Amoeblog

Holy Terror, Batman! Some Thoughts on Violence in The Dark Knight Rises

Posted by Charles Reece, July 22, 2012 11:56pm | Post a Comment
jeff koterba batman shooting cartoon

There are plenty more insipid cartoons about the recent "Batman shootings" where Jeff Korteba's came from. I don't use it as an example of the decrepitude of political cartooning (it's always been the world's lamest artform). Rather, the cartoon exemplifies a certain misreading of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy*: the vigilante Batman displaces real world law and order in the superheroic fantasy. In which case, the films' audience needs a reminder of who we should fantasize about, namely the guy who really puts his life on the line. However self-critical his films are, Nolan is too much the well-ensconced liberal advocate to ultimately use the character as anything more than an imaginary supplement to the status quo. There is a reason, after all, why the revolutionary violence in all three films is treated as pure chaos for chaos' sake. Batman doesn't represent change, but a much needed (or so the narrative goes) restoration of order.

Sure, the Joker scores some good points against hypocrisy when he sounds like Walter Benjamin in advocating "divine violence," a resetting of cultural values to zero, destroying the occluded underground byways of systemic violence that capital requires to continue (just think of the modern sweatshops used in manufacturing the iPhone, for example).** And Catwoman sounds like Bertolt Brecht as she gleefully portends what Bane's about to do to Gotham's stock exchange (e.g., "robbing a bank's no crime compared to owning one"). Nevertheless, these are the villains of the trilogy, not the heroes (Catwoman only becomes a hero when she fights to restore order). That's why Ben Shapiro over at Big Hollywood has it right: this is a conservative trilogy.

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Some People Should Die: 13 Assassins (2011)

Posted by Charles Reece, May 8, 2011 10:05pm | Post a Comment
13 assassins poster

 
We want to glorify war -- the only cure for the world -- militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
-- Filippo T. Marinetti, from The Futurist Manifesto

Takashi Miike
's 13 Assassins is a remake of Eiichi Kodo's 1963 jidaigeki of the same name, and bears the same relation to real people and events that The Exorcist does. I haven't seen the earlier version, but in addition to Miike's style, the previous work of scenarist Daisuke Tengan (e.g., Audition for Miike and Dr. Akagi for Shôhei Imamura, the writer's father) suggests that the film probably has its own unique qualities to offer. The story is simple, perfectly rendered and universal. At the tail end of the Edo period, when peace more or less prevailed and the samurai didn't have much to do, Lord Naritsugu, the despotic younger brother of the Shogun, is about to be promoted to a higher position that sets a path to his eventual rule. Not wishing to undermine the shogunate and bring chaos to the land by openly challenging the selection of Naritsugu, Sir Doi brings examples of the Lord's malevolent nature to the samurai Shinzaemon to convince him of the necessity of assassination.

Depicting evil as erotic brutality is where Miike really shines: An emaciated woman, missing all of her limbs after being kept as Naritsugu's play thing, explains what happened to her family by writing with a pen in her mouth -- for he removed her tongue, too. Miike shows her writhing and humming in pain while she cries blood and mucus just to get two words down, "total massacre." The other example is told in flashback by a man who's lost his son and daughter-in-law due to the Lord beheading the former in front of the latter just after he's raped her, which results in her slitting her own throat in anguish. Shinzaemon is convinced, trembling with the possibility of facing a noble death that he thought would be denied him. With eleven other cohorts (the titular thirteenth will join them on the road), he plans their suicide mission to stop Naritsugu from returning home to assume his new position.

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Happy Black Valentine's History Month Day!

Posted by Job O Brother, February 14, 2011 01:07pm | Post a Comment

It’s Valentine’s Day, mothertruckers! What to do, what to do? The boyfriend is working at the office all day, so I have until tonight to devise some kind of romantic surprise. I was thinking of transforming our dining room into a kind of “outdoor park at night,” using white twinkle lights as the only illumination, lots of houseplants, cushions on the floor, an elaborate picnic, and something like this playing…
 

But is that surprising enough? Perhaps I’ll hire one of our actor friends to pretend to be a mugger – he’ll arrive halfway through desserts, beat us up and take our money. That would be both sweet and romantic, because violence is both those things at once.

“Every punch is like two kisses,” my Grandma used to say as she tucked me in. (And every morning my Mom would ask me why I woke up with bruises on my face.)

In honor of Black History Month, I’m using this day of sweets and crushes and gay hearts to celebrate some of my current favorite black entertainers and artists and others (an entire list would be, how you say, retardedly long), any and all of whom I would very much like to be my Valentine. Enjoy!

Masochistic Baby: Amer (2010)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 31, 2010 07:07pm | Post a Comment
amer preadolescence
amer adolescence
amer adulthood

Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's homage to the giallo genre was filmed on Super 16, but what I saw was from a really crummy digital source. It  looked like a theatrically sized YouTube video. There were so many of those digital Lincoln logs that Inland Empire now compares favorably to Casablanca. At times, there was little more than some blur of color being eaten by a surrounding black blob. (For the record, the digital Carlos looked a lot better than this.) So see a 35 mm print if possible. 

Style is substance in Amer, just as it was for Seijin Suzuki, who would elide generic contrivances in his yakuza action films with radical cuts and by omitting psychological development, assuming the audience would fill in the details. Cattet and Forzani take a similar approach, but because they're working within a psychosexual genre, they omit sociological filler (friends, jobs, etc.) and drive the film inwards. Freeing the narrative from external, objective constraints and a rational narrative structure, the giallo is reduced to pure primal desire, which has always been its most appealing feature, anyway. However, they more or less replace the genre clichés with ones from psychoanalytic film theory. Ana, the protagonist, likes to watch, but really wants to be watched (she, of course, sees her parents in coitus -- the second primal scene of late, the other being in Enter the Void). She wants to be captured, bound and punished, as fetishized by the recurring presence of a black glove and shaving razor. And behind every masochist is the death drive, which begins to show up early on in Ana's fascination with her grandfather's corpse. (If it weren't for artists, would we still need Freud?)  All of which is sexualized and stylized in a surrealistic montage of saturated hues, body parts and objects, conjoined by the sounds of metal scraping, leather squeaking, heavy breathing and the directors' favorites tunes from Italian cinema (Morricone, Nicolai, Cipriani, etc.). Some scenes are indeed perversely beautiful (particularly where a face gets symmetrically sliced up), but there are far too many close-ups to create any real horror or suspense. It feels like a perfume commercial borrowing from Argento instead of Resnais, with the hypnagogia of Chanel or Gucci.

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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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