Recent Viewings

4

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Meyer, 1965)

Catapulted to my second favourite Meyer film with just one viewing, this film seems to be the definite example of his ideas, characters and visual style, even more so than BTOTD. It’s kitsch, but the humour is biting, the style self-conscious and the energy unrelenting. Underrated as both a stylist and a social commentator, it’s difficult to deny the kinetic obsession with physicality in this film. The adoration of the female form, the need for speed, and the crushing destruction of both spirit and body. The film is about being alive, but it’s characters only feel that when on the edge, the edge of death, violence and annihilation.

If you don’t believe me, listen to John Waters;

“…beyond a doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future.”

Is this film exploitation? Probably, but there is also a strange kind of female wish fulfillment involved. The female characters have so much power, their bodies though ogled and porni-fied, are almost objects of violence and manipulation. The women use their bodies to gain ground over the men, and destroy them. There is nothing soft or sensual about their figures, they are hard, tough and in control.

3

Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)

This film starts off much better than I thought it would, it actually raised my expectations that the film might not be nearly as bad as I would have thought. Kristen Stewart is perfectly cast, and gives a stunning performance in an absurd film, she brings weigh and emotion to something that is little more than a creepy Mormon masturbation fantasy. Up until the point Edward shows up, the film is quite good, though it quickly falls once the fantasy world is introduced. There are still some interesting, and dare I say, emotional moments in the later half of the film. Vampire baseball is pretty damn awesome, and there are some almost pretty cinematography that holds together some moments.

That being said, the film carries over all the problematic relationship issues from the novel, most of which are difficult, if not impossible to ignore. I was saying on another message board how I would personally have liked an opportunity to make the film, though it would hardly be called a straight adaptation. It unfortunately seems impossible that anyone could subvert the novel at this stage, though maybe 10-20 years down the line, the right filmmaker could come along and strip away the fantasy (in more than one way), and show the film as a brooding and rather disturbing story of lust and obsession, instead of the strangely romantic vision of abusive relationships that it is now.

1

Repast (Naruse, 1951)

My first Naruse, and though I couldn’t say with any honesty that this film is one of my favourites, it has piqued my interest in the rest of his work. And among the Japanese filmmakers I’ve seen so far, I have a feeling I will be most drawn into his work. Repast is about the compulsively unhappy Michiyo, who feels stuck in a marriage where she is little more than a slave to her husband and domestic life. There is a constant repetition of actions, scenes and scenarios. There is an endless monotony that she feels trapped by.

As the film progresses, she branches out beyond the home, though is still constantly pulled and reminded of that life. She goes out with friends, they tell her how beautiful and happy she looks, to which she responds puzzled. She is very unhappy, but realises that the world around her cannot, or perhaps will not understand how and why, as she is fulfilling her duties as a wife. It’s not even that there is no sympathy for her plight, but there is no precedent that she should or would be in this situation. It’s accepted that she is happy because she has achieved what has been set before her, but it’s wholly unsatisfying for her.

The film also hints at the difficulties that tough economic times have on relationships. The strain that divides couples, unable to have time together, because they are constantly working and managing. She realises she’s nagging, but there is little choice, there isn’t enough money, there isn’t enough food, therefore there isn’t enough freedom. Her husband, though fairly oblivious and selfish, isn’t exactly cruel or mean, just as unsympathetic as everyone else in her life.

The introduction of the niece reveals an interesting perspective on the story. Someone unaffected by the world, who the idea of working and suffering seems completely lost on. She sees herself as the center of the world and though that may divide her with most people, it serves her well. Her happiness above all others has brought her more peace of mind that anyone else, but it’s a life that Michiyo cannot, and does not want to live. She only becomes a burden.

Later, when Michiyo goes home to “think things over”, all she does is sleep. She’ called lazy, or her exhaustion is explained by her over working. No doubt, the latter is part of the problem, but in retrospect, depression or some other similar psychological disorder is just as likely the cause. It’s beyond just simple unhappiness, and it’s certainly not selfishness.

The film ends on a bittersweet note, as Michiyo seems to find comfort in returning to the life she left behind with a new understanding of her work. Is it a hopeful lie on her part? Or does she really believe in that change? It’s difficult to say.

