Sword of Doom:
Well holy shit.
I was impressed by this movie, but it was the very end that ended up making it my favorite Japanese film of all-time.
And not because it's a 7 minute bloodbath. It's what the 7 minute bloodbath does for the subplots.
At first, I thought the subplot was weak. Younger brother of dude Ryunosuke killed wants revenge. He's the counterforce to the evil of Ryunosuke. Weak but cool. I was interested to see how the showdown would go. I thought the build-up to the showdown was weird. That we focused on Ryunosuke for 25 min only to start following a bunch of other characters who were randomly introduced...it all seemed so...plotted. Like we weren't watching the other characters because their individual stories were worthwhile, we only switched to them to advance the story along. That's before I realized Omatsu was the girl from the beginning of the movie (with the Old Man). And that the young samurai was the younger brother of Utsuki. There was resonance and relevance now. They were characters that didn't just appear but were necessary to show the consequences of Ryunosuke's killing, same with how he now lives with Hama. Ryunosuke didn't just affect their lives, he shifted entire trajectories: destiny mutilated.
The real power is that this is a monster movie. Ryunosuke is a demon. Not in reality. But from what we see. His introduction is him appearing after an old man pray's for death. 1. That's a fucking awesome intro. 2. He kills the old man, thus assuming the mantle of death. The guy's eyes are...terrifying. Are voids. He smiles after he kills. In the first 15 minutes we see him kill a helpless old man, rape a woman (sort of), break a promise, and kill the husband of the woman he sort of raped. Later he murders her and either kills his kid or leaves his kid to die, or does something: at the very least: he abandons his son. Until the last scene, the dude has maintained a loose grip on his humanity, showing moments where he is, indeed, a person, a psychopath, but still a person who is guided, in some sense, by a code of ethics. Then he loses his mind. And we see that even when he is insane and wounded, he is still...how do I put this...lethal doesn't do it justice...nor does Insanely Powerful...the adverb weakens the description...Hm...What we see is when Ryunosuke's mind is gone, the body is still operational, that the body is REACTING with grace and skill, that this being does possess tremendous ability, but that this ability is tainted, is, as Shimada says earlier in the movie, evil--"Evil mind. Evil sword."--and we understand that Ryunosuke's mind had somehow contained this evil, had directed it, but now it was out, unleashed, FLOWING, and, as far as we will ever know: unstoppable.
That's what's glorious about how the film ends. Sure, the director thought he would make a trilogy, or at least a sequel, so ending there was a choice to entice people for the next part, which is why many of the plot points aren't wrapped up. Except there is no sequel. We can view the plot of the movie with the director's intent in mind. Or we can ignore it. And analyze the movie as it is. And take away from the movie what we can take away FROM THE MOVIE. Not from any outside sources. And what we see isn't a subplot incomplete because there was going to be a sequel that completed it. No. What we see is that Utsugi's plot to kill Ryunosuke is pointless. Will never work. No matter how proficient Utsugi is at the one attack that could possibly defeat Ryunosuke...Ryunosuke no longer exists. All that exists is the evil of the man. Ryunosuke has become, as Geoffrey O'Brien states in his essay for Criterion, "a force of nature." It's terrifying and amazing all at once.
Which means the entire subplot, all the wishes and hopes of the other characters--Utsugi, Omatsu, Uncle Shichibei, all those punk swordsman Ryunosuke had joined with, Shimba--all of them revolve around the annihilation of Ryunoskue. The punk swordsman need him out of the way so they can lead the group. Shimba needs Ryunosuke dead because Ryunosuke will come for him (though, Shimba is part of the ghost crew that's taunting Ryunosuke at the end of the movie...the crew is made up of the Old Man, Hama, and Shimba...two of those people we saw Ryunsokue kill...does that mean Ryunosuke has, in the time between parts 2 and 3, killed Shimba? or is it just Shimba's skill and words that haunt Ryunosuke?). Utsugi needs to kill Ryunosuke to avenge his brother. Omatsu needs Utsugi to kill Ryunosuke because she loves him. And Uncle needs Utsugi to kill Ryunosuke so Omatsu can marry Utsugi because Uncle is a father figure and wants to see Omatsu happy. Except NONE OF THESE THINGS WILL COME TRUE. The Sword of Doom acts just as it is described. All these hopes, all these wishes, for happiness, for ascendancy, will fall to Ryunosuke's blade.
