October 10, 2010

Two types of WALL-E and Freud and Japan

There are a few movies in which machines take over the earth. In the "Terminator" series of movies, the machines get so bolshy that they decied to wipe out those irrational humans. In other films however, such as the recent Disney film "WALL-E," the machines take over, but they attempt to have the best interests of humans at heart. They are continuing to obey one of the laws of robotics, or some such.


Okay...let us say that at some point in the future, machines have taken over. They run human society. They make the laws and policies, and they make them in such a way as to make us humans happy. After a lot of experimentation the machines find that human happiness is something that we don't get used to easily. It needs practice (would you agree?). Upon this observation, and with a view to the fact that resources for producing happiness are limited, the machines decide that rather than giving humans a mediocre life for all of their lives, it is best to give us humans a period of happiness and a period of relative suffering. The machines decide that humans should spend a period of their lives that has quite a lot of suffering, and a period of our lives that is fairly happy. Bearing in mind that it takes a while to get used to happiness, the machines decide that it would be best to diivide human life (or lifespan) in the middle and make one half of it happy and one half of it more painful. So the machines decide that since learning how to have fun takes a while, and providing the resources for people to have fun requires effort, the cut human life (about 70 years) in the middle and decide that one half will contain work and the other half will contain play.


But then the machines reach a disagreement about which half should contain the work and which half should contain the play? Which would you rather?


Some of the machines decide that giving the young folk the fun time is a good idea. They reason that by so doing, young people will havve a great time and then in the second half of their lives while they are working and suffering they will be able to look back and remember the great time they had, and work to provide the great time that they experienced for the next gneeration.


Some of the machines decide that giving older people the good time is the way to go. They reason that if people suffer while they are young then it won't be so bad because they will know that they have good times ahead of them.

Posted by timtak at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

Two types of reflection and Time Crimes Los Cronocrímenes

The little Prince travels the solar system to find that "adults" are all caught up in one thing or another. I guess I am caught up in a theory, that we think in words and images, and that we exist at their intersection. It is from that (Lacanian??!) perspective that I watched Los Cronocrimenes. It seemed to me that the film articulated the stages of Lacanian development of the ego. I believe that we have a self by virtue of the fact that we reflect upon ourselves, or represent ourselves in two ways - visually and linguistically.


Contra this claim, a Russian thinker, in common with many Western perspectives, claims that the animal mind is like a mirror, and as a mirror it can not reflect itself. Whereas the human mind, has another mirror, that of language, it is our ability to mirror ourselves, name ourselves in language that enables us to have self reflexivity, a self.


The Russian is drawing our attention to two types of self relection - that of a mirror and that of language, and yet encouraging us to forget one of them. The mirror of language, he argues, is powerful. It allows the looking glass mirror to function. The visual mirror is nothing on its own. Even animals have them. The ability to reflect visually is a given, something that requires no art, no culture. Visual reflectivity is a nothing, a blank sheet, a un-ploughed field, that must wait for the plough of language.


Is this fair? First of all, it is far from clear to me that animals do have the power of visual reflection. The metaphor of the mirror for animal consciousness has two prongs of meaning. Like a mirror, animal consciousness is something quintessentially and entirely visual; a vision is not the thing itself. Just as things reflected in mirrors are not really in the mirror, so the things in animal consciousness are not really in the animals mind. In other words, the mirror is a metaphor of the image. Not wishing to argue with Bishop Berkeley, let us say so far so good. Animal minds are not dark. Animals too have a visual field, a more or less multicoloured disk. Secondly however, a mirror is something that not only displays, but also bends light such that viewers can (if they have language at least) see themselves in mirrors. Is this something that animals can really do?


First of all let us consider the physical technology required for visual reflection. We have mirrors, things made of glass or polished metal. Animals too have at least the occasional water surfaces. In addition however, humans have the ability to draw to mind images from other perspectives than their own. Just as I can imagine what I would see were I to stand up and look down at the road below my 3rd floor window, I can also imagine what I would see were I to be in the position of the mirror and looking at my face. My consciousness can, as it were, bend light. Now it seems to me that, not only are animals not too good at making looking glasses, but also they may not be able to do the perspective taking required for visual reflection.


I am suggesting that a lot of animals do not "REflect" at all. The eflect;f they just see. When we put mirrors in front of them, something moves in the mirror that they are able to recognise as an animal of their kind. But it is at least not proven that they are able to take any perspective but their own so even if they had a "name" for themselves, they would be unable to realise that the name also applies to that other animal in the mirror.


To cut to the chase, it seems to me that the Russian is being unfair. He should recognise that there are two forms of reflection going on, and that humans are good at both of them. And it is the coexistence of both that allows humans to 'see' themselves. Both abilities are required, there is a double return, a double feedback loop.


The Spanish film Los Cronochrimes, is about a man that goes back one our in time twice to visit himself. The first time came a bit of a shock, to the protagonist and to the viewer, but when the hero demands to return to the past again so that there are two doubles of his original self, is this not excessive? On the contrary. It was the double return of Hector that made the film resonate for me as an allegory of growing up. There were other hints that made me think my interpretation was not merely capricious.


At the start of the film Hector is rather young, and visual. He likes to sit and watch, though his house is only partly decorated. Though he does not appear to work, his wife offers her body to him. He is like a baby. This is in sharp contrast to the more commanding Hector that the hero becomes by the end of the film.


Furthermore, the first  time-slip of Hector is so spatial. In both cases we presume Hector travels back in time the same amount, but in his first time-slip, Hector merely seems to jump accross space, to take a perspective looking back at himself, with the same binoculars from the other side of a divide. This first bandaged, cloaked Hector is only a pair of eyes outside of himself. He becomes a perspective upon himself from without. Using only his scary gaze he manages to force the second hector to follow the same path. But he makes a mistake. He attempts to return to his wife while still in swaddling, causing the woman to fall to her death. Utterly dissatisfied, Hector decides he must return to the past again. This time, he takes control. We learn that through the machinations of the time machine, the second double of Hector, or Hector #3, has scripted the actions of the first too. The volition powering the Hectors is no longer the gaze, but the voice of Hector #3. Hector #3 has determined what each of the other Hectors should do in advance. Finally, he manages to make another woman look like his wife, having her fall to her death, and ends the film very much older, less philandering and in charge, having returned to himself twice.  


My only disappointment is that rather than two travels in a time machine, the first doubling might have been achieved by more spatial means.


As Derrida points out however, we Westerners tend to see the possibly of doubling ourselves as a process of differance.

Posted by timtak at 06:37 PM | Comments (0)

Dreams Stranger than Fiction

"Stranger than Fiction" (2006) is an okay film. At one level it is a love story about a nerdy tax inspector and a coffee shop owner. The tax inspector that lives for numbers and punctuality, that lives his life in a fastidious, perfectionist, a-sensual fashion wakes up to the world of cakes and kisses and he dives, into the sensual world. In this movement he is aided by the was-once-a-bit-of-a-nerd, coffee shop owner that dived herself, many years before, out of law school in the sensual-world-more-important.


At this level "Stranger than fiction" has the hallmarks of many a love story, where the impediment to love lies in the character of one or more of the protagonists. Love stories with nerdy heroes and heroines are not few in number. I enjoyed "A New Leaf"(1971) starring botanist-nerd Elaine May, and cynic Walter Matthau, athough this film tracked the movement towards love of a cynic rather than a nerd. There are perhaps even more love stories about cynics meeting their match and taking the plunge, such as "When Harry met Sally"(1989) and "Wedding Crashers"(2005). Cynics and nerds have this in common: they both don't know how to do that loving stuff. Other love stories feature a Briton, who in Hollywood are all both cynical and nerdy, such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Nottinghill," which feature Hugh Grant becoming aware of his mojo. Upping the brow-level perhaps there are love stories about idealists taking the plunge, such as "Wings of Desire (Himmel Uber Berlin)", its naff remake "City of Angels," and "The Legend of Nineteen Hundred," although in the latter case the idealist sticks with ideals rather than love.


At the same time however, "Stranger than Fiction" crosses genres, and adds a irreal, crazy, almost Matrixical alterity; the hero of "Stranger than Fiction" finds that he is the hero of a woman's novel. We see the (female) novelist fretting over ways to kill him off.


The hero eventually tracks down and meets the novelist but reading her book, he decides to run with the story, and in front of a bus to his nemisis, at which point the novelist decides to make the accident, no longer accidental, non-fatal. At this point, in her words, the love story takes that sensual realistic dive into the world of the little things. The taste of coffee and lipstick, the brush of someones eyelashes accross your cheek. Rather than the grand design, rather than the objectives, and conclusions of works of great fiction, the hero and his novelist choose the everyday.


Dead interesing.  But what of dreams?


At the same time I was watching a program on Japanese television about a lady that gave up the everyday to pursue her dreams. At 50 or thereabouts she says that we all have dreams but usually we give up on them and opt for life. She describes dreams (by that she means goals) as a bomb that we carry with us, and that most people, caught up with the everyday allow it not to explode.


At the same time again I found myself watching the concluding song to "Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat" wherein we are told, "Any Dream Will Do." This recently the title of a reality TV series to find the next incarnation of Joseph on stage.


All very confusing. Is love a dream? Or does it present us with the real world? Is choosing love a cop-out or a higher ideal?


A recent survey by a student I know found that there is a strong correlation between honesty and romanticism. An unexpected result?

Posted by timtak at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

Waking Life

Waking Life gets good reviews from "the nation's critics" at rottentomatoes.com. I confess that I fell asleep in the middle.


The film is a sort of animated sequence of interviews. Animated in the sense that the interviews which were shot with a video camera have been overpainted so that they have become the filmic equivalent of overpainted photographs. And animated in the sense that the interviews consist of someone waxing philosophical to a young, decidedly inanimate guy with a floppy centre parting.


Most of the philosophy I had heard before. These days it seems to me that the whole of Western philosophy boils down to the liars paradox. For instance Satre, as explained in an early part of the film, seems to be saying that one can not denate ones responsibility or choice because to do so would be to make a choice and thus be cretan.


However, Nathan Hawke, in a rare bed scence propounded the one theory that fired my imagination. Nathan and his girlfriend are in bed and at least one of them has been dreaming. They note how little time it takes, in waking life seconds, to dream a dream that can seem to have lasted for days. One can wake up, look at ones alarm clock, fall back asleep and to experience a dream of epic proportions, only to wake up to find that merely a few seconds have passed. They also claim that brain activity continues for between 6 and 12 minutes after - one presumes resperatory - death. They then surmise that in this time a dead man or woman would have the ability to dream, or relive all their waking life. And furthermore, the surmise, that perhaps waking life is indeed the dream that they are having on their death bed.

This theme has occured before as noted in reviews (I think I have written reviews) of Sixth Sense, Others (a sort of Sixth Sense for women) and American Beauty. These latter films suggest that the dead do go on to experience life, either believing that they are still alive (the first two) or aware that they are dead and free to ponder over their life as a whole. Waking life goes a little further to suggest that this life that we are experiencing is that dream we experience falling down through the clouds to dwell with worms and clay.


