*possible additions to be made in next few days.
I thought I’d do something a little different, and talk about a few of the recent film articles and reviews I’ve read and enjoyed. They range from academic to more loose and fun stuff. I haven’t been watching nearly as many movies as I would like outside of class, so I haven’t been updating nearly as much as I would like. Hopefully in the coming weeks I’ll see a little more and have more to say, this is also entirely dependent on how often Fashion TV plays Australia’s Next Top Model, which has been sucking so much time away from my ability to watch films in the evening. As this is my first attempt at this kind of post, I can’t say how much depth I will go into as to my responses or if this is more of a place for me to recommend some interesting readings.
Recent Issue of Cineaste Magazine: A Special Focus on Contemporary Horror Film
I don’t have a regular subscription to any magazine; I usually just pick up something that looks interesting. I have a few favourites, but mostly I pick up something new each time I go out. This week I got Cineaste, mostly because I am a sucker for horror and nearly every article is focused on different offsets of the contemporary horror film. I’m mostly looking at two particular articles, but as far as I can tell, they’re all interesting. I still haven’t read the one on Saw and Torture porn, only because I actually haven‘t seen any of those films and would prefer to see the films before reading the text.
Childhood’s End: Let the Right One In and Other Deaths of Innocence by John Calhoun
Takes a look at the evil children in horror films historically and how it has transformed over time to reflect different social anxieties. It doesn’t hurt that Let the Right One In is one of my very favourite films from the decade, but it is a film text that is ripe for this kind of analysis. Calhoun examines especially the social context involved, as the film is set during the early 1980s when Sweden is caught very deeply by the strain of the Cold War. It discusses the issues of community, and how fragmented it is on a personal level, as well as on a wider social one. The author appropriately draws comparisons to more modern Japanese horror films, which usually feature children predominantly, but also use the effect of technology as a means of exploring our deteriorating relationships, understandings of self and the corruption of innocence. I think, for me at least, because it is so fundamental to my own attraction to horror, is the exploration of the body within the visual narrative of the film (and explored in the article).
“The betrayal visited on us by our own fragile bodies is often the most horrific breakdown of all. Oskar’s vulnerability is emphasized from the first scene, when his pale, skinny body is shown clad only in jockey shorts. The torment he undergoes at the hands of the boys at school is unusually violent, easily making the point that monstrous children can come in forms other than the supernatural variety.”
I think the children’s body above all, is representative of us at our weakest and more fragile, but in terms of narrative is also the most flexible to explore our own personal and social anxieties. Putting children in situations that confront our taboos and even our own personal nostalgia is very threatening to our world view. Calhoun appropriately diagnosis’s the film as being quite conservative, as it seems to suggest if children had more guidance, and stronger religious or moral structure that the situation of the film could not exist. Though an extremely well researched and well reasoned article, it’s one I could only dream of writing myself, my only wish would have been for Calhoun to tie his ideas about politics, social issues and even immigration fears, to the apparent dissolve of the family unit.
Something else about the film I find fascinating, is Oskar’s own obsession with violence, and desire for destruction. As someone who has lived with (through?) a school shooting, it is a behaviour and a desire that I struggle to relate to or understand. I don’t think I have done enough reading on the individuals to know exactly what doctors or psychiatrists say about their mental state, but Let the Right One In, presents a world where nature and nurture are so closely linked that one wonders if it is even possible for Oskar to be pulled out of that world if an adult were to reach out to him.
(Un)safe Sex: Romancing the Vampire by Karen Backstein
This is probably the best article I’ve read on the Twilight phenomena, as it does not operate in hyperbolic extremes. Though I think a lot of the issues relating to relationships and romance are problematic at best, I think the anger towards the series is also blown out of proportion. Karen Backstein looks at the evolution of the vampire sub-genre, especially how the female character has transformed to supporting character/victim to being the very biased protagonist. It’s worth noting that movie monsters, especially vampires, have always been closer to female audiences than male. If you want an interesting read I recommend “Refusing to Refuse to Look: Female Views of the Horror Film” by Brigid Cherry. She has a very interesting study on female horror fans, polling them on kind of horror sub-genres and specific films, often resulting in unexpected results. I think it would make an interesting companion piece to this article.
Back to Twilight, she sheds light on the apparent sexual sterility of the vampires of today, and how and why this appeals to younger readers. Though I’m not too far out of my teens, I have to wonder how these apparently gentlemanly vampires that want to “wait”, are influenced from a hyper sexualized society that puts incredible pressures on young women to be sexually active. Not only that, but the images and expectations from pornography sets standards that are not only intimidating, but potentially devastating on an emotional level. Backstein even looks at the changing sexual relationship between Bella and Edwards over the course of the novels, and how when they do decide to engage in sexual relations, that he is a giving and responsive lover. It plays both into the young woman’s fears but also, their ultimate sexual desires.
There are also interesting ideas about duality as presented in the chosen texts and some discussion about my own personal favourite vampires series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Von Samuel Muses on Fassbinder’s BDR trilogy
Maybe it’s because I just watched the trilogy myself, or that Von Samuel is a dear friend and a great writer, but I personally think that his recent writing inspired by Fassbinder’s work is among his very best. If you haven’t checked out his blog before, he does not write traditional reviews, preferring instead of channel feelings and impressions from his viewings through his own unique writing style. It’s definitely an interesting and enriching departure from traditional film discussion and analysis, I like it. The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lola and Veronika Voss.