A little delayed but I’ve been reading up on some of the winners and curios from this years Cannes, and alongside the new Lynne Ramsay, Sofia Coppola, Haneke and Yorgos Lanthimos queasy sounding The Killing Of A Sacred Deer this seems to be another ‘must- see’, apparently proving that Pattinson can actually act;
Ah, the ancient 1970’s, the last great gasp of Hollywood aesthetic superiority, a halcyon period when studios, executives and directors made movies explicitly for adults and (gasp) the public flocked to see them. The core films of the era before Jaws and Star Wars gripped the box office imagination are probably the likes of Taxi Driver, both Godfathers, Badlands and the centrifugal vomiting of The Exorcist, while the directors behind those enduring classics also crafted well respected and influential texts such as The French Connection, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now and Days Of Heaven. Bona-fide cinephiles tend to dig a little deeper with their appreciation of the era, celebrating the cult kudos of The Driver and Vanishing Point, The Warriors, Eraserhead or Harold & Maude, I could go on with numerous works from Altman and Bogdanovich, Lumet or Polanski, but space is something of a premium, and I haven’t even glanced at the science fiction launch-pads Westworld, Soylent Green or Dark Star, or the horror film mausoleums Halloween, The Omen, Last House On The Left, Dawn Of The Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Shivers and on and on and on…..
But the real truffle hunters sniff out the obscure relics, the recherché oddities culled from shredded, mutilated and curtailed careers, films that are rarely screened or were released in any widely accessible format, a scarcity which awards them an almost celestial assignation to the devoted and pious. I’m referring of course to a period prior to streaming services and internet access, a golden hued age of film-lore when eagle-eyed scouts scoured through late night movie schedules, sneezed in the back rooms of dusty VHS arcades and interrogated the classified lists of genre press periodicals, just to acquire that eagerly anticipated Japanese subtitled fifth-generation Betamax print of They Call Her One Eye or an insomniac 3:30am accursed pan-&-scan screening of Deadhead Miles. I’m talking about the likes of Prime Cut, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, 3 Women (just released on Blu after a long period of deletion) Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and The Last Embrace. Maybe we could also churn in The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, Quintet, The Last Detail and Charley Varrick which I saw on a 2:00am ITV screening circa 1986. Yeah, sure I know these aren’t exactly hens teeth when it comes to the current proliferation of material old and new, but back in the day a new Moviedrome schedule or Channel 4 ‘Xtreme’ season was enough to get us cinephiles retiring to our fainting couches like overheated debutantes at a Saharan July 4th ball. So within that period specific context I was delighted to see that the BFI were screening a rare 35mm print of the 1975 neo-noir Night Moves, Arthur Penn’s companion piece to the post Watergate exhausted blues of Klute, All The Presidents Men and The Parallax View, the American body politic ridden with the cancer of corruption and scourged with a post 1960’s ennui, where the fading dreams of the counter-culture were crushed by a resurgent capitalist selfishness and sycophantic social control.
