My name is Mickey Mouse
I built a house of clay
Donald duck came over and said
What the fuck let's smoke it all away

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Future (2011)

A film that moves in a circle, that moves though time, also passes the limits of a kind of pedantic reality that is common in its expression and negligible in its impact. If anything, 19th century literature did what it could to offer a joiner for the middle class. Now that the middle class is an abstraction, perhaps it would not be so bad to realize the illusion that sustains naïve belief in possibility: that the only way to open the box is to stop everything else. To suggest that The Future (2011) represents the Schrödinger’s box of life-change is difficult to chew.

Spit it out, quick!

Someone once said: “the most real is the least real once the quotient of rationality exceeds the possibility for insanity.” I forget who it was, they must’ve been quite mad.

It comes down to a cat, in fact, to express this quotient in terms of suffering (antagonism + crisis = death; in film at least). This cat is what is definitively not saved as the outcome of the subjugation of reality to the possibility of the endless night.

If you are confused, good, so am I. Now that we share our confusion, let me point out that the confused are always more willing to admit that they know nothing; lest you begin to understand, remember that the moon speaks only to the ocean, it knows nothing of time.

Pretense emerges in the shadow of possibility, failure is the admissible outcome once the dream is understood; a comprehensible dream is either reality deferred or the deferral of reality; once it is dealt with it either explodes or implodes. Which is preferable? In the film we have explosion, I would tend to favor implosion as a means by which psychic structures are destroyed allowing for infinitely greater freedom of mind.

The external explosion of the dream means its ruin, means, reflected in the rough illusion of normalcy, that the little girl buries herself in the ground, and lets the grownups have sex (or fuck, as the golden chain would have it). But really, it is quite cold in the dark outside, as Paw Paw would tell you, and she cannot leave herself outside. A knock, knock, knockin’ comes and she realizes that she is moving towards the end. It is the shirt that explodes this last vestige of explosion, furiously burning itself as an iridescent music-mass. Her dance emerges, but it simultaneously alienates the illusion of the subjugation of her adult-self, and reveals her child-self that she has so unsuccessfully repressed.

And time begins again, and again, but Paw Paw is gone. The cat is out of the bag, out of the box. Does the possibility exist to stop everything again, to take a peek? Yes, and no. The pause is eternal, and it is never. Paw Paw always dies, is always alone, the repetition of film does not yield a different result, or an alternate possibility. This is both the truth of film and its greatest lie. There is no going back, only forwards, but everything pauses if you look in the box. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wayne's World (1992)

Party on Wayne.
Party on Garth.

Wayne’s world is really a systematic subversion of the symbologies that underlie the structural world of entertainment. It is a discontinuous film: while it follows a temporal storyline, it plays with the direction of storytelling. After all, from the start there is no fourth wall.

The viewer is doubly present and powerless, but is engaged in such a way that there is the illusion of control; that the viewer’s presence is what develops and motivates the world itself. But only the player can really play the game; rewind, restart, the line of language is always there, and never quite sets itself in stone.

Wayne’s world is the flexible world, where language is a kind of open symbolism whose affect is found in the implicit gesturing of independence. The trick is that the framework for Wayne and Garth’s independence is actually just a manifestation of the structure that they are explicitly rejecting.
The world of the film, then, becomes not the place of the film, but a place of film in popular consciousness. It inhabits a place that is, even as it rejects an institution, wrapped up in the same framework it is trying to escape.

There is no technology here, but the language of escape. This place is the collision of dreams with the Id, with ego satisfaction. The deeper the dream goes, the longer it goes on, as it winds its way inwards, the reality increases; it is not so much a proportion as an inverse, the farther from reality a movie moves, the more real it becomes; not in a representative way, but in a lingual turn: the dream language is much closer to the heart of desire.

Repetition reveals the dreamer’s intent, as reality is superseded by alter-realities.

Wayne’s world is real, because it is not not real. As far as this logic lacks, the dream language compensates, by drawing attention to the structure of the film itself.

Cassandra, you hear the truth every time, and yet no one listens, because they look to hear.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Harold and Maude (1971)

What is the difference between dying but not yet being dead, and living?