2
Go, Go Second Time Virgin (Koji Wakamatsu, 1969)

I’m not sure exactly what to make of this film, I’m barely sure if I even like it. It’s certainly a puzzling portrait of violence and unhappiness. It’s unclear how much of it is fantasy, or if any of it is. The film begins with Poppo (the Girl) being raped on a rooftop. By her own account, this is the second time this has happened, and now she wants to die. Tsukio lives in the building, and followed the other boys up to the roof and watched, though he didn’t partake. When morning comes, he tries to dissuade the girl from both killing herself, or at least from staying on the roof forever.

Though just an hour, the film is filled to the rafters. Focusing particularly on sexual trauma and fear, both characters reveal to each other their own violent and traumatic sexual experiences. They’re both quite young, teens, and do not understand the situations that surround them. When The Girl asks to die, the boy asks her why. She cannot understand, she says it isn’t because she was raped, but something else. Her answers change and shift as the film goes on, as do her recollections of her past and family. Nothing seems certain, or real. She lives in a disturb and diluted world of violence and unhappiness.

Is this film about purity? The loss of innocence? It could be. The treatment and abuse of children as sex objects. Or perhaps, their own diluted understanding of events beyond their understanding. Skewed views of events and experiences that they were simply not ready for.

The violence is greatly affecting, and really quite difficult to watch. It’s difficult for me personally to come to terms with it… obviously, it’s not meant to be enjoyed, but I want to look away and block it off. Is it an expression of male rage? The falling back on violence, and “penetration”, a revenge in it’s purest right. The girl remains submissive, wishing away her pain through a sort of masochistic acceptance of her powerlessness. And yet, is she stronger? She does not seek revenge or violence, or in reality, she does. She gives many reasons why she wants to die, alll seem to be elusively skirting the truth, but finally she screams she wants to die because she wants to kill. A strong revelation, and one that I found to be quite powerful. She would not continue the cycle of violence, and though being completely resigned to her own destruction seems counter-intuitive, it was her way of engaging in a sort of moral pacifism that was motivated in part by fear, but more clearly by an inner strength.

The film finishes with the complete destruction of youth. There is nothing left for the characters but death.

4 responses to “Recent Viewings

  1. Thanks for these latest recaps! I first encountered Faster Pussycat at a party years ago. It was playing with the sound off, and was a VHS transfer of a transfer – not great quality. Nevertheless, the opening 20 minutes were so visually riveting I couldn’t stop thinking about that movie. I finally tracked down a French DVD 6 or 7 years ago and bought an all-region player just so I could watch it!

  2. Yea, the editing in the first fifteen or so minutes are incredible. The music and sound brings it to a whole other level though. Such a wonderful film. I hope soon Russ Meyer experiences a kind of revival, as too many of his films are difficult to track down, and it goes without saying that they’re unappreciated.

  3. Ha! I was about to ask if “Twilight” was even big in your neck of the woods but I guess that’s an abusrd question, and anyway you cop to reading it, so that’s that!

    I’m amused with your line “creepy Mormon masturbation fantasy” but I think you’ll agree on reflection that, all things considered, there’s probably nothing “little” about such a thing!

    It’s odd; I read YA novels sometimes and because these Twilight novels are just so omnipresent as physical objects in American bookstores– there are just PILES and PILES of them everywhere– that I almost feel like I’ll learn all about them by osmosis or something. And yet I actually know nothing about them, except the heroine is named Bella Swan (how endearing!) and they’re asexual in a very sexual way.

    Since supposedly this all becomes rather orgasmically wrought up in a will-she-or-won’t-she-get-vamped [and how could ‘no’ EVER be the right, or even a thinkable, answer to the question of if you should become a vampire?!?!!] dilemma, I’ll charitably hold that “abstinence porn” (as some people curiously call it) can be a good thing. Meyers’ efforts at romantic yearning may or may not be aesthetically wretched, but I imagine it’s a thousand times better than the escapades of Angus, Thongs, etc. and all that!

    But yeah, I’m sure the movie sucked! (oh, pun not even intended)

  4. For some odd reason I like Go, Go, Second Time Virgin, I suppose because of the transgressive and nihilistic elements. It’s fascinating, if rather perplexing.

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