What's so special about this? Well, first of all, I'm Risen.
From the ashes of a fundamentalist upbringing I fashioned myself into an altogether unusual sort of Christian identity lost to history for 1600 years. Gnostics believed that it was the onus of the individual to take on the responsibility of becoming like God.
Because this didn't serve the interests of powerful institutions and the Patriarchs of old (many sects were egalitarian, with feminine participation in rites and so on) their scriptures were burned and proponents labeled heretics.
Until 1945, we had very little access to their ideas except in circumstances where church fathers denounced them in their writings. Before there were Dead Sea Scrolls, there was Nag Hammadi.
Like poring over old, forgotten scriptures, I explore the landscapes of cinematic presentations of unusual content all over the Triangle and beyond. I have had the joy of experiencing sublimity over and over again.
Experiencing light, community, art, and finding meaning in this world we share together. I meet brave and kind people, shy and fine people, many much more intelligent and experienced than I, all engaging bit by bit, and it thrills me with awe.
All the better in the hands of artists that can shed light on the dark corners of our own minds.
This time around, I delved into the world of On Set Cinema presented by Myers House NC for their on-set screening of David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1985) attended by the wildly talented Jeff Goodwin, the mastermind behind SFX makeup for the film. He's the man who brought us The Ear, seen below.
My ecstatic experience: I WORE BLUE VELVET
The first time I saw this film was around 2009. A friend had come down from North Carolina to Louisiana to visit me. She was my aesthetic mother, when it came to strange and uncanny films in those earlier days. It was late; I was living with my parents. The movie starts innocently enough. Then Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) finds the ear, meets Sandy (Laura Dern, who will make another appearance later in this post) and gets the idea he might be a private investigator.
This was about the time my actual mother (RIP) started to approach from behind us, in the shadows, from the kitchen to the living room. Just in time, hanging out long enough to meet our Frank (Dennis Hopper). She stands there and watched long enough to see Frank do his thing.
"What are y'all watching?"
It's framed? Yes. A simulacrum of reality? Sure. But what else is perception? There is no all-seeing eye, no complete and "uncorrupted" objective reality to experience that any human observer would see the same way as another. There is no way to recuse our subjectivity, because like objectivity, these are abstractions of reality, concepts used to attempt to make the world more understandable within a conceptual framework. When it comes to subject/object, we're working well within a framework established in Western thought more than 2000 years ago.
It wouldn't be the case unless there was some use for this. But with the advent of photography and the beginnings of cinema at the end of the 19th century and its development alongside revolutions in theoretical physics, these fundamentally metaphysical issues have met their maker.
Whether artist or observer, we all participate in this experience. By observing, the work itself is completed. Not all moving pictures are art, and not all art will be seen as art by everyone, and how charmed we are to be moved by moving images the way we can be. People yearn for participation in artwork same as they yearn for air or food or fucking. Just because it hasn't solved the riddle of how our species is supposed to live doesn't mean it isn't working.
It is an additive process and not one subject to reduction. Like love, it grows by being given away, and freely and with as much quality in form and content as possible. Art is as accessible as the observer observing it. I find that this work is best done by complex people. Unlike simpletons, complex people gravitate to broad ranges of content but don't shy away from squeamishness of lack in form or content from their own aesthetic preference.. For those seeking only escape from their regrettable realities, of course the preference is not to face the dark.
What about what isn't shared? What about things we hope to keep private? The parts that make us feel vulnerable, or that might expose us for the monsters we suspect ourselves to be?
Can we suppose catching a thing in an unobserved state is possible? Do we not affect by observation? How do we respond when the filmmaker draws our attention toward the voyeuristic nature of the cinema experience? Aren't we then witnesses to the scene of the crime?
Before heading to Wilmington for Blue Velvet, a true masterpiece in the hands of David Lynch boldly approaching the dark world of voyeurism and psychosexual exposure, I attended the latest Retro double-feature with Brian De Palma, a nice change of pace given how much shithouse cinema I'd eaten up to that point (I'll get to Satan's Children later.)
