15
Feb
11

Black Feathers [on Black Swan]

Black Swan (2010). Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Hello, there! And welcome.

This is my 1st post. I wanted to start the blog with something special, and I thought: why not Black Swan?

So… I realized I had to write something about Black Swan the minute I watched the film. I know: some people loved it, some people hated it. Just to make things clear: I do not intend to convince anyone that the film is good or that one has to watch it. Please, what I am writing here is my opinion, and maybe those who read it may find some points to relate to, maybe not.

Credits to my words may also be due to some discussions I had with some friends, mainly Kauan Negri who is my colleague in a research project at the university, and our Professor, Rita Schmidt.

Probably if you have already watched the film things will be clearer, but it does not mean that what I am going to say is not comprehensible if you have not. Of course, some spoilers may be found here and there; however, it is I do not aim to offer a movie review or to summarize its plot.

Black Swan + Gothic motifs

Black Swan is immersed in a Gothic aura which colors the film beautifully dark. Plot, setting, characters, and theme work together to take us into Nina’s peculiar world. I will point out, then, some aspects which got my attention, trying to relate them to the Gothic aesthetics. Here we go:

1.1 Narrator

In literature, the narrator is the one person (character) who tells the story. The narrator conducts the readers through the events, showing only what he/she considers worth showing. In cinema, the narrator is the camera, for it is only via what the camera shows us that we are able to follow the plot. What is not on focus, however, is not unimportant: just like in written texts, cinema also leaves some things implicit.

In the case of Black Swan, I find it interesting to note that Nina is present in all the scenes. If you pay attention, you can see that there are scenes in which the camera moves just like Nina (when she is walking or dancing, for instance, the movements up and down of the camera make us believe we are walking/dancing with her). It leads me to believe that the reality we see in the screen is Nina’s reality, not only because she is the main character, but because we are driven slowly into her persona, and thus we are able to participate in what is happening to her. The thin lines drawn between her reality and her delirium may also be considered a factor pointing to her influence on how the story is told, for we find out what was real or not just when she does so (or maybe, if you are an attentive watcher, you will see hints here and there pointing to an unreal happening). Usually, Gothic narrators cannot be trusted, and this is one of the reasons I have to be suspicious of the reality we are presented by Nina’s delusions.

1.2 Settings

It is not difficult to realize that the settings of Black Swan play with black and white. Not only the setting, but also costume design is very representative of the primary opposition the movie brings up: white versus black. I do not refer to the reductionist perspective of ‘good versus evil’, for that would lead us to the problematic of defining ‘good’ and ‘evil’; besides, it would also leave us with a ‘simpler’ and ‘plain’ perception. The colors here are deeply symbolic to the construction of the meaning; they add to the film a visual feature worth noting. Nina always wears light colors while the other characters wear mostly black. As the film evolves and Nina starts to connect with her other (darker) side, her outfits show grey scales. Her full surrender to the black color happens on stage, when the Black Swan has already conquered Nina’s white surface, so to speak. The usage of lights and shadows are also a good resource to add a deeper meaning to the scenes.

Nina's dream of Swan Lake

1.3 Heroine

The typical Gothic heroine is the one who finds herself in distress. She lives a rather isolated and enclosed life and has to struggle to prevail over ‘evil forces’ which are willing to overcome her. Most of the times, this struggle leads to a self-discovery of some level.

According to Hoeveler and Heller in Approaches to Teaching Gothic Fiction – the British and American Tradition*, Gothic themes include

[…] women’s claustrophobic experience in the bourgeois family: father-daughter relations; the mother-daughter bond; and women’s often ambivalent attitudes toward sexuality, the body and artistic creativity. […] (Hoeveler and Heller, XII)

Nina is an imprisoned woman, captive of her own discipline and moral: she tries so hard to be perfect that she pulls away anything which might take her from the path she pursues. Her body is the tool via which her work gains life – a tool that cannot be impure or maculated – and thus her most profound feelings are kept buried deep. Even sexual instincts are repressed, and all of her attempts to pleasure herself fail, expect when she experiences her delusional intercourse with Lily – when she is actually having sex with her (other) self.

