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So it’s old news that they found ancient mummified remains of blond haired white people in the wilds of China.  I heard a snippet regarding the discovery on the radio while I was at work today and what caught my ear and the ears of the other pirates I work with was the fact that one of the mummies was in possession of over a pound of pot. The said mummy was thought to have been a shaman of some sort and therefore in charge of the drugs for his tribe, because well, that’s evidently a part of the Shamanic duties, according to the “expert” being interviewed for the story.  The first thing that popped into my head was a clear picture of Steve Balmer, CEO of Microsoft and avid Deadhead, Hendrix fan and lover of Cinerama rushing to the scene of the discovery with his friend Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Entertainment so they could be the first to put in an offer for bid on the ancient Kilo of what I’ve dubbed “Manchurian Manic”. I just know those two billionaire potheads couldn’t pass up the opportunity to score some thousand year old chronic.  When you have the kind of dough these two have, boredom with what the world has to offer comes with the territory and when a diversion like this comes to light, especially one tailored to your personal tastes in diversions i.e. smoking great pot, well its pretty nigh irresistible.  I imagine the two splitting the cost of the brick by each writing multi-million dollar checks to a confused and delighted group of Chinese archeologists who soon find themselves on the fast train to professional obscurity and banishment at the hands of the Party Handler attached to their expedition. I imagine Balmer and Branson hold up on the Virgin CEO’s private island with their wives and a few close, but decidedly less-affluent friends like Jimmy Buffet, George Lucas, and Woody Harrelson.  All of them gathered around a gigantic platinum hookah drinking vintage Chateau Petrus chardonnay and drawing the smoky thousand year old THC into their lungs in the hopes of feeling something different, something outside their gilded existence.   You just know this sort of thing is going on.

                I liked the movies “Boogie Nights” and “There Will Be Blood” without ever being cognizant of the fact that they were written and directed by the same person, Paul Thomas Anderson.  This sort of omission kind of bothers me because I tend to be a stickler for movie minutiae, especially films that I like.  Don’t know why I didn’t pick up on this, usually if I like a film I’ll devour everything that director and/or writer has available.  I’ll immerse myself in their oeuvre for a while until I get bored, and then I move onto someone else’s work.  Some directors I re-visit again and again – Kurosawa, Miyazaki, Tati, Juenot,  Bergman, Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Ford are a few of the directors who’s work I watch all the time because I see something different every time watch their movies.  Anderson was added to that list directly after seeing “There will Be Blood”. Besides Daniel Day-Lewis’ utterly stupefying and brilliant scenery chewing in the film, I was stunned by the revolutionary method of cinematic storytelling employed by Anderson.  The use of Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood to compose the soundtrack went a long way to creating a new visual language. It’s breakthrough music will be forever identified with Anderson just as Kubrick and Richard Strauss are forever linked in film fan’s minds.  I had no idea how Anderson got from “Boogie Nights” to the wildly different “There Will Be Blood”.  The answer was the bridge film, “Magnolia” which, in another bit of personal omission, I had not seen until recently.  First of all, it pains me dearly to say this, but Tom Cruise does a hell of a job in this film.  His bit and Julianne Moore’s were difficult, but deliciously meaty roles.  It’s a testament to Anderson’s directorial skills that even the phoned in work by William Macy and John C. Riley was made interesting and even arresting at times.  And Jason Robards gives a tour de force swan song performance.  The film was long but even so, I was enjoying it so much that I kept hoping for it to go on and on.  Which is always a good sign.

Directly after the rapturous experience of “Magnolia” I happened to catch Lars von Trier’s decidedly unconventional and wincingly hard to watch film, “Antichrist”.  This film is mesmerizing in the way that I imagine watching a heart transplant would be riveting.  Its ugly, messy and grim, and those very attributes are both the film’s negative and positive aspects.  “Antichrist” reminded me of one of my favorite Thelonious Monk tunes, “Ugly Beauty”.  The film is chock full of beautiful ugliness.  The way it was shot and the shifting from color to B&W, from hand held shots to steady cam and crane shots is terrific, but the story is just brutal.  And frankly, I’ve had enough of Willem Dafoe’s thrusting, naked buttocks to last me a lifetime.  Dafoe is an interesting actor to watch, and he always chooses interesting movies to take up.  He reminds me a lot of Johnny Depp before he became a pirate – always choosing challenging films.  And “Antichrist” is nothing if not challenging.  I’m putting Lars von Trier on my Watch List of directors.  For all of it’s difficulty I actually found myself liking the film, but I can’t recommend it and I won’t be watching it again for a long time.  The most shocking thing about “Antichrist” was that the lead actress, the fantastic Charlotte Gainsbourg, was willing to be shot in the most unflattering positions and light as possible along with being directed to do things like pretend she is mutilating her vagina with a pair of scissors.  Yeah, you read right.  And that is only one of many challenges this film presents, so if genital mutilation doesn’t put you off, then you’ll likely be able to handle the other plot/shock devices von Trier includes in his story. I never knew acorns could be so threatening, but after seeing “Antichrist” I now wince every time a stray nut goes “thump!” on my roof.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 18th, 2010 04:35 am (UTC)
Excellent thoughts and impressions you expressed here! Thanks for reminding me of the existence of Lars von Triers' Antichrist. It's been added to my list.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )