The missing shots I recognized were so viscerally potent at first watch that it was a relief not to see them again
Jack. Shoutout again to The Shining, Jack. Jack the Ripper. My own personal Jack.
Other notable films: MANDY & Suspiria. Similar palate, aesthetic quality
Wandering women; then Simple (Riley Keogh). There's intimacy here beyond the others.
Favorite line: "hubris is punished by nemesis"
Planar travel (dimensions and dialog) - through and inside a body
Mocking those with a fear of death, belittlement of those who believe in love
I know what I want is meaning. I'll seek it out, traveling great distances when necessary.
Let it be known: while I am a comfortably social being, I am a homebody. I work from home, I watch movies at home, I don't go out but once or twice a week at most - often to the movies, and more often than not, solo.
North Carolina is my home.
"He should be with someone more like you who's more of a homebody."
"We're not having that conversation."
My favorite motion picture since 2012 or so has been Jan Svankmajer's Dimensions of Dialog. It does in 12 minutes what most great movies spend 2-3 hours doing. It's the most meaningful 12 minutes I've ever witnessed. Three fundamental stories: dialog of the sexes (male/female), dialog of man's masteries (nature/force/technique) and dialog of similar individuals (we are using all the same tools).
I understand the desire to escape, using cinema as a guide out of reality. But I want to argue for the hyperreality of cinema. Inspire awe at its ability to wring ectoplasmic light information out of the most densely packed expression of human sensation that any art to date has yet been able to achieve. The sublimity of it!
Motion pictures and their potential to transcend three dimensions of space and time are inherently meaningful.
My thesis is this: that films that consciously seek to be meaningful tell us something fundamental about meaning, and consciousness, itself. The difficulty is claiming that anything that's art could lack this quality. There's also, of course, the question of what counts as art in cinema, and if there's an alternative. What draws the line? Who gets to draw it? At the end of the day, each man is his own aesthetic judge. However, a individual claiming to be an artist and creating a work SHe claims to be art is a reasonable minimum qualification.
Lars von Trier is one of my favorite artists. His handling of consciousness and meaning in his films, both in their form (avant garde, expressionism) and content (masculine and feminine extremities, questions and problems that arise from that conflict) gives me hope for our entire species from the mind of a single man who can't help but haunt the rest of us with his own internal struggles. There are other artists who do this for me too, but Lars is on the block because he is controversial, and he has made what is forevermore one of my favorite films.
So I've found myself in The House That Jack Built.
Imagine you are watching a movie and the plane of your existence where your pupil meets the light from the screen
incorporates you into the very thing and you, too, are the movie.
This is ultimate submission, and I yielded easily to Mr. Von Trier as per usual.
His heroines are always pieces of me - and the excesses of masculine power, illustrated, leave me deeply affected.
I was still living in New Orleans and attended the premiere of 2013's Nymphomaniac I and II at the Prytania Theater. There were some in the theater who laughed at the ending, the best part of the film. The moral spinal cord. The nerves through which the body of the film had their life.
I still hate them for laughing at my cathartic moment. Skarsgaard's character was so many men I'd known. Patient, willing to listen, but only to a point. Then, the 'oh come on's would begin. In this, I am far from alone. Perhaps what sets me apart is that I have also been Skarsgaard. Willing to be open, listen, offer wisdom and perspective, generous and hospitable, then agitate for sex. After all, I've been so nice to you.
2011's Melancholia is one of those films whose shots appear unbidden in my mind on a regular basis when feeling helpless, at the mercy of self and/or nature, contemplating the end of the world, death, depression, a deep inability or lack of desire or sheer lack of strength to handle the suspicion that life is meaningless. The beginning of 2018 saw me in my first pit of nihilism. I felt very much indebted to Mr. Von Trier for giving me a visual vocabulary to understand what could only be felt inside myself.
