Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967) *1/2 First Viewing
A Warning! This review will be fragmented and abstract and not necessarily speak much to the film. This last season of Mad Men was mostly on my mind during the viewing of this classic French film by New Wave Director Jean Luc Goddard. I’m putting my deconstruction disclaimer up front, like Goddard.
Released in 1967, I imagine Megan made Don to see the film on the advice of one of her actress friends. Megan wants to be an artiste, you see, but lacks the self-reflection needed to create authentic art. She’s not dumb, just life has been too easy for the rewards she wants. Her rewards will always be echoes of other people’s work. Even the work that she creates fully has phantom meanings and phantom worth.
Don worships the image. Ascribing meaning to image, imbuing art with hidden desires is his bread and butter. If something has meaning, then it also has desirability. If it has desirability, well, then, you can sell it. You can reinvent it. You can create meaning and desirability where nothing previously existed. That’s America.
Anything desirable has transactional qualities. Although, Don is slowly learning that transactions have costs sometimes not worth bearing, transactions that are neither fair nor known.
Anyway, Don hates the movie. It goes after the corrosive nature of the consumer culture, it works overtime to separate meaning from image, words from meaning, the nature of meaning from itself. It’s a very anti-American film, both saying America is a great evil by being in Vietnam and by saying that we are stuck as who we are. America even fucks the lead. Literally. I get it, Don thinks. America Uber Alles.
We are helpless victims that only know we have arms and legs and hearts because of the failings of language. The characters, mostly interchangeable, spout what seems like nihilism. There’s no narrative, no story, only situations. Fragmented images, unrelated actions, and meandering philosophy 101.
Be real, like people can be, Don thinks.
There’s a God-like narrator who whispers, ashamed or unsure? It’s all pointless deconstruction. To create you must destroy, Don’s heard, but it’s all destruction. No onward. No upward.
The lead of the film, Juliet, is a house wife who prostitutes herself for extra money. Very transactional. She desires nice clothes, has some nice clothes, but finds no meaning in her life, in her things. Did she call herself a thing? Really?
Shouldn’t this be a dream instead of just an abstraction?
Megan does feel a twinge inside. The acting game of late has been feeling very transactional, very abstract. She also wishes for forward momentum in the movie, but none arrives, no answers to those problems given. The husband, Roger (Ha), in the movie is remote, living on a plane other than his wife.
Where’s the connection? He has his own obsessions, his own wars in his head, and rarely even seems to talk to her, much less even look at her. His back is always to the camera, it seems.
She is pretty and has some nice clothes. No one has to sacrifice, no one is asked to sacrifice. Is stasis the new revolution? Is there even revolution in stasis?
Unlike Don, who seems angry at the ‘anti-ness’ of the film, Megan is non-plussed. The women don’t mind being house wives and prostitutes? They’re also not happy or unhappy, that’s frustrating. Are they just things? Do they want to be things, accepting a hidden fate? The film demands that you don’t absorb it. She thinks, I’m French Canadian, why didn’t I connect?
Later in the evening, after sex, Don works on his latest ad campaign and Megan works on forgetting. The next day, they tell their friends and co-workers that they saw the movie and leave it at that.
The film’s themes are dated. The philosophies, the film’s tricks, the ideas, everything, feels dated. Maybe if I was still in college, it would have the sheen of deep meaning, but we all gotta grow up sometime, stop pondering and live life.
Everything we consume already comes to us pre-deconstructed. Deconstruction is nothing new anymore. My favorite show is MST3K for goodness sake.
I recently read an article by a black writer complaining about Mad Men. He said, it’s not that they’re white as to why I feel so disconnected to the show, it’s that their problems and dramas are too esoteric for me to relate to.
See, meta. The orboros of life.
Things I learned from 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her:
—Parisian whore houses have good daycare.
—If everyone in the film stopped smoking and drinking, no one would need to be a housewife/prostitute.
That’s about it.
Do It: Saints Row 3. It’s Grand Theft Auto deconstructed and made much, much stupider. My most played video game this year.
Avoid It: Candle Wax Ear Treatments. C’mon, don’t be a chump.