There has always been an underlying threat by the cinematic intelligentsia to reassess Arthur Penn’s achievements, he was after all the creator of one of post-war American cinemas most seminal films, Bonnie & Clyde, a New Wave influenced picture which ushered in a mature era of screen violence and submerged sexuality. It may look a little quaint now but compare and contrast this to the stilted 1950’s studio idiom and this was the Natural Born Killers of its day. I’ve lost count of the articles and opinion pieces in the likes of Sight & Sound which have demanded a new effort of analysis, in a fashion not to dissimilar to how Hal Ashby was resurrected by Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls tome in the late 1990’s. Penn does have a singular thread of individuals struggling against indiscriminate ‘alien’ forces throughout his work, politically left wing he exposes the corruption and power as the nucleus of the capitalist system, while directing a impressive roster of talent including Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Anne Bancroft, Gene Hackman, Faye Dunaway, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and Angie Dickinson. In Night Moves these arcs are supported by a nebulous character study dressed in the genre trenchcoat of noir, a hazy companion piece with Altman’s The Long Goodbye, with some contemporary body politicking perambulating around the genre staple of a missing persons investigation. Weary gumshoe Harry (a garrulous Gene Hackman) ply’s his slightly squalid trade in the blazing California sun, juggling his voyeuristic assignments with a disintegrating marriage, balancing the weary demands of his moral professionalism with a sympathetic yet unfaithful wife (Susan Clark). Harry is tasked to retrieve the daughter of an aging Hollywood B movie actress Arlene Iverson (a gin soaked Janet Ward), her free-love, hippy hangover influenced offspring Delly fleeing the nest to reunite with her stepfather in the Florida quays, a dangerous peninsula where it’s not just the reptiles who may shed a illusory welter of crocodile tears…
Firstly it has to be said that Inherent Vice is absolutely traced from this film, even down to the aura and atmosphere of certain specific scenes and interlocutions, complete with the same listless, somnambulant threat lurking in the barely intangible distance. It’s just one of those wonderfully jaded, bleak yet summer saturated hard-boiled thrillers, with a terrific cast of vivid characters and venomous vices. For me the real treasure was actress Jennifer Warren as the golden-haired, Californian toned femme fatale Paula, I didn’t recognise her from anything else so this was quite a surprising discovery. She is simply terrific as a sparky yet vulnerable creature with a resigned optimism, her garrulous posture shielding a tired of the lies, tired of the – this also has urged me to give Slap Shot a hip-check as I haven’t seen that for ages. As the plot absorbs a rogues gallery of lecherous stuntmen, stoned executives and defeated thespians the Hollywood backdrop angles new light and shadows on the human urges of lust and love, we cinephiles always embrace some meta-narrative complexity, with films within films straining at the boundaries of the illusory, the hidden and the haunted.
The film is notable for early appearances from Jimmy Woods playing – yup, you guessed it – a sleazy, sex-greased scumbag which would go to largely define the rest of his career, and quite controversially a 17-year-old Melanie Griffith as the Lolitaesque siren Delly whose activities would not be permitted today. Like Iris in Taxi Driver her naïve application of her sexuality to easily swayed men is a dangerous sacrifice, an unwitting implication of free-love and consequence free copulation But its Hackman’s movie through and through, he plays Harry with , just shading enough Popeye Doyle was a cyclone, . I’d be blackballed from the next cinephile meeting down at the docks if I didn’t reference the amusing jibe in the film, as Harry mischievously dismisses his wife’s invitation to go and see the latest film from the French New Wave auteur whose pictures were charming the critical intelligentsia of the period, blithely rejecting the proposal with the line ‘I saw a Rohmer film once. It was like watching paint dry’.
Modestly directed with zero in the way of attention screaming technique, and framed from the viewpoint of an ambling dog the film is resolutely low-key, with a muted palette and sense of framing that almost buckles under the weight of its exhausted ennui, of Harry’s dissatisfaction and striving for a moral righteousness in the face of indiscriminate apathy and narcissism. These dour designs award the film with a genuine sense of emotional charge, with two key bedroom set scenes distinguishing themselves as the empathic engine of the entire movie. Only at the end does Penn allow for a cathartic burst of violence, some half-cocked nod to the usual guidelines of moral alignment and punishment for ones sins, drowning such naivety with one of those delicious ambiguous endings which refuse to pander to any political or psychological simplicity. But it’s that narcotic, half-drunk seduction scene between Harry and Paula which lingers in the mind, the sequence which fully expresses the indigo souled of the weary wretches washed up on life’s broken beaches, especially when we’re in cahoots with the future revelations and betrayals of the plot. Prefiguring this is a scene with one of the decades most devastating lines, instantly among the best summations of the era, up there with ‘Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown’ or ‘You talking to me?’, when Paula queries Harry on ‘Where were you when Kennedy was shot?’, he pauses then coldly replies ‘……which one?’;