It is, really, a matter of perspective.

Harold is trying to live by dying.

And Maude is trying to die by living.

Harold and Maude (1971): Harold finds how to live, Maude to die.

Maude is a holocaust survivor. She has seen death; she has lived death, but has not died. And so she lost herself in life, but could never leave leaving death behind, she watches as the dead are buried, and relishes life because it is not death.

Harold is a lonely young man; he has never lived, so he tries to die. It is, intentionally, funny—the gruesome setups, the totally absent mother; it is macabre, but to the point of hyperbole.  He is lost in fake deaths, because he cannot live because he does not know what it means to live. At every enactment of death he hopes for the possibility of rebirth.

It is only when Harold actually sees death, when he goes to the graveyard, that something happens. Harold meets Maude; or rather, Maude takes Harold under her wing.

Maude is as free a free spirit as anyone could be. There is no room for why. Only, it is there, in its soft sadness, as both a depth of experience that only comes with age, but also as an equally deep exhaustion. Harold does not see the darker side, he only sees the light, and that is all she wants him to see. She is his illumination. Love is illumination.

Harold sees, he sees the world, and the world opens.

His disappearing act is the consummation of independence. Threatened by the army, he simply vanishes. The need to be present dissipates, and with it the possibility for coming into selfhood appears.

Identity is not reflexive, it is reflected. Harold sees in Maude everything that can be, and she sees…what does she see? I am not there, yet, I cannot see it, I would not, but it is perhaps something of innocence, of the wonder of seeing the light that opens in someone’s eyes for the first time—to be someone’s first love.
What is Maude’s death? It is both the key to the door and the Orphic trap. It threatens to consume Harold, so he drives it off a cliff. ‘It’ is both Maude’s death but also his own. He drives a hearse because he is always preparing to die. Only, once Maude is truly dead, he can either die too, or live as much for himself as for her.

A.M., illuminated you are at once zero, one, and two.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Who says that serious is everything kung fu can be? Actually, even before Jackie Chan, there’s something floating around where kung fu is partly improvisation. That’s what makes it so fantastic to watch in the good movies where it appears.
There’s something deeper (at least a little) there, too. Mastery is the attainment of the total, the sum of everything. The truth of mastery in kung fu is that it is an illusion. The true master of kung fu is empty.
Kung Fu Panda (2008), a children’s movie, actually revels in this. There is, to be sure, plenty of training and preparation, but when it comes down to the final fight, Po, the panda, uses his own kung fu. 
It is easy to say that the kung fu master beats the shit out of his enemies, protects his friends, and does the right thing. Move a little closer and it becomes clear that the only time that fighting is necessary is when mastery is desired. Which is to say, the true kung fu master holds mastery to be pointless. Yet, this is exactly what is so easily, and frequently, missed and misinterpreted.
It is very easy to idolize power, because the idol is always the symbol of desire.
The scroll containing the secret technique that Po is “chosen” to learn is empty. What needs to be written? Every symbol requires interpretation, and every interpretation is incomplete. The only complete technique, the only ultimate, is the empty.
See here, that kung fu is just a metaphor: the villain wants the ultimate technique, he wants it because it promises power. Anyone who desires everything for its own sake is left empty handed. The point is that the hand that is empty can always be filled, but looking to fill the hand only ever realizes that it is empty.
The cookie jar brings ingenuity.
Desiring something is not wrong, but it is not right. It is not justification, it can provide something, but even then the something can fade. Letting the cookie jar go, and everything becomes the cookie jar.
The question emerges though: what does the body have to do with all of this? It is both the binding and the source: it limits what we are capable of doing, but also provides the impetus for doing.
Po let’s his body go, his body is his kung fu.
It is magnificent that he is able to do this, but leaving the theater how much of this remains and is crystallized-->
The point is that only stillness, once in awhile, only reading desires truthfully, can create movement.
JJ, the transformation of desire (the transformation of the materials) is the space of the hand.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Prestige (2006)

