Amoeblog

Home Movies: Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 12, 2008 09:25am | Post a Comment
            Life sucks, Brendon. That's your lesson. Go enjoy it. -- Coach McGuirk

So, I'll go ahead and use the fussy distinction of my esteemed colleague, Mr. Brightwell, and call Jonathan Demme's new film cinéma direct, rather than cinéma vérité. It's grueling enough to deserve the trachel getting marriedhree accent marks, however. Unlike the use of the shaky-cam in Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield, Demme and his cinematographer, Declan Quinn, always keep the camera in the objective, 3rd-person tense. They also thankfully keep it more transparent than the nauseating narcissism of Paul Greengrass's camera work. While moving room to room, the audience floats along, but when the wedding party guests are talking, Demme and Quinn fix the shot, even remembering that modern cameras can re-focus on stuff in the background without having to move. Contrariwise, I remain skeptical of any definitive ability to distinguish between direct and vérité when it comes to fictional films. The direct documentary is akin to the transparency of classical Hollywood, I suppose, but expert editing, grainy textures, and perfect-looking people tend to call attention to the artifacts in a realist drama. Whatever you call it, Rachel Getting Married is realism at its squirm-inducing most direct.
 
Jenny Lumet's script rarely hits a wrong note in analyzing a particular bourgeois Connecticut family's power struggles that are inherent to most families. Whereas my family get-togethers center on frito-pie and football, Rachel's wedding involves Indian attire and cuisine with Robyn Hitchcock and Cyro Baptista supplying the entertainment. All attention is being paid to Rachel until her younger sister, Kym, shows up with a weekend pass from court-mandated rehab. What follows is the gentrified version of the Oedipal Complex. The sisters compete for dad's affection using what they have: Rachel is the perfect daughter with some undefined perfect job, perfect friends (successful musicians and writers) and a perfect fiancé, whereas Kym is the classic second-child fuckup, with drug addiction being her defining characteristic. As with the thespian drug addicts in Hollywood who regularly meet at a little café on Vine, just South of Sunset Blvd., Kym's addiction isn't so much a cry for help as an egotistic need to be noticed. Hers is the kind of bottoming out that leads to a memoir featured on Oprah or as a writer of forgettable sitcoms; i.e., dependency as a privilege of the leisure class. Her sister isn't any less egocentric or any more likable: just as Kym is trying to get the family to acknowledge the way they all play into her addiction, Rachel interrupts with the announcement that she's going to have a baby. Score one for sis, and the cycle repeats. Mom got sick of their shit some time ago and left to live her own life; every narcissistic flower has roots. Dad's so castrated that he's always on the verge of singing, "mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey."
 
Anne Hatheway Rosemarie DeWitt Rachel Getting MarriedBill Irwin Rachel Getting Marrieddebra winger rachel getting married
 
The squeamishness comes from the way the mise-en-scène makes you one of the guests, eavesdropping on conversations that you shouldn't be hearing. As with real weddings, you're sometimes placed at the center of attention only to recede into the background in another scene. Sitting through a friend's wedding is bad enough, but two hours at a stranger's is debilitating. And Demme's film is so formally precise that you really feel like you're there. After twenty minutes of family friends talking about the bride and groom at the rehearsal dinner, I felt like covering my eyes when Kym brings attention back to herself by bringing up her drugged exploits in a 5 minute toast to her sister. It's not as uncomfortable as Capturing the Friedmans, but I don't plan on ever sitting through either film again. In scene after scene, the family refuses to properly address a past tragedy that structures much of its current crises, but the familial dynamic is never simply reduced to the tragedy. Anyway, kudos to the filmmakers for creating pitch-perfect quotidian misery. This is a good character study, even if I don't see much of a point to realistic character studies. Life itself already has enough pointless empathy without aesthetic realism giving us more.

BANG! POW! ZOOM! CARTOONS AREN'T JUST FOR KIDS!