Jacques Lacan once claimed that the ego is dead. But I think that he was referring to the fact that it is a construction, a dead thing, an artifice, an sort of prosthesis to use Macluhans phrasiology.


So are we really dead already?


This notion at first blush seems merely a flight of fantasy. Even if the thesis were tenable, like the existance of an invisible odourless pink elephant walking down the street avoiding cars, there is nothing in its favour. Occam's razor would chop it right off.


However, this theory may have an advantage in that it may explain why there should be a self or consciousness.


The self and consciousness are perhaps two different problems. I am not sure. As a sort of Buddhist, I am inclined to think that they are very much intertwined. All there is is consciousness, but we posit permanence in the form of a self on this side (watching consciousness) and a world of things on the far side (that we presume gives rise to the light).


In order to link Nathan Hawke's theory to philosophy, however, I will concentrate on consciouness or the "qualia," the stuff of experience that seems to be private. There seems to be an experience of redness for instance. This experience is uterly unspeakable. I have already fallen foul of the liars paradox by attempting to mention it. I might attempt to say that where I see redess, in my consciousness, you see green in yours. But that would be unfair because redness is something that we agree on. We can not speak of our 'qualia' but it does seem that they are in some sense 'there'. It is also clear that we dream and have the ability to imagine things that are not external but have nonetheless a form of existance (under erasure).


There are some folk that would like to persuade us that all there is is the physical world. These people are called physicalists by philosophers, and behaviourists in psychology.


At the same time, a contemporary American philosopher called Chalmers wrote a paper positing the possibility of "Zombies." Zombies consciousness-less humans, in the sense of being machines that react to their environment, like a mechanical device, and live and eat and avoid danger without ever having sense perception, or experiencing this "o'erhanging firmament." The mind of a zombie or robot is, we presume, empty. Zombies just react. Thus, those that would try to convince us of the lack of a need for internality, or spirit, or a non physical world, are wrong. The physical world can not provide an explanation for the difference between us and zombies. Or something like that.


I find Western philosophy rather tedious. Responses to Chalmers concentrate upon whether zombies are concievable and whether concievablity entails that possibility. I have no idea whether Zombies could exist. I have no idea whether the ability to concieve of something entails that it could possibly exist. I think that probably, in both cases the answer is no. All the same however, I do feel that there is a problem. What is this stuff? What is are these lights, this circle of light that I am experiencing? Why is it there? Why I am I not a "dark" (not even dark, since darkness is visible as a black visual field).


Returning to "Waking Life".


The Nathan Hawke theory, that really *this* that we are now experiencing is really the reliving of a life by a dead person  provides a reason why there should be an "o'erhanging firmament," a "fish bowl," consciousness.


There seems to be some difference or distance between what we experience and "the real world". Enough at least to persuade a lot of people that there is a "veil of perception" or "qualia." While I am sympathetic to all those hard like non-Cretans, that point out I am being inconsistant and self-contradictory to speak of this the stuff of my life, I am equally sympathetic with those that say that there stuff of experience. What the heck is it doing there? Why is there something, like a dream, between me and reality?


Herein lies the utility, or explicative power of Nathan's theory. Get your hands off Occam! The postulation that we are a dead woman dreaming is not only concievable (like a pink elephant) but it is also useful in explaining the duality that many of us seem to feel.


Hold on! What am I suggesting? I guess am suggesting that a zombie, without consciousness in normal waking life, may have the ability to replay or dream waking life, and when replayed the original darker than dark reality may take on stuffness, "qualia," "consciousness". Of course on the the other hand, a life lived dark need not become any brighter when relived. But this, perhaps I should write to Chalmers, raises the question, how do Zombies dream? Do they not dream at all? Do they merely report dreams?


Well, I don't think that I am a zombie on its deathbed reliving its life. But I do think that there is something in this line of explanation. That the duality we seem to percieve may be explained in other ways than posititing a seperate realm of spirit.


Perhaps I will have another look at Waking Life. It was not that bad.

Posted by timtak at 06:29 PM | Comments (0)

Sin City

Sin City is an interesting film. I am not particularly keen on violence but I am a long time fan of Mickey Rourke and I have an interest in hard boiled, film-noir. Another thing that appeals to my structuralist mind is that is that Sin-City is in three or four parts and these parts repeat, share a commonality of structure and device. One of the minority of damning reviews of Sin City - damning of the gratuitous violence - points to one common theme: "See a pattern? Women in this movie are all whores and strippers..." That is not the only common theme.


The most interesting one for me is that all the men in the movie are talking to themselves. The three lead charters Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Dwight (Clive Owen) and Marv (Mickey Rourke) in true hard boiled film noir style spend the whole film nurdling on to themselves cynically, explaining what is going on, and making up for the lack of light. Who are they speaking to?


They are speaking to themselves and the audience and perhaps also to the woman that they love. The women that all these men willingly sacrifice themselves for (two dying in the process) are not only prostitutes, they are


(1) the targets of an enduring and powerful love that tears the heroes to pieces


(2) unobtainable in one way or another (dead, too young, past tense),


(3) the reason why the heroes die


(4) generally silent but often imagined and in one case an avid letter writer,


 (5) violent, sexually preditorial, hermaphrodite


(6) and as we have seen, perhaps the superaddressee of the film noir narration.


Why do heroes mumble themselves into oblivion for a whore-goddess of love? Why is it that, and this is what makes it so tragi-dense, the heroes half know they will never get the the whore-goddess get? Recently I have been born of a son, born on the 30th May 2006. He is called Ray Takemoto. He cries quite a lot, a plaintiff warbling cry that cannot be predicted and seems at times to know no satisfaction. Sometimes the solution is simple: Ray needs his nappy (diaper) changed or more often some of his mother's milk. Often at the same time the reason seems to be general malaise or dissatisfaction with the fact of being born to a world where he has desire but almost no power to achieve their ends. He must have quite a frustrating time. We all must have quite a frustrating time, since we are born "foetalised," weirdly incapable of even the ability to stand.


Our only defense, is our lovability and the volume and mesmeric persistence of our cries. Here in Japan they say that "crying is a babies occupation". To cut a long story short, looking at baby Ray I see Hartigan, Dwight, Marv and myself. The wail has become less of a whimper now and has taken on the pretension of gravelly, 'hard-boiled,' machismo. But it is still a long drawn out moan about how tough things are. Most importantly it seems that perhaps in all cases the hard boiled whimper is a whimper of love. But only Ray - thank you Ray - has anyone listening. Are our heroes doomed to sacrifice themselves selves speaking to the him-her fantasy forever? It is not so bad, since there is beauty in it.


Sin City was, from a certain angle, a beautiful movie. Self-sacrificing, self-narrating men, such as Fabrizio Quattrocchi (a baker from Sicily who wanted to save up to buy a house for his family but ends up narrating his own death) are indeed heroes. But who are all these violent, whoring, silent, hermaphrodite goddesses that the sniveling super-hunks of Sin City die for? I suggest, I guess, that these women are the protagonists themselves.

Posted by timtak at 06:28 PM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2004

In The Cut

Why did two of Holywood's most successful actresses vye for this movie, "In the Cut"? The rights to the book were bought by Nicole Kidman. It ended up being a recently divorced Meg Ryan that played the lead part. But it was panned by the reviewers and the majority of the buying public.


But for me it was one of the most interesting and ambitious films that I have seen in some time. It interested me so much because I think that it is film that... Roland Barthes would have approved of. It is a film that gives power to the reader, or rather watcher, because even at the end, it does not let the cat out of the bag. I will, let the cat out of the bag, as I see it, in a very anti-Barthian way. Please see the film before you read this spoiler.

First of all, what does the title mean? There is a lot of cutting in this film. The is the physical cutting of human bodies. There is the backwards forwards flashbacking and changes scene. But most importantly it seems to me that "the cat" or, since this is a crime movie, the scene where we find out who dunnit, is also cut. We are not told who dunnit, that scene is cut. This is a very brave thing to do. Too brave it seems because most people watching it do not seem to have realised.

The film starts in a bar. Meg and her hunky aspiring boyfriend are having a drink. Meg goes to the toilet and sees a woman giving peforming oral sex to a man with a tatoo on his wrist. She watches transfixed. But not for all that long (it should be emphasised). When she returns to the bar the-hunky-aspiring boyfriend is no longer there. He says later to Meg, "you were gone ages."


The next day we find that a body part of the woman that was giving the blow job is found in the garden of Meg Ryans apartment. The police question her. And the policeman doing the questioning has 'that tatoo' on his wrist.

Despite the fact that he is the person that she has last seen with the woman that was murdered, Meg starts to have a fling with this hunky cop.

Another woman is murdered, this time a medical student. The audience is left worrying for Meg since it seems that one of the three men in her life is the slasher.

The policeman has that tatoo on his wrist, and he seems capable of treating women like objects.

Meg's ex boyfriend played by a typically psychotic Kevin Bacon. He is obsessed with Meg and cannot accept their split. He is also a medical student, so we are left to wonder whether he has killed one of his medical student friends.

The "hunky-aspiring-boyfriend," one of Meg's students is fond of writing essays about serial killers and he is want to attempt rape (he comes on strong to Meg.)

But then, Meg's sister is killed, just after Keven Bacon says that he wants to date her.

Jumping back a bit, we have seen Meg and her sister quite a lot. They are very different in especially their attitude to sex. Meg is miss repressed. Meg is ideally suited for this part because she always plays, very well, the eternal innocent (that is one of the reasons why she is so massively popular in Japan). In this film we see her sexual awakening but her sister, a stripper, is very fond of sex. The other difference between the two sisters is that they do not share the same mother. Meg relates how their shared father proposed to Meg's mother, and how her father left for another woman. This has clearly left a scar upon Meg, who finds it difficult to trust adult men. The proposal scene starts of as being romantic. Daddy dumps his at that time betrothed, to marry Meg's mum (also played by Meg) the most beautiful woman skating on an iced over lake. But later in the film we see the horror version of the same proposal, showing what in effect dad really did do to Meg's mother - cut her up. We see the mother/Meg fall do the ice and be cut to pieces by daddy's skates.

The film builds to a climax where, Meg alone in her room with the cop suddenly doubts him, since he in in possession of the cot knick nack that has fallen from her bracelet possibly when she was molested in the street. Fortunately she has the cop chained to a drain pipe so she can make her escape.

She leaves the apartment to find the cop's partner, and that he also has a tatoo on his wrist. He takes her "to the lighthouse," (a book that Meg teaches in class) and then turns out to be the killer. The killer always leaves an engagement ring on this victims wrists. Meg shoots him. She returns to the appartment, to find the cop still chained up. She hugs him. Happy end.

On the face of it then, we are provided with a murderer -- the cops partner.


But hold on a minute.

Surely the murderer is Meg herself. Or perhaps there have been no murders at all.

