Amoeblog

Gee, Ain't It Funny? Horror and Bertolt Brecht Don't Mix: Funny Games (2007)

Posted by Charles Reece, March 23, 2008 10:43pm | Post a Comment


Depicting beauty gets a free pass compared to depicting violence.  Mankind's history of brutality indicates that violence is as much -- if not more -- a determining factor in the creation of what now constitutes civilized self than our love for beautiful things.  Why, then, no "that portrait of the beautiful Contessa is pure exploitation?"  Accusations of exploitation only enter when there's a gaping wound involved (or prurient nudity, which is objected to on the grounds that it does violence to its subject -- an objection that is, in practice, limited to pornography for heterosexual men).  It's assumed that there's something wrong with you for taking any sort of pleasure in the the depiction of the violent side of our cultural constitution.  Despite that, I had a real enjoyable time the other day at the moving picture show thanks to Michael HanekeFunny Games is a good, psychological thriller that's no more gruesome than Psycho, largely due to Haneke's mastery of Hitchockian prestidigitation.  Just like Morrison in Florida, the meat of the matter is more suggested than shown.  Many critics were distraught over Haneke's hooks-on-the-eyelids sadism anyway, referring to his film as another instance of "torture porn" and/or that it's nothing but a misery to sit through (at least for right-thinking folk):

  • The “Hostel” pictures and their ilk revel in the pornography of blood and pain, which Mr. Haneke addresses with mandarin distaste, even as he feeds the appetite for it.  -- A. O. Scott
  • To a healthy human mind, however, it’s one of the most repugnant, unpleasant, sadistic movies ever made. No matter what virtues of craft one can find within, no matter what themes lie beneath, Funny Games is aesthetically indefensible. -- Andy Klein
  • Professional obligations required that I endure it, but there's no reason why you should. -- J. Hoberman
  • The joke is on arthouse audiences who show up for Funny Games, which is basically torture porn every bit as manipulative and reprehensible as Hostel, even if it's tricked out with intellectual pretension. -- Lou Lumenick
  • [T]he film itself inched close to the sort of exploitational detail that it was supposed to abhor—a proximity that only gets worse in this later version, which adds a definite carnal kick to the sight of the heroine being forced to strip to her underwear. -- Anthony Lane

In truth, Haneke brings much of that kind of moralizing on himself.  In an interview with Scott Foundas, he gives his reason for remaking his German-language film in English, namely to better address its target audience: "For the consumers of violence — in other words, Americans."  Evidently, Germans and other Europeans aren't the ones who come first to his mind when it comes to enjoying the representational infliction of pain on others.  Maybe he believes his countrymen don't consume specular violence when they have a recent history with the real thing ... but I doubt it.  Rather, it's due to a moralizing European arthouse pretension, as can be read in an interview he did with Jim Wray: "Funny Games['s] subject is Hollywood’s attitude toward violence. And nothing has changed about that attitude since the first version of my film was released — just the opposite, in fact."  He'd probably suggest turd-munching served a real aesthetic purpose when Pasolini used it, but not so much when John Waters did -- if Haneke ever contemplated the aesthetics of coprophagia, that is.  Not to be outdone by the Europeans -- and as a function of their culture-envy -- the middlebrow American critics attempt to prove their highbrow bona fides by turning the table on Haneke, dismissing his film as another instance of the (sub-)genre he was himself purportedly condemning (cf. the video above).  Haneke isn't above the Americans, say they, he's just as bad.

