Monday, June 22, 2009

on bummerism

Here's a couple quick notes to help explain why I'm interested in the kinds of movies I like. First, I don't get "sucked into" movies. I have never (even when I was a kid) forgotten I'm watching a movie. Because of this, I don't need a movie to be believable, or to be free of moments which "break the spell". If most people are looking for a film that suspends their disbelief, I'm looking for films that suspend my belief, that have a kind of theatrical artificiality. Second, most people need to identify with the protagonist, which is why every bullshit tv show on the air today is based around a "regular guy". This regular guy might have fantastic adventures, but he's still a boring, whiny, dopey regular guy. I hate these dudes, and I certainly don't relate to these dudes, and if I relate to anyone in a film it's not the actors but the director, so unrealistic characters are fine by me. What I really go for, in any medium, is a creator who follows the things they're obsessed with all the way down the line, and when you do that the story simply isn't going to be easy to summarize or resolve neatly, and you're probably not going to convince a major studio to front you a ton of money (though it does happen from time to time), so I have no trouble with low/no budget films. That said, I love movies that are absolutely dense both visually, sonically and conceptually -- one of my favorite films is The Scarlet Empress, which barely has a story in the traditional sense, has absolutely no ending and consists almost entirely of closeups of Marlene Dietrich (who I actually don't find that attractive in this film, but it's obvious Josef von Sternberg is absolutely infatuated with her) and gorgeous shots of Russian capitol stuffed with Eastern Orthodox icons and twenty-foot doors and thrones sculpted to resemble saints and an endlessly dysfunctional court. I love movies where every halfbaked idea and sound effect and dream sequence gets crammed in at the expense of boring setup scenes whose only function is to make sure everybody knows what's going on. That said, I have absolutely no interest in "so bad they're good" films, in the whole idea of sitting around laughing at a movie because it's not as professional as the last lump of shit you paid twelve dollars to see in the multiplex. It's really interesting for me to watch how a cast and crew deal with the sorts of problems a film like Scary Movie 19 or Saw 24 or Sexually Repressed Romantic Comedy '08 don't have to worry about, and for me a good movie is interesting or entertaining. That's the bottom line. If it isn't one of those two things, it doesn't matter that it's about some important global issue or got a twelve page article in Film Comment or whatever. I'm also incredibly patient, and because I basically spend my life only doing the things I want to do (at least as much as possible, and my definition of what's possible continues to grow all the time), so I don't have to squeeze two hours (or three, or ten) into my hectic schedule. If I enjoy doing something I'm more than happy to do it for as long as possible. In summary, I like unreal confusing artificial endless cheap movies. Keep that in mind when you read reviews and you'll save yourself a lot of grief.

I finally stopped telling people I like horror films. Part of this is the obvious "No, I don't want to go see the latest bullshit 'reboot' of some not-even-very-good-the-first-time slasher flick" reason that I imagine most of you can relate to, but the films I really like rarely ever fit squarely into the horror mold. I like gore, but I like ecstatic over-the-top gore, technically elaborate baroque gore, and I don't like realistic violence. I don't like realistic anything, actually (if you really want to bore me to tears, tell me some serial killer trivia), and I don't usually relate to the idea of being scared -- what I like is a kind of giddy dread, free of cheap psychological motivation and backstory. I like being confused, I like symbolism I can't identify, I like sullen psychedelia and camera tricks and garish set design and fever-dream fairy tales. I call this kind of film Bummerism, and it was the defining characteristic of the KTOD catalogue. I'm going to include reviews of films I first saw (often in different versions) on KTOD as well as reviews of films I think of as being in the same category. Hopefully these will be of interest, and not too distracting for those looking for information.

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