On one level, it is surely Meg that is the person that has been chopping women up. We know that she has a thing about engagement rings from her past. We know that she has a scar regarding how her father treated her mother. We know that she is really repressed. We know that she has dreams of women being cut up when they are given engagement rings. We also know that she is one of the last people to see the first victim alive.

All in all the plot works much better if we assume that it is Meg, that cannot express her own sexual desire, that is cutting up women that can, especiallly when they do it with men that Meg silently desires. There is no other reason why the killer should be killing women that Meg knows or putting body parts in her garden. There is nothing connecting the victims other than their relationship with Meg. The first woman clearly riled her, and Meg took "ages" to get back from the toilet in the bar in the first scene. We can only guess who the medical student was, perhaps a girl that had designs on her ex boyfriend. And we know that Kevin Bacon, her ex boyfriend was about to start dating, or attempting to date, Meg's sister.

Meg is an English teacher and novelist. Her theme song is "Its just my imagination." There is a case for believing that, as is in fact the case, the whole thing is the imagination of a pretty mixed up English teacher. 

The film does not let the cat out of the bag. But the discerning viewer should be left with a feeling of unease. Something important has been left in the cut.

Since I am not Barthes, and like film that does have a conclusion, even if the conclusion is unsaid, for me the film did not quite work. It did not quite leave us with an "unsaid cat". I think that there will be more films, mark my words, that do leave us with a plot that we can taste and feel, but that we are not shown. "Big Fish" is perhaps one of them.

Posted by timtak at 07:19 PM | Comments (3)

True Romance

After the first three scripts (this, Reservoir dogs, and Pulp Fiction) Tarantino is sometimes entertaining, always clever duff, but this film is high art.

Some people say that "True Romance" takes a while to warm up, but personally I prefer the beginning. After it arrives in Hollywood and becomes an action film, it is still excellent, but in inception it is perfection.

"True Romance," refers I believe, like "Pulp Fiction," to a genre of novels that cater to the dreams of the unfulfilled. And this film shows use the sort of dream that might-satisfy. But, the tragic beauty of "True Romance" is that, unlike the genre it parodies, it is self-aware: it is aware that "true romance" can only ever be pulp fiction.

The emphasis is on dream. Despite what big-richard-critic below says, super-nerds know, that there is no fullfilment in this world. Like J. Alfred Purfrock, they have been through it all in their heads.

The opening soundtrack by Zimmer, complete with whistling wind, sirens, and a background of Detroit down-and-outs, hangs in my mind as theme for this movie: unfulfillable hope.

The music, and this film, as big-Richard says, crystalise the unearthly hope of those out in the cold, comic-book (or video rental) shop of despair. It nerds like this that show us the way things might have been. Think Wuthering Height's Emily Bronte, who never got to know anyone, let alone a guy, outside her immediate family circle.

Other reviewers have noted the fourtuitousness with which Clarence finds a girl that likes Comic Books and Kung Fu movies, but does she? She is a call girl that is paid to be there. All the same even in the face of that -- the scene on the roof does it for me -- they hold on to the dream.

(Admitedly though there are no women in this film. The only woman is the Super-nerd's anima. )

The rest of the movie is a collection of dream sequences, all driven by a refrain of "wouldn't it be really cool if.." the males could incarnate machismo, 'sell the contradiction'. And the scenes are very, very cool.


"True Romance" is full of monologues. The characters, walking through dreams on their own, rarely really interact. But the monologues by Hopper, Walkren, and Gandolfini rank with Shakespear. Even Christian Slater's phone call, "If you want my movie, Lee, you're just gonna have to come to terms with your Fear and Desire," or the hard boiled cop duo Nickolson and Dime's monologue a deux -- "somthing's rotten in Denmark," -- are redefining cool all the way.

But, just as Cathy and Heathcliff's fantasy on the moor -- they are prince and princess -- is just that, Clarence and Alabama's fantastic journey from Detroit to Hollywood never touches down. People complain about the unreality of this film, but "True Romance" is meant to be that way, at least until until the end.

I think that Tony Scott did a good job (even outdoing his brother's genuius) but I wish that he had stayed with the original script's ending. At the same time, I think we know how the film should have ended.

"So, what say we throw caution to the wind and let the chips fall where they may."

Posted by timtak at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2004

The Ring (A short Story)

   Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed members of the Royal Academy, I present to you today the results of our prolonged research, into that most beautiful and radiant of celestial bodies, gthe ringh, also known as "the ring of fire," or more affectionately "the doughnut of light."  During my talk today I will refer to it as "the ring," so as not to prejudice the issue of its composition. I do not, of course expect, any of our audience to believe "the ring" to be the product of any celestial bakery! But, as you are aware there are still those that believe the ring to be, in some sense, made of gfireh, a superheated cloud of gas, occluded by a gstella-stationaryh planet. However, as members of the academy are also aware, long-range thermo-sensitive testing has shown, that even when the ring is at its brightest and hottest, it is not at a temperature that would support combustion.   

In this presentation, I do not wish to enter into discussion regarding the origin of the ring's luminescence. I will limit myself rather to the discussion of that which is probably the second most controversial issue. And, while, I will admit, the results of this research are not conclusive, I think that you will agree we have gone some way to providing an explanation to one of the most famous, or notorious, of questions posed by the ring: whence the ringfs toroidal shape? And if I may be allowed to whet your appetite a little future, our research may even give some idea as to the constitution of the central, dark core at the centre of our most famous celestial body.

   Before I introduce our findings, I would like to start by introducing some of the theories, which surround "the ring," both scientific and others morecahemccolourful.
   As you know there are several myths surrounding the ring, which is even the object of worship by some of the less educated members of our community. Among the more bizarre beliefs held by the members of that religion, are, as you know, that "the ring is the source of all life," "the ring is the gateway to heaven," and "at the beginning of the world, the ring was a circle." This belief relates to the myth, at the start of gThe Book.h I quote, "In the beginning was the ring, but the ring was not a ring, it was a circle! In those times before the beginning, the ring was the Garden of Keden, the magnificent the perfect." And later on -- I am skipping a few pages, since there follows a long passage describing the magnificence of the "Garden of Keden,h in detail as fabulous as it is preposterous -- the second chapter of gThe Pale Bookh continues,  "Seventeen eons after the impetuous male, Kadam, had fallen, the ring once again became a circle! Yes! Lo! The centre of the ring came down unto us, and there upon from out of the centre appeared Keve, the illustrious female."


   As you will understand ladies and gentlemen, there is much in this myth, which is entirely preposterous. We are now fully aware of the origins of life, by the process of metamorphosis, and the notion that a celestial body at the far reaches of the universe should visit us is utterly absurd. The notion, however, that the centre of the ring is separate from the luminescent extremity, is one, which has gained the full approval of the scientific community. The days when we believed that the ring is in any sense, a "*ring*h of any sort are past. It is now generally accepted that the luminescent toroid, and the dark core are not equidistant. While both the ring and the core are know to be extremely distant, at the very limits of the known universe, it has also been shown from calculations based upon multiple, simultaneous, triangulated sightings, that the core is considerably closer to us that the luminescent gringh which surrounds it.


This discovery has given birth to a variety of theories to explain the ring's structure. Many researchers now accept that the ring is indeed circular, or rather spherical, and occluded, as I mentioned at the start of my talk by another, spherical mass of gdark matter.h


Some have asserted that the core is held in some sort of electromagnetic or anti-gravitational field. The problem with these field theories is, however, that that they fail to explain why the core does not "fall" into the centre of the celestial body. This has lead, as mentioned earlier, to some cosmologists to suggest that the core is a stella-stationary or stella-synchronous dark mass. This gplanet,h it is argued, may be in rotation about a mass of superheated gas, revolving in the same direction and with the same period as the luminscent sphere itself, in such a way as to be held at a constant distance due to centripetal forces. The major problem with this theory is that it would entail that we, and the whole of the known universe are also rotating, with the same period, about a central celestial body. I would like to suggest ladies and gentlemen, that this assertion is surely absurd.


Which brings me, to our research into how the dark core of the ring is maintained in it central position. Our results are both surprising and profound. But first a word about our method. The major problem with observations of the ring are a result of its extreme brightness. As you know the ring is so bright that direct observation with the naked eye, can cause retinal damage. Indeed the ring is so bright that many cosmologists, some of whom are present in the todayfs audience, have argued that the ring is the sole source of light in the heavens, and that all other celestial bodies are not luminescent in themselves but reflect the light of the ring. This would explain why, at periods when the ring is dark, all other celestial bodies, other than pinpricks of light in the region of the ring, are dark also.


Our researchers overcame the extreme energy of the ring through the use of occular filtering. This was achieved by observing the ring from a position deep within the ocean. At a depth of 400 Kfathoms, near the ocean bed, the ring appears to be no more than a dim halo. Disturbances in the surrounding water were the biggest problem for our team to overcome. However at certain times of year, when submarine activity is parlicularly diminished, it was possible to make observations with clarity and precision, to reveal a surprising result.
  Our observations have shown, ladies and gentlemen, that there is a dark line or axel, bisecting and connecting the dark central core of the ring, with what I shall call gthe rim,h the darkness surrounding the ring on all sides. The central core of the ring may thus be held in place by some sort of focused, dark, electromagnetic beam to the edges of the luminescent orb. Explanations for this beam, or line, have so far escaped our researchers but, we believe that further examination of the bisecting line, hithertoo, unobserved, and unobservable to the naked eye may hold the key to understanding the structure of this most mysterious of natural phenomina.


 


By some fortutious chance, in a distant and colourful English country Garden, John, the gardener approached a disused well at one corner of the lawn and, peering down into its murky orifice, wondered why the frogs, that made their home within its depths, were making such a din at this time of year. Partly out of curiosity and partly out of a desire to rescue a frog or two -- gthey must surely be short of foodhC-- John put his hand to the winch and started to lower the rusty old bucket.

Posted by timtak at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2004

Matchstick Men Spoiler

Fortunately I did not know that the film's director was Ridely Scott (a genius) so I was watching without knowing what to expect. Okay so this is a con-film, possibly the earliest genre of BuddhaMovie, and true to the genre, I expected a twist. I thought that the twist was just going to involve Frankie's double dealings and, thanks to the intervention of Angela, we were going to be left with some polly-anna, silver moon thing and actually, it was a little like that.

But also I was taken in. And yes I admit it, I wept. I wept when, after an arguement, Angela, refused to get out of daddy's car. I wept at the thought of a little girl losing her father againg, and just at Alison "I can cry on cue" Lohman's pretty tears.


But it all turns out to be a big con. I did not expect such visciousness in Hollywood. After building up our hopes for patrifillial bliss, the prodgigal daughter, Angela turns out to have been an actress employed by Frankie in order to fleece Roy.

In an epilogue we see her has her real-self, looking closer to her real age, buying a carpet from Roy, who has ended up a carpet salesman. When she asks if Roy wants to know her real name, he replies that he already knows. She calls him "daddy," and drives off in her boyfriends car. For a higher Satori-ranking, should the film have ended there, in the carpet remnants shop of mediocraty?

