Quick-Thoughts: Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin (2004)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

Never in my life did I expect cereal to embody one of the most visually revolting images in cinema.

A contrast between two divisions of childhood sexual abuse trauma: succumbing and repression, and for such intense subject matter, Gregg Araki mercifully does right by depicting them with rather merciless execution that comes off as nothing short of a cinematic slaughterhouse on the once presumed destined discoveries from the curious young; the exclusive childhood mechanism of innocence is used completely against itself to an utmost immoral kind of manipulation, Araki putting us momentarily right back into that delicate juvenile headspace of our past as a plausible victim to these atrocities. Some of those unidentified objects we saw in youth are things we were never meant to experience, never meant to grow into either confidently or subconsciously; they very much became permanent inflammations prowling even in the masses of every alternative cover-up we could think of.  

There are worse things, but being told we’re “special” for anything early on is dangerous. Our inception defines a lot about us onward, and yet we don’t exactly get to choose it. 

So suffice it to say, I loathed watching Mysterious Skin, and it almost made me cry because. Pain.

Verdict: B+

“Mysterious Skin” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future (2022)

“Sexier means easier funding.”

“Crimes of the Future” is a title that nearly every one of David Cronenberg’s socially-minded body outputs thus far could’ve slipped themselves into – one in fact even did near the very beginning of the auteur’s illustrious career – but perhaps this now recently adapted 20-year-old script, initially scrapped right before his career began mutating into strict drama narratives, is the most earned of the name as an irony of it. See, these are quote on quote “crimes” of the future, but they are also meant to speak for quite literally the crimes of forever, the cumulative crimes built from all humanity. The film is disguised to be about a beginning in an end, and then confesses to really be about a fragment of a prolonged beginning never reaching an end. Essentially, there is no future here as the favored word has been glorified to insinuate, just a future in its verbatim of wanting one; if there is a crime of the future, it’s that it has no greater future, just a genetic habit that only helps obscure it: to control our own evolution but not OUR evolution. The dependable world-building that Cronenberg uses to depict this alone feels like something he’s been dying to make his entire career, but one not ready for such until the longer observed aging of his body could feed him the information he needed to get this story right. In doing so, the face-value crime of what we see in his sci-fi is not necessarily sworn as one to him, but more so as something he’s accepted as fact. There’s barely a cautionary thesis to this like his previous body-horror endeavors. If anything, the thesis is “let it be”. It’s as if he’s decided to drop the “horror” and leave the “body”. 

As you may have figured, Crimes of the Future cuts close into human history: politics often come after rash experimenting, thus engineering the neverending failure of them leading to a utopia. Big idealistic changes don’t happen because we’re too busy independently publicizing other impulsive changes of our own in a world not yet constructed for them out of governments that will always at first be rigged against them due to inherent totalitarianism towards the citizen. At the same time though, if this truly is the indestructible machine of our order, aren’t all we have as a mass population of society then these tools to rebel through our personal change even if it’s what encourages this bottomless pit? Agh!

One of the key arcs Cronenberg implements to communicate this cycle resides in how he explores how art is often redefined by the artist from propagation to be more confident in their ambition in wake of their passiveness being viewed as perhaps no longer a form of attraction. Beauty is then also deconstructed: we’re not just getting tattoos now to stimulate our lust for physique further; the possibilities to mutilate it have become endless with the removal of pain from the body, and they’re all contenders for the market to covet over. Is glamorized celebrity power of those who make these bodily renovations though the hand that makes us see them as a segregated and superior species among us? Our new creators? Pleasure has always mimicked pain, so is sex too becoming diversified enough now to the point where it can be whatever it wants so long as it evokes similar origins to something that’s now been ridiculed in this future? 

A utopia, let alone a dystopia, will always be a figment of our imagination as options such as these or plastic integration into the human build and the artistic vulnerability in settling with the inevitable hunger for them compensate as enough change to what’s been harmed – in this case the environmental stability for biotic resources – and furthermore as enough psychological fulfillment in the moment as an act of “real change”, putting humanity back into its uniform equilibrium whether organically or inorganically. Back to the topic of irony, I guess the bigger one than even the title itself is that Crimes of the Future as a movie works as a cinematic new body organ of its own, but one that sort of proves Cronenberg’s more optimistic look on self-inflicted, and even if pointless in what it progresses externally, evolution. As long as it’s a spiritual healer internally, it can do no wrong to the individuals who wrongfully (but then rightfully lol) indulge it, balancing both the literal ecosystem and our existential survival.