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Still Life: Telling Time in La Jetee with Henri Bergson, The Human Torch and EC's Weird Science

Posted by Charles Reece, March 16, 2008 01:52am | Post a Comment

The prisoners were subjected to experiments, apparently of great concern to those who conducted them.  The outcome was a disappointment for some - death for others - and for others yet, madness.  One day they came to select a new guinea pig from among the prisoners.  He was the man whose story we are telling.  He was frightened. He had heard about the Head Experimenter. He was prepared to meet Dr. Frankenstein, or the Mad Scientist. Instead, he met a reasonable man who explained calmly that the human race was doomed. Space was off-limits. The only hope for survival lay in Time. A loophole in Time, and then maybe it would be possible to reach food, medicine, sources of energy.  This was the aim of the experiments: to send emissaries into Time, to summon the Past and Future to the aid of the Present.  But the human mind balked at the idea. To wake up in another age meant to be born again as an adult. The shock would be too great.  Having only sent lifeless or insentient bodies through different zones of Time, the inventors where now concentrating on men given to very strong mental images. If they were able to conceive or dream another time, perhaps they would be able to live in it.  The camp police spied even on dreams.  This man was selected from among a thousand for his obsession with an image from the past. -- Narrator, La Jetée

I hate temporal mechanics! -- Miles O'Brien, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

la jetee poster

Thanks to YouTube, I finally got around to watching La Jetée by Chris Marker. Perhaps most surprising after all the ink that's been spilled analyzing this experimental work is how much it resembles the old science fiction stories of EC's Weird Science.  These stories -- like the majority of those from EC -- featured some twist ending that followed along like fate from whatever course of action the protagonist chose in the beginning. 

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This Plot Synopsis Is Empty: Doomsday (2008)

Posted by Charles Reece, March 14, 2008 06:12pm | Post a Comment


While everyone else was yucking it up at Haneke's remake of his own Funny Games, I went to see Neil Marshall's Doomsday.  I was really wanting to see the former, but I might be seeing that with a friend tomorrow (at least, assuming she finds Funny Games more chick-friendly than Doomsday).   Imdb's current plot synopsis is pretty accurate as it stands, presumably waiting for some user to come along and fill it in.  That's pretty much what Marshall's film is, a cobbled together group of signifiers waiting for the viewer to connect them to some signifieds.  The series of posters above says all you need to know about the film, but what the hell, I'll say a little more:

[Spoiler Warning: if you want to be surprised by the derivative content, finding enjoyment in noticing it yourself, read no further.]

It has a contaminating virus just like 28 Days Later, which was itself just like The Crazies.

It has a region quarantined off from the rest of civilization (this time, Scotland), with the remaining people left to rot, just like 28 Weeks Later, which itself borrowed the bit from Escape From New York.

It has a little girl who loses her family during the initial infestation and develops into a Wonder Woman, just like Resident Evil.

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Target Practice 1: On Sundry Topics

Posted by Charles Reece, March 1, 2008 09:09pm | Post a Comment
This is my trial run at blogging on my new laptop.  I switched to a Mac, which is a bit like what those really young kids must've felt in Piaget's experiments on object constancy where they hadn't yet developed the proper conceptual framework to understand that when a doll goes behind an obscuring object it doesn't cease to exist.  My perspective is all out-of-whack -- no right-clicking, can't figure out how to easily shift between programs, there's a bunch of little objects at the bottom of my screen that have no meaning for me -- forms without functions -- and I have no idea if files still exist once I've saved them.  It was definitely time for a change, however.  My other laptop looks like it was dug up on a excavation in New Guinea, a talisman from some forgotten arcane ritual.  Now, everything on the Web works the way it's supposed to (well, once I downloaded Firefox) and I don't have to wait for the grinding gears to stop before my next action, so I'll get used to it.  Baby steps.  The agony of living in the First World.

~ ~ ~

On my conversion to Macatholicism, I'm reminded, of course, of this piece from Umberto Eco, written way back in 1994:
The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach -- if not the kingdom of Heaven -- the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

OSCAR RESULTS

Posted by Charles Reece, February 24, 2008 09:55pm | Post a Comment

Welp, I got 67% (that's 16 out of 24) right.  Red is for what I got right, and blue what I got wrong .

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War" (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal)
Julie Christie in "Away from Her" (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in "The Savages" (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in "Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There" (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster" (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement" (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

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