Right, now pay attention team, there has been far too much tangential trailer action going on around here of late, so it’s time for another double bill to spirit away these wretched sweltering months. For the so-called height of summer season pickings are slim at the moment, although some of that may partially due to my seizure of new releases as soon as they hit the multiplexes. Early July appears to be a quiet period before the next Apes movie, the next Marvel movie and the next offensive movie douses screens with the usual digital carnage, I’m almost tempted to go and see the latter purely for the exercise of writing a review for one of the most revelled films of recent history – but surely like the misplaced David said to his new buddy ‘One billion Chinese can’t be wrong Michael‘. Before we get on with proceedings I think it’s worth mentioning that I might just be a little excited about this, although like the recently announced and immediately sold out appearance of Al Pacino at the BFI getting tickets is gonna be tough. Speaking of Pacino I’ somehow managed to crowbar in High-Def viewings of both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II last weekend – the much maligned Part III can wait until a quiet evening over the next fortnight although I must admit I’m curious to revisit it as I haven’t seen it in many years – so this schedule had a great deal to match-up against when viewed in the shadows of arguably two of the greatest American films ever made. Nevertheless like an even-handed consigliere my judgement shall be tempered and fair, so lets kick things off with a trailer,
I was somewhat mystified by the affection that 21 Jump Street received upon its release a couple of years ago, the buddy-cop action/comedy genre has been a stalwart money spinner for decades of course but when I finally got round to seeing the picture the comedy mostly sailed over my head, and my indifference to Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum was reinforced. Don’t get me wrong, either of them can be pretty good in the right hands – Soderbergh or Scorsese for example – but the frat house inklings of the movie left me a little cold, with only a couple of small gags about imprinintg an adults ability to achieve tasks denied to adolescents raising the requisite grins. Nevertheless the sequel has gone down gangbusters stateside both critically and commercially and I had some time to kill before my second screening, s0 I thought I’d give these juvenile reprobates a chance to bruise the funny bone – besides it was either this or Disney for fucks sake. So the boys are back undercover to smash a drug-ring, this time they’ve been promoted to College from the halls of Junior High in the previous movie, with the same hi-jinks and all the frantic fraternity Bacchanalia that you’d expect in this collusion of bromance and bullet blasts.
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are riding high on the enormous success of The Lego Movie and the are the current kings of the contemporary post-modern quip, a comedic channel which they balloon to almost grotesque proportions in this frequently amusing but narrative timid movie. Much of the praise reverberating around 22 Jump Street relates to its self-aware sequel status, with numerous asides to a knowing audience, with a self-regarding strafing of the fourth wall acknowledgement of how sequels are just re-treards of previous escapades with more money’ and pyrotechnics,plot xeroes with a few more cameos and craziness to keep the media juggernaut rolling. The bromance is blasted front and centre with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill tittering on the brink of screaming ‘f*ck it’ and tearing off each others clothes and grasping for each others genitals, a fact that the screenwriters gleefully plunder with the requisite 2014 homo-friendly gags and situations. Due to the hackneyed plot I’m still a little ambivalent to the series – the cookie cutter inciting incident, character conflict then action beat resolution peppered with a little crowbared (and utterly unconvincing) emotional pathos stands in uneasy embarrassment against the wider chaotic comedic carnage, but I can’t deny the dozen or so belly laughs that the film delivers, even as it simultaneously tetters on the high wire act of post-modern in-jokes and traditional Hollywood story arcs – it’s a weird combination which wants to have its marijuana laced brownies and eat ‘em. You may have heard that the film’s highpoint is the closing credits which sounds like damning with faint praise, truth be told I found some of the more situational material earlier in the film more deftly delivered (evading specific details Ice Cube’s seething police commander is fantastic) and if you’re up for a few beers with your homies then this should suit the agenda, dawg.
