Monthly Archives: September 2009

What would bigots do if they knew…?

So, I haven’t written in a while (sadly), but that’s what this is for. Yesterday, while researching the great Belgian surrealist René Magritte, I happened to find this fascinating blog called Sexuality & Love in the Arts, topics to which Pussy Goes Grrr is certainly no stranger. And I ended up reading their article on Alan Turing, the brilliant British cryptographer, mathematician, and pioneering computer scientist who was legally persecuted (after helping win WWII) until he committed suicide. Why, you may ask, would a great genius like Turing be chemically castrated, tormented, and hounded? Because of what the authorities called “gross indecency”… he was a homosexual.

Long-suffering genius Alan Turing

So, reading about Gordon Brown’s recent apology for Turing’s rather shabby treatment by the government, I was reminded of an idea I had the other day. Because, okay, homophobia is alive and well and living in America, as evidenced by this video of Carrie Prejean, the ditzy beauty queen whose po’ widdle ego was demolished by contest judge Perez Hilton after she said “You know what, in my country, in my family, I think I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there…” and some other similarly halting statements. And now apparently she’s a horribly persecuted, God-loving inspiration to us all who’ll get her rewards in heaven!! at least according to her.

And so, between that and reading about Turing, I thought about this: lots & lots of people (hell, even the majority of California voters) don’t want gay people marrying each other. And they’d also prefer if they’d take their homosexual selves, get back in the closet, and let the children go on thinking heterosexual is the only kind of desire. (Honestly, people act like attraction to the same sex is automatically graphically sexual, while attraction to the opposite sex is, by default, clean and pure. ‘Cause men never lust after women, right? And so exposing kids to the notion of gayness is sucking away their innocence. But that’s another blog.) So it got me to thinking, people are OK with letting queer artists provide them with great entertainment and profundity, but if they have to know that Rock Hudson’s sleeping with men on his off-days, they’d rather he was prosecuted for it? Because let’s face it: queerness and art have gone together pretty well for, oh, all of human history. And I wanted to take a look at some examples. Hence, this is the “what would gay-hating bigots do if they knew…” list.

First, a few caveats: I’m going by a pretty loose definition of queer here. If I’ve been witness to some form of evidence that a historical figure was queer, I’ll include them for argument’s sake, but by no means is this academically rigorous. It’s a thought experiment. Also, there’s going to be a lot more gay men on this list than lesbians because, well, men are better-represented historically in everything than women. When you narrow it down to women attracted to other women, the representation gets even tinier. That said, here’s my list! What would gay-hating bigots do if they knew a gay person was crucial in creating:

Western philosophy, Hellenistic civilization, the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, My Ántonia, Leaves of Grass, A Shropshire Lad, The Importance of Being Earnest, much of literary modernism (Stein, Woolf, and H.D. for starters), Remembrance of Things Past, Valentino, The Battleship Potemkin, Bride of Frankenstein, Blithe Spirit, Gaslight, computers (going liberally with Turing), Jean Cocteau himself, Night of the Hunter, Screaming Popes, Beat poetry, pop art and the phrase “15 minutes of fame,” Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, The Leopard, American absurdist theater, if…, Harold and Maude, Cabaret, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and then starting in the ’70s-’80s, too many advancements in the arts and elsewhere to name as the LGBT community became more legal, visible, and able to express themselves – I’ll just toss out Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home as one particularly sublime example.

Now, I grant there are a lot of flaws with this list and its reasoning, and I admit that most of the examples come from film, because queer filmmakers are one of my great areas of interest. But I was mainly trying to make a point: if intolerant people think they can dismiss all gay men & women as being icky, unnatural, somehow poisonous, undeserving of rights or public exposure, or evil/impure on some basic level, maybe they should look around their culture and realize that often what they consider wholesome, unobjectionable art (like one case in point I discovered tonight) is actually made by (gasp!) the very “perverts” and “deviants” they’re dead-set against. I think homophobia requires much of the same solipsistic blocking out of the real world as racism – “No, no, no, I’m not listening; you will not be a counterexample to my passed-down belief that all gays/blacks/etc. are unworthy degenerates…”

Gustave Courbet's The Sleepers, 1866

They’re often similarly ignorant of the fact that homoeroticism turns up all over place – for an obvious example, in The Picture of Dorian Gray – because, oh, it’s a pretty common, basic element of human sexuality and hell, I’d even say a universal part of the human experience (I mean, honestly, who hasn’t had at least a fleeting, vaguely homoerotic thought or two in their whole life?). These people act like by constructing thick moral walls we can erase all the “evil” in the world and create a cuddly, gay-free cultural womb. The fact is, queerness has factored somehow into some of the greatest artistic accomplishments in history, in one form or another. And you know what? If Charles Laughton, John Gielgud, Noël Coward, Oscar Wilde, and all the rest are wrong, I don’t want to be right.


Filed under art, Cinema, Politics, Sexuality

My Favorite Movies: The Saddest Music in the World

Beer, music, and the interplay of emotions

So, I haven’t done one of these posts in a while what with starting classes and all, but here’s a movie that demands to be written about: Guy Maddin’s quasi-musical comedy melodrama The Saddest Music in the World (2003, watchable here). Maddin, whom I saw giving a live director’s commentary this past June at the Heights Theater, is one of my favorite still-working directors; hailing from Winnipeg, he’s as much of an international envoy for Canadian cinema as David Cronenberg, and about as blatantly weird. But instead of expressing sexual hang-ups and Freudian confusion through gory physical displays like Cronenberg does, Maddin’s neuroses manifest themselves in explosive tributes to Hollywood films of the 1920s-’30s, full of absurdly overemotional characters and editing that could best be described as hysterical.

And out of Maddin’s films (though I have yet to see Careful or My Winnipeg), I’d say that Saddest Music hits all the right notes, emotionally and musically, bringing his style into a precise balance with the subject matter. It’s not quite as amnesiacally muddled as Archangel, and it expands impressively on the psychosexually tangled love triangles of earlier films like Tales from the Gimli Hospital. Fantastically entertaining, visually unique, and very strange – this could be Maddin’s masterpiece, lying deep in his fictionalized historical Winnipeg and yet relatively accessible to mainstream audiences (at least more so than, say, his silent ballet version of Dracula). So, where to start discussing it?