What a fucking incredible plot.
Letter Never Sent:
Whoa. One of the best movies I've ever watched. In terms of shot selection and narrative cohesion and escalation: insane.
We're all taught in school the types of narrative conflict:
human vs. human
human vs. nature
human vs. society
human vs. self
This movie takes "Human vs. Nature" and "Human vs. Self" and blends them until there is no difference. On the macro-level, the characters are going against nature. And there are personal issues each character is dealing with. But their personalities and how they view themselves and what they want for themselves end up impacting the narrative of "Human vs. Nature". Sergei is passionate, hot-headed, he charges into a forest fire and gets crushed by a tree. Alexei is a romantic and sacrifices himself so the other two can continue on. It's then that Kotsya gives his speech.
"We have no food, and we're tired. We're in desperate straights. But we must say no to weakness. No to faintheartedness. No to despair. But to our boundless faith--yes. Yes! Yes! Yes! (with the "yes" echoing from the mountains). There, now sleep. And dream of a wide river. And a raft. And us rushing to someplace where there are people. Sleep."
Tanya can't say no to despair. Just like with Sergei's passion (which had dominated the first part of the movie) showing up as fire in the forest, and Alexei's romantic's wry sadness for what has been and could have been appearing as rain and smoke, Tanya's despair arrives in the form of winter. She caves to the wind and snow. Leaving the indomitable Kotsya to trudge on.
This is the ultimate fusion of "Nature" and "Self".
At the beginning of the movie, we're told the diamonds are Nature's secret. The scientists find the diamonds and steal the secret. Humans have bested nature. In the remainder of the movie, Nature gets even. Nature steals the treasure of life from three characters. What Kotsya shows us is that Humans can be as forceful as Nature. But only if we're controlled.
That control plays into to another subplot. Scientific Mind vs. the Emotional Mind. All four characters are scientists. All four have to think and act rationally for this trip to work. In the beginning, the characters are on a science trip and we see how their underlying emotions flare up. It's like trying to hold light in your fist. You can't help some shining through. When the forest fire hits, there's a switch. The scientific mind is overwhelmed by the flight-or-fight mind, the survival mind. We see how Sergei snaps and goes rushing off without thinking. The other characters want to panic as well. Going back to the fist and light analogy. The movie opens with the fist firmly clenched, and we see the light that leaks through. When the fire hits, the fist opens. And we spend the rest of the movie watching the characters trying to close their open hand, to take hold of their emotions and bring back the scientific mind, the resourceful mind, the mind of someone who won't be overwhelmed or overtaken. Only Kotsya is able to do that.
I've never seen a movie better demonstrate the duality of the human mind. Nor have I seen a movie better capture what it's like for scientists/academics. Nor have I seen a better survival movie.
Again, structurally and thematically, I don't know if I've ever watched or read a better constructed and executed narrative.
Ballad of a Soldier:
If I only had one word to describe this movie: charming.
Alyosha is such a good kid. I haven't watched many Russian movies, but both this and Alexander Nevsky go about showing an idealized hero. In Nevsky it's the heroic warrior. In this it's a more romantic hero, someone who is a hero off the battlefield, who doesn't exploit his on-field courage, or think he's better than civilians. I wanted the dude to be my friend.
The story isn't anything special. Typical Odyssey-style plot where there's a main destination and along the way side missions. The charm is in how Alyosha carries himself. How he's constantly doing the right thing. And the movie does a great job of showing the Russian people. It made me feel Russian pride. I'm not Russian.
I think everyone who has written about this movie talks about how gorgeous it is.
