Sunday, November 18, 2012


A journalist travels to a faraway house, expecting to pick up some documents for an article on male sterilization. She finds that the lord of the house has a yen for imprisoning women, and many means of tortures (psychological and otherwise) at his disposal. But he soon finds that she's not quite all she seems, either.

If there's a finer, crazier, deeper film on the ongoing battle between men and women than this one, I need to see it. Balancing frank discourse with gorgeous visuals and mounting suspense (and more than a dash of knowing comedy - the final reckoning in a swimming pool is scored and shot like the showdown in a Western), director Piero Schivazappa (aided immeasurably by the confident performances of Philippe Leroy and Dagmar Lassander) turns a psychedelic and lurid genre piece into something smarter than anyone probably wanted it to be. The movie is rife with the gloriously bold sleaziness that makes late 60s/early 70s erotic cinema so refreshing. And yet there's intelligence at work here, as the film unpacks the baggage of the male id and ego (and the toll they take on women), counterbalancing it with soft (but ultimately dangerous) femininity.

It's braver and deeper (and a lot less predictable) than its contemporary counterparts - the basic storyline and themes manifest these days in tepid psycho-sleaze like CAPTIVITY and P2 or dreary work like the oeuvre of Neil LaBute. The accumulated years are evident in THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN, but its remarkable how much intelligence it credits us with, even as it titillates our darker sides. Would that those intent on crafting another cinematic unpacking of the male id take a cue from this film instead of shallowly aping Cassavetes yet again.

(I'm grateful to the San Francisco Cult and Psychotronic Film Society for giving this thing another airing in 35mm. Yeoman's work, ladies & gentlemen.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Night in Silent Hill

I was going to go third party, I really was. California was always going to be solidly in Obama's corner, so I felt it would be useful to throw my presidential vote toward the Green Party. But then Donald Trump had to double down on his bullshit, offering a $5mil donation to charity if the President would release his college transcripts or somesuch, even going as far as to petulantly suggest that the President didn't want to support charity by ignoring the offer. (Obama was, of course, busy with other matters at the time.) Since I couldn't will, say, a giant spider to shit in Trump's mouth, I gave Obama my vote out of spite Tuesday morning.

But the day was tense. Though I had some reservations about Obama, I felt that a Romney presidency could hold some truly dire consequences, given his willingness to ascribe personhood to corporations (and deny it to gays and lesbians), his interest in privatizing disaster relief, his ever-shifting positions on just about any topic put in front of him, his brazen ability to lie in front of millions of people. I couldn't bear the prospect of sitting in front of the television listening to pundits blather as the decision drew near. So I headed to a suitably off-the-beaten-path destination.

I'm a soft touch for the Silent Hill games, though hardly a veteran. (In fact even now I'm stuck on the second nightmare sequence in Shattered Memories, which has been kicking my ass for days - no combat option? Really, Konami? Shit.) And though I only caught it on video, I found the first Silent Hill film an evocative translation of the games' story and aesthetics. And so Silent Hill: Revelation
, a 3D adaptation of the third (many say the best) in the video game series, was a film I couldn't miss.

The story follows Heather Mason, a young woman plagued by visions of her barely-remembered past, as she is drawn to the mysterious town of Silent Hill. Her search for her missing father draws her deep into the town's dark heart, where she's beset by ghoulish creatures and terrifying events that may well offer clues to her real identity.

The film (much like its predecessor, it must be said) is a wildly disjointed affair. It offers but rushes through exposition, too faithful to its source, perhaps, to make it truly cinematic. So heavily does it rely on knowledge of the previous film (or at least a basic familiarity with the series of games) that I imagine newcomers will be lost, and the action will be abstract at best to these viewers. And yet the abstraction does turn into a dreamlike labyrinth, with much of the beautiful/grotesque imagery and music of the series rendered lovingly, from the freakish modern dance gestures of the blind nurses to the ashen transformation from reality to Silent Hill's underworld (and a quiet transition back that's simply lovely). A willingness to lose oneself in such headlong, even clumsy, grotesquerie is a must, but it is rewarded by the film (which culminates in a weirdly moving about-face for one of the series' major menaces that took at least this casual but knowledgeable fan by pleasant surprise).

After the film I couldn't not check my messages. My girlfriend was elated. My fellow San Franciscans were overjoyed by Obama's imminent victory. My Twitter feed was exploding with some funny motherfuckers reporting a spectacular meltdown on FoxNews. Just as Heather Mason leaves Silent Hill to stride more confidently into the real world, so did I emerge into a joyous, warmly embracing night.