The plot of Saddest Music is fittingly complicated, with baroque psychological twists crawling out of the floorboards. It tells of a very dysfunctional family, the Kents: patriotically Canadian father Fyodor, sociopathic American showman Chester, and the melancholic hypochondriac Roderick, who’s taken on the Serbian national identity after the death of his child and the disappearance of his wife. The story’s background is that of the Great Depression, when legless beer baroness (the three words that really sell the movie) Helen Port-Huntley (Isabella Rossellini) is holding a contest to find the titular saddest music, pitting the Siamese against the Mexicans, the Germans against the Poles, and so on. It’s a concept from an old screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro (author of Remains of the Day) that found itself somehow in Maddin’s hands. Processed through his feverishly inventive mind, it becomes a perverse catalog of classical Hollywood cliches lovingly made ironic by Maddin and his writing collaborator George Toles.

Lady Port-Huntley's legs: a Chaney-esque allegory of disability

Amidst the Kents’ emotional chaos is the film’s wild card character, Narcissa, played by Portuguese beauty Maria de Medeiros (of Pulp Fiction fame, though Maddin knew her from Henry & June). Roderick’s amnesiac wife and now Chester’s “kept woman,” she wanders hazily through the film speaking of attractive ears, telepathic tapeworms, and claiming to be not an American, but a nymphomaniac. She also triggers Roderick’s hysterical hypersensitivity, which points out one of the ways I view the film – as a battle royale between contrasting emotional viewpoints. I don’t think Maddin intended the film to be any grand statement about the wide palette of emotions, although I do believe he knew he was making a family melodrama that went over the top and back again. But, while last viewing the film, I found a way to reconcile this emotion-based vision of the film with its apparent lack of seriousness: by comparison with Amanda Palmer’s also highly ironic song “Oasis,” discussed many times on this very same blog. Just as Amanda Palmer has described “Oasis” as showing an alternative way to cope with trauma, Saddest Music‘s feuding central characters can represent happiness and sadness, glass half full or half empty. (As Chester says, “Sadness is just happiness turned on its ass.”)

So in Chester we have the embodiment of perpetual positivity, the quintessential Ugly American with a can-do, go-go spirit of rugged individualism. He manages to co-opt the other performers’ cultures, but only by offering to pay their way home. Chester – incidentally, named for and partially based on the character played by James Cagney in Footlight Parade (1933) – begins and ends the film by denying the sadness that’s filled his life, from his mother’s premature death to his own. “I ask you,” he says, always with a Cohan-esque lilt to his voice, “is there anybody here as happy as I am?” I don’t think it’d be too extreme to compare Chester to Amanda’s blithe protagonist in “Oasis.”

But turn Chester on his ass, and you’ve got Roderick, aka Gavrilo the Great, who proclaims, “In the jar, preserved in my own tears, is my son’s heart.” Whereas Chester appears impervious to emotional pain, Roderick’s life is nothing but. His behavior in the movie consists of one breakdown after another, puncuated by frantic pleas not to trouble his overly acute senses of touch, hearing, and smell. Roderick is the psychological hiccups and excessive reactions of melodrama incarnate in a character and played splendidly by Ross McMillan with a plaintive accent to match. So, as the title indicates, the film is largely on some level about emotions: Roderick fighting (but failing) to assert his genuine tearfulness against Chester’s “razzle dazzle showmanship” pretending to be sadness.

The hysterical Roderick, unable to cope with his sensory input or the trauma of betrayal

And always present alongside the characters’ escalating (and comedic) emotional intensity is Maddin’s far-flung visual style, which incorporates anything and everything to evoke the director’s madly oneiric vision of 1930s film. We have thick film grain, a coloring technique resembling two-strip Technicolor (used mostly for funeral scenes), nonstop rear projection, and manic montage for the film’s climax. Maddin is in love with the fakery and illusions of the cinema, and this love propels his film into violent visual and narrative fragmentation. The Kents’ house, as well as downtown Winnipeg, is constructed with claustrophobically expressionistic architecture, and the entire film was shot in a giant, freezing Winnipeg warehouse. You could go so far as to call it anti-location shooting.

This is one of Maddin’s bizarre triumphs, his view of the unconscious mind in relation to perceiving cinema. I think he referred to his brilliant short film The Heart of the World as the world’s first “subliminal” film, and on some level this applies to much of his other work as well. Realism is set aside, because old movies aren’t perceived as reality, and there’s nothing realistic – from a narrative or emotional angle – about the contortions and exaggerations of melodrama. In Brand Upon the Brain! (2006), the character of Guy Maddin is said to suffer from “brain fever,” and this is akin to the sensibility that informs all of the director’s work: the human brain is consumed with fever, every impulse or emotion heightened, every reaction doubled, every moment of the plot fractured via editing.

As he’s divulged in various interviews, Guy Maddin’s life has been fairly traumatic – a brother committed suicide, his father died young – and it’s definitely plausible to see his films as, in some ways, melodramatically dealing with the real pains of life. At the same time, he’s creating these insane but beautiful vistas of unreal cinematic worlds, retooling the materials of the past and our collective fictional memories, accelerating recollections of Cagney and Kirk Douglas, of Chaney/Browning collaborations, of Eisenstein and von Stroheim, Busby Berkeley, Astaire & Rogers. And all of this comes to dreamlike fruition in The Saddest Music in the World, where emotions and sexuality run like wild horses through a labyrinth of madness and memory. As usual, I want to highlight one particular scene that stands out, here being the fullest realization of the film’s musical side. It’s the part where Narcissa sings “The Song Is You,” an actual pop standard written in 1932 by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. From Chester’s opening reminiscences, the song permeates the film’s atmosphere, whether on cello, piano, or played by a flashy big band as it is here. Maddin attributed this scene’s inspiration to Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (also 1932), where Maurice Chevalier’s singing of “Isn’t It Romantic?” turns out to be contagious.

Few films are able to engage the past so sincerely and with such frenzied passion as The Saddest Music in the World. It’s by turns dazzling, perverse, ironically tragic, very funny, and always mesmerizingly melodramatic. Whether you’re new to the chilly, phantasmagoric world of Guy Maddin or if you’ve seen a number of his films, it’s always worth rewatching, for Isabella’s dancing with glass legs, for the kneeling performance of “Red Maple Leaves,” for the surreal behavior of Winnipeg citizens in an age long forgotten, if it ever existed at all. With its spectacular blend of excessive emotion, hysterical past, and life uninhabited – all with plenty of musical fizz – The Saddest Music in the World is on of my favorite movies.