We cannot say Nina actually ‘wins the battle’ against the obscure forces that surround her, though. And they are plenty: we are lead to believe Nina was bulimic and that she provokes self-injuries (unconsciously?); she tries, in vain, to repress her sexual fantasies and desires; she grows neurotic as the opening night approaches; her mood and disposition change drastically under pressure. Even though there is no victory for Nina (not in the traditional way, at least) she does find what she looks for: perfection. Surely, that comes with a price she is willing to pay, turning herself into the fallen heroine of the plot.

If the Gothic raises questions of identity and sexuality, we can question who Nina really is under all the discipline and rules she lives; and how does her relation to her mother affect her – and how much of this relation is not distorted by Nina’s view and problems.

Nina performing as the White Swan

1.4 Reality/delusion

The Gothic challenges the boundaries of ‘inside/outside, mind/body, and imagination/reality’ (Witt, 42)**. And off we go with Nina through dreams, delirium and reality (sometimes undistinguishable) to investigate and to push limits. How far does Nina have to go to achieve what she works for and desire? What are the transgressions she will have to commit? With what will she get in touch, and how is it going to influence her?

After watching the film, some of the answers may be visible. Nina’s pursuit led her to meet (release?) that side of her she was keeping quiet and shut; and it was powerful and yearning to be outside, unleashed and seductive. Her body prevailed over her mind – but what she meets is not madness, it is her other, her double (announced already in the scene in which Nina passes by she herself in her way to the train; this other Nina is dressed in black, and has a somewhat mocking expression; also, the insistent presence of mirrors reflecting Nina). This other Nina also shows up in specific moments, such as during Nina’s sex experience with Lily/other Nina, and during the fight between Nina and Lily/other Nina in the dressing room at the opening night. At some point, there is a fusion between Nina and her other which leads us to the dramatic final of the film. This fusion is symbolic, for all along Nina and her other were the same.

1.5 The Uncanny

This other Nina, brought to the surface by Nina’s surrender to her (dark) instincts may assume, in my point of view, the role of the uncanny. According to Freud in his essay Das Unheimliche (1919), the uncanny is ‘everything that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light’. However, the uncanny ‘is the strangeness inside the familiar’***. Thus, the other Nina is not an external, unknown element, but a rather close, internal one – the terror comes from inside the self.

The mirror delirium

2. Imprisoned artist

One of the aspects of Black Swan which more caught my attention was the metaphor about art that the film brings. I explain: the way I see it, the white and the black swans represent the dilemma of the artist in his/her creative work. The white and pure Nina/swan (which is merely on the surface) is not able to be the perfect artist – it is strictly about discipline and self-control. The black and seductive Nina/swan (which surrenders to the lust of the flesh and senses) embodies the essence of art, of surrender, of the body. In order to be a perfect artist, Nina has to embrace her dark side, her dark self; and so every artist must touch his/her deepest feelings and allow his/her emotions to flow.

The Black Swan

Final words

Black Swan is a film which happens in the details, in the subtlety of the art of telling a story. I found it very pleasing and catching, and its dark and wicked mood really got me. The Gothic motifs make the film much more than just a story about a girl who has problems. Of course, I did not mention all the motifs or all the aspects I intended at first – one, because my point was not to extinguish the discussion about the movie; and two, because I believe the film deserves someone with more background than me to go really deep into it, and maybe write a serious paper on it. However, I do hope I did not say a lot of nonsense here.

Black Swan involves you and slides with the delicacy of a feather in front of our eyes to approach psychological, moral and social issues. A black feather, I’d say.

*****

References

*Hoeveler, Diane Long and Heller, Tama, eds Approaches to Teaching Gothic Fiction – the British and American Tradition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.

