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Posts Tagged ‘Schizopolis’

Dr. Korchek’s glorious love letter from Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis. Happy Valentines.

Dear Attractive Woman Number Two,

Only once in my life have I responded to another person the way I’ve responded to you. But I’ve forgotten when it was or, even if it was in fact me that responded.

I may not know much, but I know that the wind sings your name endlessly, although with a slight lisp that makes it difficult to understand if I’m standing near an air conditioner.

I know that your hair sits atop your head as though it could sit nowhere else.

I know that your figure would make a sculptor cast aside his tools, injuring his assistant who was looking out the window instead of paying attention.

I know that your lips are as full as that sexy French model’s that I desperately want to fuck.

I know that if I could, for an instant, have you lie next to me, or, on top of me, or sit on me, or stand over me and shake, then I would be the happiest man in my pants.

I know all of this and yet, you do not know me. Change your life. Accept my love. Or, at least let me pay you to accept it.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jeffrey Korchek

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(Part 35 of an ongoing series)

limey

You could see the sea out there if you could see it.

Eduardo Roel (Luis Guzmán)

Lem Dobbs, screenwriter: “I’ve always thought one of the great cliches of filmmaking that you hear people say constantly, that I don’t think is true at all, is that unlike novels, in films you can’t show thinking. That is a total lie! I think movies are brilliant at showing someone thinking! I mean, I think what I particularly encouraged [Steven Soderbergh] to do was… put in the movie more shots of Terence Stamp just being meditative, just sitting in a chair thinking. Smoking. Reflecting. You may not know exactly what he’s thinking. I think you can pretty much infer what he’s thinking… It’s very novelistic to do this kind of fragmentation. People talk about it as being cinematically stylish, and I think it’s really almost more of a literary device.”*

What’s in Wilson’s (Terence Stamp’s) head? Plotwise, it’s revenge on Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda), the douchey, music-industry bigwig who killed Wilson’s daughter. But there’s so much more: flashbacks (or are they flashforwards?), conversations pieced together from various moments (did we talk about that here, or there?), wish-fulfilling fantasies (or maybe little universes spawned from possible outcomes, like Hugh Everett’s many-worlds metatheory). The film constantly calls attention to itself being a film, especially in Sarah Flack’s editing. That’s cool, though, because I can’t readily name another film that does a better job depicting the way our brains think (or at least the way my brain thinks), while still telling a coherent narrative. (Granted, I haven’t seen a whole lot of the French New Wave movies that Soderbergh’s drawing from here.)

Terry Valentine’s introduced with what Soderbergh calls a “trailer” for his character, soundtracked by The Hollies’ “King Midas In Reverse.” This trailer includes moments that will reappear later in the film, and it ends with an American Express billboard featuring Peter Fonda that actually existed for real. This is one of the most amazingly brilliant sequences in the history of cinema.

I never got around to seeing The Limey in theaters. I didn’t see it until 2003, when I rented it from Netflix. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep when I watched it the first time, not because I was bored, but because I started watching it very late at night. The last moment I remembered from that first viewing was when Wilson throws the dude off the balcony. I could’ve sworn I finished watching the rest of the film the next day, and yet as I re-watched it for this review, I slowly realized I couldn’t remember anything about the second half of the movie. How the hell did that happen? This movie is excellent. If I didn’t finish watching it in 2003, why didn’t I? I And if I did finish watching it in 2003, why didn’t I remember what happened after Wilson throws the dude off the balcony? Stupid brain.

Violence shouldn’t be funny, but sometimes you can’t help but laugh. When I was working in a bookstore, a big heavy book fell on my good friend Maura’s head and my first reaction was to laugh. Then I asked if she was OK, and she was just fine, and then my boss scolded me for laughing even though I couldn’t help it and I quickly asked if Maura was OK and she was. But I get why my boss scolded me. Even though the violence in The Limey is fictional and intentionally funny I still feel a little guilty laughing at it, and it makes me think of that big heavy book falling on Maura’s head.

What I thought I wanted wasn’t what I wanted. What I thought I was thinkin’ about was something else… Bide your time, and everything becomes clear, and you can act accordingly.

In a scene originally filmed for Ken Loach’s Poor Cow, Wilson performs Donovan’s “Colours” and sings that the word “freedom” reminds him of the time when he was loved. Screenwriter Lem Dobbs wonders if “Memory is the path not taken.” Soderbergh says The Limey‘s essentially about the look on Terence Stamp’s face when he realizes the truth behind his daughter’s death. The Limey reminds me of so many things I remember and a few other things I don’t remember.

*From the filmmaker’s commentary track of The Limey DVD. Like other commentaries for Soderbergh-directed DVDs (particularly Schizopolis), this track is itself a work of art. Aside from simply offering many valuable insights into the creation of a great film, the actual form of the commentary reflects The Limey‘s themes (memory fragmentation, reality layers, dimensions of choice), as well as playfully deconstructing the concept of DVD commentaries.

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Steven Soderbergh’s keynote to the San Francisco International Film Festival is a worthwhile read, a kind of “State Of The Medium” address by a maybe-retiring director (oh please God no) who’s balanced artistic integrity and commercial success far better than most of his peers. Soderbergh’s speech is lengthy enough to seem substantial, yet concise enough to feel breezy. My favorite excerpt:

…Given all the incredible suffering in the world I wonder, what is art for, really? If the collected works of Shakespeare can’t prevent genocide then really, what is it for? Shouldn’t we be spending the time and resources alleviating suffering and helping other people instead of going to the movies and plays and art installations? When we did Ocean’s Thirteen the casino set used $60,000 of electricity every week. How do you justify that? Do you justify that by saying, the people who could’ve had that electricity are going to watch the movie for two hours and be entertained – except they probably can’t, because they don’t have any electricity, because we used it. Then I think, what about all the resources spent on all the pieces of entertainment? What about the carbon footprint of getting me here? Then I think, why are you even thinking that way and worrying about how many miles per gallon my car gets, when we have NASCAR, and monster truck pulls on TV? So what I finally decided was, art is simply inevitable. It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it’s because we are a species that’s driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos. And sometimes when you get a really good artist and a compelling story, you can almost achieve that thing that’s impossible which is entering the consciousness of another human being – literally seeing the world the way they see it. Then, if you have a really good piece of art and a really good artist, you are altered in some way, and so the experience is transformative and in the minute you’re experiencing that piece of art, you’re not alone. You’re connected to the arts. So I feel like that can’t be too bad.

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Steven Soderbergh is so cool he made his 1999 movie in 1996.  (The Limey, Soderbergh’s actual 1999 movie, is still very 1999, and will be discussed here eventually.)  Schizopolis has so many great scenes, but this one knows all the faces of my soul:

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