Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Its Soul Got Sucked Out

Crimes of the Future (2022) - Cronenberg Crimes of the Future Hardly reinventing the wheel, but with Crimes of the Future, David Cronenberg reiterates his usual theme strongly- inadequacy of human bodies and our soulless society. Crimes might lack his usual titilation and shock value, but it's still quite potent in making those points, more so than his better films over the years, namely - Dead Ringers, Crash, Cosmopolis and even Dangerous Methods.

Crimes of the Future presages with a disturbing beginning where a mother murders her own child after the young boy starts chomping at the plastic garbage bin in their bathroom. It's the indescript near future where human bodies evolved to a point that they don't feel pain or in needs of anticeptics when the knives cut into them. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is a performance artist. He and his partner, a former surgeon Caprice (Léa Seydoux) performs a sort of live autopsy on Saul's torso. It's Saul's ability to will a new organ that serves no function to his body and Caprice's tattooing and removing the organs that make them the superstars of this seemingly still unlawful and underground art form.

Saul, always shrouded in veils and hunched over, is physically not well. Either his mutations made him always brittle and ill, or his performances left him looking like a MS sufferer; he spends most of his time in the aide of a cocoon like bed hanging from the ceiling - a true cronenbergian contraption that looks like an upside down cockroach and a skeletal chair that helps him feed.

Their registering the new organs at the very literally named Organ Registy Office, a dreamy, Kafkaesque reimagining of what 'institution' looks like, connects the pair to a nebbish bureaucratic hottie Timlin (Kristen Stewart in a very comical performance), who breathlessly praises Tenser's artistry. Surgery is new sex, she declares. The dead child's father, who's also training his body to the effects of poison, approaches the pair and offers his son's body for the performance. Do they perform the live autopsy of the boy in front of the live audience or no?

Watching Crimes of the Future immediately reminded me of the famed painting by Rembrandt - The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. In it, spectators surround a recently deceased corpse and Dr. Tulp is explaining the denuded musculature of the corpse's left forearm. Yet, the spectators' attention is not with the corpse but elsewhere and they are not even noticing the inaccurate arm (it's the right hand depicted instead of the left). Rembrandt was commenting on the inadequacy of seeking knowledge and truth in the human body in the Age of Enlightenment. And this is the point Cronenberg has been making all his career- our futile quests for answers in what makes us humans, in our bodies which are the most personal, tangible things that each of us possesses, and not finding it there. And pursuing so hard to find something in all the blood and guts, you lose sight of whatever the humanity that's left in us. In a way, Cronenberg is going back to the basics - to the flesh after more cerebral musings in searching for the soul (Dangerous Methods, Cosmopolis). Crimes of the Future is less kitschy and much less over the top parody like History of Violence or Maps to the Stars. And its general mood is closer to Spider and Dead Ringers. But nonetheless it's undeniably Cronenbergian and great.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Love Knots

Undo (1994) - Iwai Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 9.30.57 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 9.54.24 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 11.02.02 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 9.56.49 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 9.59.37 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 10.02.29 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 10.04.40 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 10.08.10 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 10.10.25 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 10.17.14 AM Yukio (Etsushi Toyokawa) and Moemi (Tomoko Yamaguchi) are a young couple very much in love. Yukio is a writer, spending most of his time at his computer. Yet, he tries to tend to Moemi's needs. Dogs and cats are not allowed in their seemingly large and specious apartment, so Yukio gets a couple of turtles for Moemi. First apprehensive, Moemi gets used to the idea of turtles as pets and takes them to stroll outside and stuff. Moemi also got her braces off from her teeth, the new reality that Yukio has to get used to while kissing her: she notices that he is missing that metalic taste and half jokingly suggests she will wear them for him, forever.

Moemi also develops Obssessive Knot-Binding Syndrome, where she continuously binds everything in the house with her yarns - the turtles, fruit, books, sissors, etc. She finally ends up with binding herself. Is this some sort of symptoms of their seemingly normal relationship? Why is she doing this? What's the cause of her maladies? Short on exposition and but extra on surrealism, Undo befits that early 90s soft-edged Japanese emo dramas.

Undo operates in that distinct 90s Japanese literary universe, helmed by writers Banana Yoshimoto and Haruki Murakami - something whimsical, surreal yet ultimately shallow and harmless. These slight stories only exists within the universe where nothing is too dramatic or tragic, as if afraid of digging deeper into their own meanings would shatter their thin visage and evaporates into ether. But yet, that preciousness was the charm and lure so many of my peers were enraptured by back then. And Undo is the pinnacle of that fragile preciousness on display.

Shunji Iwai has a talent for visual flair - the turles hanging from the windows, gaggle of school children while the couple are embracing, the sunbeams on Yamaguchi's lovely face are all memorable.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Cinema Finally Caught Up with the Internet

We're All Going to the World's Fair (2021) - Schoenbrun Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 8.31.53 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 8.32.44 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 8.33.24 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 7.28.29 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 8.30.52 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 8.30.24 AM It's remarkable to think that it's been more than twenty years since Kiyoshi Kurosawa's internet themed horror, Pulse, came out. And it took twenty years for another, more down to earth, acute observations of growing up with the internet to come out, which is Jane Schoenbrun's We're All Going to the World's Fair. There has been some internet themed horror films in recent years, but none really concentrated on the alienation and performative aspects of the internet in a heartbreaking and poignant way Schoenbrun presents here. The main point of the movie is that in the internet discourse, no one knows one another, there is no distinguishing between what's real and what is not,that everyone has been circling around one another, for comfort, for lust, for real human connections, reaching out ever so timidly and endlessly without no tangible satisfaction. On a larger context, for the last two decades, this has been the case for millions of lonely souls.

On another level, Schoenbrun, a non-binary filmmaker, uses the film to reflect on the internet as a stage for countless queer teens in non-major cities trying to find their way around in the internet ether, trying to find themselves through performance. And I'm not saying that performance aspect of the internet is only relegated to the queer teens. But you can read the film as that way. Internet also can be a hazadous and dangerous place. But the film also turns the tables on the perceived predator/victim catfishing theme. It encompasses many layers of the internet dominated world and reflect the melancholy of accepting and living with something less than authentic, honest, truthful relationship because those things don't exist.

Queer Space

Terminal Norte (2021) - Martel Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 8.32.17 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 7.41.16 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 8.34.40 AM Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 8.13.07 AM Lately I've been reading up a lot on 'queer space' - the periperal space where one can create their own utopia and at the same time, giving a middle finger to the heteronomative and highly patriarchal majority. After Zama, Lucrecia Martel, one of the greatest living filmmakers, goes back to Salta, the Nothern Andean region where she hails from, during pandemic induced lockdown, and makes Terminal Norte, a short documentary on copleras/female singers and musicians. Our guide is Julieta Laso, whose gravelly voice makes my spine tingle into the mountainous slopes and introduces many queer, trans artist dabbling in traditional and non-traditional music (Trap and Noise included). In Martel's hands, one loses themselves soon enough, and becomes multitudes of voices across gender, age and time. What a pleasure to witness an artist in her zenith of power creating something so consistent and true to her craft in the time of global crisis, where togetherness, human touch has become the enemy? As Laso sings in her moanful voice with her tiger's stare, I feel that it's only art that can help us through in tough times.