Consider the pig. Pork is damned near a gourmet food these days. Celebrity chefs will serve you layers of pork belly wrapped around potatoes, figs, even pineapple. They’ll dip bacon in chocolate, infuse it in vodka, or drape it across an ice-cream sundae, resplendent in its brown glory. Your local organic market probably sells artisanal bacon cured with dark, fine-grained muscovado imported from Mauritius and flavored with angel farts and faerie dust. The recent cinema has also celebrated the pig, via two excellent Babe movies and a decent adaptation of Charlotte’s Web. It wasn’t always that way, though. No less an authority than God Himself went Old Testament on pork back in the day, and it took the famous and completely disingenuous “Pork: The Other White Meat” campaign to rehabilitate swine for the U.S. market. What I mean to say is that the 1982 horror movie Evilspeak, in which a trio of crazed, Satan-possessed porkers burst into a bathroom and disembowel a nude woman taking a shower, couldn’t have done the humble pig’s reputation any favours. Continue reading
Director Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is, most of all, a study in imagery. Its science-fiction status is hinted at by visual design, as in the film’s opening moments, when concentric circles appear out of the darkness on screen, then are seen to separate, inhabiting three-dimensional space, from left to right, with a bright light blazing on one side. The figure suggests a diagram of a solar system, all its planets in perfect alignment, or (more on point) the glass elements of a lens.
Out of the previous silence, we start to hear fragments of a woman’s voice on the soundtrack, and the elements on screen, clean and fresh as something out of the Apple factory, are resolved as the workings of an eye, iris and pupil appearing on screen in startling close-up. The film then cuts to images of nature, water rushing by, and a jagged road slicing across the screen like Dali’s razor blade slashing an eyeball.
Amid the American horror boom of the late-1970s and early-1980s, when everything old was new again and once-dormant studio properties like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing from Another World, and The Fly were suddenly valuable franchises, the script for a remake of Cat People, one of the most subtle of all horror classics, somehow ended up on Paul Schrader’s desk. Why Schrader? Dumb luck, mostly. Certainly he had no great love for the source material, a 1942 horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur that Schrader famously (and charmlessly) claimed “isn’t that brilliant.” But he must have seen in the raw material the opportunity to make a deeply weird movie, one that fused a new mythology with a contemporary melodrama of fear, desire, and violence. The result is not just a personal expression of Schrader’s own sex-and-death preoccupations, but a sort of high-water mark for the quixotic attempt to meld visually sophisticated erotica with commercially savvy narrative storytelling.
As the final scene cut to black and the end credits appeared, accompanied by the ridiculous “Strokin'” by Clarence Carter, Killer Joe made me laugh harder than anything I saw last year, which is quite an accomplishment given that a more reasonable (not to mention easily defensible) response to its most over-the-top moments would be to recoil in disgust. If the film didn’t read in part as a knowing and deliberate parody of the literature of the American poverty belt — think of it as a demented three-way involving Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and Jim Thompson — I’d likely find it psychotic.
I’ve been aware for years of this movie’s reputation as “that X-rated Richard Dreyfuss film” but until I spun it up on a whim via Netflix — which is streaming a 720p encode of MGM’s surprisingly nice HD transfer — I didn’t realize that it was also a very early Bob Hoskins film, nor that Veronica Cartwright co-starred. Further, if you had told me that Jessica Harper (now of Suspiria fame) spent most of the film’s second half topless, well, I’m sure it wouldn’t have taken me this long to find time for it.
I think my iPhone is a great piece of hardware, but here’s the kind of thing that makes me think twice about giving Apple my money. In this interview from Print magazine’s Imprint blog, Kim Munson talks about an iOS and Android app she developed called Comix Classics: Underground Comics based on Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix, a book and exhibition on the history of underground comic-book art. The Android version is complete; there is no review process for apps published in the Android marketplace. The iPad version, happily, is also complete. But the iPhone version is missing 16 specific images that Apple demanded be removed before the app could be approved.
Rape-revenge is the basest of movie formulas. What amounts to a social contract exists with the audience: during the first half of the film, you will experience the sadistic, brutal, misogynistic sexual abuse of an innocent, probably naïve young woman at the hands of cavalier thugs. And during the second half of the film, you will see this broken woman–this survivor–pull herself together long enough to exact a terrible revenge on those who wronged her.
This merry band of clowns, physical comedians each and every one, may have peaked with the outrageous, hilarious Jackass Number Two, the first installment in the popular TV/DVD/theatrical franchise to reckon with Father Time. The boys are even older here, of course, but Jackass 3D doesn’t feel quite as candid or revealing as the previous installment. Instead, it goes straight for the gross-out — I don’t recall Jackass ever being so fixated on bodily secretions and excretions as it is here. (They shit! They sweat! They piss! On each other!)