Much more up my rain-spattered alley was Cold In July, a gloomy Texan set neo-noir starring Michael J. Williams, the always great Sam Shepherd and Don Johnson who was strutting around London last week conducting a fair bit of press and numerous screening Q&A’s, alas my day job out in the wilds of Buckinghamshire curtailed my attendance at any of the well received promotional activities. As we all know neo-noir is a Menagerie favourite so when this cropped up I raised a quizzical scotch-soaked eyebrow, I’d heard nothing about it before and had studiously avoided any reviews or plot details since. Based on the 1989 novel of the same name by Joe R. Lansdale the Peckinpah influenced patois opens with a blood and brain excreting bang, as terrified farmer Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) despatches a scarf covered intruder at his remote farmhouse. Terrified and and wracked with guilt Richard takes solace in the fact he was only protecting his wife (Vinessa Shaw who seems to be cropping up in more roles following last years Side Effects) and young son, the police reassuring him that the perp was a bad dude who had this reckoning coming, sooner or later. The slain burglar is revealed as a local hoodlum and there’s an unfortunate twist, his convict father Bernard (a particularly grizzled Sam Shepherd) has just been paroled for crimes unknown and he appears to be making his way to their small sleepy town to attend his son’s funeral. A campaign of discrete threats and vengeful promises coalesce with an increasingly creepy gleee, an eye for an eye striking promising a biblical wrath, before a wider conspiracy forges an unlikely alliance….
It is rather unfortunate timing for Cold In July to amble along in its pick-up truck whilst the fundamentally superior Blue Ruin is barely decomposing in the ground, although they stalk similar territory – a gothic-hued vengeance, moonshine soaked criminality, a swampy moral code and fearless exposition of bludgeoning violence – July is the mongrel prairie cur of the pack with an action themed exploitation ending bolted onto an initial neo-noir infrastructure . The films clear winner is Don Johnson’s amusing turn as the colourful Private-Eye snooper Jim-Bob (yes, he’s called ‘Jim-Bob’), it’s not quite the career renaissance of McConaughy as the black helmed pederast of Killer Joe but he’s clearly revelling in the critical attention of his most successful and entertaining performance in years. Michael C. Hall tries gamely to shirk off his small screen Dexter and Six Feet Under persona as a mullet mauled red-neck, but his characters arc doesn’t feel quite dense enough to hang the entire film narrative upon, with a rather unconvincing drive to protect his son leading into more dangerous and fraught scenarios which result in some implausible behaviour.
By carefully considering spoilers the film does dive into unexpected territory around the mid-point which holds hand-cuffs the attention and keeps events fresh, but one can’t help think that the whole framing of the film should have been built around another character in the film which would have resulted in a more tangible emotional pay-off in the closing moments, rather than the distanced closure for a character whom doesn’t earn any grudging respect. In terms of genre credibility however the film has one carefully concealed throw-down piece which comes in the unlikely form of its terrific soundtrack , composer Jeff Grace embezzling the electronica nervosa of Tangerine Dream and early John Carpenter with a synth slithering score which already has the hardcore fans grinning in delight. Cold In July is an enjoyable aside for fans of nasty n’er do wells wallowing in the trough of corrupt law enforcement, of Dixie-land crime syndicates and compromised men whom breach the veneer of civilisation in order to ‘do the right thing’, with just enough queasy frontier cruelty until the next series of Justified is transmitted.