The Tweeter: Did you know Prince often writes songs while dreaming. Also, you should forgive him if they go astray or sue him if they go too fast. #partylikeits1999
The Facing Book: Hey everybody, check out this news story…(insert what you’re reading here)
Next Up: 200 Motels (1971), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The 400 Blows (1959), or #500. Abbey Road by The Beatles (1969).
21 Days (1940) ***1/2 First Viewing
It’s either the best or it’s the worst
and since I don’t have to choose
I guess I won’t and I know this ain’t no way to treat a guest
But why don’t you grab your old lady by the feet
and just lay her out in the darkest street
and by morning, she’s just another hit and run.
You know, some people got no choice
and they can never find a voice
to talk with that they can even call their own
So the first thing that they see that allows them the right to be
why they follow it, you know, it’s called bad luck.
—Lou Reed, Street Hassle
I know that most people who see the title of this review and the release date of the film will just skip the whole affair. Old black and white movies are boring. I get that, but I’m not writing the reviews as a consumer guide, a pro or con on whether to see it, but as a reaction to the movie itself, it’s themes and what comes into my mind as I watch it. In some ways, the movie is a conduit for a more personal blog post.
And the first thought I had in this film were the Lou Reed lyrics above. The lyrics are pretty grim. Look at the movie poster, it looks like a romantic film. But it’s not, mostly.
Lawrence Olivier plays a young man who accidentially kills the newly discovered husband of his girlfriend, Vivien Leigh (That’s Miss Scarlett O’Hara to you). He enlists the aid of his brother, a lawyer on his way to being a judge. While the set-up is noir lite, the execution and ending plays out differently. We’re encouraged to root for Oliver as a straight-up protagonist, albeit riddled with guilt. It’s a zippy (71 minutes) little film that asks a lot of interesting moral questions. Do we really need to pay for our failings? Is it okay to be charged with one crime, but pay for another? Does love, of a girl or a brother, mitigate and soften ones crime? Can intentions be a worthy substitue for action? And the perennial question, if you could get away with murder, would you and to what point would ignore or aid the man wrongfully charged with the crime you committed? Fun stuff.
In some ways the movie reminded me of the first season of The Killing, the way one death can affect so many people and the way self preservation, denial, honor, suffering and love collide. The film seems to make the case that a life filled with daily distractions bound by love IS a good moral choice.
I’ve been dreading some of the upcoming Criterion Collection films, but if they’re as lean as this one, I’ll be okay. I liked this one and if you’re a fan of crime/courtroom dramas, you may as well. The dialog is typically 1940’s quick and I totally didn’t guess the ending. Some may call the ending a bit of a cheat, but not me, I was expecting noir.
Things I Learned From 21 Days:
—If I kill a man, don’t just leave him out in an alley. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
—If I kill a man, burn all evidence and if my brother’s a high muckity-muck lawyer, for goodness sake LISTEN to him. A man’s lack of conscience is a virtue in a crime. (See Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction)
—A long boat ride and a carnival is a good way to take your mind off a man’s wrongly charged murder trial.
—Newspapers in the ’40’s were faster at delivering the news than today’s internet.
—Foreigners living in 1940’s London had seriously awesome moustaches.
Bonus Mini Review: Prometheus (2012) **** First Viewing
Early on in Prometheus, the Sigourney Weaver stand-in character, Noomi Rapace, says about man’s creator, “I don’t know, but I choose to believe.” It’s so important it’s said twice. If there’s ever been a phrase that’s led to more bloodshed, upheaval and change, I can’t think of it.
Prometeus’ DNA is two-thirds the original Alien with a spirituality glaze. And really, for the first two-thirds of the film, the haunted-house-in-space Alien part works, even if some of the characters make some stoopid choices against their own self-preservation. I don’t remember Ripley and crew being this dumb. The movie falls down when it tries to explore it’s own big questions.
By trying to be smart, yet providing some dumb answers, the movie loses it’s soul and many of the characters become just more pawn pieces in service of The Big Question. Plus I counted two giant space movie cliches that should never be in any movie ever again. No cliche spoilers here, but damn, stop pretending to be smart and chase down and explore the smart questions you pose. Or don’t dwell on them and be an Alien movie.
That said, you should see Prometheus. In a theater. In 3-D. It’s a big, hyper-detailed, super clean film. Well edited, a decent pace, and interesting, if sterile visuals. First time at a movie, the 3-D didn’t bug me like I was a one-eyed guy deciphering a Stereo Eye drawing. Although, that said, I still had a twenty minute quiet-time session to heal my burned-out corneas after the film.