**WITT, Judith. ‘And still insists he sees the ghosts’: defining the Gothic. In Hoeveler, Diane Long and Heller, Tama, eds Approaches to Teaching Gothic Fiction – the British and American Tradition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003. p.39-45

***FREUD, Sigmund. Das Unheimliche. Quoted in LLOYD-SMITH,  Alan. American Gothic Fiction – an introduction. New York: Continuum, 2004. p.74-75

27
Jun
14

algo podre no reino da rainha: In the flesh, zumbis e tv de boa qualidade

Começo dizendo que nunca fui fã de zumbis. Os monstrengos nunca me conquistaram com suas carnes pra lá de passadas e comportamento imbecil. Nunca vi nada de atraente nas criaturas que só sabem proferir ‘miolos!’ a cada dois passos e nunca encontrei uma história/enredo em que os humanos fossem interessantes o bastante pra eu suportar os mortos-vivos. Nem The walking dead, que faz a cabeça de tanta gente nesse mundão, eu consigo assistir (sorry!), em especial pelo complexo de herói do protagonista.

Percebo a ironia de escrever sobre os zumbis e começar dizendo que não curto. Explico: voltava eu pra casa dia desses quando, no ônibus, duas meninas conversavam sobre TV e uma recomendou pra outra assistir In the flesh. ‘Que nome bom,’ pensei, e fiz uma nota mental de catar a série mais tarde. Achando que se tratava de qualquer coisa, menos de zumbis, usei o amigo Google e me deparei com o enredo:

‘Four years after the Rising, the government starts to rehabilitate the Undead back into the society including teenager Kieren Walker, who returns home to his small Lancashire village to face a hostile reception as well as his own demons.’ [retirado de In the flesh]

Ou seja, rolou uma parada sinistra no mundo que fez os mortos saírem dos túmulos prontos a devorar os amigos vivos, mas o governo descobriu um modo de reabilitar os malucos e recolocá-los na sociedade. Nosso herói, Kieren Walker, é um adolescente que volta pra casa em Lancashire (UK) depois de sair do centro de reabilitação e tem que lidar com essa condição peculiar de não estar mais morto. Nem vivo, tecnicamente.

In the flesh poster

In the flesh poster

 

Ok, mais do mesmo, não parece? Também achava. Por motivos de ‘rolou empatia e fiquei curiosa,’ resolvi ver o primeiro episódio e tentar entender a vibe da coisa. E não é que o primeiro episódio foi muito bom? [Fica registrada minha gratidão à menina anônima no ônibus, hein?] Mas foi um ‘muito bom’ do tipo ‘quero ver mais’, não só ‘ah, legal’. O que me chamou mais atenção nesse primeiro contato com a série foi o clima geral do troço – não só pela locação que é muito boa (falo dela daqui há pouco), mas a tensão que mantém aquele ‘climão’, sabe? Pensa só: o mundo foi tomado por criaturas irracionais que querem mais é te devorar, muitos dos teus amigos/parentes/vizinhos morreram durante o Levante, o governo resolveu que matar essa galera semimorta não era a solução e medicou o povo todo. Agora, eles voltam pra casa pra serem parte da comunidade. Tenso, non? Isso se tu é humano, né, porque se tu á zumbizim as coisas também não tão lá essas maravilhas: tu morreu mas acordou uma noite e teve que cavar teu caminho pra fora do túmulo, a fome era tanta que tu teve que matar pessoas pra comer (era isso ou morrer, meu bem); daí o governo te catou e te drogou numa clínica, te deu maquiagem e te devolveu pro mundo: te vira, honey. Bem assim.

Acho que o que mais me agrada em In the flesh é que os zumbis não são monstros acéfalos que têm o único objetivo de mastigar alguém. Como eles estão ‘como eram antes’ (só que não, porque estão mortos, néam), o drama fica mais elaborado porque o enredo pode se focar tanto nos vivos quanto nos não-mortos. Por exemplo, a gente fica sabendo logo no começo da série que, pra se defender do ataques dos recém-ressuscitados, os vivos formaram milícias pra patrulhar a cidade e arredores e explodir umas cabeças não pensantes. Claro que depois que a reabilitação começa, a ação é mais de captura do que de execução, mas a matança ainda se dá, sim.