Body Double (1984)
"You've been following me, haven't you?"
To think: This thing does not know I am watching. What a thrill! A "natural" state, that exotic dance, that miraculous view of the unaffected. Body Double hearkened to a few Hitchcock films recently screened at The Carolina in the masterworks Rear Window and Rope. The body in the couch, the iris for the framing. I loved the collision of the worlds - the curious actor, the glitz and glamour of LA careening into the world of adult film via the voyeur's panopticon spaceship. It sure does seem like a dog eat dog world out there in sunny SoCal. Maybe that's why I work so tirelessly on making something of my NC stint - I don't want to be out there. Exposed.
"I'm not just a fucking stunt cock I'M AN ACTOR."
You're not, guy. You're a human being. You deserve more than just what you can provide with your member and your..seed.
Margot Kidder's performance of characters Danielle and Dominique reminded me also of Lynch's MO in double-identitied dames. Don't we all have to be a little split inside? Don't we have to pretend to be oh-so-sweet and innocent, hiding the unseemly inside ourselves, until someone is dumb enough to get too close to the truth?
And I finally got my first door prize, a sweet Sisters magnet, and had one of those sublime experiences I mentioned. Thank you, Jim, for your kind words, and to Tina and Budd Wilkins for reaching out about the writing, and to Shaun for introducing himself as the one with Feelings | Thoughts about Cinema Overdrive's screening of The Apple.
And it was nice, too, in that I was more or less unfamiliar with Kidder, but when chatting with one of Jeff Goodwin's buddies at Blue Velvet, Craig told me I was a dead ringer for this woman. What an unbearable compliment.
Thanks be to you, Craig.
April 3, 2019 | Presented by Cinema Overdrive
Jesus fucking Christ, save me from this film.
Satan feels very at home in Florida.
Satan and Christendom both have a distaste for homosexual impulses.
Satan must have had a hand in the making of this devilishly terrible film.
Satan only wants "winners" aka the Florida version of Charlie Sheen's "winning" bender back a few years ago.
April 5, 2019 | Full Frame Documentary Festival
Ok, so maybe Satan can be OK. This was a great film.
Funny, poignant, politically relevant and ultimately a caring portrait of a subculture that is genuinely interested in reclaiming "otherness" as a positive.
After all, that's all Satan really means, anyway. And there has to be an "other" when the primary mode
consists of a bunch of maniacal so-called Christians making it their business
to be in everyone else's business. Have a look at that beam in your own eye, you bastards.
You're making the rest of us look bad. Because as much as I sympathize with the plight
of these silly, harmless Satanists, I am mostly concerned with the flock I was born to shepherd.
Jesus himself spent most of his time with thieves, prostitutes, and other unseemly folk. He's no friend of pharisees and scribes.
Maybe that's why they perpetuate his gruesome death. A death of everything that might stand up against.
So thank you to the Satanic Temple for ensuring that (Gnostic) Christians like me aren't ruled by the patriarchs of a shallow and stuck up majority.
April 9, 2019 | presented by A/V Geeks! (my new favorite, heart eyes emoji)
I just had no idea there were filmmakers
who could make a straight narrative play like the most mind-bending avant garde piece
To witness Parable on the original 16mm print was miraculous.
Mostly I want to thank Skip Elsheimer, programmer and A/V Geek messiah, for exposing me to the work of Rolf Forsberg.
God bless you, Skip.
April 18, 2019 | 40th Anniversary Screening
I believe in miracles.
My neighbor in the theater turned to me during the trailers, commenting on the irony of the Amazing Grace (2019) trailer screening before Life of Brian.
"I think it's perfect," I said. "Grace, faith - and comedy!"
Turns out my neighbors were neuroscientists. We had a wonderful time chatting about some intimate experiences of mine (RIP mom) as well as where one might be able to find consciousness in a brain - one in a coma, for instance.