Filed under Cinema, Music

Far from Disney: stop-motion and alternative animation

The school year’s now fully started, so I’ll probably be posting a little less than before. But while I still have the time, there are a few topics I want to get into. First: regarding my last post about TV, I should reiterate that I’m by no means qualified to expound on television history, theory, or criticism. On that front, I’m about as well-educated as the next person – after all, as I say, I haven’t watched much TV in years. And there are several very major television shows I’ve never watched. So take my opinions with a grain of delicious, yummy salt.

That said, I now want to expound on a field where I do feel qualified: film history. Because, while doing some brief research, I discovered a website that I’d classify as an atrocity, a crime against knowledge. It’s, and man, is it bad. I don’t claim that I’m so much smarter than anybody else, but after reading this… I almost have to come to that conclusion. The authors mangle every possible fact, event, or period of history, misinterpret what they do get right, and frame it all amidst gruesome errors of spelling and grammar. It’s a terrible, terrible website, and I sent them an email letting them know (will I get a response? Who knows!). This experience – poring over the godawful, inaccurate prose that fills their site – reminded me of a simple fact: it’s easy to write poorly and not fact-check; it’s hard to actually be informed and say something. Am I doing the latter? I leave that up to anyone who visits or comments on this blog.

In any case, if you visited, feel free to drop them a line critiquing their work, but whatever you do, don’t use it as a resource. The mistakes on every level are endless; take for example, “In the nineties and beyond, the Japanese adapted the cartoon style and modified them to fit within their movie culture of war and violence,” which betrays a deep ignorance of Japan, its cinema, anime, and really chronological history in general. Or broad, false generalizations like, “unlike other genres such as Westerns or comedies [horror movies] never go out of style.” After reading through the website, I felt like I’d just poisoned my own brain and needed to read some Pauline Kael as an antidote immediately. It’s just impressive how brash and pointed human stupidity can be.

However, my main point today was not to point out stupidity, but to talk about art. Thank God for art. It can be the remedy for the stupidity and hate of the world. Recently, I’ve been thinking about unconventional forms of animation, partially spurred on by watching Peter Cornwell’s fascinating claymation short “Ward 13.” The methods of creation are just so varied and beautiful, and this applies to every medium – it’s so great to have infinite options in what you want to create, and how to create it. So it is with animation: we have Lotte Reiniger, Jan Švankmajer, and Charley Bowers, just to give three random examples of animators who worked outside the conventions of the art form. After all, where’s the rule that says you have to stick by what most people would term normal animation? Granted, when Reiniger and Bowers were working (1920s Germany and America respectively), as I understand it, there wasn’t really enough of a consensus or history to determine what mainstream animation even was, but my point is that they created some unusual, original works according to their own personal aesthetics and styles.

Švankmajer's perversely symbolic short film Jídlo (Food)

I’m not sure, yet, where my discussion of animation is going. Maybe I could put forward an argument involving, oh, the hegemonic domination of the art form, the industry, and the standards of animation by Disney, and the unique abilities of independent or alternative animators to undermine that domination, and the beautiful art they’ve managed to produce? I mean, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that since, oh, the ’20s-’30s, between Steamboat Willie (pioneering in sound), Flowers and Trees (color), and Snow White (length), the name Disney had cast a mouse-shaped shadow over the whole of animation, even if these cartoons weren’t the first to capitalize on their respective innovations. Everyone knows Disney now – as I’ve touched on before, in terms of recognition, it’s easily among the top brands in the world – but honestly, what level of brand recognition do the Fleischer Bros. get?

Compared to the often-bland adventures of Mickey, Goofy, & co., I easily prefer the Fleischers’ early ’30s cartoons, between the sexy (though eventually cooled down) Betty Boop; the absurd, cantankerous Popeye; and the visually impressive Superman cartoons that paved the way for decades of superhero cartoons – not to mention their 1939 feature Gulliver’s Travels. And the Fleischers are just two of out countless artists and innovators who’ve been overlooked because of the thousand-year Disney reich. Some traditional animators from the past 30-40 or so years who I like to plug include Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic), Don Bluth (The Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven), and Martin Rosen (Watership Down, The Plague Dogs). All three merit way further discussion – especially Bakshi, who I have a penchant for – but my point is that their work is decidedly non-Disney and they all differ in important ways from the norm that Disney has established, in terms of subject matter, approach, drawing style, etc.

Now I come to the topic I intended to write this blog about: claymation. Far from the Magic Kingdom’s benign, well-crafted world of anthropomorphic animals living out their rehashes of folk tales and public domain literature, we have this mode of creation whose end results invariably turn out, well, weird. Unusual. There really isn’t another way to replicate the very physical, transformational feel of claymation. As a very random example, I give you an episode of Gumby entitled “In the Dough.”

Even from the presentation of the opening title (“A Gumby Adventure”), we see Gumby and Davey & Goliath creator – and claymation auteur – Art Clokey exploiting the unique, iconic aspects of the form. The words spring from a ball of clay (recalling the words of the Gumby theme song, sadly absent here: “He once was a little green slab of clay”), illustrating the basic concept of clay jumping into life and order from an entropic dormancy. This leads to a fairly typical plot wherein Gumby inadvertently gets into mischief while Pokey looks on disapprovingly; however, in this episode, the mischief is of a terrifyingly surreal nature. Now, stop-motion doesn’t look like real motion. Švankmajer knew this when he made Food. And Art Clokey certainly knew this, as we see Gumby and Pokey waddling around their dollhouse-realistic kitchen, and as we see Gumby’s arms and legs stretch out to reach the top of his industrial-sized oven. Gumby is almost a kind of meta-claymation – even though the characters don’t really talk about it, they’re by nature, well, made out of clay. Gumby is big and green and weirdly-shaped, and I think I can say that the series couldn’t really have been made by any other technique and had the same effects.

