Amoeblog

Three is a Magic Number: The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

Posted by Charles Reece, May 10, 2010 02:51am | Post a Comment
human centipede heiter provides discipline
 

I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine. -- Roger Ebert

That quote makes me laugh every time I read it. Ebert's disgust helped make the reputation of I Spit On Your Grave, and I'm sure it won't exactly hurt Tom Six's The Human Centipede, either. With the exception of some blood, pus, teeth removal and the European fascination with coprophagia, the film rarely gets much more visually repellent than the shot above. In fact, the feces remain internal to the newly created tripartite body, not shown. But suggestion is enough for creating effective horror. And Six gets a lot of mileage off what his morbid conceit suggests. This is a high (some would say low) concept film that does little more than logically follow the initial premise to its terminal conclusion. Aesthetically, the film is edited along the dialog and looks like DV porn downloaded from the Web, i.e., strictly amateurish. However, the idea of linking people along their gastrointestinal tract is inspired. It combines fear of cosmetic (unnecessary, commercial) surgery with the existential problem of being a mere organ in the social body (to the point of altering one's body to fit the organizational ideal).

human centipede heiter overhead
  human centipede heiter window  human centipede heiter

The primal horror here isn't like losing one's sense of self to the Borg or alien body snatchers, but retaining a full sense of individuality while having to consciously suppress it in order to make the composite body work. It's the bureaucratic evil that Kafka's heroes always failed in struggling against, with the metaphor being physically realized. Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser, playing the Bond villain par excellence) is a self-admitted misanthrope who's a mad scientist version of Fordist industrialism. When the individual units in his creation keep him up at night by making too much noise (think Union organizers), he makes plans to remove their vocal chords (think efficiency expert). He loathes the individual. As he explains to Lindsay (Ashley Williams), the victim closest to escaping, the most willful pit bull became the center piece in his dog centipede. As a sick joke, the frontal position goes to a Japanese tourist (Akihiro Kitamura) who can't speak a word of English (or German) to his conjoined American companions (the tail is played by Ashlynn Yennie).

human centipede heiter dieter laser

Stand By Your Man: High Tension (2003)

Posted by Charles Reece, May 2, 2010 10:08pm | Post a Comment
 

If you're promising "high tension," then you'd better deliver, which is where Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur (director, art director and co-writers) come up short. Whereas a genre film like Martyrs attempts to push the mind somewhere it doesn't want to go, High Tension aims at nothing but pure generic comfort. There are some who never tire of having the same nerves stimulated, but mine just get desensitized. And it's pretty clear that the filmmakers have spent most of their time watching slasher films to the exclusion of most everything else. Incest is no better in art than in biology. Genre insularity produces dumbed down offspring, as can be seen in the work of the Image Comics creators, who never encountered art that wasn't produced by Marvel or DC.  Contrariwise, that's why the likes of Georges Franju and Alan Moore have made memorable art in well-worn genres, by adding fresh blood. But, on the plus side,  Aja and Levasseur's fanboyishness did at least lead them to the ravishing gore of horror make-up maestro, Giannetto De Rossi. The man knows how to apply a saw to the face.

spoiler alert.

The film begins with Marie (Cécile De France) psychotically repeating, "I won't let anyone come between us anymore," until she begins her story for the record. This pretty much telegraphs that what's to follow is a flashback, but many viewers felt either cheated or surprised by the "twist" at the end (see Roger Ebert's thumb down) -- the twist being that the protagonist is really the killer. Marie is a thewy girl with a Caesar cut, who harbors an obsessive attraction to her delicate, promiscuous, and long-haired friend, Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco). Clearly disgusted by Alex's boycraziness, Marie's barely repressed misandry manifests itself as a feminist caricature of the ultimate macho male, what Judith Levine has labeled "the Beast" (brute, pervert, killer, etc.). Played by Philippe Nahon (who's made the Beast role into leading man material), the Killer looks like the average of every movie serial killer. As a hysterical warning against pornography, he first appears masturbating with a woman's decapitated head. In this persona, Marie butchers Alex's family as a way of "rescuing" Alex from monstrous patriarchy. And because psychosis is involved, the story is being told by an unreliable narrator, who confuses herself not only with the Killer, but with Alex (Marie imagines, or dreams, that it was her asking for help from a passing driver, when it was really her friend).

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Honky-Tonk Angels: Martyrs (2008)

Posted by Charles Reece, April 25, 2010 10:24pm | Post a Comment
 

 
I wanted to interpret a hymn to the triumph of the soul over life. What streams out to the possibly moved spectator in strange close-ups is not accidentally chosen. All these pictures express the character of the person they show and the spirit of that time. In order to give the truth, I dispensed with “beautification.” [...] 

