Amoeblog

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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Horror, The Universal Language 2: The Body in Videodrome (1983) & In My Skin (2002)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 27, 2009 11:51pm | Post a Comment
 videodrome poster french   in my skin poster french

Karen Conterio, founder of the in-patient "A Safe Alternative Program for the Treatment of Self-Injury" at University Hospital in Chicago, describes the average self-mutilator as intelligent and sensitive. She has low self-esteem, comes from a middle- to upper-class economic background, and began injuring herself as a preteen. Her parents are generally high-achievers who have trouble effectively communicating their feelings and often neglect their daughter's needs. -- Teen Magazine

My body is a journal in a way. It's like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it yourself with a knife or with a professional tattoo artist. -- Johnny "not the face" Depp

When it comes to dealing with depersonalization disorders, David Cronenberg was ahead of the curve. He's the undisputed master of the Cartesian horror film, where the self is never wholly integrated with the body. Even his recent crime film, Eastern Promises, shows such a detachment where the Russian mob doesn't trust memory, relying instead on tattoos to signify their identity. Unfortunately for them, anyone with money can get a tattoo, Megan Fox, suburban mall punks, or an undercover cop. Therein lies the problem with trusting the body: it's too easily manipulated and controlled by external forces. As any self-flagellating monk could tell you, the surest way to sin is in reducing self to the earthly constraints of body, the locus of empty spectacle.

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Horror, The Universal Language 1: Insanity in Repulsion (1965) & Clean, Shaven (1993)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 25, 2009 11:43pm | Post a Comment
In terms of movies, horror is the most philosophically rich of the various genres, generally giving a more truthful commentary on us humans than any of its generic brethren (science fiction is equally compelling as a literary genre, but it just hasn't lived up to its potential in film -- cf. Tarkovsky's religious mockery of one the great atheistic novels, Solaris, to catch my drift). Since my only costume for Halloween is a wet blanket, why not offer a series of double-feature suggestions as a way of getting into the spirit? I'm going to stay away from the ones everyone should've already seen (yes, Kubrick's The Shining is the greatest horror film ever made, end of discussion) and none by directors with the initials D.L. I plan on doing one a day, ending either with Halloween, or until I run out of categories, or I just get plumb sick of doing this. First up, the fear of the irrational, or, more appropriately, the fear of losing one's grasp on reality.

clean shaven poster   repulsion poster

A common refrain in horror film criticism since the 70s has been that the genre makes us confront the faults in the architecture of reason. This critique usually goes by the name of postmodernism and its big bugaboo by the name of the Cartesianism. René Descartes had some difficulty reconciling how all the immaterial, mental stuff was able to effect changes in all the meaty stuff we call physical, creating the primary Cartesian dichotomy called mind-body dualism. No one's figured a way out of that mess yet, but who cares since we're talking about horror movies. The important point is that Descartes tended to privilege reason over all that biological machinery, so he gets the blame for all the scientistic / instrumentalist / phallocentric / logocentric / patriarchal domination that has supposedly developed since the 17th Century. (I remain skeptical of this demonization of the Rationalists for the simple reason that I'd prefer to live after the Enlightenment than before it.)

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October Is Horror Month In L.A.

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, October 3, 2009 10:10pm | Post a Comment


The sheer volume of classic horror being shown on screens across the L.A. area in October is astonishing...

October 3rd
New Beverly- Shocker (Mid)
Bay- House On Haunted Hill (also showing 4th, 5th & 7th)
Cinefamiy- Mystery Of The Wax Museum / Phantom Of The Opera

October 4th & 5th
New Beverly- Trick 'r Treat / Creepshow

October 6th
New Beverly- Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong / Nightmare In Blood
Cinefamily-  Jerry Beck Halloween shorts

October 8th-

Cinefamily- Sleepaway Camp / Return To Sleepaway Camp

October 9th
Egyptian Theatre- Alien / Aliens
Bay- The Haunting (also showing 11th, 12th & 14th)
Cinefamily- At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul / This Night I Will Posses Your Corpse

October 10th
New Beverly- 12 hour horror festival- Dog Soldiers, The Burning, House By The Cemetary, Superstition, Fight For Your Life, Galaxy Of Terror & more!
Cinefamily- Dr. X / Dr. Cyclops & Spooky Encounters

October 13th

Cinefamily- Tokyo Gore Night featuring Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl

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Joseph Zito Double Tonight (Tues) @ The Cinefamily

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, September 22, 2009 01:00am | Post a Comment
The Infamous director Joseph  Zito is hosting a double feature of two of his best films tonight! Many people know him from directing Chuck Norris in the legendary films Missing In Action & Invasion USA, but he also turned out some really tough grindhouse stuff. I put his Bloodrage up there with Forced Entry, but that's just the kind of guy I am. Sorry kiddies, I'm not showing clips from either of those classicks. However, The Prowler is up there on the greatest slasher films of all time list, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is often cited as the best in that series, so fans of the genre need to make the effort to get down to the Silent Movie Theatre tonight! Having just watched Lawrence Tierney strut his stuff in Born To Kill (1947), I'm very curious to see The Prowler again, as I had no idea who he was back in the 90's when I saw it on bootleg VHS.


The Prowler
Trailer

 

Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter Trailer


Invasion USA Trailer


A menacing Lawrence Tierney in Born To Kill

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