Choosing not to show how Alyosha died was a good choice. He just...goes off in the truck and that's the end of it. He becomes an Everysoldier, representing all the lost young men of Russia. It's a beautiful way to honor the fallen.
I think there's a lesson with Shura. She lies because she's scared. Then she doesn't admit the truth until the very end. And by the end...the two don't even have time to share a kiss, something I think will haunt both of them for the rest of their lives. Sure, they had the great connections and that's a wonderful thing, but... I know there are girls I wish we had shared one kiss, just one. Just so that I can live a life where I have that experience. Shura and Alyosha could have shared that. If she had spoken sooner. Speak, poor souls who fear silences. Speak.
Some Like it Hot:
I'm really torn on this movie. I GET why it's famous. It made me laugh a ton. I see now how influential this movie has been: Dumb & Dumber owes its entire plot to this Hot. Jack Lemmon was great. Ray Liotta was great. Marylin DEPRESSED THE SHIT OUT OF ME.
1. Monroe died 3 years after this movie. From an accidental or purposeful, no one knows, OD. We know she had a rocky personal life. Multiple marriages. Affairs. Self-esteem issues. She wasn't the most stable girl. AND SHE HAD ALCOHOL ISSUES. Watching her play this character, Honey...Honey led this double life where she seemed so beautiful and alluring when she performed but was a man-needy, alcoholic wreck behind the scenes...It was too close to real life. I could see right through the character and just see how sad and broken Marylin was. It would be different if Marilyn had lived another 30 years. But she didn't...
The modern comparison would be like...2007 Britney Spears doing this movie. Or Lindsay Lohan. It's just fucking sad.
Or Heath Ledger playing a charming actor who had a bad drug addiction.
2. The love story is the most bullshit thing I've ever watched. How can anyone be happy? Okay, okay. Joe is a pretty good guy. Except he is sort of flippant with women. Then he turns total asshole and exploits Honey's horrible history with men, her desperation to meet someone who will support her, by posing as a millionaire. Then he seduces her by forcing her to seduce him. It's one of the ugliest things I've ever seen. That she's THAT desperate is ugly. I get there are women who are just as desperate, so it's realistic. It's just...ugly. And Joe gets this. He feels bad. He tries to do right by her. But her reason for running off with him is: "I told you, I'm not very bright." There's this negative self-awareness. Honey sees herself as an idiot. She sees herself as not worth that much. She's SO DEPENDENT. And our happy ending for her is to be dependent on Joe. Someone who exploited her low self-esteem. Will he build her up now? Will she just smother him because she's that desperate?
Again, I think this is an accurate portrayal of how some guys and girls are. There are desperate people in the world who need support from someone to give them the validation they need to feel an ounce of confidence. That's fine. They do what they have to do. I just think for Marilyn Monroe to play this character...it's sad sad sad sad sad.
There's no character growth for her, there's just a shift in circumstances.
The movie makes me happy and horribly sad at the same time.
I find very few things easier to watch than Audrey Hepburn. To me, she's art. With that said, I don't find her acting...to be amazing? She won an Academy Award for this. For Best Actress. She's as charming as a snow leopard cub, I get that appeal. Okay, wait, let me try this again.
I think Audrey Hepburn is a great actress, until she gets melodramatic. When she had outbursts in Breakfast at Tiffany's it felt off to me, too calculated, too "This will be dramatic!" The same thing here when she has her "panic attack". I get why there's a panic attack. I'm not complaining about the action, just about how she goes about acting the action. She earns no empathy from me, and she should. I'm perfectly willing to give it.
When Hepburn isn't going over the top, I think she's wonderful. Her face as she's trying to find the shoe under her dress, when she thinks Joe's hands been bitten off, when they're brawling at the docks. All the subtle stuff, all the small things, I think she's fantastic at. But those big moments...
The only other Gregory Peck movie I've watched is To Kill a Mockingbird. Quite the shock to see Attichus gambling and then trying to exploit a Princess.