Whenever there is a question of originality, I ask myself: who?
Which is to say: what?
Never mind when.
In the end, at the beginning, the original is always never the same as the duplicate. The duplicate can be the original at the end or the beginning, and at the same time not be the original: a divergent convergence.
In The Prestige (2006) the part becoming whole is not the same as the whole of the parts. The mind wanders along paths that seem to meet and split, that contain puzzles and traps, and eventually the nature of the split is defined as magic. This is the primal element of deception: a fragmenting of the self, hiding the truth. And when the truth is bodied, embodied?
The answer to the riddle of the sphinx is always death.
In nature, nothing is exactly the same. People make nature conform not only to themselves, but also to the concept of nature. So is the idea of nature the same as nature itself (does nature have a self)?
As the truth eludes the eye, it cannot elide the ear. Language is the nature of individuality; it is the expression of self. Not necessarily spoken, but acted, too. What contains dissonance is language, it reverberates, reveals itself, in love. 
Two people cannot learn to love the same way. It is the greatest schizophrenia, as a magic act. Nature rebels because it is the empty ego, it cannot be filled the same way by two vessels—the space itself is different.
So the poor charade goes on, and one day there is love, and one day there is hate.
Meanwhile, unable to unravel the schizophrenia, he sees one where there are two, and in looking finds that in one there can indeed be two, but one must always be deducted so that there can be some sense of originality. Hugh Jackman, pride is the fall. It is a killing fall, wrapped up in the hangman’s noose; woven by water and repetition, the tides ebb and flow, a magic box that cannot be opened.
Finally, the climax is reached when revenge is sought, and bought, paid for in karmic dues: a life for a life. So whence there were two there now is one. There is no greater magic trick than deceit—this is the nature of the magic trick. Real magic cannot be understood, that is the nature of the word. The prestige of magic is precisely that it is a trick. In the prestige, the value of the trick emerges, as does the price that needs to be paid in recompense for the deception.
A true illusion is reality; a magic trick is never this, it is always that.
Kublai Kahn, Marco showed you the magic of language in repetition, can you see the nature of its truth in the fall?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix (1999)
Is this real? Are the words you are reading right now not simply a code that constructs the world? This is the trick, the conceit, the prestige, of The Matrix. It suggests that the world we are immersed in is code. And it is code, it is coded, there is no way to avoid this. Language is the external code of thought, and you reading this right now are coding and de-coding, now.
[If you don’t follow, then you’re already and have always been in wonderland, because if you’re not there, where are you?]
The fall down the rabbit hole is to realize that these are not your real eyes, your real flesh, they are all your real mind. When you are in the matrix, without knowing that it exists, then you are not in the matrix at all. Once you know it exists, once you are within it, then begins the search for a way out.
[Is it necessary to search? Can’t you just let go? But if you let go, what do you find?]
Shown the way, and it is not the way.
“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.”
The whole quote, is not quite what the abridged ‘story’ is. In the ‘story’ Chuang Chou simply says that he does not know which he is, a butterfly dreaming of Chuang Chou, or Chang Chou dreaming of a butterfly. This retains The Matrix’s ambiguity in terms of the viewer’s own coded understanding of things. Which is to say, the viewer who simply watches The Matrix, sees unfolding a coded world. The ‘simple’ question is then: is this world coded and I am simply code, or am I the world and is the code me?
[There are always alternate possibilities?]
Now then, the end of the quote is the distinction between code and the real. And the distinction is simply the transition. Or, to transform between code and reality is the way.
In terms of Neo’s death/rebirth, what is quite obviously suggested is that he becomes transcendent, a superman (and literally, look, he flies!). Taking the third movie into account, the end of the trilogy, one has to wonder whether he is in any way enlightened. If anything, it suggests that he is still dreaming, far from coming to any kind of understanding, having found power he loses the way, because the mountain is necessary to his sense of self.
[On the other hand, he could be asserting the end of the need for doubt. Confident in his selfhood, he flies?]
And so, what is Neo’s rebirth at the end of the movie, at which point he enters Mr. Smith and destroys him from the inside out? It is simply seeing the code and being able to enter it, change it, destroy it. Neo becomes, basically, a glorified hacker.
The Matrix is a very fun movie, because it suggests that we can learn to see the coded world around us and manipulate it. But do you see now that the movie itself is always going to be coded, that the only way to leave the code behind is to step back. It is not a matter of control. It is the question of…nothing.
[Is it a question of questioning?]
Through Neo’s eyes the code can be seen to construct everything, but Neo steps into it instead of stepping back. The movie fundamentally inhabits the code as its master because that is what everyone wants to see: the mastery of reality. And so what is so quickly forgotten, is that we are being shown the way, and that because it is shown, it is not the way.
This is the trap, the double bind, of The Matrix.
<Is there, Chuang Chou, any cave worth going to?>
<Is there any cave worth traveling out of?>
[Or, is it that the cave is just the question mark at the end of this sentence?]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Bruges (2008)