Okay, sad for the squeamish, we get a little Hollywood treat at the end. We get see Roy go back to his immense while detached home (why Frankied did not screw him for the deeds, I am not sure) with its swimming pool and there Roy's new, pregnant wife. Happily Ever After?

The actress Alison Lohman cries, in real life, when she wants to get let off a parking ticket apparently. She is a good actress. But it is not really her acting that pulls it off. It is more the combined weight of our desires, to believe in children's tears and fairytales of long lost loving daughter, and the fact that Hollywood usually panders to them.

While it made sense, there was nothing particularly slick about this con film. If the film acheinves, and messes with, the suspension of disbelief, it does so because we want to believe in it, we "want to give our money away". What is Alison when we see her again at the end of the film? Both the audience and Roy is not sure how to treat her. Should Roy punch her lights out? Do we want to know who she really was? What was she till then? It is This is the story of a neurotic con-man called Roy, played by Nicolas Cage, and his parter Frankie, played by an ever-effervescent Sam Rockwell. The film starts with paranoid, twitching Roy, fleecing an old couple because, according to Roy, they "want to give their money away". The film charts the way Roy changes when his daughter Angela comes back into his life. Angela is played by the talented Alison Lohman. kind of a confusing moment. But I found Roy's choice kind of inevitable and comforting. He starts playing the daddy again - "Hey, so do you like this guy then?" He asks about her boyfriend. We are back here again, believing in Hollywood, because it more comfortable that way. We could have watched angela's car roll of into the sunset, fade to grey.

Did Ridely Scott want to end the film there? I don't think so. This is mahayana Buddhism at its best. Or the film can also been seen as a successful psychotherapy. Paranoid Roy is thick with phobia's ticks and twitches. Their origin is hinted as being in his rejection of fatherhood. Roy has thrown Angela's mother out of the house when she is two months pregnant. But by the end of the film, he has come to terms with his fear and inadequacy and, embraced reality by selling carpets and bringing up bratts. Wifey waits with good home cooking, bun in the oven and flowers on the table. Perhaps life is as simple as this? Perhaps if we can give up on our "con artistry," it can be?

Matchstick Men darker and more realistic than that. As Roy explains as carpet salesman, he feels differently now. He realises that he too wants to give his money away. In Roy's final choice of fantasy, indeed, Matchstick men is way up there (past Solaris) in getting to the shocking truth of the human condition - we prefer the bullshit. This is a film that speaks deeply about our desire to be in fantasyland, and it is clear that Sir. Ridely Scott is a lot more enlightened than I.

Posted by timtak at 10:37 PM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2004

Solaris Spoiler

First of all I must say that I don't think that Solaris was a very good film, as a film. It was neither sufficiently entertaining, emotionally absorbing, or beautiful for me to recommended it to others.

However for someone that is interested in Dream Films (films/movies that portray life as a dream), Solaris was not only a must, it was also perhaps a first, in Hollywood at least (Solaris is remake of renowned Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's novel). I will explain why at the end of this review.


The plot of the film was not all that difficult. A psychologist, played by George Clooney, is sent to find out why the crew of a space station, orbiting the planet Solaris, refuse to return to earth. He arrives to find only two remaining crew members, a man (Snow) and a woman (Gordon), played by actors that were very good at what they do. Finding it impossible on the first day, to get any information from the two crew members (and an infant that it is inexplicably aboard the ship) the psychologist goes to sleep and dreams of his wife, who we learn is dead.

When the psychologist awakes, he finds that a replica of his dead wife, as she was when she was alive, is in bed with him. This replica wife is precise and complete in almost every way; she is all that he knew of his wife. She does not have any memories that he did not have of her. She is the replica of his memory or dream of his wife. At the same time she behaves, feels, and believes herself, at first at least, to be an autonimous human being.

It transpires that this is the reason why the crew of the space station have refused to return to earth. They have all dreamt into existance the person that they most wanted to meet, who arrive as a "visitor" at the bedside of the waking crew member.

The psychologist packs the first replica wife into an escape capsule and sends her into outer space to die. But when the second replica-dead-wife arrives (with no memory of the first) the psychologist falls in love with her.

This is not enough however to prevent the replica-wife from attempting, and finally suceeding in committing suicide. Realising that she is not a complete person, having only the memories and tendencies that her husband has of her (one of these a suicidal tendency, since the psychologist's wife did in fact commit suicide), she drinks liquid oxygen. But due to the power of the planet (? more of an outer space Gaia) her wounds heal and she is brought back to life.

There follows a period of dilemma. The female crew member, Gordon, insists that the psychologist allow his replica wife to die, using a super death ray that they manage to invent. She argues that replica (in Japan they say "dutch) wifey is not real and potentially dangerous. The psychologist argues that it does not matter, and that if Solaris meant harm then it clearly has the power to achieve that aim in a more effective manner.

The psychologist tries in vain to stay awake in order to prevent his replica wife from obliterating herself but fails. She zaps herself into oblivion.

Before deciding to return to earth however, they find that the male crew member, a spaced out nerdy type, with an articulation problem, is not the original crew member but rather a replica of that crew member's twin brother. The replica claims that as soon as he came into being his "brother" attempted to kill him. So he killed his dream creator in self defense. He argues, rather effectively, that it was not his fault. He says something like "There I was, just come into being, and I am confronted with this guy that wants to kill me (shouting "you replica, you fake," one might presume). So in the resulting struggle I ended up killing him."

Perhaps the two humans, the psychologists and the female crew member, might have attempted to zap this replica but realising that the zap beam has reduced the power of the space station such that it is being sucked into Solaris - which is glowing brightly now - the female crew member and the psychologist go to leave.

At the last moment, however, the psychologist baulks. It would seem that he stayed inside the doomed space station with the two remaining "vistors," the infant and the twin kiling replica.

The psychologist awakes to find himself back on earth feeling pretty lifeless and wondering what has happened. All seems pretty normal however until he cuts himself while chopping veg. The wound in his hand heals before his eyes. It is then that we realise that he has not returned to earth, but rather is in a Solarian dream world. He is himself now a replica. His wife arrives and tells him that they have been forgiven, they embrace, very much in love. End of film.

Despite being directed by the talented Steven Soderberg (Traffic is a film I admire), being produced by the great James Cameron, and having such excellent material, this was a rather disappointing film. While the supporting actors were excellent, the choice of George Clooney for the main part was for me a mistake. A fatal mistake in a film about doubts about the nature of reality, it seemed as if George never really seemed to believe in his part. The set was realistically made but perhaps unecessarily disconnected and claustrophobic. The whole movie was rather dimly lit.

More importantly however, the film did not spend enough time on its own creative orginality. The important differences between Solaris and the 1972 Soviet original, are also those passages that I felt deserved more attention: the final part back on dream-earth, and the character and dilemma of the male crew member, Snow.

If life is a dream of sorts, as Buddhism and Lacan would have us believe, then it is clear that we are not aware of this fact. As I type here at my keyboard, watching meaning appear at the cursor, I am not aware that I am caught in its throws. While I am able to read Lacanian and Buddhist machinations on the topic, and understand, at an intellectual level, what they have to say, I am certainly not wise to the fact that I am a marrionette made of various parts of speech.

So while it was very daring and commendable that Solaris to give give the game away, in respect of the visitors, and still manage to inject some emotion into the dilemma of rejecting a dream, it was a shame that it failed to have more of a punchy twist. The dream world sequence at the end was all too short and the ending (for me) predictable. We had seen after all the space station, with the psychologist on it, fall apart in cosmic smoke. I like my "DreamLife BuddhaMovies" to draw the viewer in and trick us into believing that what we are seeing is real.

The first part of the film, before arrival at the space station, showed the day to day life of the psychologist treating patients, one of whom claimed that they did not feel that life was real. Perhaps it would have been more effective if the space station part of the film was a flashback and that the beginning of the film be set also in the dream-world? I would have liked to believe in the dream world a little more and to have been shocked by its eventuall rejection, as I was shocked for instance by the revelation of "Angel Heart."

Additionally, again from a Freudo-Lacanian, or Buddhist perspecitve, the character of the male crew member Snow deserved more time. If life is a dream, and we are characters in that dream, then we have in a sense killed, or repressed, the dreamer (the Buddha or Id?) that created us. We live as the characters we have dreamt up, and we have forgotten, lost or abandoned the person that did (and is doing) the dreaming.

Again, in the vain hope that this film be remade again or that there is a directors cut (are you listening, Steven Soderberg? James Cameron!) it might be nice if the dilemma of the man wishing the ressurection of his wife be reduced to a subplot and the "psychologist" and twin-killing-Snow, be one and the same.

And creator on a dying space station.

This reminds me of a comic by Yoshiharu Tsugi, the Kafka of Japanese manga. In one of his shorts he created a story of a dective that eventually tracks down a criminal, who he comes to admire along the way, and handcuffs him inside a cave on a mountain. After much trial and tribulation the dective returns to the society, but not in time to get back to save the criminal who has by this time died in that cave. Or again, the wonderful theme of "The English Patient", where a man leaves his (rather maternal) girlfriend in a cave and cannot return in time to save her. If it is the case that the human condition is one in which we fabulate ourselves into this existance, then we have all left someone, the most important person, the dreamer, the lover, the person we seek, trapped somewhere until death.

Returning to Solaris however, the most exciting part about the film was that it came out in favour of the dream. In most films of this genre we are brought back to reality. Solaris ends in the dream and represents that dream as being the place in which we are happiest. In that sense Solaris attempted to be a a very positive film giving a postive spin to the lie which is our truth.

Posted by timtak at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2003

Phone Booth Spoiler

Phone booth is a film about our relationship with our super-ego. In the main we can forget about him, but as we con people and try to cheat on our wives, there comes a time when can feel someone is observing us, someone is listening.

Phone booth takes place almost entirely in a phone booth where the hero argues with his concience made real, and armed with a sniper rifle. But pehapp we are all always in that phone booth, and we feel that there is some "super addressee" who listens in on our phonecalls and even our thoughts, who is with us all the time.


When we are in touch with ourselves we would not even attempt to do something to annoy the best part of ourselves. But sometimes, we have issues and desires that are strong enough to cause a disconnection so that we cannot hear, or feel what our superaddressee thinks of our behaviour. Often this disconnection can continue for a very long time but occasionally, sometimes on a couch, sometimes at the point of death, we are brought back in touch with the view of the internalised other. It is this moment that Phone Booth is effective in portraying. And, as it should be, the hero comes back to his senses, apologises to his wife and the world and weeps.

This is quite a straightforward film. There are few surprises, but it alegorises the structure of our mental life very well. It will leave you feeling more moral and inclided to say "thank you" to your spouse.

Joel the director gave us Flatliners in which medical students edited visual experiences from their lives, and then reexperienced the edits at the point of death. Flatliners allegorises the relationship between consciousness and unconsciousness in the visual field. Phone Booth is set securely in the symbolic. While I am rather fond of Keifer Sutherland, I don't think that he should have appeared in the film at all.

I guess it was the demand of the actor, who probably has not yet gotten over his dad.

