Viewing Diary July 2017

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John Wick (2014) and John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017),
both directed by Chad Stahelski, the former with David Leitch

Young Keanu Reeves wore a vest in Bill & Ted; a decade later, his trench coat swept the floor in The Matrix; and now, in the John Wick movies, after a quarter-century of maturing stardom, he still looks absolutely beautiful in a bloodied suit and tie. These are trashy action movies with an arty veneer. They trail Reeves’ unflappable contract killer through nightclub, church, subway train, and art museum as he dispatches dozens of nameless assailants. Limp bodies and splattered brains litter the floors and walls behind him. These spaces’ stylized lighting accentuates the anguish in his bearded face, the resolve that fills those soulful brown eyes. Both movies savor his aging beauty in the midst of simulated combat. The first Wick is a compact revenge story, while the second one extrapolates outward in a widening circle from John’s violent past. Death waits above, below, before, and after every shot in this nihilistic series. It’d be too sad to watch if not for the directors’ obvious love of wryly staged action coupled with Reeves’ movie star resilience. His body is the only comfort here.

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Mania in the One Bedroom Apartment

Hey. It’s been a long time. Let’s get to it.

I wanna tell you about being bipolar and how weird it is. My moods don’t swing very rapidly normally; I spend most of my life in a (mild to severe) depressive state. I get manic very rarely and when I do it’s usually hypomania. I get manic so rarely that my therapist has suggested that maybe we look into different diagnoses.

But when I do get manic it’s a hell of a ride.

I recently came out of a deep and terrifying depressive state and ran high-speed into full-blown mania. Mania so intense I’m glad I’m broke because who knows what kinda shit I woulda wasted money on. Instead this recent bout of mania was hyper-focused on one thing: deep cleaning and prettifying our apartment. If you’re not interested in the minutiae of cleaning and decorating a small space, this post might not be for you.  If you’re down, hit the jump for more.

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Viewing Diary June 2017

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Housekeeping (1987), directed by Bill Forsyth

I recently read Marilynne Robinson’s sad and lovely novel of the same name, and now I’m astonished by how neatly Forsyth’s screen adaptation complements its source. Robinson’s detailed prose and biblical allusions find their analogues in the film’s subdued colors, its period costuming, and the real-life mountains that cradle it like a mother’s arms. Christine Lahti, by turns endearing and mystifying, leads her adolescent co-stars through an ornate cosmos of inverted domesticity. Theirs is a world of jars and newspapers, couches and overcoats, railroads and floodwaters: a house and all that lies beyond it. In this aunt’s unlikely tutelage, Forsyth captures the novel’s sheen of unreality, its sense of deepest tragedy inside volatile joy. He adapts its notions of family, word by word and shot by shot, into a sad and lovely film.

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Viewing Diary May 2017

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Shooting Stars (1928), directed by Anthony Asquith and A.V. Bramble

As revealed by the BFI’s recent restoration, this sly meta-satire is a gem of late silent cinema. Its love triangle plot—a starlet strays from her leading man husband to a slick comedian—is pretzeled by irony and layered with visual subtext. Dizzying crane shots survey the breadth of a studio’s operations. Onscreen text limits the need for title cards. (The actress stands by a window at her lover’s flat, for example, and a marquee outside flashes the title My Man.) Films-within-the-film apply alternative tones to their love stories: slapstick, melodrama, the hokey romance of a cheap western. But Shooting Stars, wielding that triple entendre of a title, is a tragicomedy right down its bitter end. It’s like an inversion of Murnau’s Sunrise where the moral burden’s on the wandering wife, and not even movie magic can release her.

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8 Years??

That’s a long time to maintain a blog, especially in this fast-paced online ecosystem. Hell, I’ve been using Pussy Goes Grrr as a writing platform since I was a teenager. In the context of my life, it feels like the digital equivalent of those towering redwoods that grew from saplings over a span of millennia. Other apps and profiles may since have fallen by the wayside, but here I am, still typing on this likely antiquated website. It’s seen me through half a dozen distinct disillusionments, with writing or film or criticism; periods of dormancy and regret. After all that, I’m still struggling to hone my writing, and this is as good a place to hack away as any. At this rate, maybe I’ll find some creative satisfaction midway through the 2020s. In the meantime, well, I suppose I’ll keep on posting.

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Viewing Diary April 2017

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Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965), directed by Doris Wishman

The camera follows a fugitive housewife through a series of drab apartments. (Here’s a painting of two Siamese cats hanging on a bathroom wall; there’s a clock in the shape of an eight-pointed star.) It roams the streets of late-winter Manhattan, leavening the film’s somber sexploitation with a soupçon of documentary. Actors’ faces receive little attention. It’s camouflage for the shoddy post-synchronized sound. Voices drift, untethered from mouths, in a miasma of lounge music. “Oh, what can I do?” gasps the displaced damsel while Gigi Darlene, the actress playing her, paces in lingerie. She’s the victim in this catalog of abuses, this no-budget Life of Oharu. Trauma and tedium overshadow the film’s slivers of titillation. Its “hell” is no moralizing fantasy, but rather the here and now: a crummy couch, a beat-up fridge, any room cheap enough to shoot in.

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Viewing Diary March 2017

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The Marquise of O (1976), directed by Éric Rohmer

In static medium shots, actors share the screen with candlelit curtains, household statuary, and bowls of fruit. The camera keeps their delicate faces at arm’s length. Rohmer meticulously blocks their movements for the Academy ratio frame. Sometimes he composes whole shots within a doorway or ends them with a fade to black, swaddling the action in layers of decorum. The arcane rules of aristocracy circumscribe the widowed title character. Her destiny depends on her perceived sexual purity. When she grows visibly pregnant, her straits worsen, and her parents entangle her in a string of emotional gambits. Both her father (who forsakes her) and a persistent suitor (her likely rapist) lay claim to her. A marquise’s body can be anyone’s but her own.

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