27 May 2013 | chaos-rampant
We're all stuck with narrow selves through the day, doing our best to mind our part in the noisy, incoherent narrative of life, organizing a myriad worries with one eye at the clock. At nights however, some nights, we dream, have passionate sex or watch truly mind-bending movies, drawing fresh water from the well of deep, mysterious non-self which is the great dancefloor where lovers meet their dragon.
So here's a film about a man haunted by a half-remembered night from his past, who wakes up inside a dream to find himself. The film begins and ends with shots of the protagonist in his own primordial sea, the sea of clarity and dissolved self. He is a famous actor, to stress the roles and guises of that weekday showbiz self we carry with us everywhere. A lot of time is spent around film sets and cameras.
The film is split in two very clear halves, a usual trope of films about memory since Vertigo; the long, blurry Miami night of sexual obsession and going back 18 months later. Overt drugging and boozing insert the dazedness of mind. The meta-aspects of the work involving a sex video being made and 'looking back' through cameras are thin and obvious. And Ferrara's attempt at a script-less improvised feel among the actors does not pan out in the least, not solely Modine's fault this.
My guess is that it does not pan out because Ferrara is not a genuinely curious, patient person like Altman who takes pleasure in the tentative brushing of characters, Ferrara is eager to get to the bleeding soul. I don't have to reach out to his other films to confirm this, here's a film about yearnings but only as acknowledged through an overbearing sense of misery and self-pity.
The obvious self-reference. The emotional bluntness. The shouting and partying as some acidic edge. These are all the same, short narrative distance away from the viewer. The film can be described as David Lynch films Le Mepris but all that French, Godardian baggage are as cumbersome now as thirty years prior. So in narrative terms, it is a modest failure.
And yet I recommend this to you on its power to enchant with its visual fabrics. There are all sorts of those:
1) the sex video as in-sight of our guy's hallucinative desires, and grainy handcamera footage as memory, fixing the mind. Dennis Hopper anchors this part as director, channeling both his Blue Velvet and Last Movie chaotic selves. 2) raw, cutting intimacy around the lovely Dalle. 3) warm coziness in New York, with smart usage of Claudia Schiffer as token of bloodless normalcy. 4) the b/w, Nouvelle Vague- inspired interlude at the beach.
You may settle in one or more of those. I settle in the Miami reverie, not the pleasure-seeking itself but those fleeting drive-by shots of nightlife and cloudy views from balconies, the gauzy loss of self and story. Marvelous, marvelous mood. If you mute the drama, it can sink into you.