 

 

O nosso herói, Kieran, é um zumbi meio deprê, mas carismático e sensível. Como eu disse, todos os reintegrados usam maquiagem pra esconder a decomposição e lentes pra camuflar os olhos incolores. E todo dia tomam uma dose da droga que faz com que eles sejam funcionais, comportadinhos, e dóceis. Esqueceu de tomar a dose? Opa, voltou a ser zumbizão, colega. O drama do Kieran é se reintegrar de novo à família (que tem problemas em aceitar esse novo-velho-membro) e ser aceito pelos vivinhos como ele é. A irmãzinha, essa sim é problemática, porque é membra ferrenha da milícia mais famosa do país. Mas, pra apimentar as coisas, tem o grupo dos zumb-rebeldes nesse admirável mundo novo – tratados, sim, mas que se negam a cobrir o rosto e usar lentes e pregam uma atitude ‘seja quem você é, não quem você foi’. Na real, existe um sentimento de culpa no plano de fundo – culpa por ser um morto-vivo, por deixar as pessoas desconfortáveis, por ter voltado pra ocupar um lugar que não te pertence mais. Alguns dos retornados já foram de fato substituídos por outra pessoa, uma vez que estavam mortos antes de não estarem mais. A fila anda, não?

A cidade onde se passa o vuco-vuco é pequena, interiorana, onde todo mundo sabe tudo da (sobre)vida do outro. Parece que o troço todo teve início ali e os locais servem de exemplo e inspiração pro resto da nação – tudo vai sendo explicado aos poucos, então tem que ficar ligado nos diálogos do pessoal. Ah, e também tem a chuva. Não seria uma produção britânica se não fosse 90% do tempo nublada e/ou chuvosa, o que não atrapalha – pelo contrário, empresta toda uma aura pro local com muita neblina, umidade, frio. Um mundo meio cinza, de tons pastéis, onde mesmo quem tá bem vivo parece meio moribundo.

 

Kieran e Amy, melhores amigos mortos pra sempre

Kieran e Amy, melhores amigos mortos pra sempre

 

Como disse antes, a dramatização de um grupo de zumbis em recuperação me interessa pelas possibilidades de ver diferentes personalidades lidando com os problemas que essa situação impõe. Com o desenrolar dos 9 episódios, a gente descobre como o Kieran morreu, como o governo resolveu investir na reabilitação em massa (o que inclui até um vocabulário próprio, como chamar o mortinho-vivo de Portador da Síndrome da Morte Parcial – Partially Decesed Syndrome Sufferer, ou PDS), quem são e o que querem os rebeldes, quais os planos do governo para lidar com a volta dos que se foram e otras cositas más (eu: evitando spoiler e sendo legal).

Claro que também rolam as questões mais filosóficas, como o que fazer com a imortalidade, aceitar ou não viver sob a pressão dos vivos, não aceitar os podrinhos como humanos, necrofilia e, claro, o quão viva segue a humanidade? Também tem os embates religiosos, com toda uma pregação fervorosa de que os zumbis são demônios, servos de demo, impostores que só querem é fazer de alguém a refeição, que quando morreram deixaram de ser humanos e por aí vai. Como sempre, falar de zumbis serve de metáfora pra vida que levamos hoje, mas isso não é feito de forma chata e repetitiva, tipo sermão. É tudo nas entrelinhas, amigo.

 

zumbizada tocando o terror

zumbizada tocando o terror

 

Falei lá no começo que não curto zumbis, mas não pense que por isso em In the flesh não tem gosma preta, monstrengos mordendo humanos, cabeças explodindo, zumbis raivosos e nada charmosos, ou corpos desnudos em decomposição. Tem isso tudo, sim, mas o modo como os roteiristas tratam o tema faz com que In the flesh seja uma das melhores séries que já vi. Nem eu acreditei que gostei TANTO do negócio, mas digo com sinceridade que é uma produção excelente. Despretensiosa, não subestima a audiência e garante entretenimento até pros mais conservadores quando o assunto é zumbilândia. Fora as reviravoltas sensacionais do roteiro, gente, fiquei passada em vários momentos. É uma série que vai te agarrando aos poucos, sabe, mas com dedos gelados e sem vida, mas tu acha tão legal que fica se perguntando porque a BBC ainda não anunciou a terceira temporada.

