Friday, August 23, 2013

THAS: LIFEFORCE WEEK: DAY 4 - The Passions of "Lifeforce" (& The Equivocality of "Lifeforce") aka Love, Period.

We must keep in mind, viewing these images, of the audaciousness of the images of passion.  That the unwaveringly extended, sometimes unflattering, sometimes derpy display is the attempt to bring verisimilitude to representations of sexuality, psychology, and human experience.  We must keep in mind the audaciousness of these images, which are not the embrace of tastelessness but the search, taken to truly observant lengths, for the beautiful verity of raw human displays.  If keeping in mind Hooper's great regard for the nebulous, for psychologies and human behaviors that are not to be neatly reined in and can be mined and complexly dramatized in cinema, then Lifeforce's numerous and ravishing "fugue scenes" of passion and authentic, non-narrativized emotions need not be viewed as "excessive" dressing to a genre film but the very backbone of the film.  In effect, rather than being humored as camp-erotica sidelines in a sci-fi picture, they are the emphatic thematic bearing points of a highly poetic narrative.

Interspersed with these images will be intermittent quotes, which are transcribed exchanges between Hooper and filmmaker/moderator Tim Sullivan taken from the Lifeforce Blu-ray commentary track.

In which a breakage of madness, true and incontinent, sets off an outbreak of barely dormant madness around them.

Madness is in a constant threat of relapse for many - not just inhabitants of mental facilities - and it lies inactive only in the sense of a venereal disease and its cycles of outbreak and latency.  But resounding first and foremost in the pitiable chorus of the mad is not the vulnerability, but the empowerment: the sense of the equality and permeability of the communicable condition.  The medley of diverse screams and ravings from their comrades evokes both the diversity and the sameness - and the majority power.

In which passion is something internal: a physical displeasure.  Sweats.  Nausea.  A shade across the eyes, sunken from the inside out.  Being formed of blood, as all living things are.  The sudden gangrenous quality of colors.

Also, something external: the crossing of seemingly impossible barriers, the deference of outstretched palms, and divinely summoned winds.  The cradling of a head, hands reaching out to touch.

In which passion is the pure visual.

Tim Sullivan, moderator: (referring to the Space Girl and Carlsen's repeated use of the word "love" in referring to their bond) 'They're using the word "love," but it's purely "lust," not "love"?'

Hooper: 'Yeah, yeah... well, unless it is?  Unless, unless... is that "love"?  I mean, I know exactly what you're talking about, but I mean... I don't know... I mean, Citizen Kane.  What's that song?  [singing]  "It can't be love..."'

Hooper does not continue singing it, but suffice it to say, it goes on in romantically dysfunctional fashion, like so:

"... because I feel so well.
No sobs, no sorrows, no sighs...

Hooper: "I guess it comes down to, you know, this kind of love, between human beings... You know, I mean, there's love... and that's, you know... it at least seems to fall into the realm of good.  And I think that... what is that?  What is love between two people, like this?  Well, I mean, not like this! [referring back presumably to the relationship between Carlsen and the Space Girl]  But I mean... [love] period?"

"This can't be love, I get no dizzy spells.  My head is not in the skies."

(when asked about the Space Girl's lines to Carlsen, "You're one of us.  You always have been.")
Hooper: "Well, uh... that's either the truth, or a lie!"

The equivocality of Lifeforce.

(regarding his statement, "It's either the truth, or a lie!")
Hooper: "But, the last frame of the movie... [shows]... it's probably... it falls somewhere..."
Sullivan: "In between?"
Hooper: "Yeah, in between."
Sullivan: "I mean, you know... are we all one of them?"
Hooper: "Or, you know, are we all the same thing?"

I recently watched Canadian/Québécois filmmaker Denys Arcand's The Decline of the American Empire, released in 1986, which strikes me very much in the same way Lifeforce does: a liberated, all-things-fair-game survey and depiction of a sexual living.  Tackling such 80s-zeitgeist standards-of-happiness such as bourgeois intellectualism and casual infidelity (Lifeforce takes on authority figures, professionals, and other such lives of sublimated spirituality), whilst questionably but forthrightly deflating or taking a pinprick to the solemn issue of disease and AIDS, The Decline of the American Empire, as does Lifeforce, tries to bring buoyancy and levity and wide, opened arms to an increasingly fraught topic, through a bracingly candid, almost clinically rhetorical, but otherwise scrupulous and humanly conscientious film.  Lifeforce aims to clear all conceivable divides and tackle a fraught topic with a work of genre, but one with a scope of vision and a positive, conscientious buoyancy.  As Lifeforce re-purposes sci-fi imagery into dizzying, vorticular, contorted landscapes of sexuality and passion (Hooper, paraphrased, speaking on the commentary about the shots on the green moors following Nancy Paul's Nurse Donaldson, cruising wide open nature in a rain poncho: "And this is like from Far from the Madding Crowd!"), similarly does The Decline of the American Empire wittily takes women's hardcore exercises and a gaggle of men in the kitchen and visually conflates those activities with their varied sexual topics of discussions.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

THAS: The House of Great Decision and Governing Fear

Immense.  Portraits of fear.  Crane shots of decision.

Movements.  Distance to foreground.  Over and over.  A movement mockery, the pull and trajectory of decision manifested in cinema.  A mournful toying, the bleak redundancy of the movements, forward, back, to and fro, what's behind you and before, at your feet and creaking the floorboards above you, a Sisyphean boulder: fear and our endless state of decision.

The camera and the crane is both fate and decision.  It is both Rube Goldberg (by way of accidentally toppled knickknack, collapsing flue, scuttling rats, creaking floorboards) and Susan finally "meeting the man she came here to meet."

Her dance with the camera - multiple times does she twirl in relation to us, and her migration through the manse is a three-step progression - endows grace and form, in other words a compassionate sense, to subtle suffering.  The chimney's expiration of dust is a moment of pure dance, cinema as dance.

The sequence is a complex and interconnected series of shots.  It is a cinematic poem: the constantly enclosing repetition of movements (of both Susan and the camera; Susan is literally made to move in a circle) is the unifying meter, its conveyance of a terrible existential state the eloquent rhyme.  The sequence is unpredictable.  The patterned jumping camera both jumps closer and jumps away at different, alternating times.  Movements are foreseen, but subverted in equal measure as they are conventionally built up to, suggesting Hooper's critical art.  This sequence is not here to scare or impress.  It is why one of its most stylish push-in shots is subverted by Susan simply crossing it.  Like a poem, it does not exist for any narrative satisfaction.  It is communicative about plight.  Not impressive, it is complexly meaningful.

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