Posted by timtak at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2003

Bad Dreamcatcher

Perhaps as a result of my obsession with films of the Total Recal/Existenz/Fight Club/Vanilla Sky genre, where we find out that "it is really all a dream", I was convinced that Dreamcatcher was going to turn out to be someone's nightmare. Perhaps someone had let their "dreamcatcher" fall onto their forehead. Perhaps, a la "Mulholland Dr." it was going to turn out to be the dream at the point of dying of that shrink with a gun to his temple. Either way, I was sure that we would all wake up back to reality at the end.


Aside from the title and the reference to the native Canadian dream catching weaved things, there was plenty to encourage the viewer to believe that we are going to wake up from the nightmare. Even the heros, non-plussed, bantering, never quite suspend their disbelief. But more than this, the cheesy lines (especially those of Morgan and Friends), the overtly borrowed monsters (the locals infected with the alien b. bandits are called "Ripleys"), the scooby doo fan perpetually carrying the same lunch box, and the GUN FROM JOHN WAYNE! THAT TURNS INTO A TELEPHONE! WITH A HOMING DEVICE IN IT! This was really big cheese. It had to be a dream! I was checking for clues that appeared repeatedly, such as the lunch box, to see if I could guess what the dreamers reality could be, after we wake up, such as the ashtray in Mulholland or the gun carrying dog in eXistenZ.


Even after watching this surely-a-spoof, to the world-saving, bitter end and even after finding that NONE of the characters woke up, I still remain convinced that this film is indeed a nightmare, but one that probably belongs to its author. After all, it contains enough of the themes that recur in his other books. This film is Steven King's recurring nightmare: the only sane explanation.


But why? What does it mean? And what of the butt bugs? Are they representative of an Aliens/Misery/Carrie style gynophobia, a sort of gory scatological birth fantasy feared by men with strong mothers? Or is it more down, dirty, and intesticular? I hear that Steven King is somewhat overweight and that eating diet pills prevents the metabolism of fat, causing the sort of side effects that may have inspired this movie. Or perhaps it was both gynophobic and intesticular, i.e. overdetermined, with a bit of closet gay, homophobia thrown in? After all this was perhaps a film about close male friendship and fear of pregnancy, as result of giant, spermatazoan weavels attack from the back. Personally I think that it is probably a touch of dynophobia, with a modicum of homophobia thrown in.


Incidentally, Shyamalan films such as "Unbelievable," give me the same 'wake-up-bud!' feeling.


And as a complete aside, Dreamcatcher bears a resemblance to two rather good Japanese manga called "Devil Man" and "Kiseijuu" (Parasitic Beasts, Parasyte - a fabourite of Utada Hikaru, with film rights owned by James Cameron!).

Finally, I am a Steven King fan and mean him no disrespect. Even if I were right in my analysis of Mr. King, and he were scared of women and scared of being a homosexual, that would in my view be no bad thing.

Posted by timtak at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2003

Double Dreams in Hollywood: Mulholland Dr. Spoiler









David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. belongs to the genre of film where the audience discovers that what they have been watching is a fantasy of one or other of the films protagonists. This is a genre that has seen increasing popularity in films such as An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1962), Angel Heart (1987), Total Recall (1990), Dark City (1998) The Truman Show (1998), Existenz (1999) The 13th Floor (1999), Sixth Sense (1999), The Matrix (1999), Joan of Arc (1999), Fight Club (1999), Sixth Day (2000), Vanilla Sky (2001), Waking Life (2001) and Beautiful Mind (2001), Donnie Darko (2001), to name but a few. These films the audience is shown a series of events and a viewpoint on the world, which, in the last part of the film, is shown to be fantasy The end of the millenium saw a veritable "Plague of Fantasies," (Zizek, 1997) about whichi Zizek has had a considerable about to say. Zizek's criticism of the films in the list above is their revelation of a clear and definate reality to which the hero and audience can return. The truth, Zizek claims, is more unsettling: there are only layers of fantasy behind which, at best, a "grey fog." Incipt Mulholland Dr.

What is special, and wonderful, about Mulholland Dr. is the fact that not only the first part of the film, which is clearly a dream, the second part too is another dream so there is (almost ) no reality to which the film returns. The film is made up of two interwoven dreams, each of which present a different interpretation of the only event that we know is for real Esomeone has died and it is probably a suicide.

This review is intended for those that have seen the film and attempts to unravel the plot. In that sense it is a spoiler, and so I recommend you see the film at least once before you read what follows.

First of all we should note that the film is in two parts made up of the first 105 and the last 30 or so minutes, where the names, personalities and fate of most of the characters change. About this break in the narrative (for the most part) only the actors remain the same, their names, their situation in life, even their characters are different.

The film starts the credits are displayed on a background of a fifties style semi-animated dance. We may later presume that this depicts the jitterbug dance contest that Diane (appearing in the last 30 minutes of the film) won, enabling her to come to Hollywood.

We then find ourselves on the back seat of Limousine cruising alone “Mulholland Dr.Ewith someone who will call herself Rita. The drivers of the car pull up and go to blow out Rita's brains but just as they are about to pull the trigger, a group of youngsters come careering around the corner in two cars, one of which pounds into the limousine killing most of the youngsters and the would be assassin. This is one of three or four explanations of the shooting, or in this case attempted shooting, of a girl and there is reason to believe that most or perhaps all of these explanations are describing the same event. Rita now with amnesia crawls out of the car and ends up in an apartment building that has just been vacated for a holiday.

The film then switches to a scene where a young Jewish man called Dan is talking to his shrink in a diner. Dan relates that he has brought his shrink to where they are sitting since he has had two dreams, both of which figure this diner. He says that what the dreams have in common is that he discovers a horrible face behind a wall behind the diner. Dan and the Shrink leave the diner to go and check behind the diner where there appears the blackened face of a homeless man. Dan falls over dead or dead faint. We do not see this homeless person until the last scene of the film, when it the same face appears to Diane when she blows her own head off. So what we have here is a man awake, briefly, attempting to interpret two frightening dreams in front of an audience (his shrink) only to find that his two dreams were prophetic to face his own death at the point of realisation. The only connection with this scene with the rest of the film is that Diane sees Dan in that Diner at the cash register. This otherwise unconnected snippet is, I believe a hint, provided by the Director to the interpretation of the rest of the film Ewhich bears the same structure. A woman awakes briefly and sees two dreams (perhaps as she dies a la American Beauty), which prophesise her own death, at which point in reality she sees the face. This face can perhaps be interpreted as a glimpse of true reality, in Lacanian terms, the real that lies behind all the facades and diner wallsEin the film. It is the face of death, when the fantasy ends our narcissism turns to dirt and dust.


The film changes to show the arrival of Betty (who becomes Diane in the second half of the film) in Hollywood. Her ridiculously naivety and is alluded to when she is made the subject of derision by two old folks riding away in their taxi. The same couple appear in miniature under the door of Diane's apartment at the point of her suicide. It is possible that they represent her parents. She arrives at apartment managed by an old woman called Coco, only to find that Rita is hiding in the shower.

The next one and an half hour of the film shows Betty trying to help Rita (taken from the name of a poster ERita has no name in the first half of the film) find out her identity, interspersed with scenes showing a film director, sporting a David Lynchian hair cut, be forced by a Mafiosi midget in a wheel chair to change the leading lady of a 50's style film he is directing.

Betty and Rita go the diner. Rita that finds a clue to her own identity, a name that she vaguely remembers. Looking up the name in a telephone directory, they find the corpse of someone called Diane in another, more run down apartment. When they return to their own Rita dons a wig, which makes her took strikingly like Betty. They have a lesbian sexual encounter. And then Rita dreams of a nightclub called Silenzio which Rita and Betty go to see.

The nightclub scene, like the Dan in the diner, is another of the more analytical scenes giving a clue to what is going on. The nightclub MC explains that the show has all been recorded and then we are shown two demonstrations of this fact. A trumpeter comes on an plays a few notes but then falls (or is pushed?) over while the notes, from we now find was a tape recording, continue playing. A woman comes on and sings a Roy Orbinson song in Spanish, with great emotion and it really looks as if she is singing the song. But when two people come on and drag her off stage we find that she two has only been miming. As the MC has explained, the action has all happened before, what we are seeing is an apparent (but illusory) coherence between to streams of irreal events Ea tape recording and people miming. Rita and Betty, who are watching burst into tears. They have reason to; the nightclub is explaining who they are, and what is going on in the film.

Rita finds a blue box in Betty's purse, which fits the key that she found in her own purse. This is where the audience becomes aware that all is not as it seems and that there is a connection between Rita and Betty. Returning to their apartment Rita opens the box only to fall into it and darkness, and that is how the first half of the film ends. It is important to note that falling into the darkness of the box, is very similar to the falling into darkness that we see at the end of the film. We should note that the black face is shown holding the blue box - in other words both the first dream and the second half of the film end facing that monster behind the diner.

The second half of the film starts in the squalid apartment where Rita and Betty found the corpse where we find that Betty, now called Diane, lives. She is no longer a fresh-faced dreamer just off the plane but a jaded would-be actress come Hollywood groupie that seems to having an affair with Rita, who is now called Camilla. Camilla/Rita is getting married to the Director, who she kisses in front of Betty. Diane, out of jealousy hires goes to the diner again and hires the hitman (that we have seen earlier in the film seemingly employed by the mafia-midget) to bump off Diane. The hit man tells her that he will leave a blue key when he has done the deed. She sees the key and goes into her bedroom and blows her brains out.

A number of reviewers have supposed that the first part of the film is Diane's romanticised, idealistic dream and the last half portrays the seedy reality. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the first half of the film is a dream. The film's title might be an abbreviation of "Mulholland Dream" as much as "Mulholland Drive." The logo on the poster is "a love story in the city of dreams." The film starts with a shot of the camera falling into a pink pillow. Betties own words, as she steps off the plane into Hollywood, “I am in dreamland,Ecould not be more overt. Added to that, her over the top kindness, naivety and idealism, her meteoric success (she bowls everyone over at her first audition), and her luck in seducing a mysterious rich and beautiful female all within two days of her arrival in Hollywood.

According to this explanation, Diane, when she is spurned by her lesbian lover, hires a hit man to kill her and then dreams of what she wishes her life is would have been, before she, overcome with guilt commits suicide when she finds out that the hit man has carried out his job (and hears detectives at the door). While this interpretation is plausible I do not think that it sufficiently explains the film, and in particular two scenes: the nightclub scene or the scene with Dan in the Diner.

It seems more plausible to me that the second half of the film, in which we see Diane (was Betty) and Camella (was Rita) fall out, is also a dream. And moreover there is reason to believe that Diane/Betty and Rita/Camella are really the same person.

This interpretation is suggested first of all by the scene with Dan and his psychoanalyst in the diner. He has had two dreams both of which lead him to the same place, both of which forsee his own death. It is tempting to see this isolated scene as a precis is of the film as a whole.


