February 23, 2006



Recently watched the movie, Wonderland. Another movie about unredeeming derelicts acting horribly and treating each other badly which made me feel bad afterwards. Not that bad, it’s not that powerful a movie, but I have a diminishing patience for movies about people being ugly through and through. Wonderland’s about John Holmes, porn star, who was involved in the murder of four junkies/thieves in the early eighties. The movie wanted very much to be like Boogie Nights. So did Blow. I didn’t like that much either, sort of awkward.

But that’s not what I’m writing about. I checked the extra features on the DVD and there was police video footage of the actual crime scene. A detective, calmly, blandly describing, "There are blood patterns in a westerly direction from victim number one. Ransacking is present. On the table there is drug paraphernalia. An ashtray with five cigarettes. Three Winston, two Salems." All the while standing over a man who’s been beaten to death with a steel rod. Blood everywhere, head caved in.

I’d never seen a murder scene like that, and never seen one after I’d just watched a fictionalized account. The movie makes the whole thing seem sort of fun, which was what made seeing the real police video all that more affecting. The movie’s trying to be harrowing, but a movie is an entertainment, you’re supposed to enjoy it. The police video was just so fucking scary and sad. Cheap furniture, a shitty L.A. house, not unlike places I have lived, a blood stained book, "Mysticism," dead people in every room. Nightmarish and awful.

I haven’t seen too much real-life violence. That’s an incredible "knock on wood" statement. One time walking near Astor Place in New York City, two guys walked past me. Suddenly everything went black and my face hurt. One of the guys had hit me in the face. I could see him smiling as he walked away. Blood poured out of my nose in gushes. My friend went to get napkins from a pizza place. I have never seen death up close, never seen war firsthand, never seen someone get shot. If we’re to believe the news, this shit happens all the time.

I’ve just written a book in which people are murdered. Seeing the real thing is a whole different animal. My book is supposed to be a kind of satire, sort of like American Psycho is a satire, but not really. Wonderland is not a satire, it’s supposed to be an accurate portrayal of what actually happened, which makes the movie a sort of fucked-up exercise. People always tell kids that they shouldn’t get too scared at a movie, it’s all make-believe. No one really got hurt. I don’t believe this. If you shoot a scene in which a woman is murdered, someone gets tortured, whatever, there’s a lot going on. The actors are channeling bad experiences in order to express something, the audience is collectively feeling terrible, you’ve put the thing to print. So making a movie is not the same thing as hideous things happening, but I’m not sure it’s entirely helpful either. Especially if the only thing the movie is trying to express is: life sucks.

In other opinions, I thought the violence in Munich was non-affecting and contrived, when it’s supposed to be powerful and truth-telling. Perhaps because the docudrama violence is coupled with action movie crap, the whole movie lost its impact. I just couldn’t stand the scene where a little girl might be blown up with her father who’s supposed to die. There’s an interview with Hitchcock, I think from the interviews done by Truffaut, in which he says that creating suspense where a child is in danger is hack filmmaking: it’s too easy.

I liked Brokeback Mountain a lot. It was moving.

Crash was horrid. I agree with the people at Toilet Paper Online. I think the movie’s about racism, but I’m not sure.


Anonymous said...

Agree about impact of screen violence. Jean-Luc Godard said-- about Schindler's List--that one his personal failures was not "preventing Steven Spielberg from reconstructing Auschwitz."

I think it was Truffaut who took Hitchcock to task for putting a ticking bomb under a kid's bus seat: "an abuse of cinematic power." De Palma's The Untouchables, same principle.


Henry Baum said...

I got it backwards. My dad can quote Godard and Truffaut at whim.

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