The narrative structure is what every writer should idolize. I believe narratives should end with the creation of an emotion that hasn't occurred yet. For No Country for Old Men, it's the realization you've grown old and death isn't so far away. In Fight Club, it's freshness and clarity. In Groundhog Day, it's joy at being alive. In Seven Samurai, it's...so many fucking things; what an ending that movie has.
In Roman Holiday, we have a guy who is concerned with money and a girl who is sheltered and overwhelmed and wants a break. What they share in a single day changes their outlook. In those final scenes, the last thing on Joe's mind is money, and Ann is no longer sheltered. Each had lived behind a shield. He stole her shield, she stole his. He activated her nerves, she activated his. His heart woke up her heart and her heart woke up his heart. We start with emotional isolation, we build to emotional connection, then we end by unfastening the connection and watching two people drift away from each other. What we're seeing is plot as a means of creating emotion. We're not seeing plot created to solve conflict. We're seeing conflict created to make characters feel, and thus make the viewer feel. I think a lot of writers today, in fiction and film, forget that.
I love this movie. Really, the entire series. It's a guilty pleasure. The dancing is usually awesome. There are attractive girls to watch. And the plots are pretty solid, if recycled.
This is my...third time watching this movie? What strikes me now is how this movie has pretty much foreshadowed Channing Tatum's acting career.
He had had bit roles until 2006. Then he got to be the pretty boy who can't tell Amanda Bynes isn't a man in She's the Man. It's a main role, but he plays the object of desire. There's not much depth. In Step-Up, Tatum finally got to act. He got to play a character. Show emotion. Show character flaws and character growth. And he did it. But no one was saying "OH WOW TATUM IS THE NEXT GREAT ACTOR" the way they've said "Dane DeHaan could win an Oscar one day", or "Andrew Garfield is gorgeous and a tremendous actor". There wasn't that instant recognition of talent. Or even money-making. But Tatum worked.
In 2009, he had another "big" movie. Fighting. Which is a movie ruined by Terrence Howard doing the stupidest voice of anyone ever in a movie. But there is a power bomb. So that helps. I don't think the movie is as good as it could have been, but I don't think it's terrible.
2009 also saw Tatum in Public Enemies and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Okay, okay. He was killed in the opening scene of Enemies, but he went from being in movies where he can't tell Amanda Bynes is a girl to being in a blockbuster with Johnny Depp and post-Dark Knight Christian Bale. There's another step. G.I. Joe is one of the worst movies I've ever watched, but not because of Tatum.
Finally, after years and years and years of struggling and working hard, 2012 hits. Tatum gets to be in a Soderberg movie. He gets to do comedy for, really, the first time, in 21 Jump Street. He's in The Vow and Magic Mike. Those are levels of character and drama and fun he wasn't reaching before. He's stepped it up. And you know what, if you read this interview, you see it was a lot like Step Up. Hill wanted Channing for Jump Street. Channing didn't know how to do comedy, so was nervous, but could do action, and the movie blended both. Hill taught Channing comedy stuff, Channing taught Hill action stuff. The movie was a huge hit. And now Tatum is getting RESPECT. It's just like Step Up.
Tatum has worked hard, too. I can't find the interview I read when Jump Street came out (this sort of says the same thing), but in it, Tatum said he's very aware he shouldn't be where he is. He got an opportunity because he looked good. He wasn't an actor. Didn't know how to act. He's still very self-conscious about it. He still works with his acting coach, every day. For every movie. The dude hasn't relaxed. He was scared about Jump Street because he didn't know how to do comedy. Then he rocked it. Why? Not because he's naturally hilarious, but because he learned and worked. And he does the same thing in....YUP! Step Up.
Really, his real life is almost exactly like what a Step Up sequel would be. He married his love interest from Step Up. At the end of the movie, the Big Dance Company Woman wants to know more about him. Hollywood big shots felt the same way. And what happened? After a few years of operating in the professional industry, he broke out. A Step Up sequel would do the same thing just in the dance world. He would be a professional but not good enough yet, full of talent but not refinement, and then he'd put in the hard work and do a tremendous dance number and become the star everyone expected.