*****

In the flesh no IMDb

Uma bizoiadinha no primeiro episódio

16
Sep
13

unsaid [pretentious poem #2]

[and an old one, too, from 2009]

unsaid

all the words i’d like to say
have fallen between the lines.
all the tears you shed are now
salt on the desert land of my heart.
there’s no sympathy:
only your reaching hand as i walk away.

the flavour of this dark night lays on my lips.

i turned my back on you long before this day,
long before i woke up after dreaming of flowers
and tasting bright dead stars;
long before i longed for your touch
to calm down the monsters on my mind;
before drowning the little girl i used to be
in the swamp of my innocence;
before believing in unhappy endings
and sinking in my putrid hopes:

i gave up on you the moment i loved you.

06
Aug
13

watchlist #3: trance

Trance, 2013

Good script. Great direction. Stunning performances. Trance got me glued to my seat from the opening line.

poster

poster

In Trance, directed by Danny Boyle (127 hours), the expression ‘mind fucked’ is taken to a whole new level. Modern, high-end interiors help creating this film where nothing is what it seems. Quite the trickster, Trance revolves around the story of Simon (James McAvoy), an auctioneer who, trying to prevent the stealing of a Goya painting, is hit in the head. Problem is, being hit in the head messes with his brain and he can’t remember where the hell the painting went. It would be misery enough if the painting wasn’t supposed to be in the hands of gangster Franck (Vincent Cassel), Simon’s partner in the stealing. In order to get Simon’s memory back, they try hypnosis – given that torture did not work out. That’s where things get really interesting due to the dear doctor’s professionalism, who asks in on the spoils.

To say more is to give away the story, so I will contain myself of any spoilers. If you liked Memento and Inception, this one is a treat for you. Maybe it is not as logical as those two, but it is worth the ride. You may want to apply the ‘suspension of disbelief’ thing here, but hey, it’s not like we never saw flawed logic in cinema before, right?

Rosario Dawson as the hypnotherapist Elizabeth

Rosario Dawson as the hypnotherapist Elizabeth

The opening scenes are really well done; catchy, to say the least. McAvoy’s accent is captivating (sorry, I am an accent lady) and his performance throughout the film deserves to be acknowledged. The thing of dream-within-a-dream does not work at all times and some sequences of Simon’s memories may be confusing, but again just give it all a chance. The scenarios (and the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle per se) add a subtle dimension to the film with lots of mirrors and reflective surfaces. The score (by Rick Smith) also helps to create a certain not-so-real mood, sometimes with very evocative, nostalgic songs.

It is a bit dreamy, but overall Trance delivers a somewhat delirious plot that, if looked under the microscope may not resist for too long. But you can see there’s work there, and I don’t really think it was supposed to that logical all along. Memories are not logic either; they are fictions we made up to remember, or to cope with, events. Just get ready for some tension and adrenaline while you unravel Simon Newton’s screwed up brains.

02
Aug
13

watchlist #2: spring breakers

Spring Breakers, 2012

I have to say I only watched it because a friend asked me to figure out whether I’d like it or not. I don’t think I would have watched this film if it was only up to me because (1) I had no faith in it when I saw the poster and (2) I had even less faith when I saw the leading cast. Yeah, I judged the thing before I even gave it a chance. I am not completely sure I changed my mind about it, but let’s get into it.

poster

poster

To be honest, I don’t really understand the whole ‘spring break’ thing – not being an American student and being reasonably sane – but I tell you that after this film, the expression ‘Spring fever’ became pictorially self-explanatory. In Spring Breakers four friends who want to escape their miserable life and dead-end city dream of going to Florida and having the best spring break ever. But they are broke, so three of the girls decide to rob a diner to get the money. They succeed, of course, and go get some crazy fun at the beach until they are arrested for using drugs at a party. They are bailed-out by a rapper-dealer named Alien (James Franco) and that’s when things really start to spiral.