I picked this particular episode, of course, because it features the kind of ultra-weird fantasy sequence that fits perfectly with claymation’s usual crude, off-kilter look, plus advancing rows of malicious pastry soldiers. But Clokey’s vision for claymation, as realized in Gumby, is only one. I want to highlight a few other masters of the craft: first in my mind is Nick Park of England’s Aardman Studios, creator of the much-beloved Wallace & Gromit. One fact to keep in mind is that while hand-drawn animation is grueling, time-consuming, and difficult labor, claymation multiplies this problem. Hence why there’s not as huge a selection of feature-length claymation films as for animated, and not as many animated as live action; short films are just an easier, more natural outlet for animated art.

So, for example, Wallace & Gromit were the subject of 3 great, lovable, witty half-hour shorts before making the leap to feature-length film. It wasn’t until 1995 that Gumby starred in a very weird, mediocre feature-length film. For similar reasons, Henry Selick has produced only about 4 movies in 16 years – however, those have included The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline. And so, along these lines, could Nightmare have been anywhere near as appealing and endearing without the intense labor of stop-motion animation? This gets down to a question of what one medium can express and others can’t. You can tell many, many stories in many ways via traditional animation. But you could not tell The Nightmare Before Christmas the way Henry Selick told it, which I’d argue is the best way it could’ve been told. Consider: the desolation tempered by seasonal charm that mark the film’s landscapes; the horrors of childhood incarnated into Halloweentown’s residents (“I am the call in the wind, ‘Who’s there?’…”); the quick changes from deviance to mirth on Jack’s cavernous face. The use of stop-motion-animated physical objects (also reminiscent of the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials) is appropriate to each of these facets of the film.

Nightmare's patchwork lovers against one the film's layered, haunted backdrops

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that claymation/stop-motion is another one of the tools of which artists can avail themselves. It requires, in some ways, more perseverance and effort, but it’s capable of realizing imagery and specatcles that neither live action nor traditional animation can quite capture. Try to imagine the “Mysterious Stranger” segment from Will Vinton’s The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985) any other way – how could you show the temporariness and insignificance of Satan’s tiny, rudimentary creations? How else could you show the uncanny, constantly-in-flux dark angel himself? These hard-to-tame qualities of claymation make it an all the more powerful method of creating art. I’d like to go into this in more depth in the future, but for now I’ll say that I suspect stop-motion’s full potential has not yet been reached, and leave you with some more samples of stop-motion in action.

It’s a Bird (Charley Bowers, 1930)

Moral Orel, “Numb” (Dino Stamatopoulos, 2008)

Celebrity Deathmatch, “Deathbowl ’99” (Eric Fogel, 1999)

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Filed under art, Cinema, Media

More pretty soldiers than you can shake a wand at!

Are you ready for some straight up nostalgic awesomeness?

If watching that Toonami promo took you back and made you long for your youth, we’re in the same boat. I really shouldn’t be distracting myself from the AFP tarot design but well, I just watched all of Sailor Moon R (the second season) and it’s definitely on the brain. And seeing as I have a kind of recurring theme of exploring things from my childhood, it’s kind of fucked up that I haven’t even mentioned Sailor Moon yet. Because if there is one thing that affected my life more than any other book, show, or movie it is Sailor fucking Moon.

She will fuck your shit right up.

Now for all you folks who don’t really know much about Sailor Moon I’ll do a brief summary of the show and characters. Sailor Moon is a massive cash cow anime that, while definitely not the first of it’s kind, definitely popularized the Magical Girl type series. Like lots of animes it started out as a manga by Naoko Takeuchi in 1992. It was very quickly adapted into an anime, so quickly that the show and the manga ran concurrently (indeed, the entire Doom Tree  arc in the beginning of the second season is literally filler; Takeuchi had never planned to do more with Sailor Moon after the first season and the Ann and Alan [or An and Eiru] storyline was created so she would have time to catch up).   According to Wikipedia it made it’s debut here in the states on September 11th, 1995; fourteen years ago yesterday. Serena/Usagi Tsukino is a very annoying, whiny, irresponsible flake of a fourteen-year-old girl so of course she’s our main character. She and the other senshi (at first there’s just five, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus, later on there’s…many, many more) and two space cats and one rose-throwing pretty boy in a cape must fight evil forces (always in Japan of course) to save the world from being destroyed. It’s your very basic Magical Girl premise.

Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Venus, goddamn fucking Sailor Mini Moon, Sailor Pluto, Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, that angsty bitch Saturn and Artemis. I don't know why Luna isn't there, but whatever.

However. When I was a kid, this shit was hardcore and I felt deeply connected to these characters. That’s how it always is with the things we watched as children; we can watch it now as adults and see the shaky premise, not-so-great-messages, stupid characters, ridiculously convoluted plots, badly written dialogue, we see it all and laugh at it but when we were kids this was the shit. And to Sailor Moon’s credit much of it’s fucked upness was due to fucking DIC(k) butchering the shit out of it. I mean, I’ve watched the Japanese episodes and English episodes side by side and yeah, it still has a lot of problems but at least it made a little more sense. And at least the characters didn’t use trendy lingo like ‘da bomb’. Christ, that makes me cringe. But despite all of that I loved this show; every day at 4:00 pm I would watch it and to be honest even now as an adult while I’m laughing at how ridiculous most of it is there are still moments that I find very stirring or beautiful and they take me back to a very different place and time in my life.

But so that’s the show, I’ll probably get more into other characters and situations as I go on but that’s the gist of it. One of the first things I want to discuss is something that I thought about a great deal yesterday and that was the very disturbing parallel I saw between a major plot in the Black Moon arc and another, more current phenomena, Twilight.

Now I’ve never written about Twilight before even though I have some very strong feelings about it: I hate, it sucks, it sends fucked up messages to young girls, Edward is an abusive prick, Bella is a vapid, empty, dependent little crybaby and it upsets me greatly that someone’s poorly written sex fantasy  is a best-seller and that people think that just because it is a best-seller that that means it’s a good book. But I don’t want to get too deep into that right now. Now, during the Black Moon arc there is a very memorable storyline wherein Darien/Mamoru (the rose-throwing pretty boy, Tuxedo Mask and Serena’s college-aged boyfriend/future husband/past lover from when they were living on the moon. Yeah, it makes sense in context, sort of) has a recurring nightmare and in it a foreboding voice tells him that if he continues to see Serena she’ll die and it will jeopardize the future of their entire world. Yadda, yadda, yadda. And so…rather than, you know, talking to her about it he tells her that he doesn’t love her anymore and that he wants nothing to do with her. Man, he sure knows how to look out for a girl. And throughout like 10 fucking episodes we have to watch her be upset over all of it and him treat her like garbage in an attempt to make her stopping loving him. Trust me, it’s frustrating. I get really tired of the ‘guy must protect girl by creating distance so he just treats her like shit and/or leaves her without explanation’ story; it’s really old and stale and honestly, what person would actually act like this? It’s always seemed completely unrealistic and frustrating to me. And so, I was reading some of the comments on on of the episodes (that were just rife with misspellings and random capitalization; this is youtube we’re talking about) and I was surprised at the people who were defending Darien’s actions. And then I saw that one of these users was named TwilightGirl something or another and, okay, far be it from me to make assumptions about another person that I don’t know but come on.