Rudolf Maté, who manned the camera, understood the demands of psychological drama in the close-ups and he gave me what I wanted, my feeling and my thought: realized mysticism. But in Falconetti, who plays Joan, I found what I might, with very bold expression, allow myself to call “the martyr’s reincarnation.”
-- Carl Th. Dreyer on The Passion of Joan of Arc 

Torture is not the point of Martyrs. The film deals with human pain, the meaning of it, which is something completely different.
-- writer-director Pascal Laugier

My attraction to repulsion occasionally yields a transgressive masterpiece, but, more often than not, it's just proof of a strong emotive fortitude combined with some twisted prurience that I never grew out of -- that is, a willingness to endure aesthetic defilement. Despite all the highfalutin cant that's been written about it, I doubt sublimity is the prime selling point for Un Chien Andalou. But I'm with the Marquis de Sade in that art has no obligation to depict virtues. Morality enters into our relation with the art, however reprehensible it might be. The intrinsic morality of the art is but one side of the dialog. It is for this simple reason that I don't support obscenity laws of any sort. The desideratum of Nekromantik needs no more of a defense for its existence than Jennifer Aniston's current love interest. So, with that in mind, I caught up with some of the fairly recent horror films coming out of France; to see what, if anything, they say to me. First up is Martyrs, easily the nastiest of the bunch, so it's only uphill from here.
 
martyrs morjana alaoui   passion of joan of arc maria falconetti

spoiler alert!

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Flossin' Season - Leprechaun Movies, Music, &c

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 17, 2010 12:30pm | Post a Comment

Vintage Leprechauns

Vintage St. Patrick's Day
LeprechaunEveryone knows a couple of things about leprechauns (aka lurachmain, Vintage Leprechaunlurican, leprechawn, lepracaun, leprechaun, lubberkin and lurgadhan). They’re small, tricky gingers that, if caught, will show you the money. One theory about the word’s origin is that it comes from luacharma'n (or luchorpán), the Irish word for “pygmy.” Another theory is that the word is derived from leath bhrogan, meaning “shoemaker.” Not as many people know but leprechauns usually find employment as cobblers or shoemakers. Presumably they make and repair the shoes of other faerie folk and Tuatha Dé Danann, because how else could they make money off each other if they all practice the same trade? And leprechauns make money. If you lay your eyes on one, don’t look away or they’ll vanish.

Although the Irish believe that leprechauns emigrated from the island of Fir Bolg, they’ve nonetheless become one of the most common stereotypical images of Eire, along with that Romano-British Englishman, Sanctus Patricius, whose saint day is (of course) today.

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Horror, The Universal Language 3: Identity in Seconds (1966) & Face of Another (1966)

Posted by Charles Reece, November 8, 2009 10:15pm | Post a Comment
 seconds poster   face of another poster

Thinking? At last I have discovered it -- thought; this alone is inseparable from me. I am, I exist -- that is certain. But for how long? For as long as I am thinking. For it could be that were I totally to cease from thinking, I should totally cease to exist. -- René Descartes' res cogitans from "Second Meditation" of Meditations on First Philosophy

In hindsight, who could've been more perfect to play the bought face in John Frankenheimer's Seconds than the most infamous of closeted actors, Rock Hudson? Irrespective of his own intrinsic make-up, Rock's bread-and-butter came from being sold as the perfect masculine physiognomy to wannabe-Doris Day housewives everywhere. As such, this film might be considered the actor's ontological biography. Here he plays the new body bought by an aging businessman who's tired of his family and life. Along with the new body comes a new social identity, that of an artist. Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, Rock can't forget who he was/is, and when he discovers that the community he now lives in is a group of commodified identities like himself, the horror is manifested. He's the Cartesian cogito lost in a world of pure doubt, where everything is mere appearance and nothing is real, but (here's the clincher) he still has his memories. Not being able to forget the past keeps him from being able to commit to the manufactured fantasy. Consider the way such a realization can screw up sex:

This 'imagined part' becomes visible in an unpleasant experience known to most of us: in the middle of the most intense sexual act, it is possible for us all of a sudden to 'disconnect' -- all of a sudden, a question can emerge: 'What am I doing here, sweating and repeating these stupid gestures?'; pleasure can shift into disgust or into a strange feeling of distance. The key point is that, in this violent upheaval, nothing changed in reality: what caused the shift was merely the change in the other's position with regard to our phantasmic frame. -- Slavoj Žižek, "Love Thy Neighbor? No, Thanks!"

Hiroshi Teshigahara's Face of Another is even more explicit in the horror that comes when a grounding fantasy is realized as such. In a spin on Plato's invisible man fable, Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) is given a realistic mask after having his face melted in a chemical explosion. The mask is modeled on another man's face, behaves like a regular face, but can be removed. The doctor who invented the mask warns Okuyama that its continued use might distance him from his self, diminishing the sense of moral responsibility (just like invisibility). His "true" face remains hidden under bandages until he applies the new one. The real misery begins when Okuyama tests his wife's fidelity to that old adage of loving one for what's on the inside. As you might expect, grotesque disfigurement wasn't doing much for his sex life, particularly given his constant depressing whine. His wife tries to be supportive, but he's not having it. Instead, he puts on the mask and seduces her as "another man." When he confronts her, she claims to have known it was him all along. But even if she's telling the truth, does it make his realization any less horrific? It suggests (going with Žižek) that she's always been making love to a fantasy based on appearances (his old face was a mask, too), rather than the internal qualities he believes to constitute his core being. He feels (quite rightly, it seems) reduced to another's "phantasmic frame." Clearly, something needs to be violently repressed; what or who will it be? To misquote Sartre, hell is intersubjectivity.

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