Tuesday, October 24, 2023

ENG 281 Week #11: Mind/Body Contemporary Films

MB: This theme is everywhere the last decade or so. Our zeitgeist is one of deep anxiety about what our ubiquitous screens and accelerating technologies are doing to our minds/bodies. This is but the tip of the iceberg. Keep in mind that when dealing with issues and anxieties concerning our minds & bodies, many artists looking at the dark side veer toward the satiric or weird, but they are still operating in what I consider the horror genre (even if we laugh or say WTF). 


Mulholland Dr (USA: David Lynch, 2001)
Film description: "A love story in the city of dreams . . . Blonde Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) has only just arrived in Hollywood to become a movie star when she meets an enigmatic brunette with amnesia (Laura Harring). Meanwhile, as the two set off to solve the second woman’s identity, filmmaker Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) runs into ominous trouble while casting his latest project. David Lynch’s seductive and scary vision of Los Angeles’s dream factory is one of the true masterpieces of the new millennium, a tale of love, jealousy, and revenge like no other." - Criterion
Resources for after you watch the film

American Mary (Canada: The Soska Sisters, 2012)
Film Description: "A young medical student struggling to pay tuition is drawn into the shady world of underground body-modification."
Resource for after you watch the film:
Corriveau, Arielle. "A Spectacle of Modified Bodies: The Contemporary Grand-Guignolesque as a Feminist Challenge to Somatophobia in American Mary." Monstrum #2 (June 2019)

It Follows (USA: David Robert Mitchell, 2014)
"It Follows may boast a doozy of a high-concept scenario that referentially riffs on all manner of horror subgenres, but the steady hand of director David Robert Mitchell ensures no resting on conceptual gimmickry. Anonymous monsters are in solemn pursuit of suburban high-schoolers, a curse only shed – and passed on – through sex. But this is no puritanical cautionary tale, its metaphorical ambiguities enveloping the teenage experience in an all-consuming blanket of dread. The stately march of its menace coupled with Mitchell’s gliding camera instils an inexorable terror. Not for nothing does water serve as a recurring motif in a film that itself feels submerged in a pressurised state of liminal arrest." – Matthew Thrift
Resources for after you watch the film

The Lobster (Greece/Ireland/Netherlands/UK/France: Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)
"The Lobster tries to look at how we are as people – what it means to be single, alone, or involved with someone and all of the constraints that society puts on that. We tried to reflect upon these aspects of the human condition while portraying a very original love story." - Yorgos Lanthimos
Film Description: "In a dystopian near future, according to the laws of The City, single people are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in 45 days or they're transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods."
Resources for after you watch the film

Cam (USA: Daniel Goldhaber, 2018)
Film description: "
In Daniel Goldhaber and Isa Mazzei's paranoid horror thriller "Cam," an erotic webcam performer finds her followers stolen by a doppelganger who hijacks her channel, pushes the sexual envelope further, and otherwise seems determined to destroy her life. Call it identity theft of a possibly supernatural kind."—Hugo Van Herpe
Resources for after you watch the film

Saint Maud (UK: Rose Glass, 2019)
"Having recently found God, self-effacing young nurse Maud arrives at a plush home to care for Amanda, a hedonistic dancer left frail from a chronic illness. When a chance encounter with a former colleague throws up hints of a dark past, it becomes clear there is more to sweet Maud than meets the eye." - Acolytes of Horror
Resource for after you watch the film:
Acolytes of Horror. "Saint Maud: God As A Self-Portrait." (Posted on Youtube: May 12, 2021) 

Us (USA: Jordan Poole, 2019)
"Films often ask performers to play multiple roles as something of a gimmick. It’s been done for comedic effect in something like “The Nutty Professor” or for philosophical examination in something like “The Double” or “Enemy.” No one has ever asked as much of a double performer as Jordan Peele asked of Lupita Nyong’o in “Us,” and the Oscar winner delivered one of the best performances of 2019 in return. As Adelaide’s worst fear comes to life and she witnesses the shadow version of her family sitting across the living room from her, the actress doesn’t just play good and evil – she goes much deeper than that. She sells both the depth behind the fear of who we presume is the “normal” Adelaide and the wounded monster who has been tied to her. For some reason, great acting has often become synonymous with either a great impersonation or a great couple of scenes. What’s most often ignored when we discuss acting is physicality. Watch what Nyong’o does with her body to both distinguish and tie the two versions of herself in “Us.” They are distinct and yet also mirrors of each other in so many ways. It’s the kind of performance one can break down scene by scene and appreciate with greater depth and nuance with each viewing. It’s not just a great 2019 performance, it’s an all-timer." (Brian Tallerico: December 23, 2019)
Resources for After You Watch the Film