I have mixed feelings about this film because I am not really sure if it stands for a moral approach to the situation or whether it is a statement of how fun that kind of life can be. I am not even sure if I should care about it or if it matters at all. The thing is that Spring Breakers makes sure that we understand how obsessed those girls are with having their dream break, with having fun and freedom no matter what it costs. The sequences of being-crazy-on-the-beach-under-the-sun ensure an almost trance like state on viewers, filled with boobs, crotches, booze, and humping. The down side of paradise is what had to be done to get there: ‘a bad thing’ as Faith (Selena Gomez) puts it, but soon forgiven and forgotten because the dream came true.

When Alien comes around, the dark side of Paradise City hits the lights: bad neighborhoods, drugs, sex, guns, all there and at one. Seduction is in the air, but Faith is not so sure. Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are head over feet over it all. Candy and Brit are, dangerously, almost the same person: they are interchangeable and display a wicked connection of minds. They seem to be only ones who truly and deeply enjoy the live-on-the-edge lifestyle, even if this live-on-the-edge is quite pink pony like, somewhat unrealistic and sweeter than what I picture living with a drug dealer in real life may be like.

James Franco's Alien

James Franco’s Alien

The drug dealer himself is quite a figure. James Franco delivers a monstrous performance, even if he is not that gruesome gangster he pretends to be. Personally, I think Franco is the best thing in the film and the scene where he sings ‘Everytime’ by Britney Spears at the piano as a lullaby while the girls dance around with their huge guns is probably very controversial, yet the best sequence in the film. The delicacy of the song as Britney’s voice takes over and the violence the images render are opposites, but have the strange effect of making it all almost dream like, a serenade of violent behaviors. In fact, this thing of the ‘wrong’ song is very common in cinema. Read more here

I suppose what really bothers me in Spring Breakers is the lack of consequences for the actions the girls commit. They are young, beautiful, reckless, and unpunished. That is why I tell you that I don’t really get if the film is telling us ‘hey, look at the amount of crap that may happen when you live like that’ or if it is saying ‘hey, don’t worry, see how great it all turned out?’ I also wanted information on what happens to Faith and Cotty who eventually go back home. Overall, I think Spring Breakers is one big trip fueled by hot girls with blank eyes, drugs, and some kind of live I can’t quite grasp.

30
Jul
13

i read this #2

The lover’s dictionary – a novel, by David Levithan

I saw this book the other day in the hands of one of my colleagues from university. I was attracted by the title [I know, I know…] and I took a quick look at it. I was surprised to see that book was ACTUALLY a dictionary. I was intrigued. I wrote down the title and decided to read it.

book cover

book cover

I am glad I did. This is one smart book. Let me explain: The lover’s dictionary tells its story through dictionary entries [ok, duh, but I was not expecting it to be a real dictionary only by the title]. Carefully selected words that work as titles for the ‘chapters’; their ‘definitions’ are actually bits and pieces of the history of the narrator, not chronologically ordered, and you, dear reader, have to figure out the whens. From ‘aberrant’ to ‘zenith’ we get glimpses into the narrator’s love life with his loved one, their ups and downs.

The reason why I think it is a smart novel is because, besides the entries system, there is a lot left to your imagination: you don’t really know the names of the protagonists; you have the narrator [who I believe is a male] and his loved one [who you can’t really tell]. You don’t know where they live exactly, you don’t know what their work is, and you kinda estimate the date, but all is a guess. It only serves to prove the point that love does not know gender or rules, that it happens to everyone [eventually] and does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter what kind of couple they are. It matters that they love each other and share their lives. But hey, this is not a happily ever after tale. There are problems, fights, betrayals, pain. But that is all part of package, I guess.

I also enjoyed how unpretentious the novel is: the entries give it a certain flow, the words carefully chosen, some entries complementing others. I read in a matter of a few hours and enjoyed it very much. It is not treatise on love or anything, but it feels very intimate and honest.