The value of sacrifice is love?
In Bruges (2008) does not really appear to be a love story, in the traditional sense. What is a love story, but a story of change?
That it is between two men, that they are killers, cold and calculating, does not matter in the sense that love is not necessarily the embroiled physicality that is so often a pastiche in the style of a tragedy-less Romeo & Juliet.
Unraveling slowly: the relationship of this movie is constructed, it has a foundation. If anything death serves as an incalculable metaphor: as the plunge from the heights of the structural relationship to the feet of the other.
The theme of the turn, of the transformation that hinges on a crucial relationship, or encounter; it is a sudden moment of…clarity, or conscience? There is to the Idiot always the possibility of redemption, but it falls on the flip of a coin, the turn of a lip, regardless. Embedded in the structure of transformation is the necessity of the flow of karma that whirls in eddies as direction is changed. To turn to face karma, to truly transform, is to face retribution. And if you are a killer, the answer is easily found.
At the shore of past/future, the present emerges as a viciously winding staircase. In the end can you see that there is no self?
The turn between, accident and intent, is like a line drawn in the sand. Movements of repetition solve only to serve the interests of the invisible.
I have, so far, ignored the dark laugh—black comedy, irony, satire—that sets the film in motion; it is this element that functions both as cause and as effect, that brings out the beauty of the sacrifice. It is almost too bizarre to be beautiful or too sad to be funny, and yet there is for this exact purpose not quite any concrete rationality present. By refusing truth/reality altogether it gets along with the shadow alone, mimetic recognition, the partial and fragmented anything. This is the beauty of being In Bruges.
Beauty is a crush of gravity and a death rattle. Time sentences here, but to serve out the arbitrary rules happily is…it is truly play.
Pooh Bear, your block is the only way.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pulp Fiction (1994)