It’s not particularly difficult to see what attracted director William Friedkin to the twisted charms of Killer Joe, his new homicidal and unpleasantly hilarious southern baked neo-noir which opens today and seems destined to stir up a minor whirlwind of controversy for its risqué concoction of sexual violence and prepubescent sexuality. During the halcyon period of the early Seventies Friedkin was fettered as one of the saviours of American cinema, and both his critical, commercial and cultural smashes The French Connection and The Exorcist showered him with Oscar nominations and unprecedented box office success, but as is usual with such icarus like rises an inevitable, incendiary fall was soon to follow. After a string of flops over the next two decades with only the cult crime favourite To Live & Die In LA distinguishing an increasingly mediocre career – one can only assume that his long-term marriage to Paramount matriarch Sherry Lansing kept a flagging career buoyant – in 2004 he saw the stage play Bug, written by Tracey Letts and his 2007 film adaptation of this schizophrenic two hander finally put him back on the map with critical acclaim (winning a Cannes nod in the FIPRESCI strand) and an itchy cult cache, as the psychological horror film also garnered plaudits from the Fangoria and Cinéfantastique crowd. Killer Joe is Lett’s first play, another baking composite of deep south meteorology, panting trysts and bruising violence, hammered through with the literary senses of Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and noir hood Jim Thompson. Lightning has struck twice, as this is a sizzling, delirious and brutal neo-noir, at turns horrifying and hilarious, with a remarkable performance from Matthew McConaughey as you’ve never seen him before….
Welcome to New Orleans most dysfunctional and disgusting sleazy redneck family. Chris Smith (Emille Hersch) is a reprehensible small time coke dealer who has fallen afoul of the local biker gang. Needing money fast he hatches a cunning scheme to have his estranged mother killed for her $50,000 life insurance, bringing his rather dim-witted and hulking father Ansel (Thomas Hayden Church) and his slutty step-mother Sharla (Gina Gershon) in on the deal. These impotent hoodlums hire the snake-eyed, black garbed, local lawman Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey in a career warping performance) for this incompetent iteration of the perfect crime, as the local homicide detective he’ll be the narc assigned to the very case he committed. As always with these affairs there is a catch, as Chris doesn’t have the 25 large to pay Killer Joe up front he instead offers his fourteen year old sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as a tempting Lolita to this monstrous brute, Joe having already taken a shine to the tantalizing teenager, and it’s not long before the double crosses, triple bluffs and barbarous beatings build to a crescendo, a baptism of fire for the Smith family who have severely underestimated the depths of Joe’s unholy wrath….
This sibilating, brooding, rain saturated neo-noir is shot through with an electrifying gallows humor of the blackest pitch, with a mischievous glint in its eye it’s the funniest and most ferocious picture I’ve seen so far this year. You have to salute McConaughey’s bravery, after numerous years in rom-com hell I doubt there are many actors brave enough to conduct such a u-turn of their screen persona with such a disgusting character, he is essentially a steely eyed, psychopathic paedophile of the most repugnant sort, and like every single character in this film their loss is humanities gain. Every single member of the Smith family is playing an angle, everyone is a money driven bastard of the most slithering sort, hell they’re even willing to literally sell their sister or daughter to a paedophile for a few thousand dollars, even Fred Phelps and his malignant brood would shy away from this crowd as being a little too unpleasant for their taste. Emile Hersh who seemed to go AWOL after the rebellious Into The Wild seems back on track and I was happy to see Gina Gershon back on the big screen, she’s always been a favourite of mine and she makes quite the unforgettable entrance in Killer Joe, but the majority of the attention is lavished on Juno Temple as a clear ancestor to both Sue Lyon in Lolita and Carroll Baker in Baby Doll, in a very uncomfortable portrayal of a potentially brain-damaged young woman, she’s the nexus of the fevered lust that drives the film to its controversial sequences that are fairly difficult to watch.
