Just watched the newly released trailer for ‘Cloud Atlas’:
The book’s great, if a little overwrought, but the film looks desperately ambitious.
At least it’ll be an interesting mess, though. Isn’t that right, Tom?
Sordid and sweaty, this new Southern Gothic hothouse film flaunts its 18 certificate at almost every opportunity, beginning with Chris (Emile Hirsh) paying a late-night visit to his father’s trailer only to be faced by the naked, hirsute genitalia of his avaricious stepmother (Gina Gershon, who clearly has not a single reservation on her acting contract). We soon discover that Chris is in debt and plans on hiring a moonlighting detective (Matthew McConaughey) to murder his alcoholic mother in order to reap the rewards of her will.
The film holds no pretensions for exploring psycho-sexuality or familial bonds, favouring gross stereotypes of deservingly poor rednecks (Thomas Haden Church’s dimwit might as well have been called Cletus The Slack-Jawed Yokel) and employing conspicuously black-and-white dichotomies (e.g. the virginal innocent of Juno Temple versus the unabashed whore of Gina Gershon) instead. Although Letts and Friedkin may be accused of single-minded cartography in this sense – Chris, the film’s protagonist, is certainly no Richard Chance or Popeye Doyle – there’s still plenty to enjoy when the film embraces its sleazy wit and pulp fiction origins.
As is usually the case with Friedkin’s filmography, vice is an all-consuming force, a Pandora’s box that enraptures the flawed family unit, culminating in a stagebound Jacobean setpiece of gonzo gore that makes you question whether KFC ever read the screenplay before buying its lurid product placement. ‘Killer Joe’ is a welcome change from the mellowing that too often accompanies a mainstream director’s slide into senescence (I’m looking at you, Ford Coppola) and the choice of Clarence Carter’s filthy but fantastic single “Strokin'” for the end credits hammers this point home nicely.
As one of the very few Lynch films I had yet to indulge in, I was surprisingly disappointed when I finally got round to viewing the off-kilter redemption plot of ‘Wild at Heart’ last night. A road movie concerning a goofily sensual pair of criminal lovers, it follows Lula and Sailor’s journey from North Carolina to Texas and all that occurs in between. It’s a hyper-kinetic experience, but none the better for it.
And, despite Lula’s contention within the film (“this whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top”), the former is all surface-level: the images are like tattoos, arresting yet meaningless; and Lynch goes into over-kill, dousing the film with an unending flood of Wizard of Oz motifs, rather than allowing room for abstraction. The erotic villainy and malevolence also seem a little too diversionary, a florid disguise for a lifeless and languorous story, rather than a crucial meander in the narrative flow as found in ‘Blue Velvet’ (although it is difficult to resist Jack Nance’s cameo, it fails to live up to Dean Stockwell’s impromptu ‘In Dreams’).
I did stumble upon an interesting discovery, however. Approaching the tail-end of the film, Sailor is twice asked whether he’s “had enough,” first by Bobby Peru (through which Sailor gathers his resolve – an entrenched Hollywood convention – but finds himself submitting to a criminal plan) and then by the leader of the urban gang (through which Sailor surrenders himself to them and the world – having been knocked unconscious – thus becoming receptive to the vision of Glinda the Good). In each circumstance our – that is, the viewer’s – will is implicated directly, especially in the latter when the gangleader asks, “Had enough, asshole?” to the camera, a space supposedly occupied by the invisible Sailor. We suddenly realise the tension between our manufactured desire for the transparent reality of a cosy, happy ending and the unreality of the Good Witch’s advice and Sailor’s artificially swollen nose. The spectator’s identification with Sailor, a moment of seeming unity, is asserted through the subconscious, making us confront our ready consumption of cinematic tropes. Looks like Haneke was late to the party.