Secondly, and this evidence will only be persuasive to those that admire David Lynch, the presumption that the second half of the film expresses "the reality of the situation" assumes a reality which is Hollywoodishly melodramatic and contrived. Like Betty's success in the first part of the film it is all too Tinsel Town and about as believable. What is some woman in a run down apartment in Hollywood doing having an affair with a movie star, that is about to get married to a famous director? Where does she get the money to pay for a hit man? How would she even get to know such a cold, calculating gun-swinger? In his earlier films such as Blue Velvet and Eraser Head David Lynch is described as being the master of demonstrating the macabre of the mundane. Why would he resort to a reality thick with hit men, limousines and failed love affairs with film celebrities?

Thirdly, in that little piece of reality that we are shown in this film Ethe sordid flat and the death, possibly by suicide Ethere is enough to provide material for two dreams. First of all we are told that Diane used to live in the flat 12. We see the anonymous next-door neighbour, one of only two characters in the film that maintains her identity. She is a rather dikey looking woman in both the first and the second half of the film. In the first half she says that Diane used to live with her and that she wants to pick up her things. In the second half she wakes up Diane to pick up her things. The irritable way that she behaves in both these brief scenes is plausibly like the way that one would expect an ex-lover to behave. It is clear that the two females, Diane and this woman from number 12, used to live together so this draws into question the existence of Diane's other lover ECamilla/Rita. We are told that she picks up her stuff that Diane had from the time when they used to live together, thus suggesting their final separation. It is also quite possible that the girl from number 12 leaves behind the blue key that we see on Diane's coffee table an event which would also signify the death or estrangement of her as a lover. We also see Diane masturbating. That is plausibly mundane enough, but the luscious Rita/Camella who says they should stop doing this seems more like she is part of a masturbatory fantasy.

Fourthly, there is a parallelism between the two main female characters that suggests that they are parts of one and the same person. Further, noting that David Lynch has integrated psychoanalysis into the film, it seems plausible that Rita is the unconscious of Diane/Betty. In the first half of the film which all agree is a dream Rita is the hopeless doting, big breasted beauty that takes Betty into her arms. In the second half she is the equally attractive but betraying lover that drives Diane to self-destruction.

The first half of the film ends with Rita finding a blue box in Betty's purse which fits the blue key that she has in her own purse. Betty is mysteriously absent. Rita opens the box, and with the box falls into 20 seconds of blackness. There are a number of reasons why does not fit in with the standard interpretationEof the film. If we are in Diane/Betty's dream then why is it that it Rita wakes up out of it when it would be more plausible the other way around. It is clear that the dreamer is at least for this part of the dream, identifying with the Rita character. This is certainly a dream, but perhaps it is more plausible to suggest that this is not Diane/Betty's dream at all but a dream experienced by Rita.

Both Rita and Diane take, or are about to take, a bullet to the head. Camella's death, signified by the key on Diane's coffee table, precipitates Diane's suicide. So it is clear that like Rita's fall into the blue box, the key in the second half of the film is what plunges Diane into permanent darkness. Do we need to assume a hit man (who elsewhere kills three people - I will come back to that) and an double death? I think that it is more plausible to assume that Rita's demise is Diane's demise because they are the same person.

We see that both Rita and Diane pick up a name in a diner. Rita sees the name Diane and thinks perhaps that her real name is Diane. Diane sees the name Betty, which is the name she is given in the first dream sequence.

Rita and Diane do almost everything together. We hardly ever see them apart in either half of the film. In one of the rare occasions that we do it is when Betty does her wonderful, and out of character, audition that we see her practice with Rita. In the audition we see Diane suddenly flip out of her Disney land character to give an outpouring of oedipally motivated sexual desire the actor she is playing against is a friend of her father. But later, in the second half of the film we are told that Camella/Rita beat Diane to the leading part of a film by the same third-rate director. We are told that the film was likely never to be made. Did the real Diane really get the part in that audition? Did she allow the sexually seductive Rita side of her personality to win the audition for her?

Both Rita and Betty have a lot of money in their purse and we are given no explanation of how it got there. Even more unexplained is the significance of Camilla Rhodes.

The character of Camilla Rhodes, that we are told so little about, blurs the distinction between Betty/Diane and Rita/Camilla still further. Camilla Rhodes is exists as an overlap between the two characters. Camilla Rhodes shares the same name as Rita/Camilla. But at the same time, Camilla, like Diane is Rita's lover, as is suggested by the kiss at the party. Camilla like Rita is a blonde that like fifties songs. When we are first shown her photograph by in the scene with the man that spits out espresso, the photographic image is sufficiently similar to Betty for us to suppose that Rita was to be murdered to secure a part for Betty. It is to make way for Camilla Rhodes that the mafia take out a hit on Rita. It is to make way for herself that Diane takes out a hit on Rita, who has robbed her of a part.

Betty dresses up Rita as a blonde looking very much like herself in the first part of the film and Camilla is everything that Daine wants to be in the second. Rita/Camilla and Betty/Diane come as pair, bound by an ambivalence that turns from sensual motherly lesbianism to bitter rejection. In the last image of the film we are shown Betty and Camilla's faces followed by the woman from the Silenzio nightclub that sings the song crying for you who says Silencio. I think that she is saying that Betty and Camilla are that night club, like the tape and actors that do the miming, they are both void of intent, fantasies taking place after the event. Like imaginary and the symbolic according to the Lacanian theory, Betty/Diane and Rita/Camilla and only give the appearance of self-hood and authenticity by their misperceived identity. In the end, the one certain reality of the film is that a self-loathing woman, (and with long hair it would seem from her corpse) comes face to face with her reality, the black face and death.


This interpretation sheds light on the blue box and blue key. Rita has the box, Betty has the key and the black faced man in sitting semi-darkness holding them both is the cinematic equivalent of Lacan's Borromean knot. By the end of the film two sides of the dreamers personality have fallen back into the chaos that preceded them.

This assumption throws light on the reason why so many people have to die when the hit man kills his brother, in the first half of the film. In an apparently comic interlude, a hit man kills a man with long hair, who has apparently survived the car crash (like Rita) and then kills an overweight woman in the next office after a stray bullet passes through the wall. He is then forced to kill a third person, the cleaner before shooting up his vacuum cleaner. What was the necessity of killing two extra victims when he only wanted the book of secrets held by the first? I suggest that the triple homicide mirrors the way in which the only real event of the film, the suicide of a woman in an apartment, causes the death of her in her reality (and of indeterminate age we presume that has won a jitterbug contest so she is likely to be older than either Diane/Betty or Rita/Camilla), and the death of her two (alter-) egos.

Finally, the fact that the director is one of only two characters (I believe) that remains in character, with the same name, in both halves of the film suggests a third interpretation of the film that may have been less intentional. The director maintains his part throughout. He also bears a resemblance to David Lynch. Why is this director making 50's films, just like the world that Diane and Betty stepped out of?

I think that this is another hint. David Lynch was born in 1946 and would have been exposed to 50's music and the jitterbug. In his films and in his dreams he can appear as about 30 for as long as he wants. This not something unique to David Lynch, in our narcissism we all presume that we are immortal. As was claimed in the famous lines from the Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles:
"Because we do not know when we will die we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well and yet everything happens only a certain number of times and a very small number really. How many times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your life that you can't even conceive of your life without it. Perhaps four or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise, perhaps twenty, and yet it all seems so limitless."

If both the lead females of "Mulholland Dr." are, in both of their roles, fantasies then "the real dreamer is elsewhere". It is probably unfair and neurotic even look for her but I think that she may be a much older woman, possibly rather similar to
1) The lady on the balcony in the nightclub scene.
2) The psychic that came to Betty/Rita's flat in the first part (whose appearance is otherwise unexplained.)

Further evidence for this is that we are told that Diane came to Hollywood after having won a jitterbug contest. Unless she was really retro then that would mean that she was in her teens
http://people.cornell.edu/pages/kpl5/fifties_one.html
in the 50's and about 60 years of at the time of the action of the film (there are various reasons why it is clear the film is set in the present, e.g. the director's car). This explains to me why the director in the film is directing a 50's style film.

The Director in the film is clearly modelled on David Lynch. The haircut, the rabid attempt to keep control of his film, the arty detachment Ethe guy is just like out of Eraserhead. But why so young? And if he is so young what is he doing directing films about the 50's? Lynch would have been about
the right age for the jitterbug and late fifties music (he was born in 1946). What we see here is a parody of David Lynch who despite being a man of 56, in his films he can be forever young and he is not ashamed to use the facilities that hollywood provides for narcissism to the full, while making a joke at his own expense. This young david Lynch making films about the 50's is a hint. He is like the dreamer that we never see, of the dreams that we do see, in "Mulholland Dr."


I think that this makes the film all the more macabre. Even the Diane at the end of the film is still a lot younger, a lot more chipper than the reality of the corpse and the black face that is felt at the end of the film. In reality, it is only this black face, that was there from the beginning.

I have no idea what is going on with that cowboy but I think that the "you will see me twice" has something to do with the double dream structure that I am proposing for this film.

Addendum
Now that in 2014 I have seen Satoshi Kon's "Pefect Blue" (1997?), I am more confident of the above interpretation. Mullholland Dr. appears to be almost a remake of Perfect Blue and in Perfect Blue it becomes apparent that the aspiring actress and her double are really the fantasy of a failed older woman.

Posted by timtak at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2003

Matrix Revolutions Predictions

Matrix Reloaded hints that Revolutions will be Lacanian


I just watched Matrix Reloaded . I thought it was dosh, but the bit with the architect gave me pause for thought! Not particularly deep thought, but it gave me a clue to where the brothers Wacko are going to take the sequel - in a direction I approve of.

I think it went something like this -


The architect told "Neo" (I hate the names in the matrix) that he as "the one" was part of the system. The reason being that if everyone was forced to take part in a perfect illusion then people got bored and realised it was dosh. So the old bag suggested that all humans should be given the choice, subliminaly at least, of opting into the illusion or being hunted outsiders in Zion. Percentage wise, most humans opt for the illusion but gradually the number of opt-outers grows. And every once in a while a really anarchic Neo/type come along and breaks the system. At which juncture, all the outsiders are killed, and somehow the game starts again. Perhpas Neo makes a new Zion? The Architect said that he would be the seed for the next generation of opt-outers.

Well anyway Neo escapes. But, and here is a big giveaway, we also see Neo stoping the spider monsters when they come to attack down below in the land of Zion. That is not meant to happen. Neo only has special "powers" since he is able to see through the illusion. So? Well it seems to me that answer is that Zion, the underworld, and the spiders are an illusion too.

And indeed, Neo is part of the game.

Well, perhaps this is a direction I approve of because the problem with this film is, from a Buddhist or post-modern philosophical standpoint, there should be no Zion. Or rather, if there is a Zion then it is much more strange than the underground world of rock'n rollers. The Wacko brothers should be aware of this.

