Thursday, June 4, 2009

spectoracular spectoracular!

the agony and the ecstasy of phil spector is how i chose to begin my sydney film festival journey this year & there couldn've been a more perfect metaphor for what became an opening night of masochistic pleasure & pain [no i didn't go see ken loach's looking for eric, but then unlike my friend gracie, i don't particularly like football, or upstanding british comedic cinema no matter how allegedly gritty it is].

no, the rollercoaster ride was all self-induced, fuelled by the fabulous imagery of phil spector's hair [sometimes in pieces], aeon traversing pop culture anthems [to know, know know him, is to love, love, love him] and dapper suits, the turmoil of genius, catherine breillat's seductive shepherdlike but somewhat schlocky reimagining of a fairytale [la barbe bleue/bluebeard] and all that complimentary champagne at the after party, dancing to prince with kate whilst dermot planned murder in the cloakroom, oh and boys. so call me venus in furs, sit back and listen.

the evening cinematic highlight for me was undeniably hijacked by the spectre which is the phenomena of phil spector.

vikram jayanti's portrayal was simplistic but an outstanding piece of filmwork utilising the soundtracks [all produced by spector] that multiple generations have grown up & lived to. if you can go in to a film with a polarized perspective & come out with another or a massive question mark dangling, that is a powerful execution of the artform of documentary in my book. it doesn't matter what the question is. the answer according to spector is him [and i'm inclined to agree].

in a relaxed interview style a very self-aware spector pokes tongue-in-cheek fun at his peers [tony bennet's cocaine addiction, woody allen's relationship with soon-yi, brian wilson's inability to ever crack the be my baby hit formula] and candidly illustrates the impact he single-handedly has made on popular culture referencing his resistant wave-through [at john lennon's encouragement] of the unauthorised use of be my baby in mean streets [martin scorcese's breakout feature] would have been kill-switched at the 13th hour & with that potentially a whole bunch of spotlit careers including scorsese and de niro.

this is the kind of russian roulette mentality which has haunted & uplifted spector to hedonistic heights and lows throughout his blissfully tortured life. his surgically enhanced cabbage patch baby face reveals toupé framed eyes which proclaim arcane knowledge of the double-edged sword of methodic madness akin to the genius of da vinci, michaelangelo and galileo. these are his alluded to peers. he dared to be different and succeeded, wearing his school graduation motto like a nazi-enforced star of david armband, with tremendous pride.

this brilliance is what pushes edges and boundaries, which traverse the fine line between madness and sanity, death and life, a self alchemized gun in the hand... or mouth.

there can be no balance, for it represents mediocrity and with that there would be no songs: no let it be, no imagine, no rockin roll high school, no you've lost that lovin feeling, no da doo ron ron, no he's a rebel, no be my baby, no then he kissed me, no to know him is to love him, no rose of spanish harlem, and maybe the last forty years woud have been completely different. lennon attributes him as being the man who kept rock n roll alive while elvis was at war. spector unashamedly thinks so. pain, turmoil and jagged edges are a vital constant with the artistic condition of genius: yes phil spector is guilty. i wouldn't want him to be innocent.

and then...

my punk monkish peers who i also think of as running amok genii led me onto the back of a bus in their infinite adventurous wisdom and we hightailed it to dendy opera quays to meet more friends and soak up the tapestried french femme telling of a fable which allegedly demonstrates the fallen eve condition. of women and apples falling from paradise, of others with doors and dead bloodied barbe bleue. i'm obsessed with fairy tales & have been since childhood but then the early days of university political science where i picked up a few feminist studies papers and deconstructed like a woman possessed... andrea dworkin was my book bed buddy for a time.

there was too much set up involved with this french provacateur led production. whenever i'm that excited about a film it's destined for a fall. oh and how it fell for me despite the divine production design in parts which was horribly flattened by the decision to shoot digitally which just could not always do justice to the costuming and sets, excellent casting and the skilful painting of the sexual power relations are bodice-ripping material on and off screen in their implied erotic suspense. delicious...

BUT i resent being treated like a sheep and continually forced between intercut narrative commentary which initally served as an excellent device illustrating the dichotomous attraction and repulsion of a young girl to bluebeard but by the end i lost interest as i did with the overall narrative. yes, the girls are charming, but their overuse becomes increasingly annoying despite the fact we are invited to see the folk tale through their eyes. must we keep going back there? with a shotgun against our heads?

i do like the depiction of the girlish carnal sexual knowledge & the manifestation of greed and betterment of the younger sister's acute awareness of the sibling rivalry "i have to show my sister anne this dress, it was made just for me". she's a proverbial ladder-climber with her eyes firmly focussed on the ivory tower from the outset of the story.

the role reversion, oedipal manipulation and overtly subtle seduction of the gluttenous baron where the metaphor is poignantly illustrated that both girl and man are guilty of the same seventh sin. who is the monster?

the gorging feast scenes are sublime but feel stylistically forced. yes, there is ironic emptiness whilst surrounded by food but it feels unnecessarily two dimensional. whilst understanding where breillat was going with this, the overlayed edits & reused tower shots [of which spector would never approve] were alienating not so much because of the artistic decision but because it didn't go far enough and wishwashed between realism & fantasy to excess.

in a nod to renaissance art, breillat ends the film metaphorizing her reversed approach through the decapitated head of this grisly overlord of whom history tells us was a 15th century french serial killer on a plate at the hands of the cunning & resourceful virgin bride.

she escapes the same end as her predecessors but the cautionary tale fails in the sense of it's fable form in that her mapped qualities she shares with her deceased husband go unnoticed and unpunished. curiosity in this case did not kill the cat. nor should it, but her greed and gluttony wouldn't escape david fincher's john doe so easily.

and it's just as well the antagonist of se7en wasn't at the sydney film festival after party because with complimentary champagne flowing for the night um, i guess we all could have justifiably ended up with our heads in that gentileschi-esque painting. not least the eighty year old woman who pointedly told dermot that she'd "worked a cloakroom for forty years young man" whilst providing some hot etiquette tips. that's always got to be a showstopper of a party comment. god only knows what mine were.

luckily kate and i were distracted by the funky tunes and took over the dance floor at the establishment and lured the suits out to play [all whilst ky was locked out, 'forced' to drink more trademark whiskey with two boys on a date]... after ambushing various celebrity types and ruining their photos.

special thanks and mentions with standing ovation to my friend josh for his seamless implementation of OVSS. many thanks to carmel as well; all your hard work and missed engagements were worth it. the film festival opening was a huge success. you should really take the day off. i have and am still too afraid to look at the sydney morning herald today [or my NOKIA SMS sent box].

and no, you really shouldn't try any of this at home. none of it.

the 56th sydney film festival is running jun 03 - jun 14. the program is immense and jumping with incredible films. life suddenly got even more full and techno-colorful.

1 comment:

  1. "upstanding british comedic cinema no matter how allegedly gritty it is"

    What about Carry On films?