That was 2012.
I forgot how hot Drew Sidora is.
Short Film Roundup: The Woman Who Powders Herself; There Will Come Soft Rains; Everything Will Be OK:
I'm leaving for a week (sorry Modig), but I thought I'd slip in some of the shorts I've watched this week. Maybe I'll start doing this every week.
First is The Woman Who Powders Herself, which is hands down one of the greatest animated shorts I've ever witnessed. The tag team of Patrick and Michèle Bokanowski (director and music composer, respectively) make a disgusting and captivating short film. Featuring a woman who powders herself, yet wears a mask, The Woman is all about deformity and self-image, with meticulously wicked lighting and sound work to boot. Very creepy, very awesome.
Second is There Will Come Soft Rains, the 1984 animated short by Russian director Nazim Tulyakhodzhayev. Based on a short story by Ray Bradbury, Tulyahodzhayev takes a somewhat simpleminded metaphor and shapes it into a full-blown travesty of apocalyptic proportions. He goes beyond the hokey idea of our continued attachment to technology and shapes a tale where technology has literally substituted the human soul. A bird swoops in for a dazzling scene of animated beauty that recalls just how mindless and consuming addiction to technology can truly be.
And finally we Everything Will Be OK, perhaps the cult-gathering Don Hertzfeldt's most famous short film. It's my first experience of his work and he didn't disappoint. Anyone who claims it borders on hokey is missing the point: this film is a heart-wrenching capture of the fragility of life and how easily our perceptions of it are altered. Part of a trilogy of films now titled It's Such a Beautiful Day.
Berberian Sound Studio:
Touches of Blow Out and Giallo combine for a pretty trippy film about the power of sound and horrors of isolation.
I wouldn't call it a Giallo film, but the obvious Argento influences are there. Quite a bit of Hitchcock in there too. On the horror front, this packs a lot of goodies: slow and brooding shoots, constant enigmatic foreshadowing, amplifying of disgusting sounds, and not a single kill to elicit the horror. But most importantly: the ability to isolate the main character.
Hitchcock once said:
"If it's a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on."
For a film that's occupied with the idea of sound and how it functions in film, this quote doesn't exactly apply to Berberian Sound Studio. Instead, director Peter Strickland reshapes this idea and creates a language barrier between Gilderoy and his co-workers, which translates to a masked contempt for the horrors of filmmaking. For Gilderoy, it's the sounds he creates, from the cutting of watermelons to the ripping of tomatoes from their stems, which respectively capture the sounds of guts being spilled and hair being pulled from scalp. His tedious work ethic is not matched for any sort of passion for his artwork, instead consuming himself over trivial matters such as receiving reimbursement for his plane ticket. All of these mindnumbing factors slowly build to a quiet crescendo of a third act that culminates in the ultimate deconstruction of sound: it disappears completely, replaced by a Spanish-speaking Gilderoy, who gains confidence and a new vigor alongside his crew.
This seems to be Gilderoy sacrificing himself and his morals to gain acceptance in the film business, abandoning his rebuttal to the sick demonization of women put on display by the director and choosing to engage in horror's most disgusting features. It becomes a bit of a meta experience at this point: a film within a film about a man whose passion has been both extinguished and reignited. Gilderoy himself begins to appear on screen, which is a shocking moment for a film that refuses to show the film within Berberian being constructed. All we get are the crunching of fruits and vegetables, the clanking of chains, and the screaming of women. It's pretty impressive how the psyche and the physical labor are combined in these instances, displaying how the tediousness aids in the deconstruction of the mind.
Holy balls, this was fucking great. One of those rarely seen horror gems that's been cast aside since its release in the 80s, probably because it so brazenly resembles Gremlins.
While it's a great film, it's utter bullshit that Gremlins so easily stands the test of time because of its social commentary. The Gate is super homegrown, pertaining to a couple of individuals and their shared fears. And it doesn't quite own the same hyperbolic level of horrible acting and ludicrous concept to attain a brand new cult following after years of remaining unseen. No, The Gate is surely doomed to remain a quiet classic of an age that began to see a slight decline in the horror genre.
