Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Scanners / Videodrome (David Cronenberg)

Exploding head syndrome

David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981) begins where Brian De Palma's hallucinatory The Fury ends--with the image of a man's head exploding in slow motion

The film goes on to sketch a world of renegade paranormals and shadowy secret organizations worthy of Philip K. Dick ("Scanning isn't the reading of minds but the merging of two nervous systems, separated by space." The mix of provocative metaphysical ideas with pulp SF terminology is purest Dick). The plot is complicated--Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is sent by CONSEC psychopharmacist Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) to infiltrate an underground society of scanners and eliminate its head, Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside)--but really just a framework on which Cronenberg hangs his paranoid and increasingly bizarre view of reality. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki)

The greatest Disney film ever released

Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no tani no Naushika, 1984) was based on his thousand-page manga, first published in Animage magazine from 1982 to 1996. He'd been asked by Animage's publishing company Tokuma Shonen to do a feature anime project and offered two proposals, both of which Tokuma rejected: neither was from a successful manga with an existing audience, a prerequisite for raising the big money needed. Miyazaki agreed to draw a manga instead, under the condition that it not be made into a film (he reportedly felt he wanted to express things in the manga that he couldn't onscreen).

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Brood (David Cronenberg)

The children are 

Interesting to chart the course of David Cronenberg's career as if it were a pathology, the coursing progress of a disease through the body--from early infection (disease invades and incubates inside body) to prodormal (initial signs something's wrong) to full manifestation (symptoms run rampant) to response (body attempts to subdue the disease) to recovery/reintegration.

Wouldn't call The Brood (out in Blu Ray October 13) an early work--Cronenberg seems already aware of infection (Shivers, Rabid)--but with this feature you might say he's past prodormal stage, and the symptoms have become fully apparent. Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) is being treated at the Somafree Institute, under care of Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed). The institute encourages the manifestation of one's repressed anger as a means of therapy; meantime Nola's husband Frank (Art Hindle) has to deal with the mysterious killings that follow their daughter Candy (Cindy Hinds). 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Clouds of Sils Maria

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) is remarkably nebulous and unstable yet intense. There is a plot, but the plot--aging actress asked to perform in play that made her famous, only in a different role--matters less than the intricately staged and written scenes between said actress and her young assistant, at times rehearsing the play, at times acting out their fascinatingly knotty relationship.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

Little girl lost

(Warning: Story and plot twists discussed in explicit detail)

Hayao Miyazaki's Sento Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away, 2001), about a girl named Chihiro whose parents have been turned into pigs, has been called everything from an anime variation on Charles Dodgson's Alice books to a fantasy treatise on parent-child relations in modern Japan to (as Miyazaki himself put it) a parable on developing maturity in ten-year-old girls.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)


Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker starts from an image of almost total stasis, where the camera moves past a pair of double doors to find the Stalker (a self-appointed guide into the alien-created forbidden Zone) in bed, with his wife beside him. Cut to a high angle shot of a bedstand: a water glass trembles, starts to slide; the camera glides sideways, finds the wife gazing at the bedstand, the daughter fast asleep, the Stalker trying to gauge his wife's wakefulness; glides back (past gazing wife) to the water glass in original position, as if it had never moved

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Martian (Andy Weir)

Mars needs women

In the wake of all the vampire books and zombie books and young adult fiction hits littering the popular landscape, Andy Weir's The Martian--about American astronaut Mark Watley, forced to survive alone on Mars--is like shot of adrenaline. At last a narrative that depends not on magic or the power of love but the relentless laws of science! And funny to boot!