True love...I says the plot.

And so I spent a little while thinking about it and, yeah. Yeah, there are a lot of similarities between Serena and Darien’s relationship and those two fuckers in that series. There’s very little build-up that gives credence to their supposed very deep and eternal love (I mean, Serena and Darien have a past life on their side but still: we only see them dance a few times and kiss while in the present the only relationship they had before discovering their past was an antagonistic one at best); they’re all pretty annoying characters; both females have a horrible, stereotypical tendency to fall apart when their boyfriends dump them; and both males think that it’s okay to treat your partner badly or do fucked up shit to them ‘because they love them’ and ‘they’re doing what’s best for them’.

Needless to say I was more than a little upset by these parallels. So I thought about it for a little as I continued watching more episodes and came to some conclusions. The first was that, hey, maybe there’s some hope for these Twilight lovers! I mean, Sailor Moon would sometimes send out some very weird, not-so-great messages and this entire storyline was one of them (and what bothers me is that seeing as it was the 90s they thought, HEY, gotta have an aesop and so every episode ended with a Sailor Says. And they would always pull like, the weirdest fucking one they could; it was always something that had very little to do with the plot itself or something that was trivial next to the issue they should have talked about. And it bothers me that in not one of these episodes did we have a Sailor Says about how it’s not okay for people to treat you this way) but I didn’t take away any harmful ideas or values from it. But then again, back then when we watched the show I don’t remember any of my friends swooning over Darien. We couldn’t believe what a jerk he was and didn’t understand why he didn’t just tell Serena about the dream. But these Twilighters act like Edward is the be all end all of maleness and it’s disturbing. At least Sailor Moon acknowledges in it’s own way that what Darien is doing is fucked up.

And also, I started growing out of Sailor Moon when I was like 13; there’s a website called I shit you not. And another thing is that, this is an isolated incident as far as I know for Sailor Moon. Because despite being a kid’s show and having some pretty vapid characters most of them did show some kind of development and Serena was a prime example of this (in the manga more than the anime and in the Japanese version WAY more than the dub but still, it’s there); over time she grew into herself and her own responsibilities. Whereas Bella is…well….we’ll just call her Mary Sue. And then of course I thought about the sheer context in which these characters exist; despite being a whiny little brat Serena is still an ass-kicking heroine who takes down monsters in a weekly formula and has saved the fucking planet like 12 times. What have you done lately, Bella?  Her whole life is Edward and nothing else matters to her and uh, sorry but that’s fucking boring. Like seriously, think about your real life. Think about your female friends who the only subject they ever talk about is their boyfriend/husband/children and nothing else because they have no life outside of that. Now think about how much you can’t stand to spend time with that person. And if you are that person think about how none of your friends like to be at your house for very long. You know who you are. So seriously. Sailor Moon>Twilight.

And so beyond all that I want to talk more about how important this show was in shaping me into the person I now am. Because seriously, this was the gateway. Sailor Moon lead me in one way or another to almost all the things that were really important to me. First of all, anyone who knows this show knows how much it would appeal to a budding queer woman. Some of my first fantasies involved the characters from Sailor Moon. And it definitely helped that the show had it’s fair share of lesbian and gay characters (that they awkwardly tried to edit out by switching genders).

Or by making them "cousins". Yeah, okay, SURE, Dic, whatever.

All these strong, ass-kicking females, all those transformation scenes (which seriously, oh my God, one of Sailor Moon’s greatest failings is that it reuses the same chunks of animation over and over and over and the transformations were like this. When I was younger I loved all of them, every thing swirling around them and turning them into their alter egos; now as an adult I usually skip right through that shit. Seriously, it takes forever) it all invariably impacted my sexuality. My earliest experiences with the internet were on Sailor Moon websites and then ultimately reading Sailor Moon fan fiction. Yes, Sailor Moon lead me to fan fiction. And then to my first hentai fiction. I remember it so well even though I was like 11 at the time (why my parents let me on the internet unsupervised is beyond me):I was on some random Sailor Moon fan fiction site and I went to click on a story. In parenthesis next to the title it said ‘lemon’. Being at the time unfamiliar with fanfic lingo I had no idea what that meant and just read on. And was met with the delights of the first sex story I ever read. Clearly, thought 11 year old me, I must find more of these stories! And I did.

Now, while these kinds of stories eventually became my first masturbation material outside of my own thoughts (which is pretty fucking important in and of itself) for a long time I would just read these stories and get really turned on by them but I wouldn’t actually get off to them. But then that changed. And I had a revelation: why, I could write my own smutty Sailor Moon stories! And my God, were they fucking dirty. Part of me wishes I could find and read some of those stories; that was before I gave a shit about plot or character or any of that. Straight up Porn Without Plot. So Sailor Moon lead me to writing my first fanfic. Which anyone who knows me will tell you that writing fanfiction (first Sailor Moon, then DragonBall Z, then and perhaps most importantly Harry Potter: I am a geek of epic proportions and you should be jealous) was a humongous part of my life. And honestly my love for writing fanfic only died out a few years ago when I finally got tired of leeching off other people’s characters and settings (and then went into a year and a half long slump). But still; I did develop a lot as a writer during my fanfic years and it’s all very important to me. And Sailor Moon started it all.

It would take a very, very long time for me to go into the intricacies of how Sailor Moon has affected my life; this is just a small taste of it. Despite it’s many downfalls, I love this show, I always will and when I make fun of it I do it with a very strong sense of affection. And if you feel the same way about Sailor Moon you should watch the Sailor Moon Abridged series.