What is the caliber of action?
I would say a Walther PPK
But the subtleties of the spy game are absented from Quentin Tarantino’s films. Violence is always hiding in plain sight.
It is not, though, the quality (the caliber) of the action that makes Tarantino’s films such a thrill. It is the sheer momentum, the force of storytelling that pushes the pulp through the sieve that is the barrier between good and great. And Pulp Fiction is a great film. It is a great film because of the way it tells its story. The pulp, the violence, is strained out, and what is left is a smooth fiction (shaken, not stirred).
Time loops, in Pulp Fiction, it comes around, at the end, to the end of the beginning. That’s the kind of loop that I dig. The violence at the end and the suggestion of violence (to come) at the beginning, are both deferred.
The fates of, ultimately, all the characters in the film, hinge on a single passage that Jules quotes twice. In film, the flow is bewitched by doubles, pairs, and twins. They suggest a mnemonic hallucination, collectively oriented towards a sublimated message. The passage is Ezekiel 25:17, and the passage that Jules quotes is only the same at the last sentence (17). This is the key that suggests that what Jules is really quoting is a formula for transcendence. Sentence 17 reads: “And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
The ending informs the meaning of Jules’ passage. Once Jules has been saved by divine intervention, he has seen the hand of the Lord. The contents of the suitcase, which are never revealed, could then be satirically interpreted as divine. So, Jules, sent to retrieve the ‘divine’ is spared, while the hand of the Lord lays its vengeance on those that have stolen it. The hand flaps in both directions.
At the end, once Jules has been saved, and the serpent comes around to bite its own tail, he finally reaches interpretive depth. Up until this point when he no longer kills, he pulls the trigger inwards.
The question of Butch, the only other central figure to escape unscathed turns on two points: going for the watch, and saving Marsellus. He is saved on a whim (poor Vincent taking a shit, and dying like a shit, because he refused the hand the Lord offered him) and saves in return (with a samurai sword no less), and thus is granted absolution.
To get back to Jules: the pulp of Pulp Fiction has to do with an absolute arrogance— Mia’s episode snorting horse—and Fiction plays and pays only as temporal breaks, as splits and schisms in the endlessness of violence. That is the jewel of the film: that in the empty links of the chains that bind the film together, in the empty space that goes “clink” the story of passivity, of the shepherd and the lambs, truly unfolds.  
When Jules refuses to kill Pumpkin or Yolanda, when he sends them off with all the money from the café, what has he done? He hasn’t done a favor for all the poor people who lost their wallets, but he has beaten the pulp against the sieve and finds it far smoother.  He is not really a shepherd, only one of the sheep, but it is a notch below where he had imagined himself before.
There is no transcendence without descent, and violence is the fight for ascendance; it is the effort to let go (of that $1500 dollars, for example) that suggests how deeply Jules splits from Vincent. The irony is that in the last frames of the film, Jules and Vincent side by side, there does not seem to be a difference. Only, that Jules holds the case, and Vincent does not.
So Anna, can you dig the relativity necessary for contrast?
There is nothing to distinguish the caliber of action except inaction.


Revolver (2005)

When is an action movie not an action movie?

Revolver is an action movie that is not an action movie. There is and there is not much more to it. It deals in deceptive simplicity, and unanswerable questions: they could either be plot holes, or plot points.

Revolver is about revolutions—a kind of Russian roulette of the mind. It is a mind game hidden inside the body of an action game. The trump suit is the mind, the trump card…well…you have to play to find out.

Disappearance, the impossibility of doing the impossible and reappearance, the possibility of doing anything at all; it plays out like a magic show: the magician reaches into the hat, each time deeper and deeper.

What comes out falls along either the impossible or the possible. It depends on you. The question becomes whether or not you can believe. Believe in nothing, there is no thing to believe in anymore—this is impossibility. If you decide to believe, then anything that comes about is possible.

A hint, and a warning, given, is that to attempt the impossible, while trapped in the possible, is tempting the abyss. The greatest fall is the fall into impossibility, but before you are ready, it’s better to stay put, because in order to fall, you have to face the end of the barrel.

What is fear?

It is always possible. It is impossible not to fear. Right? Revolver revolves around fear, around the possibility that if you pull the trigger the bullet comes out. It is not about a specific fear, although the deepest fear is always the fear of death, it is about the formula of fear.

If you understand a formula absolutely, and the formula is absolute, then essentially, you become the formula. Becoming it, you can become not it. Just like in a game of tag: if you are it, you can become not it. Fear is being it, and we are all, always, it. But this is a choice; although that it is a choice is a necessary realization. As revolutions revolve in the revolver, when the bullet comes into play, the choice emerges to be not it. To step through the game of tag is to simply be not it, not tagged, not shot, not there.

The magician, who reaches into his hat when there is absolutely nothing inside, is the true magician. It becomes a matter of no-matter.

Tom, do you see, that it can’t be seen?

Jerry, where else than here?

Harry Potter (2011) [The End?]

So I went and saw the last Harry Potter. For half price no less, but exactly why that is, is a secret (if you must know you can find the answer to all your half price questions in the anarchist cookbook). And it was…underwhelming.

Note: nothing.

The movie tried to carry the message that the Harry Potter books do—that good can overcome evil through perseverance, companionship, compassion, sacrifice, and love. These are transcendent qualities, all the power to them!