Killer Joe’s major achievement is its navigation of that tenuous thread between humor and horror, Friedkin is a massive fan of Dr. Strangelove and it’s equitable embrace of the hilarity alongside the holocaust, in a similar fashion this film has you doubling up in nervous laughter in one second before some truly horrendous, blood choked violence unexpectedly bursts forward, and it’s to the films credit that when it gets serious the tone appropriately shifts, as it builds a relentless countenance to the final, guillotine edited ending which seems to be increasingly fashionable these days. It won’t be for everyone, be warned that you’ll need a strong constitution to get through this nasty little tale, it certainly helps if your sense of humor tends toward the darker side but in a summer adrift of serious adult fare Killer Joe is like a nasty little uncle you don’t like or particularly trust, but when you go for a few drinks with him you still have a great time with some terrific stories, and a bruising tequila hangover to boot – this is a film that’s worth the pain;
As we approached the end of the 20th century US cinema took a decidedly schizophrenic turn. Fractured personalities, hidden worlds, alternate realities and a destabilization of universal truths propagated the popular culture with cinema leading the charge, upon reflection (heh) it was a minor renaissance of celluloid uncertainty that captured both awards and box office receipts in an appropriately mutilated manner. Consider this list of the most influential and admired films of the period – The Matrix, otnemeM, Fight Club, The Usual Suspects, A Beautiful Mind*, The Truman Show, eXistenz, Donnie Darko, Being John Malkovich, The Others, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, The Game, The Sixth Sense, Dark City, A Scanner Darkly, Eyes Wide Shut – granted it’s a wide net that stretches over a decade and I’m sure there are many, many others, but these modern, urban films are specifically populated with phantasms and illusions, a pre and post millennial panorama where paranoiacs finally got the proof they were looking for that someone’s definitely out to get them, with a neat sideline in narrative surprises, visual acuity and innovation, and a foreboding unease for the century ahead. Such psychological playgrounds are the stock in trade of David Lynch and he seemed to react to these incursions into his intangible territory with an initial pincer movement, firstly to make the most singular, direct and unobtrusive film of his career with The Straight Story in 1999 but two years before that he plunged us deeper into the rabbit hole, toying with the established preconditions of narrative tropes and diabetic (or should that be diabolic?) character densities during his second collaboration with Barry Gifford, Lost Highway is more a patchwork noir than Wild At Heart was a roaring road movie, with its parade of mysterious femme fatale, jaded and world-weary lawmen, Bel Air industrialists and sordid San Fernando valley pimps, it’s the first of a loose trilogy that map a truly remarkable late phase of his career which still yearns for a final, encircling chapter.
The City of the Angels, crucially the location of all of Lynch’s subsequent films, and intense jazz saxophonist Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is being creeped out by a series of anonymous video tapes, detailing an unidentified stalker filming his home – Haneke of course lifted this premise wholesale for his 2005 film Caché. Fred seems enamoured with the odd and off-kilter, both through the creepy minimalism of his home decor and chiefly through his choice of wife, the distant and eerie, raven bobbed Betty Page simulacra Renee (Patricia Arquette) who produces one of the most gently strange performances of the decade. The tapes intensify as the footage penetrates the house, and then something imperceptibly slips, and Renee (who also bears more than a passing resemblance of a sedated Vampira, another link to Hollywood female folklore) is found brutally dismembered, apparently at the hand of our confused and blood spattered anti-hero. Incarcerated and sentenced to death a blazing transformation occurs as Fred transmutes to the usual Lynchian crescendo of blazing lights and throbbing score into apprentice hoodlum Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), much to the authorities befuddled bemusement. Released under secret observation to his parents care (including Gary Busey, he always gets a laugh) Pete resumes his grease monkey job and resumes his mechanical favours for local kingpin Mr Eddy (the brutal cult fave Robert Loggia), seemingly with no memory of the nights events that led to his mysterious teleportation. A more Chandleresque plot then untwines as Pete falls for the most dangerous blonde since Stanwyck retired her sunglasses (check out the hairstyles), as Renee seems to inexplicably return to the corporeal world as the blonde quaffed Alice Wakefield, the coolly provocative girlfriend of Mr. Eddy, and a plot to extricate her from his clutches is mooted following an inevitable and unavoidable seduction. But what the fuck happened to Jeff? Are Alice and Renee related or the same spirit? And just who the fuck is that Mystery Man and what the fuck is he filming?