It parodies the series and all of it’s hilarious fucked upness with great fun and affection and I’m sure most fans will appreciate it. They just recently finished up the first series (that’s 40 episodes!) and you can find them all here. So, I’m probably going to watch the next season of Sailor Moon and who knows; I barely remember the SuperS season (for good reason some would say) and never actually watched Stars (since it never aired in this country) so I might just do that.

Because the manga is prettier than the anime.


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My Favorite Movies: Nashville

Nashville: long legs, the microphone, and America

So, a few days late (it was a hectic week), I begin my third installment of “My Favorite Movies,” and I’m a little intimidated. That’s because this is a big movie – in terms of scope, subject matter, and sheer cinematic size. It’s Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975), and… as with Berlin Alexanderplatz, the question is, where to start?

I could start with the director. Altman, by 1975, had made several great films, with M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and The Long Goodbye among them. If you can consider these, respectively, to be a deconstruction of the war movie, western, and film noir, then Nashville could be a deconstructed musical. It’s also one of the first of what Wikipedia calls “hyperlink” films – an early forerunner of recent popular films like Crash, Babel, Magnolia, and even Altman’s own Short Cuts and Gosford Park. Altman was amazingly adept at handling huge, multilinear storylines with great ensemble casts, darting back and forth from one point of view to another, and it’s done beautifully in Nashville. Hell, a new sound system was even invented to capture all the layered, overlapping dialogue. It’s not just one story: it’s two dozen.

Or I could start with the cast. The opening credits are presented as a rapid-fire advertisement, introducing the movie as a spectacle (and it is, as echoed by the tagline “The damnest thing you ever saw”) and as a product selling itself. It also connects right to the high-stakes world these people inhabit, where country music, politics, and sex intertwine just as frequently as the characters’ lives. But whether the characters are outside looking in or happily on the inside, Nashville has a place for them – even a role without dialogue (Jeff Goldblum’s itinerant hipster Tricycle Man) gets some time to steal the show. And it is, above all else, a show, as spectacular as any ever produced in Nashville, Hollywood, or Broadway; what makes it subversive is that underneath the overenthusiastic musical/cinematic trappings and ironic self-advertisement is a detailed presentation of a huge, hypocritical system.

We’ve got those on top: comedian Henry Gibson’s blustery musical patriarch Haven Hamilton; Ronee Blakley’s much-beloved, emotionally vulnerable Barbara Jean (who, ultimately, is the star of the show); and Karen Black’s smiling queen bitch Connie White. But for every one of them, we have five more troubled souls either waiting at the margins or trying to claw their way in. Character actor Keenan Wynn, at the end of his career, plays an old man whose greatest desire is to get his promiscuous hippie niece (Shelley Duvall) to see her ailing aunt. Gwen Welles is Sueleen Gay, a no-talent waitress who idolizes Barbara Jean, while Robert Doqui is the grumpy black coworker who watches over her. And perhaps most tragically, we have the great Lily Tomlin as Linnea Reese, married to Delbert (Ned Beatty), a lawyer who can’t admit his emotions, and pursued by the lecherous scumbag Tom (Keith Carradine). As you can tell already, it’s a vast, tightly-woven web of characters that illuminates contrasts but withholds judgment. Nobody gets their just deserts; a blind wheel of fortune is in effect here, where some rise and some fall, but the sun shines also on the wicked.

The meek Linnea Reese (Lily Tomlin) during the "I'm Easy" scene

I could start with the satire. Nashville may not impose moral judgments on its characters, but it certainly lets them act out their follies. The film’s environment is permeated with the voice of Replacement Party presidential candidate Hal Phillip Walker, whose nonsensical but reformist rhetoric is broadcast from a fleet of vans; it’s his cajoling, manipulative campaign manager, John Triplette (Michael Murphy), who circulates through Nashville’s social circles with the shy Delbert Reese at his side in order to set up the massive fundraising concert of the film’s climax.

Walker, whose campaign was written independently by Thomas Hal Phillips, speaks mostly in elaborate metaphors, generally appealing to a “Vote the bastards out!” mentality; he launches his candidacy with a speech asking, “Does Christmas smell like oranges to you?”, and this indicates nicely the tendency of characters to buy into ridiculous bullshit because it’s superficially appealing. (Compare this with the tediously vanilla anthem Haven Hamilton is singing as the film begins: “We must be doing something right to last 200 years…”)

Then there’s Opal from the BBC. Played by Geraldine Chaplin (who I watched the other day in another favorite movie, Carlos Saura’s Cría Cuervos), she runs frantically from scene to scene, always paying attention at the worst moments and losing interest at the best. She listens to Haven Hamilton’s son talk about his lost dreams of singing, then suddenly turns and cries, “That’s Elliott Gould!” – showing her shallow colors by prioritizing celebrity over emotional honesty – and when Linnea talks emotionally about her children’s deafness, she begs to change the subject. Opal, with her outrageously British accent and tourist-y hat decorated with musical notes, is the comical side of one of Nashville’s great themes: outsiders. (It’s worth noting that a deleted scene had Opal breaking down to reveal she wasn’t from the BBC, which is perfectly plausible when you consider the rest of the movie; maybe she’s not so broadly humorous after all.)

The infinitely naive Opal from the BBC

In addition to Opal (a journalist) and John Triplette (a politico), we have an outsider among outsiders, a troubled young man named Kenny (David Hayward) who comes from out of town and plays a vital role in the film’s tragic ending. He carries around an instrument case, leading others to ask if he’s a musician (i.e., part of Nashville’s elite), but his identity is in flux; he drifts from collecting Hal Phillip Walker stickers to being transfixed by a Barbara Jean performance as if trying to settle on a new, larger than life father and mother. We’re given a few spotty psychological clues (an angry telephone conversation with his actual mother, and the symbolic statement that his car is “stalled”), but have to draw our own conclusions. Is he a victim of a dysfunctional culture and its idols? Or just a garden variety psychotic? The film lets its characters do what they do, and lets you sort it all out.

Sorting out is a tough process with Nashville. For 3 hours, we’re bombarded with so much sensory information, with subtle hints popping up in background dialogue and recurring pieces of what sound like nonsense (an example is Albuquerque’s “fly swatters with red dots on ’em”). I read, in Jonathan Rosenbaum’s interesting essay “Improvisations and Interactions in Altmanville,” that Altman originally planned to make two 3-hour films focusing on totally different groups of characters. It’s a possibility that’s easy to imagine (with hunger in your cinephiliac eyes); if he could make a movie this big, well, another one doesn’t seem like too much more to ask.

