Tuesday 26th September 2017,
Televisual

MEDIA UPDATE: Watching

Aymar Jean Christian May 28, 2008 uncategorized Comments Off on MEDIA UPDATE: Watching

I’ve seen a lot of movies lately! I’ll roll them out slowly. Here’s two

Baghead (okay I lied. Saw this weeks ago at Philly Film Fest, but it’s coming out in theaters)

Interesting. It’s an interesting film. It does in fact bend genres: mumblecore-like realism, horror, comedy. Problem is, it’s not very memorable. You leave the theater thinking “weird. cool” and then you never think about it again.

But I like the Duplass Bros. They’re taking risks, and that’s great. They’ve assembled a cast — as they did in The Puffy Chair — of almost mostly unsympathetic young people. This time, unlike in the Puffy Chair, we get the pleasure of seeing them freak each other out — and they have nowhere to run! Yes. The Bros. still use to stylistic conventions of mumblecore: lots of close-ups, handheld camera, inane dialogue, to give the movie that realist edge. Dance with the one that brung ya. I’m eager to see how long they will.

Reprise

I liked this movie. But I thought I would love it. Maybe it was all the critical raving. The words used to describe it “kinetic,” “energetic,” “youthful,” “exuberant,” “fresh,” “savage,” are all true. To that I would add “confident.” Trier clearly had a vision of how he wanted to tell this story: broken in time with the past clear and the future conditional (this and that “would” and “could” happen, his freshest idea). Maybe because it was so confident I hoped for just a little more. My expectations were high.

Part of what blunted my enthusiasm was the focus on male artist angst. It’s just a pet peeve. I don’t really care about the guy who can’t write because his debut novel was too good or the friend who doubts his talent. You got a book deal, shut up, suck it up and live. That these men treat their women badly pushes my buttons even more. Trier is smart enough to add commentary from  women, to hint at what pricks these men must be (in one smart line, a graduate student says: “it must be so hard to have problems in this group”). But the overall lack of perspective suggests Trier actually wants us to love these self-indulgent would-be-men.

Still, the man knows how to work a camera and get pretty subtle emotions to register strongly. In what may be the strongest scene in the movie, the disturbed, post-suicidal Phillipe asks his ex-girlfriend to relive their trip to Paris. He asks her to pose in the exact same way  she did by fountain in a park months earlier. She is disturbed. She has to oblige him — he’s clinically depressed, after all — but the love that grew during their first Parisian trip is gone. She realizes this, but Phillipe does not. Later, she doesn’t even get laid. Am I mean for calling Phillipe a wimp and an asshole?

Anyway, Trier ends the movie with a kind of rosy “would-be” future in which everyone has a girlfriend and is happy. This is the future we doubt will happen, but we suppose Erik (Phillipe’s bff and 1/2 the film’s main duo) thinks it might. This is where the film is smart: young people also think of the future that could be. What actually happens is less important. Too bad I was thinking of the great movie this could have been, instead of the very very good movie it actually was.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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