It's really too bad. Because, at its heart, The Gate is a very simple and somber tale of three children's reactions to being left alone by their parents. But while the core fear is set in stone, the imagery constantly reinforces and builds upon this idea (see the two films below), which is not only rare for horror films, but especially vehicles for child actors.
Glen digs a hole in his backyard, for which he is punished by his father. Glen feels bad, and upon his father's departure, that very hole reemerges and presents an onslaught of villainy and horror that monster-ifies Glen's desire to become a better son. Defeating these monsters is very much a conquering of the self.
Terry's father is constantly absent from his life, leading to an infatuation with heavy metal. This gives The Gate a bit of an edge and personality that (dare I say) matches class with Gremlins, but also reflects Terry's detachment from his father and attachment to devilish rock music. And then the music itself carries a role within the narrative when he discovers how to cast away the demons, which reflects the exact purpose of the music in the first place: his former method of escape now physically casts away the very demons who represent the anguish the parents of the film present.
And Linda herself, who receives her first moment of responsibility by being allowed to babysit, must aid her little brother in overcoming his fears. After displaying a somber affection towards her brother and buying him a rocket, it's no coincidence that Glen turns around and defeats the giant monster of the film (the ultimate manifestation and gathering of fears) with that very rocket.
I think The Gate's general goofiness distracts from what is an otherwise intelligent, touching story about the fear of being left alone for the first time.
Also: this movie has some AMAZING lines. Like when Linda asks what they're doing with a spellbook, to which Terry replies, "We accidently summoned demons who used to rule the universe to come and take over the world." And she doesn't miss a fucking beat: "Oh, OK."
You know that "100 Greatest Movie Insults of All Time" video? None of those quotes have anything on these kids. Watch it with your friends, have a good time.
There's a hypnotic drug introduced during the opening moments of Upstream Color, and it derives from some sort of chemical reaction involving liquor(?) and maggots. Of the drug, Calum Marsh of Slant magazine had this to say:
"The drug itself, contained in tiny grubs which grow beneath certain flowers, is central to the film not only as its high-concept sci-fi technology (one whose capacity to control others through auto-suggestion is mined for its intriguing cautionary-tale appeal), but also for the manner in which it connects the characters on an initially chemical and eventually almost spiritual level, its presence a lightly sketched metaphor for the invisible stuff that binds us all."
I'm totally on board with the psychological sci-fi bits of this film. I found Shane Carruth's Primer to be wild fascinating, and Upstream Color is the somber, romantic version of that film. To an end, I find the film endlessly entertaining and welcoming to theories and speculation. But if we're really going to explore the connection with nature, or, as Marsh puts it, "the invisible stuff that binds us all", then I see Upstream Color as a lamer version of The Tree of Life.
This isn't my attempt to rip into Shane Carruth. I was quite moved by Upstream Color and easily rank of one of the year's best films. There's a sincerity to his direction that stirred an intense yearning within me. But I think that's mostly due to the desire to connect, rather than the understanding. For a long time I've defending Lost for its audacity to never answer the characters' questions of not only the sci-fi elements of the island, but also the questions of life surrounding them.
Carruth tweaks this idea by indeed answering those questions (and waiting until the last second to do so) within this miniature sci-fi environment, but also abandoning nature's relation to these people and the importance of those questions. In no way is Upstream Color beholden to Terrence Malick, who always accompanies his characters' inner thoughts with plenty of exposition and conflict, but I think Marsh's proclamation of "invisible stuff" tackles what's missing from Upstream Color. There's no real attempt to understand the invisible stuff, which is fine, because that's part of life. But the film posits the idea that our two main characters are inherently bound by life's uncertainties, which are inextricably bound to nature in this sci-fi world.