Even more incredibly, Nashville never feels disorganized or jumbled. Joan Tewkesbury’s script is surprisingly tight, considering its length and breadth. Watching it is like enjoying a weekend with friends, even if some of them get a little trying at times; for every lothario like Tom Frank or blowhard like Haven Hamilton, we’ve got a reassuringly sensitive character like Linnea or Barbara Jean. Ultimately, the film seems amused by the bulk of human behavior, how people will jump from one bedfellow to another, how they’ll be ready to panic unless a singer comes onstage and tells them “It don’t worry me” (a song that comes up in many incarnations, like the title tune in The Long Goodbye).

Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley) sings before having "another collapse"

A lot has been written about Nashville, and there’s much, much more I could say. It’s a movie about a lot: about power structures and the disenfranchised; about the intersections of race, gender, and class; about how our background informs our reactions; about how it takes all kinds to make a world. It’s about a city that acts as a microcosm for ’70s America. It’s about good and bad people, and it has good and bad songs (from Haven Hamilton’s saccharine “For the Sake of the Children” to Barbara Jean’s genuinely emotional final number “My Idaho Home“). It surprises me, on reflecting, that one of my favorite movies should have a soundtrack full of country music, but I can’t help it. Nashville is so deeply good, so fun to come back to time and time again, that I can’t resist it. As a taste of Altman’s genius, I think I’ll touch briefly on one of the film’s greatest scenes – the one where the slimy, self-obsessed philanderer Tom sings a damn good song (which won an Oscar), “I’m Easy.”

This is Nashville at its best: deftly moving, through editing and zooms, from woman to woman, each of whom is given a chance to speak her piece through facial expressions. Duvall gloats, Chaplin is dumbstruck, Cristina Raines’s Mary rejects Tom’s plea, and Tomlin is mesmerized. And, judging from Tom’s past and future behavior, the viewer has the secret knowledge that the song probably isn’t for any of them; he’s most likely just exercising his gift for songwriting in order to lure another women into bed before callously phoning up the next. It’s one of the film’s sad truths that a very unpleasant person can be a very talented performer.

I’m sure I’ll return to write more about Nashville another time. It’s too rich and beautiful of a film not to talk about. Granted, some of the characters remain a little sketchy – there’s just not enough time for everyone. But it all fits so effectively together, each story pointing out aspects of another, and so many of the roles are so lovingly performed. With its enormous, well-rounded cast of characters and its incisive critique of America’s institutions in its 200th year, Nashville is one of my favorite movies.

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Briefly: the state of things

A few quick, random notes: I mercifully go back to school on Friday. I continue counting down the days. Things suck, more or less. The Hennepin County library system finally caught up with me (the fuckers) and want me to pay that $30. Alas. I’ve got a post about the movie Nashville in progress which will, I hope, be completed on Tuesday. Unfortunately, due to Labor Day, all the libraries are closed. Which, I think, is bullshit – I don’t see how it takes so much “labor” to keep a library going with minimal functioning. I’ve never really understood this; at Carleton, after all, we keep the libraries open from 8 am to 1 am most days of the week, and when we close, there are only 3 people working: someone at circ desk, someone at reserves desk, and a supervisor. And you’re telling me the government can’t afford 3 people just to keep the library open for one day? Goddamn Labor Day. I support the idea of not working in theory, but when hordes of other people follow through with it, it causes me some problems.

Cthulhu disapproves of Labor Day

Beyond that… I was able to buy some interesting books the other day since Half-Price Books in St. Louis Park is having a clearance sale. (20% off everything! That’s beautiful!) Among those I bought: 4 cheap volumes of H.P. Lovecraft (including The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow over Innsmouth, and more) as well as a book called Forbidden Sexual Behavior and Morality by R.E.L. Masters, from 1962. The latter book, I am surprised to learn, is by a sexologist named Masters who’s not William Masters of Masters & Johnson fame. It’s pretty interesting, though, and has given me some insights into 1960s attitudes toward bestiality, miscegenation, and homosexuality. So expect to hear more about Lovecraft and sexology in the future. For now, though, the goddamn library is closing, and I must go.

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Gardens of Artistic Delight

The other day I was driving past Lake Minnetonka, thinking about how much this area sucks, and then started wondering what I would prefer. And I realized that I wish it were more like this.

Mmm, forbidden fruit.

This is a detail from the center panel of Hieronymous Bosch’s great, beautiful triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights. A night spent examining this painting is what Ashley and I consider our first date – and it certainly beats going to some random movie or eating dinner. Why did it come to mind when thinking about how to fix the Lake Minnetonka area? Because around here, everyone cuts up the lake and seals off their own little spots – either they’ve got lakeside property that they hoard like a defensive rodent, or else they’ve got some boat they’re obsessively proud of, or some other bullshit attitude toward the lake that comes down to “this is mine.” Well, fuck that. And it occurred to me that the opposite attitude – “this is ours,” more or less, with “ours” referring to all of us, everyone who lives here – is wonderfully embodied in Bosch’s frolicking debauchers, all naked and gleefully having whatever kind of fun they want to (albeit amidst scads of 16th century Dutch symbolism). Honestly, why can’t we have more of this?

I want a peach/flower submarine, dammit.

And don’t give me any of that “It’s completely physically impossible” bullshit. If all the uptight, self-obsessed suburbanites that live around here would just start acting a little more nude-friendly and orgiastic, soon everybody could be hugging owls, eating enormous, allegorical strawberries, and fucking everyone else out in the open. So, to make it short, that’s the reality I want to live in. Even if it is deliberately surreal and a giant religious metaphor. With mermaid knights, too!

And now, I think I’ll talk about something I should’ve brought up a long time ago. There is a blog. I haven’t been there for a while, but when I’m not indulging in punk cabaret, it’s one of my major sources for music. It’s called “Music for Maniacs,” and its premise is carved out of sheer awesomeness. As the homepage explains, it’s “the Web’s longest-running strange-music blog! Dedicated to extremes in music and utterly unique sounds.” Strange, extreme, and unique, in this context, translate into outsider, avant-garde, and novelty music, along with weird, out-of-left-field recordings from mainstream artists, or else music that’s extreme just because it’s so bad. (If you’ve ever heard of The Shaggs, you know what I’m talking about.)