In the meantime, I enjoyed one of my favorite comedies. I love it mostly because it shines a light on some of my own idiosyncrasies and blind spots (warring tribes, anyone? messiah complex? wanting to live naked in a hole with a juniper bush?)
Also got some lovely swag at this special screening. Many thanks to The Carolina Theatre and especially Jim Carl for programming this event.
I managed to catch just about every MovieDiva screening at the Carolina this go-round. Good thing, because they were all fascinating, fun, poignant, and easily dovetailed with my tendency to draw out massive metaphors and apply them to my own life.
Night Nurse (dir. Wellman, 1931)
March 27, 2019
I've unfortunately experienced my fair share of medical malpractice.
Perhaps not with the malice evident in this film, and none of the
high society hi-jinks therein. Nonetheless, Barbara Stanwyck's blown fuse
thrilled me with some semblance of encouragement
that there are normal folk in the world who do fight against
the banality of evil.
And maybe we can all benefit from the outlaws, the gangsters, secretly harboring
that heart of gold
willing to put their freedom on the line
to see that vigilante justice is served.
Love is a Racket (dir. Wellman, 1932)
April 24, 2019
Isn't it though.
What is love? Baby, don't hurt me.
Don't hurt me by playing me like a fiddle
stringing me along til the next best thing comes along
to whisk you into some peripheral stew.
But I suppose in all cases
there are a few in the wings waiting to be noticed
for the boons they bring to the table.
Red Dust (dir. Fleming, 1932)
May 1, 2019
Clark Gable. You rogue.
Of course the woman who'd be so free with her affections
would be the one you find yourself offended by,
and the inaccessibility of the aristocratic broad
makes your insides swell with desire and yearning from the void.
If it wants me, there's something wrong with it.
If it doesn't, I gotta have it.
Durham's very own Smyth Brothers manned the helm of the Full Frame alternative, SINGLE FRAME, at Shadowbox Studio with filmmaker Laurids Andersen Sonne in attendance. These experimental documentary shorts tested the boundaries set by the institutional documentary artworld, so of course I couldn't miss it. Neither could a room packed full and teeming with others.
Now for the hardest part.
It felt somewhat less than accidental that Laura Dern should visit me this way, an old experience made blissfully new, and a new experience to annihilate the bliss.
That's not to say there was anything at all about Smooth Talk that made it a bad film. It was a perfectly good film. It was a devastatingly troubling film. I've been reeling over it ever since.
Because while Blue Velvet is one of those rarest of creatures, the disgust and dismemberment made pleasing with the help of the beautiful, there were no arthouse shortcuts taken by Chopra in this film. It's a straight narrative, firmly grounded in aesthetic and conceptual realism. And this makes Smooth Talk all the more terrifying to contrast the expressionistic tone of Blue Velvet. I'd go as far as calling it a horror film.
Because I was Laura Dern. To some extent, any headstrong, independent young girl has this in her. And my relationship with my mom was so similar. And my friends. And my enemies.
Because while it is fun enough to play along at the beginning it is a strange world to come out of when you realize how much you never wanted to give it away. And hate yourself for exposing yourself to dangerous people and empty experiences.
I missed Crispin Glover and really wanted to make it. Anyone here with FEELINGS | THOUGHTS so I can live vicariously through your experience? Also, if you've seen something recently (or not so recently!) in movie theaters around the Triangle and you have feelings/thoughts about it, I would love to hear from you!
More images with direct or indirect references to fun events with filmmakers and friends around the cinematic community
Cinema Overdrive's Adam Hulin presenting Walter Hill's The Driver in beautiful Cinema 1 at The Carolina Theatre
Stay tuned for more fun. Also, feel free to follow me on Instagram, like the Facebook page, sync ART | HOUSE to your own personal Google calendars, etc. etc. Yay for movies! Yay for content! Yay for fun and challenging and interesting and rare programming around the Triangle!
Thinking of you in Wilmington, Shaun! Look! You favorite color <3
One last thing.
RIP Norma (Peggy Lipton - 1946-2019)