I prefer the messiness of the original Alien (really the only movie it could and demands to be compared to), both in design and character flaws, but the execution, detail and production of Prometheus deserve a big screen viewing.
Things I learned from Prometheus:
—In Dungeons and Dragons parlance, Androids would be ‘Chaotic Neutral.’
—Also, Androids do not have souls. Oh wait, that’s been said in every single piece of science fiction ever written.
—When will we learn to not fully trust Androids?
—Michael Fassbender should be the Peter O’Toole role in the remake of The Ruling Class or the lead in The Peter O’Toole story.
—If it keeps up, Charlize Theron will overtake Tilda Swinton as Queen of The Ice Queens.
—Stringer Bell continues to be Da Man!
—Also, Stringer is a big fan of old white guy rocker, Stephen Stills.
—Weyland Industries logo is based on an old Van Halen T-Shirt.
—In the future, health care still sucks for women. Hard.
—Good news, no aliens were shot out into space during the making of Prometheus.
—I’m positive writer Damon Lindeloff (Lost) has seen the 1973 German Sci-fi film World on a Wire. Also, the reasons that the Lost finale fell way short are fully on display in Prometheus.
Do It: Cornershop’s Handcreme for a Generation (2002): The Brimful of Asha guys album is solid, fun summer CD that will expire when the weather cools off.
Avoid It: Peanut Butter Doug. He’s the Poochie of peanuts.
The Tweeter: Meatnesia—The ability to forget how meat is raised, processed, packaged and prepared so you can enjoy a hamburger. #newwords
The Facing Book: Ugh, Monday again. Really?!?!?
True Facts: The episode of Fear Factor where contestants drink donkey semen finally airs, not on NBC, but in Denmark this week. True Fact. My concern isn’t why, but how.
Next Up: 200 Motels (1971), A Bucket of Blood (1959), 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967), or #500. Aquemini by OUTKAST.
Ever since I was a teen, I’ve watched at least five movies a week. I’m a total media junkie. Five Movies a week, 10 or so records, a boardgame or two, and a crapton of TV. Honestly, I’ve weighted it, a crapton. I’m in my mid 40’s now (remembering exact ages is for the soon to be depressed), so by my estimation I’ve seen thousands of movies.
On the Buddism scale of quiet zen reflection, I’m a total failure unless, as I imagine this is the way the world now operates, we’re just a collection of what media we’ve consumed. By that measure I’m an A Number One Success as an American. USA! USA! USA! (Sorry starving third worlders with your endless time to contemplate a meaningless life before a ripe old death at 23.)
Now that almost every movie, TV show, CD and book is just a stream or download away, I’ve kinda hit a brick wall. I now spend more time searching Netflix Streaming or Hulu than watching said premium services. I’m not a big fan of most mainstream, big studio fare, I like surprises and most popcorn movies have suprises surgically drained from them to appeal to the mass audiences their budgets demand. I know I’m sounding like a movie snob, but Prometheus this weekend, YO! (excited)
So while browsing the B&N movie book section, I came across two books where I wanted to see every movie in them. Granted, I’d already seen 2/3rds of the films in each book, but saw some gems I hadn’t seen. The books The 500 Essential Cult Movies and Horror!: 333 Films to Scare You to Death. I’d also been trying to plow through the Criterion Collection on Hulu, since my exposure to classic foreign films was a little underexposed. And for fun I added the Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, so I’m not reviewing movies everyday.
Oh, I’m making another stab at a review blog. Basically, I always have four choices each day for the next review. In addition, there’ll be smaller reviews, twitter jokes and other errata every day. Also, the reviews may favor horror movies because that’s what I like. The format came about pretty quickly, check out The Rules for more info.
To quoteth DEVO, “Freedom of choice is what you got, Freedom from choice is what you want.”
The older reviews are just the bones of an older review site.
And so it begins again. Think of it as a another daily recommendation site from someone you sorta know. See y’all tomorrow.
First Up: 200 Motels (1971), A Bell From Hell (1973), 21 Days (1940), or #500. Aquemini by OUTKAST.
New content soon.