I say "posits" because it is abundantly clear within the film, and it's also an idea most human beings can relate to and recognize. But while Malick is snugly trailing his characters in The Tree of Life, providing relevant (albeit blatant) commentary through inner monologues, explaining how the connection with nature drives their hopes, fears, desires, and motivations. Although it feels painfully intimate at times, Carruth really does play God during these proceedings, not really lending any sort of traditional exposition and allowing the simple beauty of life and hushed human interactions to explain their hopes, fears, desires, and motivations. It's this sort of hovering-overhead filmmaking I rarely find impressive or engaging--not because it doesn't pertain to my tastes or that I'm particularly hard to please, but the "invisible connection with nature" bit is so vague yet understood that it's easy to bypass any sort of exposition and simply allow it to exist.
But still, an extremely impressive film that's shot beautifully. Carruth did fuckin' work in this one: directing, acting, and composing the music.
The Lords of Salem:
The latest Rob Zombie flick might just go down in time as his most significant film. There are very few big names in the horror genre, so all eyes are on the White Zombie front man whenever he directs a new film. And this time he's offered up a much more polished work than we're used to, earning him "four stars" from Slant magazine and comparisons to great artists such as Roman Polanski and Dario Argento.
The Lords of Salem is a beautiful film, and this is definitely a departure for Zombie, but these sort of comparisons really bother me. Not because I don't think he deserves them, or that because I'm some sort of purist who thinks nobody could ever reach the heights of Argento (although I wouldn't be surprised), but because I think Zombie's most disciplined film came back in 2009 with Halloween II (the director's cut, of course). I liked that he didn't feel the need to adhere to other famous directors' works, and Halloween II was such a depressing, surreal Lynchian experience for me. It's much more of a muted character study than a gorefest, and there's honest pain and emotion pouring out of the grueling, elongated, brutal death scenes.
The Lords of Salem is a bit of the opposite. It's much more of an allegory for the pressures Christianity and the political right presents to women. It's recreated in devilish form, as Heidi falls under the spell of a song recorded by "The Lords", and soon those artists reveal their witch personas and begin to prep Heidi for the birth of the Antichrist.
Zombie earned the Argento comparisons this time through because of the vision and cinematography. Salem is much more ambitious with its intentions and shot selection, opting for grand symmetrical portraits, slow and brooding pan shots, and a wild ending full of witchy imagery (Suspiria, anyone?). It's more colorful and more dazzling, and it represents a version of Zombie I'd love to explore more.
The reason I'm not quite jumping on the bandwagon is the screenplay, which I think falls miles short of Halloween II. His articulation of the pressures females face from the Church is both loving and ruthless, but I think the pathos of the film is really suffering here. I always have a problem with these sort of "grand metaphor" films that place the entirety of the focus on the message and the translation, but not the people involved. I can definitely feel why Heidi is suffering--hell, I watch the news. I know women affected by the relentless religious onslaught on contemporary values.
But, before the metaphor can even begin to take shape, tell me this: why is religion such a major component of Heidi's life?
Maybe I missed something in the film. Or maybe religion doesn't have to have a personal infliction upon one's life for the metaphor to work. After all, whether or not you're religious, doesn't the Church's pressures affect everybody in some way, shape, or form? And for women, that pressure is amplified. But while I recognize the larger metaphors, such as the sewing of the seeds in the mind with the preachy record, or the mid-dream abortion cutaways that reflect pro-life values, or the giant neon-red cross hovering over Heidi as she spirals down her dark path, good storytelling requires some bit of relevant exposition in regards to the character. Michael Myers was a psychologically troubled outcast of society; Heidi is...just a vehicle. Great horror (especially if we're discussing Polanski and Argento here) is homegrown, and if we're going to pit Salem against its most obvious comparison Rosemary's Baby, I think Zombie has just a bit further to go.
Weekly Movie Diary 8: The Sword of Doom; Letter Never Sent; Ballad of a Soldier; Some Like It Hot; Everything Will Be OK; There Will Come Soft Rains; The Woman Who Powders Herself; Berberian Sound Studio; Roman Holiday; Step Up; The Gate; Upstream Color;