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Lynchian suburbia as a breeding ground for psychosis, quite outstanding
My fancy regarding this film, fictitious naive but perhaps useful is that David Lynch found the worst cookie-cutter script out there, clichéd police procedural crud which would take up about a quarter of an hour of a TV show like Law and Order or The Shield, and challenged Werner Herzog to make it into a great film. The result on those terms is a success a laundry list of clichés totally re-invigorated. He's even bought elements of Lynch into the film perhaps just so the two of them can sit and giggle during the premiere? There's been a lot said about the level of Lynch's involvement and I don't have any insight to the nature of that , but there is definitely a pinch of the Lynchian, whether intentional or not. It's kind of funny the film, as well as being incredibly poignant. I can't describe the film as anything other than black jelly (Americans say jello), which is actually served up at the dinner table in this movie.
It's a delight to see Michael Shannon on the big screen again, having been wowed by his Oscar-nominated performance as manic depressive ex-mathematician John Givings in Revolutionary Road. Here he plays Brad McCullum, a man who has failed to escape out from under his mothers skirts, who lives at home and is infuriated by his dysfunctional life, he is reminiscent of Alessandro from Marco Bellochio's Fists in the Pockets (I pugni in tasca), and comes to believe in solving his problems, and his family problems (likened to the curse of Atreus) via a Carthaginian solution (killing).
It's quite something to behold, his descent into psychosis, and it's organic, you can see why it's happening, it's not something that's superstitious, or to do with evil. It's something as a lonely man with dysfunctional family and contacts that I wrestle with. I have similar problems, which I will counterpose with the film just so you can see how realistic it is. Life is so frustrating, I am used to everyone I know doing insane things as routine, treating me like I am a child, espousing deeply unsound political and social ideas. The normal people I meet see that I come from dysfunctional circumstances and don't want to catch the disease. The only ways out of the tangle seem so involved and tantalising. You can see how frustrated Brad gets, for example when he is walking around the street he lives in with his girlfriend (Chloë Sevigny) and says, right I'm going to buy you that house, and we'll live in it (even though it's not for sale and he has no money). I have breaks like that myself, I just walk up to family members and say stuff like, "Right we're going to have a good Christmas this year aren't we, AREN'T WE? We're all going to have fun, OK?". I approach colleagues and ask them with no notice to come and have a nice lunch out, or go and see a movie, even though I know they will say no. I just get frustrated, because everywhere life is so timid, and people refuse to grow or have fun, and I feel stifled.
Brad actually likes to give his stuff away, in the film the main symbol of this is his basketball, which apparently was a game he excelled at. Another example is when he gives a teenager in the park his entire kit bag, even though the kid doesn't want it. This is more bang-on characterisation. I do this type of thing all the time as well, I just give people stuff, buy them things, and get told off for being too generous, and am too awkward. Like I gave a woman at work a present, it was a photograph of the opening ceremony of Tower Bridge in 1894. I had divined that the Tower Bridge was symbolic for her, like a symbol of freedom. So I got it for 20p on eBay, which made it all the better because she didn't have to feel awkward because I got her an expensive present. She said it was the best birthday present she got. The point is though that she doesn't actually want to know me, it's just me trying to force life to happen, to break out.
Here in this movie we have a Lynchian suburb, outwardly sunny and peaceable, everything seems just fine. My neighbourhood is like this too. It's all superficial, this morning my mother started reeling off a list of conflicts that are going on in my neighbourhood between neighbours, I actually wanted to go back to bed and cry about it with the stuff she was saying, here is an example. One of my neighbours has a cat, who has decided to use next door's garden as main toilet, her neighbour (another woman) is frustrated about this and so has taken to posting the droppings through her neighbour A's letterbox... Another involves a court order which has been issued because one man would not let a delivery truck park in a shared driveway for 5 minutes.
So the film dialogue is very strange, it's very stilted, like it's from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, very literary. The design is damned strange too, Brad has two pet flamingos, lamps shaped like flamingos, and even pink Christmas tree lights shaped like flamingos. Everything is shot slowly, under anaesthetic, none of the characters engage with Brad, they just look at him like he is strange, which of course he has become. Favourite shot has got to be Brad's head, shown with a cascading torrent in the background, as if it's going through his mind.
Werner Herzog has made something quite different here, who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Messrs Lynch and Herzog, I doff my chapeau to you.
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