Titane (France/Belgium: Julia Ducournau, 2021) 
"In an introduction to Frankenstein, written for a new edition of the work in 1831, Mary Shelley recounted a question she had been asked frequently in the thirteen years since the novel’s publication: how had she, ‘then a young girl, come to think and to dilate upon so very hideous an idea?’ A prying concern permeates the query, as if the monstrosity of the work’s content must indicate perverse conditions of production, some titillating mistreatment inflicted on the nineteen-year-old Shelley that could justify the creation of a new category of monster. For Julia Ducournau, director of the Palme D’Or-winning Titane (2021), the fallacy of the question would be obvious. No backstory is necessary: to be a young girl is monstrous inspiration enough." - Catlin Doherty
"In the first images of Titane, the camera lingers on engine parts shot like sweaty appendages, dripping with perspiration and vibrating orgasmically with the motor’s hum. The metal shimmers with grease and droplets of oil, and its curves look almost fleshy in the way they bend and give way to the rolling shapes in the undercarriage. French director Julia Ducournau films these inhuman auto parts like erotica, exploring the connection between bodies and automobiles in ways not attempted since David Cronenberg’s controversial 1996 film, Crash, about the relationship between the little death and the death drive. The link between sexuality and cars has been there for a long while. After all, why do they call a mechanic’s workspace a body shop? Consciously or not, motorheads make these connections as well. Car magazines and calendars pair bikini-clad women with muscle cars and hot rods, coupling sex and automobiles in literal and figurative terms. Ducournau’s film considers how the male gaze creates this strange relationship of images and takes the next logical step. The result is something wildly original, brutally visceral, oddly funny and tender, and singular in its vision." - Brian Eggert
"We can all stop wishing it a long life: the new flesh is thriving, living rent-free in Julia Ducournau‘s fucked-up titanium brain, oozing from every frame of her bizarrely beautiful, emphatically queer sophomore film, and thence seeping in through your orifices, the better to colonize your most lurid, confusing nightmares, as well as that certain class of sex dream that you’d be best off never confessing to having. “Titane,” Ducournau’s follow-up to her sensational debut “Raw,” is roughly seven horror movies plus one bizarrely tender parent-child romance soldered into one machine and painted all over with flames: it’s so replete with startling ideas, suggestive ellipses, transgressive reversals and preposterous propositions that it ought to be a godforsaken mess. But while God has almost certainly forsaken this movie, He wouldn’t have been much needed around it anyway. Ducournau’s filmmaking is as pure as her themes are profane: to add insult to the very many injuries inflicted throughout, “Titane” is gorgeous to look at, to listen to, to obsess over, and fetishize." - Jessica Kiang
Resources for the film after you watch it

Bones and All (Italy/USA: Luca Guadagnino, 2022)
"Guadagnino is an artist I’ll confess to having possibly underestimated. I liked his previous films—especially I Am Love, for the way that he portrays the stifling elegance of Milan’s Villa Necchi and the heavenward iconography of the Piazza del Duomo—but perhaps it is my own imaginative failing that I did not see in them the possibility of this one, which is a stunning work of art that seeped in deep and stained my sense of the world with its own hallucinatory version of such. Bones and All captures what it’s like to drift, to be excluded, and to be nonetheless full of life-force, but life-force whose expression can only ever be futile and tragic. Guadagnino perfectly handles social class and alienation, the sort of social atomization that is so terribly American—everyone just out there, without a club, a church, a union, a pastime, without support or a safety net of any kind. (The one “nice” home we see in this movie, decorated with ornate wallpaper and fussy knickknacks, contains a person, an old woman, who is dying, perhaps of a stroke or of a heart attack, alone, on the floor.) Bones and All is an extraordinary document of American psychoanalysis. Guadagnino’s main character, an eighteen-year-old girl named Maren, played by Taylor Russell, is abandoned by her father near the beginning of the film. She sets off by bus to try to find her birth mother, whom she’s never met. She encounters a boy named Lee, played by Timothée Chalamet, equally adrift and lonely, but full of rebellious verve. They circle each other and eventually connect. What constitutes home? the film asks. And what about the trauma that people inherit, and vow not to replicate, and do replicate? (Maren’s mother and Lee’s father have both passed on the same genetic affliction to their children.)" - Rachel Kushner
Resources for after you watch the film:

Kushner, Rachel. "Flesheater Blues." Harper's (December 2022)  

McKenna, Steph and Mike Muncer. "Bones and All (2022)." The Evolution of Horror (November 23, 2022) 

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