Though to get all of this across, Crimes of the Future is obsessively thought-dropping idea by idea between plain lumps of dialogue and the occasional Cronenbergian visual to pile up this somewhat awe-inspiring big picture, which sparks for a compelling debate for each it includes but it also makes the movie insanely overbearing to switch between such and therefore extract as a completed narrative. The fact that this is getting a wide release in America already blows my mind because it’s certainly “30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes” material that’ll likely plummet at the box office. It’s unfortunate that Cronenberg’s irregular methodology here is what’ll probably cause most viewers to not see what’s there: that its very deeply rooted universe is its very deeply rooted voice. His world-building of what’s to come but also what’s already been here where humanity needs constant new stimulations like any commercial art consumer or drug addict – the twitchy performances especially from our three leads particularly sell this – is just enough to make this enjoyable. It works first and foremost as a gallery walk composed of a bit overbearing narration (in the shape of dialogue) that’s accompanied by contemplative visual futurism. Introducing… Cronenberg’s Brave New World.

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked, David Cronenberg Ranked

“Crimes of the Future” will be playing in theaters June 3rd.

Quick-Thoughts: David Cronenberg’s Directorial Debuts Stereo and Crimes of the Future (1969-1970)

Stereo (Tile 3B of a CAFE Educational Mosaic) (1969)

Wow, Cronenberg has been horny since the very beginning. 

Living is only one continuous experience, yet we search for more. David Cronenberg’s directorial debut sure is conceptually interesting: make a (pretty convincing) fake educational video that documents through narration and staged footage a scientific experiment which longs to see if we can intensify the order of human sociology by provoking more polygamous and sexually charged telepathy, therefore acting as thee seed to Cronenberg’s evolution as an explorer of the human’s psychological potential. Its craft has “student film” residue leaching all over it, but at that, residue left by one creatively gridlocked trainee with a likelihood to improve despite how desynchronized his cinematic expressions are of the curious ideas here. Sometimes one ought to experiment via an almost rough draft-like stratagem to learn how they really want to articulate themselves the next time. You probably don’t get a Shivers (1975) and subsequently a Crash (1996) without trying something like this first. 

We all start off overusing slow pans too lol. And black-and-white. 

Verdict: C

David Cronenberg Ranked

“Stereo (Tile 3B of a CAFE Educational Mosaic)” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Crimes of the Future (1970)

Cronenberg was technically once a feet model. 

Perhaps David Cronenberg’s first real shot in the dark at sequence seduction, where grimy sci-fi sound effect-based scoring transfixes us into the warped physical intimacy between its concupiscent, paraphilic characters, yet there unrolled in quite the slug of atmospheric experimentation. I mean, it isn’t bad mood-work per say, but it’s certainly not good enough to warrant a feature-length worth of it; I got over all the institution hopping by like the halfway point. With that said, this at least functions as another way for Cronenberg to further demonstrate his interest in foreseeing humanity’s artificially and thus dangerously provoked body transformation aims as it leads towards ethical leniences. Case and point, my feelings towards Stereo about apply here in terms of me being happy that test-drives like this were made so the soon-to-be auteur could work things out, but don’t expect to see me watching OG Crimes of the Future ever again. This one doesn’t even have a cute gimmick to it like his last too that my needy mind can latch onto. ;(

And the main character low-key sounds like HAL-9000. “I’m sorry *DAVID* I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Okay, I’ll shut the f**k up now…

Verdict: C-

David Cronenberg Ranked

“Crimes of the Future” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria (2021)

“Experiences are harmful: they unleash a violent flurry in the memory.”

Finally, the hearing cleanse that I needed. To hell with going to the doctors; amiright? *delusional*

Memoria, not to that much of a shock, is about someone uncovering the mystery behind her memory, brought to life when a mysterious, canorous thumping noise begins occupying the ears. She initially presumes that this noise is happening at random, appearing in jump-scare-like magnitudes of shock that catch both her and likely us viewers off-guard during their first couple appearances, but incident by incident do the noises begin to appear only more as if they’ve been orchestrating her into seemingly destined situations. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest contribution to gentle and cryptic cinema is another kind of homage to one of life’s greatest mysteries: the tragic unreliability yet adventurous bliss within memory as a form of believed reality and dependable guidance, exhorting divisively both our distrusts towards the present time and our innocence from its lack of objectivity.

In classic Joe fashion, Memoria is divided into essentially two halves: the first being a playful one for the viewers, reading like a subjective strand of our main character’s non-chronological-made-chronological recollection of her condition’s inception, introducing ambiguously connected segments that appear like a brace between sensationalized dreams and past realities, and the second is assumed to be just the very present – perhaps outside of a memory – where she meets somebody of a familiar name who can recall the pasts of any object. This latter part I find to be an interesting reconstruction of Weerasethakul’s usual execution when it comes to depicting telepathy, since with the introduction of a literal premise based on sound, it only makes sense that he has fulfilled such potential with an audibly intense atmosphere where the audience-relied imagination is now directed to primarily concentrate on just one of the senses to experience the filmmaker’s trademark mysticism. Strangely enough, this elongated sequence feels as if our main character is confronting a sort of God figure, absorbing some truth about her life from Him regarding how the strong, connected experiences of the people she knew buckled her interpretation of what has led up to now. It is by far one of the most meditative and simultaneously lighting-in-a-bottle sequences that the auteur has concocted yet. 