Holllywood films demand a happy ending so I am sure that a real world will be found in the 3rd part. But at least it seems, they are heading towards the twist that the "real world" (Zion, Rockn'roll, people sitting in vats of jelly, spider robots) is also an illusion. The script writer was about 13 years old. The effects were okay. The pontificating was dull. But at least the Wacko brothers may have another twist in stall. And that was the amusing thing about the first film. This second part was all a given, and thus only amusing if you like wire work.

Posted by timtak at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2001

Verticle Limit Spoiler

Verticle Limit is particlarly tractable to analysis since the oediple drama is played out in a particularly direct, visual, geometric way. What follows won't be all that intlelligible unless you have seen the film. And I don't recommend the film. But it was interesting because it kept repeating itself.

The film starts before the action proper gets underway in a sort of preface or flashback to a time, back in the good ol' days, in home, in America, in a land of happy familial love.

Three people - the hero, his sister, and his father are rock climbing on a cliff face attached to each other by a rope. In what follows I am assuming that the "sister" is, from a Freudian point of view, an allegory for the hero's mother.

The father falls,

The father falls, pulling the hero/son off the cliff face too, leaving only the hero's "sister" and her piton, percariously attached to the rock. The father says, "Cut the rope! This rope won't hold all three of us. If you don't, you will be not just killing yourself but your killing your 'sister' too." The hero cuts the rope, and kills his father and remains with his "sister". But the hero feels terribly guilty about it, and until the action proper starts, the hero does not climb again. The rest of the film explains how the hero gets over his guilt.

While the film uses "sister" not mother, I see sort of a linearised version of the oediple triangle in this taught vertitle tug of war. It is a rope with the hero in the middle and his "sister" and father on either side. The dilemma it presents is "Who cuts the rope, and where?" "Who should be sacrificed" The same dillema repeats throughout the film.

The "film proper" is set in the Himalayas. Now impotent as a climber, the hero lives as "the only Westerner not interested in conquest," working for National Geographic, shooting off only his camera, at wildlife, in an all male environment.

The icy tundra of the Himalayas, like the desert at the start of the film (or the midway stop-over that is Cassablanca - see earlier posts), seem to represent Moritorium the sitting on the fence, the half-way house of the oedipallly challenged. The rest of the film shows the hero going back to repeat the drama that had castrated him, and to refind his balls.

Once the scene has been set, the action is split spaciallly into four parts - three people trapped in an icy cave and the three teams attempting to rescue them.

The people in the icy cave waiting to be rescued are the hero's sister, a millionaire (Elliot), and a climber (Tom). Again there is a dilemma over a human sacrifice, but this time it is the father figure (the millionaire) that is asking the injured climber to give up his own life. Repeating the line at the beginning of the film, Elliot says to Tom, that by choosing to live on and use up the three's limited resources, he is killing not only Elliot but Annie as well. Tom refuses to sacrifice himself. At last Elliot kills him. This cave, like the caves in the English patient, represents the hero's unconcious. Still locked in battle with his father in the fight for his "sister," we see the origin of the hero's guilt --- The hero cut the rope and sacrificed his father but he realises that he is not able to perform that sacrifice himself. The film never raises the question as to why, in the first scene, the hero did not cut his own link to the rope, saving his father and sister. The question is raised here in the icy cave, as the three teams of rescuers come to save them. Down in that cave, another climber that cannot climb, the hero's double, Tom, is being asked to make the same sacrifice that his father made - "Sacrifice yourself for your 'sister' and I!" But he cannot do it. He cannot make the sacrifice. If this cave is a theatre for the hero's guilt, then perhaps it explains his impotence.
He has rejected his father, but he cannot identify with him, he cannot accept the sacrifice that fathers must make.

Where does this leave him? I think that the hero's dilemma and the options he takes to attempt to solve it, are played out in the others that are camped at the base camp below the mountain K2.

At the base camp, which is a half-way house par-excellence, there are others that are caught, frozen, unable to take a challenge, waiting, impotently trying to get over their problem in different ways. In particular their are the two australian brothers "Bench". (Perhaps this has something to do with the way that they are always sitting around). They are almost twins but at the same time very different. They both seems to represent some sort of oediplally challenged position, one partial solution to the oediple dilemma.

One of the twins "is like a dog, who tries to shag everything, eats what he can't shag, and pisses on what he can't eat." Unable to make indenify with the father and make the sacrifice, he lives beyond the law of the father, but living beyond the law, his relationships with women are agressive, short lived, and barren. He spends the film asking "the woman" that the hero eventually finds as a replacement for his sister/mother, to "blow him" (suck his penis) until he is blown off a cliff.

The other twin seems to be a homosexual, who idolises his lawless brother, kisses him, and enjoys a relationship with another male fixated man.

It is these two brothers that form two of the six that go to rescue the three people trapped in the cave. They are split into three pairs.

They are

Lawless brother and the Woman
The woman, a nurse, is in her looks and expression just like the "sister" trapped in the icy cave. The nurse tries to save the lawless brother (and women are always portrayed as unendingly self-sacrificing in this patriarchal film), but even as he is saved by her he ridicules here, forever making lewd jokes and asking for sexual favours.

"The shy brother" and a man that is looking for a lost man. The two brothers are separated leaving "the shy one" (this is what he calls
himself) to climb the mountain with a pakistani who is in search of his male friend who is lost on the mountain. The shy brother kisses his lawless brother and "his ass good bye" when, laughing and having a drink with his new friend a bomb goes off which blows them to pieces. This shy brother seems to represent another "position" offered to those oedipally challenged. If you can't make the father's sacrifice, if you can't get over your guilt, then you can live beyond the law, or live as a man/woman. This film does not portray this option in a positive light.

The hero and another father figure "Wick" Cool, taciturn, commanding, chiselled a loner, Wick is the the man with the dick in this film. He is a friend of the hero's dad. His function is played out in reassuring the hero that he was right to cut that rope saying "If your father had the knife he would have cut the rope himself." And Wick the dick (exactly the same pun is used another Freudianly informed film based on the book
"Girl, Interrupted") has a knife.

In the climax of the film we have another taught dangling rope. This time the structure is as follows.


1) New woman, nurse, sister-look-alike, replacement mother, target of heros
love.

2) Hero

3) Sister, prone being pulled out from the cave, helpless mother?

4) Wick, good father,

5) Elliot the millionaire, bad father

Five people on a rope. Who makes the cut this time?

There is a subplot where we learn that Wick hates the Elliot the millionaire, becuase he killed Wicks wife. Four years previously Elliot and Wicks wife were on the same mountain, and Elliot made her sacrifice himself for him as he tries to do to all those that are in the cave with him.

At the end of the film, it seems that the hero is cured. His seems to have regained his ability to climb, the suggestion is that he gets it together with the nurse, and he keeps the love of his sister.

The cures seems to be affected when Wick cuts the rope. And, together with Elliot, the good and bad father fall into the abyss. Wick not only *said* "Your father would have cut the rope if he had had the knife" but he did it, he proved it.

But why? What is going on here? How is the hero cured? How is he now able to make the sacrifices required when walking the way of the father?

Perhaps it goes something like this.

In the tug of war of love between his mother and father, he can cut out his father, kill him, choose the mother. But his guilt is immense because he cannot make the same sacrifice himself. He is caught in a land of questions. What if it were the other way around? Could he have sacrificed himself? And he realises that he could not. So he can not move on. He is stuck in a limbo. "If I become a father, I am am going to be cut out, away from the relationship that my woman has with her son." Guilty and impotent he plays out other alternatives, the playboy, the woman. And he fantasises about the dark side of the father that would have had the sacrifice the other way around.

But perhaps it is in that subplot that the cure is affected as a result of the subplot between Wick and Elliot, the two sides of father in the hero's mind. As he gets to know the father Wick he begins to understand why Wick can make the sacrifice.

Both Wick and Elliot are father figures. Wick is the ultimate climber. Elliot is the man with money and power that sets the scene for the action. Wick is not only the friend of the father that the hero has killed but his double. He is the father the father that has lived on in the desert, after having lost his wife. Elliot is father that comes to haunt the hero in his heart, offering him the challenge to cut himself out of that relationship to save "his sister" from having two men and not enough *syringes.* The Elliot and the sick climber fight over who gets to use the syringe.

But what they also find in the icy desert in the Himalayas is the frozen body Wick's wife and the empty packet of syringes that Elliot had taken from her. "Is this what you are looking for?" the hero asks Wick the dick. The syringes are all gone. Elliot has used them up.

When Wick cuts the rope he takes Elliot with him. The good and the bad father fall away and cease to plague the hero. They are unified. In that act, in the cutting of the rope that is repeated throughout the film, we realise that the father(s) have another reason to cut the rope. It is not simply because the want to leave the hero with his sister. The father is no longer a superhero that cuts himself out into the cold. Now he has a bad side. Now we see that for part of him, his wife is already dead, already lost to him. He is also cutting the rope because he has a dark side, a dark side that has already used up the syringes for his wife, that can no longer penetrate her, that wishes her dead. He hero realises that when the time comes to make the sacrifice, the sacrifice will not be so difficult to make.

And of course, the other reason why the cut is easier this time is that their are more people on the upper part of the rope. There is the hero's new mother substitute. All she wants is cash we are told, but it is okay, he gets into her pants and, in the final scene of the film, we see that the hero keeps the love of his mother/sister too. She improvises a song which goes "Only one woman.

Posted by timtak at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2000

Fight Club Spoiler

These social constructionists have surpassed the cottage industry stage, methinks. They have invaded Hollywood with a vegence. But you knew this, because you have seen "The Matrix" and "Fight Club."

The plot - (not for those that do not want to spoil seeing the film).


Based on Chuck Palahniuk's first novel, Fight Club is about a yuppie, called Jack (played by Edward Norton) with insomnia. To attempt to cure his insomnia Jack has been attending self help groups for patients with incurable diseases such as tuberculosis and testicular cancer. At first, the sense of openness and catharis that Jack attains at these meetings, in the arms of a mamoth breasted Bob (played by Meatloaf) enables him to "sleep like a baby". This temporary cure is disturbed by the arrival of a depressive, suicidal woman at the meetings, who Jack appears to have very ambivalent feelings towards. One day Jack comes home to find his yuppie apartment, and all his scandanavian furniture, has been blown up. He moves in with an agressive, sexually potent, Neitzschian who also hates and lacks a father, called Tyler Durden (played by Bradd Pitt) Jack and Tyler enjoy a fight and then sets up a fight or brawling club. Jack then finds meaning in his life from the sense of pain that he inflicts and is inflicted upon by others. The fight clubs escalate to unrealistic proportions when Tyler forms a terrorist group that blows up coporate art, Starbucks Cafes and credit card companies. Eventually Jack realises that Tyler is a figment of his own imagination, his own alter ego. After brawling with himself at length Jack manages to "kill" Tyler by blowing a hole through one of his own cheeks, convincing the Tyler that he has blown the back of their head off. (This reminds me of a story by a psychriatrist at a local hospital, telling of a schizophrenic that was, so it was claimed, cured by a near death experience) ?

