Friday, April 13, 2012

'Eggshells' Now Available at MUBI

Hooper's 1969 first feature, Eggshells, is now available to watch at MUBI for a limited time.

I've re-watched it since, and it remains an aimless, rambling, thinly conceived and spuriously connective pile of nonsense. That said, I welcome it warmly and gratefully into the Hooper canon for its audaciousness and complete artistic self-satisfaction, as tied inextricably with its serious, effortful expressive ambitions and philosophical, aesthetic (not commercial) inspirations.

The film is essentially about two young hippie couples, living together in a house, one couple long entwined and on the verge of nuptials, with all the right and wrong reasons to do so; the other, newly formed, made out of the first couple's malcontent writer housemate and an old friend who just arrives in Austin after leaving her small town, then moves in with them. Meanwhile, a mute, timid boy who seems to also live in the house acts as a sort of counterpoint to the free spirits, taking in with a strange entity in the basement.

As a spirited exhibition of free-wheeling cinematographic experimentation, psychedelic experience-creating, avant-garde animation (!), and on-the-fly cinema verité textures, I only shruggingly appreciate it -- Hooper thankfully returns to more exacting methodology in Texas Chain Saw. But Eggshells is still absolutely sprinkled with Hooper's incredibly precise compositions, camera moves, rhythmic sequences, and, perhaps most importantly, his elevated sense of the severe, formal, assuredly mature and stylistically "adult" (this is all to say, non-escapist, anti-diversionary, or, really, often simply anti-style -- instead, idea-driven) set piece.  For instance, off the top of my head, a scene consisting entirely of a stationary shot at the foot of a staircase that time-lapses the comings and goings of the group of housemates, analyzing temporally their pre-party activity; a wedding dress fitting scene also seen from a single, stationary viewpoint, gradually gaining more and more figures and activity within its frame**; a slow zoom into faces that methodically, algorithmically tracks back and forth across a hanging lamplight; the minutes-long, time-lapse "ghost ride" through Austin; and the most touted scene, the one-man sword fight, which is astoundingly well-executed.

I will say I hate the use of balloons in this film, though. It's hard to give something as commonplace as children's balloons greater meaning.




Here is Hooper on the film, to reveal at least what he wanted to communicate, regardless of the final result:
“It’s a real movie about 1969, kind of verite but with a little push, improvisation mixed with magic. It was about the beginning and end of the subculture. Most of it takes place in a commune house. But what they don’t know is that in the basement is a crypto-embryonic hyper-electric presence that managed to influence the house and the people in it. The presence has embedded itself in the walls and grows into this big bulb, half-electronic, half organic. Almost like an eye, but like a big light, it comes out of the wall, manipulating and animating.”
From a Fangoria article I have lost track of:
"I’m in the middle of trying to restore the first film I made, EGGSHELLS,” he says. “It’s not a horror film, it’s part of a long documentary of what it’s like to have 40 years of screaming for quiet.”
A long documentary, eh?

No comments: