Thursday, September 06, 2007

More Things That Happened

So what's up with all those damned rabbits? First What's the Matter with Helen? and now this. I really don't like or dislike rabbits, but I was very fond of the Uncle Wiggily series as a child.

Junk Thief may be your go to spot for junk and crime but not for pithy reviews of what is hot and current in the arts. I've been really slow in getting around to watching and commenting on my ever mounting stacks of DVDs, let alone weekly stash of books. But over the past week I finally got around to watching two seemingly unrelated, but oddly criss crossing and equally frustrating (for very different) DVD releases.

Let's start with the obviously frustrating one, David Lynch's Inland Empire. Supposedly people are hot or cold with Lynch. I've been both, loving him in the early to mid-1980s, throwing my hands in the air after about the third appearance of the log lady and slowly coming back to him. Supposedly he's a Rorschach test for his viewers, and if I can approach his work without trying to find meaning, I can accept it. A lot of people said that Inland Empire will turn off his non-fans, but it actually won me back. I think I had trouble with the films that tried to lace in his weirdness in conventional story lines. This one is weird to the core and works for me as a result. I'm not going to try to figure out what those damned bunnies are about except maybe an Uncle Wiggily story gone wrong, gone really wrong.

The DVD packaging and format is Lynchesque itself. No director's commentary or even chapters on the main disc but lots of information on how to light your room and adjust the contrast on your set. Not sure how to make quinoa? Well, mine always tastes just fine, but Dave gave a handy little demonstration, allowing time for a weird story about a Yugoslavian girl having her first Coke in Vienna and trouble with the carbination while he has a smoke and glass of red wine on the porch. I have the same problems too.

I'm not even going to get into any analysis of the story and what it meant to me since I think I'll remember the film because of lighting, sound design, random images. However, in the deleted scene extras called "More Things That Happened", Laura Dern's white trash character has a hilarious story about her sister forcing her to keep all of her stuff on one shelf at the bottom of the refrigerator. This character reminded me that in my Midwest-rooted family, the really trashy ones migrated to the Inland Empire and had kids with names like Tawana and Billy Ray while those that stayed behind had fancy tea parties and behaved like Connecticut gentry, clenched teeth accent and all.

Seemingly unrelated, and radically different in style and causes for frustration is Zodiac, I've always had trouble David Fincher's films because it seemed to make the killers the most interesting, complex characters and the victims worthy of their fate if only for being dull. And his stylishness seemed to be too self-obsessed. Zodiac feels more like Sidney Lumet in his prime. I usually groan at movies longer than 88 minutes, but I could have sat through this story for another two hours the way I did with Lumet classics like Prince of the City. It is a dense, action packed, complex and compelling story. It is stylish but also very straight forward. It may have even restored my faith in CGI. I assume that's what is used for the fantastic recreation of the construction of the Transamerica Pyramid. If that's the case it's a much better use of the craft than those stupid monsters in the insufferably overlong King Kong or Lord of the Rings movies.

What I'd dreaded in the film was the violence. I can rarely sit through any violent movie, especially in a theater. I chuckled at my fear when the MPAA rating warned that the film contained "strong killings", which I think is up there with being sort of pregnant. Fortunately those strong killings represent less than one percent of the screen time. They focus more on the victims and are mercifully brief in their explicit depiction of the act itself.

I liked that there was not a single, clear cut hero, no one coming to the rescue and that solving the murders was a complex, group process never fully resolved. If the true killer is the person that is implied, what is most spooky is how utterly banal the man is. A dull, probably bored man with so little respect for life -- not some colorful raving madman.

The attention to production details was amazing. The costumes, for example, were always convincingly from the era and a reminder that not every in the 1970s wore apricot leisure suits with long winged collared sparkly shirts.

What weaved these two films, set in opposite ends of California, is the mild evil lurking around the brightly lit corners of the state.

What was especially frustrating about the Zodiac DVD release is its absolute lack of extras. Chapters, language selection and nothing else. Such a complex dense and fact based story screams out for survivor interviews, commentary and more. Though the sound and visual quality are excellent, I hope a worthy re-release of this is on the horizon soon.

Sorry to cut this post short, but I am going to see if those girls hanging out on the corner want to come in and join me in dancing to The Loco-Motion. Then they might want to join me in watching the first 22 episodes of Maude with me.

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At 7:46 PM, Blogger marxsny said...

I don't think I've cared for a David Lynch movie since Wild at Heart. I always end up watching his movies at some point though, hoping to be drawn in. Blue Velvet is one of my favorite films. I want to see Zodiac because I am fascinated with true crime but as far as David Fincher is concerned he should have stuck to directing Madonna videos.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger Gavin Elster said...

"Heads up, Tails up, running to you scallywag! Night falls, morning calls! " There more Rabbit in Lynchs world than we care to notice.

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Junk Thief said...

Mark - I felt the same about his previous work, but honestly I thought this had the gripping force of an old school solid police drama.

Gavin - Oh, Lawdy, Lawdy, they is wabbits, wabbits, big ol' ugly wabbits everywheres!

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

Where or where did you get the first 22 episodes of 'Maude'? I'd dance the locomotion just for that information!

At 10:15 AM, Blogger T$ said...

I agree with your assessment of Inland Empire. It's a totally uncompromised vision. Lynch shot the whole thing on digital video, which allowed him more freedom to do what he wanted (esp. considering budget). I saw it in the theater last winter and just got the DVD...I'll have to check out those special features - sounds interesting.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Junk Thief said...

Jill - Maude's first season is now out on DVD. (There really is a God!) I got mine at Best Buy. Yes, a big box store.

T$ - They extras are very Lynch, very fun. I also love the scene of the white trash lady doing the confessional to the dorky guy with crooked glasses who never speaks. Best line is after a long rant, she says that an experience left her feeling flat as a pancake, to which he responds: "Oh, I love pancakes."

At 1:58 AM, Blogger WAT said...

Zodiac was good, but way too long.


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