BTW I hear that multiple personality disorder is pretty rare, and often brought about as a result of exposure to literature (fictional or otherwise) about multiple personality disorder. There are those "houses" (I think that was the name that they gave themselves) on the internet, that disagree. Anyway...

Like that other social constructionist violence "The Matrix", "Fight Club" seems to have been influenced by the philosophy of Jean Baudrillard. The scene where the hero describes his Scandanavian (annotated with captions showing make and price) furniture and kitchen-ware that shows that it was made by a real craftsman, as signs that represent his self, is very nearly a quote from Baudrillard's "For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign". The film explores, and shows the heros attempt to create and then reject his identity as expressed by his consumption of furniture as signs.

This attempt would seem to be a failiure, since the hero "kills" his free-spirited alter ego, who is anyway at best only an anti-hero, defined only by this attempt to be free of the consumerist social construction of self. Perhaps psychoanalysis tells us that all those that attack the status quo are the most oediple and the least free of it? Similarly, perhaps, the film also comes down on the side of "anti-social constructionism" implied by the final scene where the hero, beside his girlfriend, finds himself, his true self, while the towers of consumerism, in the form of credit card companies, fall to the ground. Rather naff and Hollywood romance, or a pleasingly Freudian conclusion -- the hero finds his desire, monogomous and tamed but potent, in the end?

Links with other films and psychoanalysis(?).

I rather like films that end up pointing the finger at the hero such as "Angel Heart," "Sixth Sense," and to a lesser extent "Seven," (by the same director, David Fincher) and "The Usual Suspects." The climatic moment in each of these films, (when Mickey Rourke realises that he has been doing the murders etc. & perhaps with the exception of "Seven") may be similar to a revealing experience in psychoanalysis where one finds that the enemy is within.

Like Cinema Paradiso in reverse, we find that Tyler works a projectionist splicing sex scenes into family entertainment. The projectionis in Cinema Paradiso removes the sex (kiss) scenes from otherwise family enterntainment, on the advise of a priest. How entirely appropriate a metaphor for the workings of a sane superego. I have argued that the censoring projectionist in Cinema Paradiso seemed to represent the young hero's super-ego.

Some have claimed that Tyler is Jack's id that *slips* sex back into the footage, between the frames, but based upon my interpretation of cinema paradiso, the projectionist Tyler is a revengeful super ego, mirroring the Jack's oediple conflict -- both Jack and Tyler have been betrayed by their father.

The Hero in his "fight club" finds meaning in conflict, in the attempt to destroy meaning -- the enevitable end game of postmodernists and others oedipally challenged, perhaps.
However, these reviews below suggests that Tyler is Jack's id. (I have often wondered about the close connection between the superego and the id, in my ignorance.)

http://www.crosswinds.net/~flatbroke/sight.html
http://www.renaissancemag.com/arts/movies/default.asp?article=1199
http://theteenage.com/Movie_Reviews/fightclub.htm

Other reviews can be found at -
http://www.crosswinds.net/~flatbroke/empire.html
http://upcomingmovies.com/fightclub.html

Main unofficial page
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Posted by timtak at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2000

Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso and the Projectionist in the Mind


Cinema Paradiso is very beuatiful, and good, too good to submit to a blunt analytical knife, but also at the same time very analysable. So here it is.

Cinema Paradiso is a film about growing up to be a man, in a flashback. The film starts when the director recieves a phone call from his mother to tell him that a projectionist has died.

At the beginning of the flash back we find that the projectionist, and surrogate father to the hero as a boy, cuts the sex scenes from movies and "looks after them" for the boy at the request of a priest. This function of controlling what we see, and removing sex from our consciousnes, at the behest of religion, makes the projectionist for me an analogy for the boy's super-ego, the other within, God the father.


The projectionist also cuts the sex scenese out of the boy's real life by preventing him from getting together with the girl that he is obsessed with.

At first the boy tries sending here many many letters but he never gets a reply. The boy goes away to be a great movie maker and have lots of success and girlfriends.

When the projectionist dies he leaves a momento to the boy (now a famous
movie director), a film made up of all the sex scenes spliced together. I am not sure that we ever do get the cut scenes back, at least until we die but the way in which our friend, father, and master of the projector applies a bit of taboo to our conciousness can be found in Cinema Paradiso and my interpretation of Freud.

I think that perhaps also "the purloined letter" of Lacan is making a come back. The projectionist hides a letter from the boy's girlfriend in an obvious place and it reaches its destination eventually. One might argue that there is an overlap between the lost girl and the hero's mother in that they both remain in the hero's hometown.

This film portrays happy tragedy that happens to all of those that make it into the big wide world of adult men. It is also something that the hero of the director's more recent film "The Legend of 1900" was not able to do.

In one version of the film the boy eventually gets back to bed with the girl. This is the version that I saw. I think that I would prefer the version where the boy never meets the woman again I am not sure which is "the directors cut".

The music is also very pleasant written by Ennio Morricone who also wrote the theme music for True Romance.

Posted by timtak at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 1999

Matrix, Lacan, Zizek, the Buddha

I saw the film The Matrix  recently and wondered about how the film could be changed to make it more "Lacanian," or Buddhist.

The first thing that dissappointed me was that there was an ordered reality outside of "the matrix".


That "reality" is a sort of simulation lies well with my understanding of Lacan. But that there should be a another world - where we are all plugged into some alien/robotic lifeform's power supply in rows upon rows of cocoons - seemed definately paranoid.


I wished that the rebels had found out eventually that both worlds were part of the matrix: that the world of the cocoons in the "power station" just another simulation.

And then perhaps that they have found yet another "world" resembling the grey mist (or, to follow the computer analogy, static as shown by an untuned television) like that Zizek uses as an analogy for the real in his use of the novel "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag".

"[they are told]... do not under any circumstances open the window of their car.... Randal and Cynthia start to drive home. Things proceed without mishap as they follow the prohibition. But then [for one reason or another] Randall asks Cynthia to lower the side window a little. (Zizek then quotes from the novel)

"She compiled, then gave a sharp intake of breath and swallowed a scream. He did not scream, but wanted to. Outside the window was not sunlight, no cops, no kids -- nothing. Nothing but a grey and formless mist, pulsing slowly as if with inchoate life. They could see nothing of the city through it, not because it was too dense but because it was -- empty......" (Zizek then comments)

This "grey and formless mist, pulsing slowly as if with inchoate life," what is it if not the Lacanian real, the pulsing of presymbolic substance in its abhorrent vitality?" (Looking Awry" p15-16)

Secondly it seemed a shame that there should have been 'an other of the other', a menacing desiring, enemy/other behind the Matrix. I would have preffered, from my "Lacanian" perspective that "the robots" that seem to be controlling the matrix for their own ends should, I think have been found to have no "ends" "goals" or "desire" but (as the rebel sees the cocoons dissolve into the above grey mist) he finds out that the machines were active only in their production of the matrix, which they made for the "enjoyment" or joussiance of those within it, and as computer programs, found to be not other than the matrix itself. (An agent could say, as he dissolves, "We were only doing for you, we are you,
a tool of your desire")

Thirdly, I would have preffered a less romantic, less "hollywood" climax to the film. That "Neo" should have been able to see through the simulation (matrix) as a result of being loved by a woman outside of it (in that final scene where he stops the bullets) seems the precise opposite of what it should have been. Instead I would have preffered that it had been shown at first that the woman in the cocoon world loved him, and thenwhen he realised that that world too, including especially her, is another essentially narcissistic (since the machines/matrix are on his side) simulation that he broke through "both" matrices. But it was a hollywood film.

Perhaps the hero should have been the "traitor", who pointed out that Morpheus was simply preventing the traitors from having their fun with (in my version) illusory stories of a rebel reality.

While I think that the agents should not have been autonimous I think that what the chief agent had to say about human's being unhappy with the first version of the matrix - designed as a paradise - was interesting... "Unless there is suffering, minds try to wake up" might translate to be an interpretation of the reality principle? Reality is suffering? I dunno, but the film was quite stimulating in a nerdy sort of way.

I wrote the above review in 1999. Now in 2003, having seen "Reloaded" it looks like Revolutions may show that the rebel world is also indeed an illusion. After all Neo has started to have powers in the rebel world (at the end of Reloaded) which he should not have if that world is reality.

Posted by timtak at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 1999

Flatliners and Naikan

"Flatliners" (1990) by chance it yesterday and thought it rather good and very synchronous with the conversation about "Naikan" ("inner sight/seeing") therapy that I had been having with a local therapist the night before. I claim that Nakain is a visual version of Freudian psychotherapy.

"Naikan" patients are asked to sit in a smallish room from 6am to 9pm and remember episodes in their childhood (and to a lesser extent their present life) particularly those for which they might feel grateful and particularly with their mother. In short, they *imagine* the relationship with their mother, rather than speak about the one with their father.



Naikan is said to work well on alcoholics and smokers and others that are affecting their physical health (and body-image, presumably). They do little in the way of speaking about their memories but do report minimally. The act of "Naikan" rather than the report afterwards is considered to be curative. The doctor is a facilitator who says "thank you" and encourages the mental act. There is a Naikan group in Austria apparently but mainly it is carried out in several hospitals/clinics in Japan. In my own view it is only really effective on Japanese and those of other nationalities who have a primarily visual self consciousness but I may be wrong.

Thinking Lacanianly, the symptom is a signifier that has been repressed from (or at least not expressed in) the linguistic symbolic and, makes itself heard, manifests itself in the body, behaviour or, at the very least, gaps in the speech of the patient. Could the symptom also be an image repressed from the imaginaire of the patient? When suppressed must they be said, or can they be curatively seen, relived, remembered?

In the film "Flatliners" four medical students stop their heart, and EEG, so that the line on the cardiograph goes flat. Purportedly they experience death. These experiences were dream-like, collages of visual and audio memory. The problem is that they bring back their memories as visual hallucinations to haunt them even once they are back to the world of the living.

Joe Hurley/William Baldwin (the playboy's) and Rachel/Julia Roberts' (the only woman's) flatline experience were particularly visual. In reality Joe had been taking videos of women that he seduced during sex. He had effectively conned women into giving him images of themselves during sex. After his 'flatlining' he saw the the videos that he had taken, now distorted to contain their accusative gaze, in TV sets and windows as optical hallucinations.

Rachel had seen her father shooting heroine as a little child but had blocked the memory, her forgiveness of her father, and his forgiveness of her (for looking). As a result of "flatlining" her memories returned to her and she hugged and made up with a fantasy-father.

Whatever the reality of (near)death experiences, in effect the flatliners underwent Naikan therapy they re-inspected the images within themselves and allowed themselves to see them all. They re-saw things they had not allowed themselves to see. The experiences are "very difficult to verbalise". They were not verbalised. "I am sorry" is about all the words that they needed re-seeing the vision, and the accompanying release, seem to bring about a cure.

I don't recommend flatlining. Sitting in a small room and going over your past is probably much better for you but it may only work on Japanese.

On the other hand, a near death experience once cured a schizophrenic of his illness I am told, as I have written elsewhere.

Posted by timtak at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)