Singing Sadie: Australia's multi-untalented queen of nostalgically obscene ditties

It’s all well and good to gravitate toward “great” works of art, after all – your Citizen Kanes and Hamlets, your lovely lovely Ludwig Vans and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bands. But sometimes you just need something that, good or bad, is out of the ordinary. Weird. Or, if you’re me, then you need it more than sometimes and you end up writing about it ad nauseum. My point is that Music for Maniacs is a great source of weird, and provides a needed service on the Internet. They introduced me to the untalented, yet weirdly wonderful Singing Sadie. They uncover long-buried treasures, whether sublime or, uh, not so sublime.  I see M4M (as the blog’s author calls it) as providing a service not unlike my beloved publishing house Feral Press: turning over those big rocks in the garden of culture and bringing all the worms and pillbugs out into the sunlight. So go browse through M4M’s archives, check out some mash-ups or long-dead musicians you’ve never heard, and dive into the world of weird music. It’s very worth the effort.

Speaking of something that’s worth the effort, I finally finished Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1980 mega-film Berlin Alexanderplatz this morning. It’s pretty much the longest narrative film ever made (15 1/2 hours), and it earns the title. Incidentally, it’s also a great, visually impressive, emotionally involving film about a simple man who longs for escape but finds his environment (the scummy yet resplendent Weimar Berlin of 1926-28) perpetually dragging him down. That man is Franz Biberkopf, played to perfection by Günter Lamprecht. Franz is an endlessly fascinating, well-developed character, yet one of his defining characteristics is that he’s so ordinary and complaisant. As the film starts – the first episode is fittingly entitled “The Punishment Begins” – Franz is being released from Tegel prison after serving 4 years for killing his girlfriend Ida. (The verdict was manslaughter, and the murder itself, in which Franz mercilessly beats Ida with a shaving brush, is repeated periodically throughout the film.)

The Punishment Begins: Franz Biberkopf leaves prison

Franz vows to go straight, but is unprepared for the trials he’ll face. From episode to episode, he meets a variety of characters, each played by a member of Fassbinder’s stock company (and surrogate family). As enormous a film as it is, a synopsis could never do it justice, but suffice it to say that Franz encounters one challenge after another, and is frequently overcome. Some characters help him (the maternal whore Eva pops up now and then, played by The Marriage of Maria Braun‘s Hannah Schygulla, and there’s also Franz’s old friend Meck) while others put further obstacles in his way – the gangster Pums, the unscrupulous peddler Luders, and the sniveling, stuttering villain who’s also Franz’s best friend, Reinhold (Gottfried John).

Berlin Alexanderplatz might be interesting to examine (if one had the inclination) vis-à-vis a film made shortly after it’s set, Fritz Lang’s M. Although Fassbinder had the benefit of hindsight, both films still follow helpless protagonists (Franz due to his past and economic conditions; Hans Beckert to his own psychotic impulses) trying to navigate through a city (and nation) teetering dangerously close to the abyss of Nazism. I’ve thought in the past about the German New Cinema: if the orphaned Werner Herzog, through his remake of Nosferatu, sees himself as a child of Murnau, whose legacy is Fassbinder picking up? His Lola refashions elements of The Blue Angel – so maybe, with his glittering visual excess and doomed heroes, he could be the offspring of von Sternberg and Lang. Just a thought.

Mieze screaming in the pink glow of neon lights

So, Berlin Alexanderplatz… where to even start discussing this movie? I haven’t yet mentioned one crucial character: Mieze, aka Sonia, whose real name is Emilie Karsunke. An innocent, joyful prostitute (man, this movie piles up contradictions) introduced to Franz by Eva, she rapidly forms a close attachment to him, making up for all the brief, shallow relationships Franz has throughout the film’s first half. She’s played by Barbara Sukowa, who’s cute as a button, wears a little ribbon in her hair, and is prone to breaking into ecstatic screams around the people she loves, Franz und Eva. (Or not-so-ecstatic, like after she receives a particularly brutal beating from Franz that’s terrifyingly reminiscent of Ida’s murder.)

Berlin Alexanderplatz is on one hand a study of the blithely childlike couple of Franz und Mieze, each of whom have an uneasy, uncertain relationship with Reinhold, and on the other hand a probing look at the very specific historical conditions that force Franz from place to place, like hands moving a pawn across a chessboard. It’s also a masterpiece from a brilliant but troubled director, as well as a very personal one – Fassbinder claimed that the novel Berlin Alexanderplatz saved his life, that he knew it by heart, and that Franz, Reinhold, and Mieze were all him in different ways. He had an amazing devotion to the project, and it shows; only such devotion could produce a work of this magnitude, and yet have it all come out coherent and beautiful.

Fassbinder, who made 40 films, yet died at age 37

I’m still pretty much at a loss as to how I can get a handle on this movie. It’s so sprawling and has such dramatic breadth. It’s been said that the novel’s author, Alfred Döblin, was inspired to write it by reading Ulysses. Well, along those lines, I say this: if there’s a way to turn a novel as allusive, complex, and defiantly literary as Ulysses into a movie, Fassbinder found it. The narration (provided by the director himself) recites newspaper headlines, crime statistics, poetry unrelated to the plot; the length doesn’t seem excessive, because Berlin Alexanderplatz is so broad it needs a full half-day to unravel. It speaks of violence and theft and their effects on Franz’s precarious psyche; there’s the impossibility of being as sweet as Mieze in so sour a place as Berlin; and then the omnipresent problem of politics, as Franz goes from selling Nazi newspapers to attending communist rallies, without ever ideologically committing himself. Unless, of course, you count the ideologically of “trying humbly to get along in the world.”

The fact is that to get through the whole movie, you need to have some level of commitment to these characters, their personalities and experiences, even their disastrous mistakes. Special kudos should also go to Xaver Schwarzenberger’s cinematography which lets eyes and skin shine in the city lights and lets us see the beauty in beer, hats, and bird cages. For such an abysmally gritty place, it sure looks great. If you’re still not convinced that Berlin Alexanderplatz is worth spending so much time on, take a look at the trailer. It’s a great movie and even if you’re not a hardcore cinephile, even if you wouldn’t normally go out of your way for an art film – you should still watch it. It’s a valuable experience, and it’s very worth the effort.

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