I've written a lot about 2009's AntiChrist. Its Genesis reflected so much of my own. As a child, my elder brother kindly informed me that a woman's place is to become a wife and submit to and be ruled by her husband. He had this on authority. It's IN THE BIBLE. That was about the time I started looking for alternatives to the Bible, and likely where my deep mistrust of the institution of marriage came from. Thanks, big bro. While it was far too much for an 11 year old rambunctious girl to hear, it was something I had known implicitly. Genesis. The Fall of Man could be blamed on his Other, and she must be tamed. Silenced. Punished for insubordination. I, as a woman, act as a stand-in for nature and anything else that comes between man's rational mind, its innate connection to God.
Thanks be to Charlotte and Kirsten for living their truths through Mr. Von Trier's frame.
She deserved it.
In an interview Dillon stated:
“I wasn’t sure about the opening scene with Uma Thurman...It felt to me like the only time that Jack was passive, but then it became clear to me: It’s all in Jack’s head! Uma’s character is very real, but when she starts talking, the words we hear… that’s his inner thinking. I told Lars and he gave me a look like ‘you caught me.’” [Indiewire]
I must admit difficulty in imagining what was "actually" happening.
This sequence opens up the central theme of The House That Jack Built.
We're introduced to two crucial elements of Jack's personality and philosophy. One, his occupation - an engineer, though he would have preferred to be an architect. His mother pushed engineer, as it would be more lucrative. The Mother-Material made it such that Jack would only be able to facilitate the work designed by others. It is doubtful that the creativity required in architecture would have been well-suited to our soulless Jack.
His preoccupation with 'the material' and its capacity to 'have a will of its own' are also addressed in the First Incident. In this case, Virg speculates that the material was the jack, begging to find its way into the insufferable lady's face. Perhaps this matter, and its own will, are what Jack has been so anxious about all along. As an engineer, he would want to - would have to - deal with the material at it is, and manipulate it however possible. When that material does not bend to his will, we see the dark seep out from his controlled exterior.
And somehow I’ve always hoped that this would be a kind of love letter.
FIRST INCIDENT: It was me you’d glanced at blankly while I asked for more than you wanted to offer. Asking for something necessary, it bending wildly into hellish shapes in your mind. Needing knee-deep actual love and getting a Jack to the Face.
SECOND INCIDENT: It was me you were hearkening at the door as you were over and above. I let you in - why? Exhaustion? - and you killed me for exposing and humiliating you. You half-suffocated me, then stabbed me in the heart. You posed me in a chair and took your Negative.
THIRD INCIDENT: It was me with the children of my mind and heart finding ourselves in a field taking unanticipated shooting lessons from a serial killer with a rifle with no shame for killing kids. You put a frame around our dead bodies - the concept of family so many dead ravens and a nevermore - this is simply the hunt, let’s play a game.
FOURTH INCIDENT: It was me that saw an off-screen crutch-wielding suitcause-toting hunk of a man. You push then pull then wring wires around our fingers and weedle feelings into phones and turn coldly exacting and perform and cut pieces off and not let me out. And nobody cares. Do you carry around a piece of me to jerk off to? Call me Simple? Mr. Sophistication? Why is it always the man’s fault?
FIFTH INCIDENT: It was me that became a Full Metal Jacket, parts of me wielded to form The House That Jack Built. I’m part of every body, and against us any thought that required the undermining of reality to square the world into the right shape for its rigidity. These statics can never hold the a real house. This imaginary house that bad art consecrates will never hold up in time. These horrors will melt into hell as they seek to climb the circumference of the pit, trying to be real. I’ll just be more bodies to kill.
But only if you killed me.
Wrapped me in plastic.
God can too wash away the sins of sinners, assimilate body parts into earth. Annihilate her face, put another in its place. Call it family, call it romance, only friendship is complete obedience, and everybody dies in the end.
"Why are you trembling?"
(Because my body betrays my reality)
See the official trailer here:
Jack screened Wednesday, November 28, 2018. On Friday the 30th, I saw a man draped in a red cloak just like Jack's. My friend proceeded to tell me, unbidden and inside, unaware I had seen the man, that he is both homeless and dangerous.