There is, in such a profoundly absolute sense that no amount of well-deserved hyperbole can qualify it, nothing especially unique about the story of Harry Potter in literature or film. I don’t mean this as a criticism, exactly. There is not much that is especially unique, anywhere, ever. It’s nice when a vehicle comes along that everyone can hop on. Harry Potter is not something that needs to be understood.
Still, it feels as though there could have been more effort involved. Maybe it is extremely difficult to pretend like you exist in a land where magic is real; where it is just when the imagination dims that childhood ends. So to see the breadth of absence in the creation of the environment (I’m referring to the actor’s here, the CGI was, well…weak, but leaving that aside…) could be particularly, shocking, scarring. To want it, perhaps, to be real so badly, and to only see it constructed like a toy model, all the mystery stripped away.

There’s one dissonant part of the movie, right towards the end, that I am going to jump on. There was a rumble in the jungle of the magical world that all the moviegoers were trying to escape to.  (a side note: there were some communal laughs at different parts of the movie, particularly the one I’m about to discuss, which totally destroyed any suspension of disbelief: something absolutely crucial to the enjoyment factor of a movie like this).

When Harry is talking to Dumbledore, after he has “died” and the topic is about where Harry is, the question of mind comes up. I almost expected Harry to wake up in a mental institution. And the film does in fact suggest this, it suggests that the possibility of transcending the moral ambiguity of “magic” is farcical; the actors make a poor play of the magic.

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

If the viewer were to walk out at this point, when Harry is in, literally, limbo—between life and death—the film would end and Harry Potter would end without carrying anything, any message, any possibilities. The question of whether magic is an allegory or a metaphor falls on deaf ears. That world in the film could not possibly real, because, after all it is just a film: that Harry is able to re-enter life, after death, that he transcends the void (Christ like? Or is that too much?), is simultaneously the death of doubt (that this is all in his mind) and the life of doubt: that none of this is real—because there is no life after death outside of the film, outside of the screen. This one act, this death-defying act, twists the message Harry carries, just as it twists He Who Shall Not Be Named (which is a great name by the way).

The twirly gig ate a fig and shat out a fat pig.

The occult is more than this movie—as an end the movie is like the emptying of the well (or the closure of a book). The occult, well, I’d drink to that.

So, Nicole, on and on it goes, and where is stops nobody knows.

Network (1976)

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

What is the premise of the film Network (1976)?

Satire sits in your lap, it sinks and weighs on you. And it only goes away when you forget it. The point of Network is, in my humble opinion, that when you watch it it will make you “mad as hell” until you forget about it, because there’s always something far more exciting going on. To me, that is the point, it’s a sharp tipped arrow, but its poison is the poison of mass media in the first place. It makes you sick, until you get some more.

Radicalism is only as radical as its next paycheck.

Qualifying statements are for dupes, statistics are for idiots.

Did you notice that there’s no premise given, only the point? That’s all that Network can offer, little jabs—that’s all that television can offer. Inundated with these little wounds, watching television (on the internet no less) is a special kind of masochism. It is state sanctioned, culturally sanctioned, socially sanctioned, and even religiously sanctioned (so long as the message gels appropriately). It is totally neutral and therefore it has become the platform for any and every opinion, both the factual and factual ones. Am I still discussing the film?

The internet is predicted by this film in the sense that the prophet, your prophet, is out there, you just have to look hard enough—but wait, what about that cute little kitten falling into a piano? Do you see the picture; that you’re in the picture because you’re not mad as hell, you’re just laughing your ass off.
And pray tell, the cynics arrive, have you been cynicalized by cyanide flavored candies? Once a certain distance is achieved, and the full breadth of disbelief grinds its gears, there is either total removal (not likely) or cynical appraisal*that’s where the candy comes in*and to the cynic anything is permissible so long as it achieves the proper level of entertainment value. It’s a loop of infinite regression as content becomes increasingly ubiquitous—and the people that feed the content only need to feed that regression/progression.

To break the cycle: to get “mad as hell” and scream it, for real, start screaming, it’s positively cathartic, we’re so shut up watching TV that tells us to shut up and listen, that we forget where our voices are, the primal YAWP. The problem, of course, is that getting “mad as hell” becomes a catch phrase, until shouting it becomes another yawning silence.

Watch Network and start screaming (nothing, anything).

Cheers Ming, 23 skidoo.