Some of my favorite entries:

detachment, n.: […] Even when I detach, I care. You can be separate from a thing and still care about it. If I wanted to detach completely, I would move my body away. I would stop the conversation midsentence. I would leave the bed. Instead, I hover over it for a second. I glance off in another direction. But I always glance back at you.’

fast, n. and adj.: […] You make it a production. Slam doors. Knock things over. Scream. But I just leave. Even if I’m still standing there, I leave. I am refusing you. I am denying you. I am an adjective that is quickly turning into a noun.’

reservation, n.: There are times when I worry that I’ve already lost myself. That is, that my self is so inseparable from being with you that if we were to separate, I would no longer be. I save this thought for when I feel the darkest discontent. I never meant to depend so much on someone else.’

- David Levithan. The lover’s dictionary – a novel. The Text Publishing Company : Australia, 2011.

28
Jul
13

#Watchlist: Only God Forgives

To be honest, I don’t know much (if anything) about cinema. But it’s been a while that I’ve been thinking of writing (alas, randomly) about films that I like/watched/intend to watch. Forgive me if I say something stupid (that’s bound to happen) and overlook my at times affectionate response to some films. These will not be reviews per se, but more of my opinion and perceptions on the films. Shall we?

ONLY GOD FORGIVES, 2013

I guess I was not the only one curious about the second collaboration between Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling after the mega successful Drive. But I am guessing not most people who looked forward to it will like it as much. The reason is simple: this is almost the opposite of Drive.

The story is placed in Bangkok and revolves around the consequences of a crime committed by Billy (Tom Burke). He raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and ended up dead as well. Billy’s mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) goes to Bangkok to collect her son’s body and to deal with his murderers. She is certain she can’t count on her youngest son, Julian (Ryan Gosling), the monosyllabic guy who runs a boxing club in the city as a façade for their drug-dealing business. Of course that the search for revenge is exactly what drives characters and what is, ultimately, their doom.

movie poster

movie poster

The pace of Only God Forgives is slow, the scenes dramatically put together. The result is one disturbing film with graphic violence and a fair amount of blood, be warned. Very little dialogue, yet excellent performances. And hats off to Vithaya Pansringarm who plays Chang, the official cop/angel of death of the city.

It intrigues me how recurrent the mother-children relationship has been explored in cinema lately. Something to look into. Kristin Scott Thomas plays a terrifying mother who professes her love for her sons very bluntly if not disquietingly. When she arrives in Bangkok, she questions the reason why her oldest son was killed:

Julian: Billy raped and killed a sixteen year old girl.

Crystal: I’m sure he had his reasons.

That ought to tell us who Crystal is, huh? The oppositions between her sons are hinted at, but never developed to the fullest. Actually, none of the characters are developed to the fullest, so we are left wondering. In fact, I was puzzled by Julian’s relationship with women, which serves as an open counterpoint to his brother’s behavior. I want to believe it is more than mama issues. I really believe it is more than that, if you pay attention to the little things throughout the film that seem to say that Julian has a consciousness that’s eating him alive. However, it is not a film without a purpose, but I believe some people will look for a clearer ‘moral’ because the film itself gives you very little to work on. I don’t see it as problem; personally, I do enjoy the ‘go figure for yourself’ kinds of plots, but maybe here (due to all the violence and misogyny) people may complain a bit.

Julian at the night club

Julian at the night club

The cinematography of Larry Smith is stunningly beautiful: great uses of color contrasts, lots of cold/warm oppositions and so much red as well as light/dark games. It all builds a very specific atmosphere that is completed by Cliff Martinez’s score (Drive). It feels somewhat experimental with shots that place the viewers as observers or, at times, spies. It is also interesting to note the opposition between the interior of the boxing club and the outside (the city per se and the hotel) and how the colors work beautifully.

Overall, it is a very crazy film and I confess I had to struggle a little. Other than that, I think it is artistically ambitious and it delivers a distressing story filled with great performances and gorgeous visual.

