque fascination with bones was a wonderfully visceral addition to the terror. I think it’s worth a watch, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Dario Argento’s.
A marked departure from Cronenberg’s other films in form, but not in theme, Crash provides a fantastically nasty look at the erotic life of a group of bisexual car crash fetishists. Following the hyperreal melding of man and television in Videodrome, Crash details a new remapping of the flesh, one that reconfigures the erogenous zones of the human body into a mix of metal, wires, and wounds. Giving us some of the most memorable performances in Cronenberg’s filmography, Hunter and Spader are wonderfully mechanical and off-putting, effectively cementing these transformations into man-woman-machines through stilted dirty talk and alien displays of obsession. A criminally underrated film and honestly…my controversial top movie pick for Pride month every year (seriously)!
There is nothing on this Earth more delightful than an 80-something year old director discovering Windows Movie Maker for the first time.
Crude but surprisingly not very lewd, Svankmajer’s Conspirators of Pleasure takes us through a cartoonishly perverse world of elaborate fetishes carried out with the utmost care and attention. I feel like the genius of this film lies in its conspicuous lack of sex appeal, all eroticism bled out through ridiculously elaborate, lengthy rituals, creating a veritable Rube Goldberg machine of sexuality. The paraphilias here seem almost Looney Toons-esque, something highlighted through Svankmajer’s expert use of stop-motion animation and claymation.
A dizzying bisexual fever dream dusted with glitter and cocaine, this movie holds a special place in my heart as one of the first few queer films I watched shortly before coming out. This is fitting, I think, especially since the film is permeated with a sort of shame and angst, eventually serving as the basis for the campy stardom of the Bowie-esque Brian Slade. This intermingling of shame and glamor is one of the most compelling (and gayest) aspects of the film in my opinion, even when the characterization falls flat and the plot seems to lose itself in its own labyrinth of nostalgia.
The Piano Teacher, much like its titular protagonist, is a movie that is so earnestly depraved that it’s sometimes difficult to watch (and this is one of its strong suits). A grim cautionary tale about the dangers of fantasy fulfilment and the horrors of sexual subjectification, the film feels like a perverse coming-of-age film at times, with Huppert’s character portraying a strange sort of adolescent naiveite buried underneath her stern, emotionally-distant demeanor—one of the most wonderfully cringeworthy aspects of her performance and the movie in general.
Shockingly visceral, this has to be one of my top 10 horror movies of all time. There's something about the torture scenes in this movie that makes watching feel like an act of masochism itself, the film's cruelty displayed with such disturbing clarity that you can almost feel the gradual build-up under your own skin. I feel like I watched this entire film clenched in the fetal position, a testament to the artful execution of Miike's vision!
Goodnight Mommy is a paranoid fever dream twisting the rituals of boyhood to their most gruesome extent, distorting the flights of fancy of a child’s imagination until they transform into bouts of nervous obsession. Definitely up there with the Shining as one of the greats in the genre of “identical twins-based horror”.
The most disturbing thing about this film isn’t the bloated corpse or multitude of ghost sightings, but the emotional tug-of-war between obsessively remembering a loved one and letting go, the complete lack of closure slowly chipping away at one’s psyche as one desperately clings to delusional false hopes. Lake Mungo feels like a blend of family melodrama and ghost story, gradually interweaving the paranormal dread with the dark vicissitudes of the seemingly idyllic existence of the average suburbanite.