Posted by Charles Reece, October 5, 2008 08:14pm | Post a Comment


Fear[s] of the Dark



                                          Blutch                                                        Lorenzo Mattotti


Pierre di Sciullo
 

                                      Charles Burns                                                 Marie Caillou
 

Richard McGuire

Don't You Forget About Me, Part 1: The Teen Flicks of John Hughes

Posted by Charles Reece, September 14, 2008 10:24am | Post a Comment
I wish to bring back to mind my past foulness and the carnal corruptions of my soul. This is not because I love them, but that I may love you, my God. [..] In the bitterness of my remembrance, I tread again my most evil ways, so that you may grow sweet to me, O sweetness that never fails, O sweetness happy and enduring, which gathers me together again from that disordered state in which I lay in shattered pieces, wherein, turned away from you, the one, I spent myself upon the many. For in my youth, I burned to get my fill of hellish things. I dared to run wild in different darksome ways of love. My comeliness wasted away. I stank in your eyes, but I was pleasing to myself and I desired to be pleasing to the eyes of men. -- The Depths of Vice from The Sixteenth Year of The Confessions of St. Augustine


I've always been something of a closet Augustinian, believing sin the default human condition. If he would've just left out all that God stuff I'd be more willing to come out of the closet. Nevertheless, his notion that being good is an act of will against wordly temptation seems right to me. In a capitalist democracy, giving in has always been an easier route to material success than acts of resistance.  Obama wouldn't be America's first ("serious") post-racial candidate if the majority thought he'd tackle racial injustice in any substantive manner. One doesn't rise through the business ranks by being an agent of moral change, making the business work better for the employees. The only change that's allowed is that of efficiency, streamlining the workers' output in accordance to the demands of the employer. You don't achieve power by disposing of the cultural rules, but by learning them, incorporating them and making them work for you while you actually work for them.  As Foucault pointed out -- and the Frankfurt School before him -- power is everywhere and nowhere in particular.
 

Since power is theoretically dispersed to the masses in a democratic system where the have-nots will always outnumber the haves, it becomes necessary for mass desire to be manufactured such that the status quo is believed by the people to be their will, and not something being forced upon them from the outside. This keeps things from changing, or not changing, too fast, so that the small ratio of dominant to the dominated can remain fairly static over time. That's why 1984 has never been a wholly convincing metaphor for the modern Western democracy. People would vote out Big Brother if he were seen to symbolically conflict with their democratic and other structuring beliefs ("don't need no outsider telling me what to do"). However, his ideas of control might work if the people can be convinced that those ideas are their own. In fact, Orwellian totalitarianism began when democracy ended, but a more pressing concern for modern democracy is its own despotic fault-line. 

... and so on and so on: Slavoj Žižek

Posted by Charles Reece, September 6, 2008 06:04pm | Post a Comment

Since I used Slavoj Žižek's latest book, Violence, in my discussion of the latest Batman flick, I figured why not link to this recent interview Michael Krasny conducted with the man himself. Just push 'play' for the best stand-up comedian of today:
 

 
Therein you will hear Žižek discuss, among other things, The Dark Knight (ideology at its purest), violent video games (he lets his 7 year old play Grand Theft Auto, but is wary of Disney films), rape (why masochists would be the most traumatized), Hugo Chavez (how authoritarians are as pragmatic as everyone else), the mystery of Stalinism (why Stalinists terrorized themselves), the honesty of fascism (it kept its promise to kill minorities), and so on and so on. Theory comes out as flakes on the corners of his mouth -- philosophy as a 3-day meth binge.

While I'm at it, here's some more fun stuff:

From his
Q&A with the Guardian:
 


Cultural criticism is now second only to being in a rock band as the great
equalizer: Žižek with fourth wife, Analio Hounie, an Argentinian
model who just happens to like reading Lacan.

Continue reading...

TOUGH LOVE STORY

Posted by Charles Reece, August 31, 2008 10:40pm | Post a Comment
Lemmy Loves Wendy


"Stand By Your Man"

Ozzy Loves Lita


"Close My Eyes Forever"

Udo Loves Doro

 "Dancing With An Angel"

(His most holy Texan loves taking a rest from writing, but will be back soon.)
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