Saturday, December 1, 2018 was my 30th birthday party. My best friend Steven, addressing the prompt of the costume requirements (any version of yourself) came as the god Kronos and had made a scythe for the occasion.
Hello to all you fellow cinephiles out there I've had a chance to meet and discuss movies with. I know I saw a couple of you at the JACK screening! Specifically Kevin (freaking everywhere, but especially Stop-Motion Shorts - Alamo, and Region Salvaje - Carolina) Curtis (The Last Movie and Suspiria and - damnit you and Kevin!!) Steve (MANDY - Carolina Theater) and Todd (Carnival of Souls - NC Museum of Art and House - Alamo). It's really great to have a dialog about movies. It may also explain why I was so preternaturally giddy about the whole affair.
To hear more about how Matt Dillon prepared for his role as Jack and the processes on set for The House That Jack Built, check out his post-screening interview at the Lincoln Center here:
"Well I'm not stupid"
La Chienne (dir. Renoir, 1931)
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (dir. Jireš, 1974)
Dancer In the Dark (dir. von Trier, 2000)
His Girl Friday (dir. Hawks, 1940)
Code Unknown (dir. Haneke, 2000)
Badlands (dir. Malick, 1973)
The Other Side of the Wind (dir. Welles, 2018)
They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (dir. Neville, 2018)
Under the Skin (dir. Glazer, 2014)
Turkey Shoot (dir. Trenchard-Smith, 1983)
Selections from movie notes:
put in these situations it's just not fair
pillow under your head
OCD. cleaning compulsions.hello wrapped in plastic.
Use of the word "sir" (police & jack to men in false deference.) He has outsmarted them. Outsmarted us all.
BOWIE BODY BAG. The great rain. Devoted man of faith. "I felt I had a higher protector." Pervert Satan.
PSYCHOPATH: ego vulgarity rudeness impulsiveness narcissism intelligence
"Well I'm not stupid"
Irritability manipulation mood swings verbal superiority
"Disappointed. Very, very disappointed." the significance of the reeds.
"And the reeds?" 180 degree turn; subliminally in the reeds
paths to discovery.Cut the meadows with their scythes, "it was as if the meadow was its fullest in my consciousness."
sophisticated lover on the click clack. clever and tough like all the other criminals.
culling. two male children being raised by only a mother. Targets. Bit of a gentleman. Hunting rules.
romantic foods. loving. schweisshund(sp?)
"I had a romance."
She's fully dominated.
Shown interest, her head in her hands. He must have kept something up. For some amount of time. Or was he cruel to her always? "I feel like you're trying to leave me." Oh, God, Keogh you are killing me. With your good hair, and your cute outfit, notable eyebrows, manicured nails. Your turqouise. "To me, your name is Simple, Simple. Hey, you got great tits." I have to wonder if the asymmetry of the breastmarks was intentional. Shoulda asked Matt Dillon. "Can you forgive me?" "Yeah, I forgive you. Come on, let's go inside." Not simply killing, but torture. gaslighting. alienation. Prayers.
"Why are you trembling?"
(Because my body betrays my reality)
HATE/////work of art. Love is also a work of art.
His smile when she screams and nothing happens. The red telephone cable. (when he was nice) choosing a knife.
"There is something that's been bothering Mr. Sophistication.
Why is it always the man's fault?
Stupid women. Mr Sophistication = the theoretician
"Women are easier to work with." "Religion has ruined human beings" "You should have read the right letters in your life, Jack. But you didn't want to."
The noble rot. Aesthetically perfect ruins. "An artist must be cynical."
Goosebumps from Melancholia. Is it going to happen, Lars? Is it a prophecy? Will it be our shadow planet? Is consciousness going to change?
Everything is clean but the walk-in freezer. "That's not full metal ammunition, sir." Subordination.
"You meant a great deal to me." Flattery.
How a man such as this approaches other men
Wasn't there something about the material? Let it do the work.
Jack's path in the underworld. Waves. "There was once a bridge. That was before my time." Fall into the deepest hell for hubris' sake, or get a lesser sentence?