22
Jul
13

i read this

I’ve been trying to force myself to post more regularly, especially as a means of exercising my writing. So I thought about posting about things that I like to read. So in the posts will [hopefully] follow this one, I’ll write some things about stuff that I have read, that I am reading and that I will/intend to read. I have to say I used to read a lot more and that I have been unforgivably lazy about that, but I am willing to mend myself. There are so many things I want to read/watch that may not be enough lifetime for them :P but hey, girl gotta dream, huh?

I start this series of posts without any particular order. Also, I should add I don’t really follow any trends, so I may eventually be bewildered by a book that is old news for some people, but well… Bear with me.

*****

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls
by Laurie Halse Anderson

I started reading this because of the synopsis, really. I eventually visit the young-adult fiction world because I like to know what is going on there. And very often I am surprised by very good fiction. And that was the case here.

I had never heard of the author before [sorry?] but I learned that she is famous for a novel called Speak [already added to my reading list]. I was curious about the development of the plot in Wintergirls. An anorexic girl loses her best friend and spirals into dark, unhealthy habits again after having already been committed to a rehabilitation clinic twice. Nothing really new, you may think. I thought so too. So when I started reading the novel, I wasn’t expecting anything really great, honestly. However, I was pleasantly surprised by a poetic narrative, filled with beautiful images. Ok, beautiful in the poetic sense; I don’t really think girls starving themselves to death is beautiful. But there is some kind of bittersweet poetry in it that Anderson captures very well.

The narrator of the novel is Lia, the girl who just lost her former best friend. The text opens:

“So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee.

She tells me in four sentences. No, five.

I can’t let me hear this, but it’s too late. The facts sneak in and stab me. When she gets to the worst part

 … body found in a motel room, alone . . .

 … my walls go up and my doors lock. I nod like I’m listening, like we’re communicating, and she never knows the difference.

It’s not nice when girls die.” (ANDERSON, 2009, 9)

From the moment Lia is told her ex friend Cassie is dead, we journey with her through her struggles to remain the skinniest version of herself while she recollects how she came to this, what was her life with Cassie when she was ‘a real girl,’ her experiences in the clinics, her therapy sessions, her broken family life, her lack of connections to other people, her tactics for fooling herself and other people into thinking she eats. There is a sense of emptiness throughout the text, a void that can’t be filled. And cold. So much cold. And spider webs, ghosts, gingerbreads, candies, sleeping pills, bones, snow, food. Always food, haunting.

It made me sad because I know this is not really fiction. That there are people out there thinking the way Lia does: that she is not thin enough, that if she can’t count her ribs through her skin she is too big, that it is ok to starve yourself because then you get stronger, cleaner. It breaks my heart because (1) I may have some weird issues regarding self image myself and (2) I can’t understand how you can deprive yourself of the deliciousness of eating. I do believe Anderson made a beautiful job with Wintergirls even though Lia, as a character, lacks some depth. I credit that to the overall effect of the novel that borders dreamland, really. I don’t think it is a flaw. I believe it adds to the fact that Lia cannot place herself in the real world, that she is slipping through the cracks of the surface to a place where she can feel numb. We never get a full description of Lia, for example, especially because she never looks herself in the mirror and she often repeats that she is not sure what she is supposed to look like anymore.

Overall, I think Wintergirls is a good novel. Maybe not the best one you’ll find about the subject if you are looking for full debate about it, but I like how not-so-truthful-to-reality this is in the sense that at times you get lost in hallucinations and dreams and panic attacks with Lia. You will not find in Wintergirls a discussion about social expectations about female bodies, nor a psychological investigation on the whys and hows of anorexia. Honestly, I don’t think anyone can know what goes inside the mind of an anorexic person except for himself/herself but I like how poetically imaginative the book is. For me, it was quite heavy at times even if I don’t really understand why someone may think like that, hurt themselves like that, experience the world like that. But again, we build our world according to our experiences. And yes, the world can be really mean to people sometimes, regardless their body shape.

‘We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.’ (ANDERSON, 2009, 90)

*****

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Wintergirls. New York: Viking, 2009. E-book.




from the past

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 102 other followers

days

November 2014
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102 other followers