The first thing to say that this was a French print of the movie which caused some muffled grumbling when this supposed imposition was announced, as the BFI audience would have to endure the unimaginable agony of watching a movie with gallic subtitles – naturally this didn’t in the least distract from the nefarious thrills on offer and I forgot they were there after the first few minutes, such was the films overwhelming, oppressive power. I recently (and mildly) criticised Wild At Heart for being too loose and unstructured for my palette, for being a fun but surface collection of vignettes without any overarching rhyme or reason but Lost Highway sublimely emits echoes and reverberations that ricochet throughout the film, like some sort of deranged psychological echo chamber, mustering undefined queries and questions as the parallel plot strands chaotically collide in the film’s final conjectural conclusion. Any attempt at a solid, unimpeachable analysis is a hopeless task and that for me is the films ultimate triumph, like the next two movies in the trilogy you make of this tale what you will, as armchair detectives there are certainly enough clues and hints to construct your own mental picture of what you believe is happening and what has occurred, a conscious design that polymorphs the film into more of a feeling than a story, an atmosphere versus fable, images, sound, pacing and mood forging a memorable, uncomfortable, puzzling yet rewarding cinematic experience. I happen to ‘read’ it as the last desperate convulsions of a sweltering brain awaiting several thousand white-hot volts of searing electricity in the death chamber, anticipating a plunge into a gibbering, Gehenna tainted ether but that’s just me. Here’s Lost Highway’s sense of suburban romance;
There are two revelations that this Lynch marathon has revealed to me so far, the first being just how much fucking permeates Lynch’s films – and I use that word in its animalistic, uncontrollably driven with physical desire sense of the word rather than its vulgar, ugly permeation – it’s hardly surprising given how closely sex and fantasy, unconscious drives and bubbling motives drive the human condition which Lynch consistently taps, Zizek calls it as a metaphor of suburban ennui which I guess is one of many potentially lucid, rich and risqué observations. The second was the volume of references, allusions and celebrations of Hollywood as the dark belly of an intangible, ghostly, literal ‘Tinseltown’, the likes of Tarantino and his ilk can be groan inducingly obvious with their bludgeoning innuendos but Lynch submerges these celebrations in the unconscious depths of his films, like a cultural iceberg the surface only displays a fraction of the swirling genre influences, iconography and character tropes that are assimilated, perverted and transformed throughout his work. Case in point is the climax of Lost Highway, where Fred/Pete is sexually, mentally and narratively driven to a remote cabin that is precariously perched on sticks by the shore – a perilous structure that is awaiting to be engulfed by the nectarine waters of the id – a cognitive phantom that is inevitably consumed in an ego ignited conflagration which is a clear allusion to the spastic climax of Kiss Me Deadly, one of the all time great noirs which from its title alone you can thrust a comma into the premise and alter all potential preconceptions of the movie. Whereas 1955’s concerns was the catastrophic unleashing of a howling radioactive exterior, the Pandora’s box of a potential hot / cold war nuclear annihilation, by 1997 this exterior threat was internalized and swamped with interior terror, the seething unease of provincial psychosis.
One break from the norm was Lynch’s unusual choice of soundtrack, his usual sonic scribe Badalamenti was involved but Lynch also enlisted Trent Reznor to compose some nervous soundscapes to complement the initial creeping terror of the film, also successful for me was the Bowie opening piece, a Lou Reed track, and the Manson montage presented below (I’m not a Manson fan but that track works brilliantly in the film), less effective is the crashing Rammstein vortex of dreary doom metal and the now clichéd (Spoilers / Nudity!) Song To The Siren sequence but to be fair that may well be the first time that track was deployed and I can’t decouple myself from its subsequent, horrific movie insertions – I used to quite like that track. I’m not going to link to much background material as the clock is ticking and I have a mildly connected, exciting B-Movie documentary to view (and subsequently review, yup I got a screener) but here is the (sadly missed) David Foster Wallace article that I’ve not read yet, by reputation its a great piece but I didn’t want to prejudice my thoughts. Finally, hey maybe Fred evaded the Feds at the end of the movie and made it back to Hollyweird, suffered another disintegrating transformation and found him/herself cruising Mullholland Drive…
*Hey, it won the fucking Oscar OK so someone liked it….