On the topic of our memories not being purely made by the wield of our own though, the film thematically gave me Blade Runner 2049 (2017) vibes when it comes to that idea of handed down memory. For some reason the song I Know the End by Phoebe Bridgers also came to mind when watching this, but I suppose that’s only a testament to how lyrical Joe’s movies frequently appear to be. 

Verdict: B+

2022 Ranked, Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ranked

“Memoria” is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendor (2015)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Marathon Part VI of VI

“Both of us are dead as well.”

Men only have two moods: Movie and popcorn with spiritual mama, then literally by the next minute, fighting out-of-body in an ancient war. 

Working seamlessly off of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), Apichatpong Weerasethakul brings back ghosts and draws the bonds made with them out in a dovetail between the conservative real and the unusually surreal — as if the near twenty minute sequence of a princess hosting the body of a psychic to show our main character through only verbal descriptions what their land is like in her timeline wasn’t enough to convince you so. Once more, the filmmaking auteur has something remedial to state by means of these paranormal occurrences: even if its by assumption, imagination, of a real spiritual guidance, you gain a whole new vision looking at and being aware of places as if they were set in a chosen past, shifting our perspective and identity at random, everything fading in on top of one another, not allowing the dominating post-war encroachments of today get in the way of seeing the remaining world for all that it truly is, bringing peace to the ghosts of people and places that surround us as they are what led to the most tangible of refurbishments for which we should equally celebrate. 

Though, Cemetery of Splendor seems to be sloshing through all of Joe’s already established past gimmicks to an overcompensating degree, as if it were acting as a tribute to his opening decade in filmmaking — from the off-duty soldiers, interactive souls, hospital shenanigans, reconstructions of time, an upbeat dance workout concluding sequence, etc. Maybe its just intentional in the name of its ethos, overlaying so much past work into the present to make his optimum project that satiates in the influences; maybe that itself is the new he offers this time around. To quote the film, “I’m happy to know that at least he’s doing some good in his sleep.”

The LED college dorm set-ups were a nice add to the Weerasethakul canon too. The fella behind Too Old to Die Young (2019) did the cinematography? Makes sense!

Verdict: B-

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ranked

“Cemetery of Splendor” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

Quick-Thoughts: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Marathon Part V of VI

“By then, I had forgotten the old world.”

The past is drawn into the present as Uncle Boonmee faces his final moments alive, literally reunited on property by the ghost of his wife and the metamorphosis of his now monkey son. If that sentence threw you off a bit, I wouldn’t blame you, but to reconsider for the absurdity that is perhaps Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s most known film, it does however confidently pull off normalizing every surreal element it brings to the table, to a point where even its greatest battle “death” is accepted comfortably amongst its universe’s immortality.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is another Weerasethakul project embellished in its cultural superstitions, where characters associate certain pasts with outcomes of the present, and attempt to plan for certain futures based on certain presents. Although, unlike his last two previous features, the halved structure isn’t exactly there. It’s more like a first half, then an intermission depicting a past life, and lastly a second half made up of a climax and an epilogue. The climax is the most apparent continuation between the first half, where we witness an intense, almost ritualistic conclusion for our main character, insinuating that there are remnants here that can’t possibly be forgotten even in the next life — our evocation just seems that powerful, huh? Case and point, this might just be thee ideal movie to watch if you’re dying, in need of believing in everlasting memory as hope.

…and then the intermission involves an elderly princess f**king a catfish for all Fluorescent Adolescent intents and purposes, but you’ve probably already heard about that infamous part of the tale…

Anyways, like all of Weerasethakul’s films so far, the epilogue here leaves us on an especially contemplative note where, this time though, we are presented a simultaneity of different activities occurring but executed by the same people, as if stages of themselves were coexisting in a timeline. If one ever needed another reminder that this is a piece in aim to challenge the conventional construct of time either in its harmony between spirits and the once only tangible living or prospects of the afterlife and the before, then this is the psychedelia of a farewell to do it, a farewell that feels as if it wants to leave you with the thought that perhaps your day-to-day life may be made up of mystic incidents too even if it isn’t from the ghost of a deceased relative or the returning of a son who is no longer human; it could very well be there in what we know as the most tangible mundanities. The film presents everything as game, everything as levelheaded.

“You created the reflection, didn’t you?”

“Without you, I couldn’t have done so.”

Brilliant costume design as well. I will furthermore not miss an opportunity to praise Sayombhu Mukdeeprom once more for making such things come to life with another perfect-looking movie. Whether there’s enough sense here or not, I could get sucked into the illusions of it forever. 

Verdict: B+

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ranked

“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century (2006)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Marathon Part IV of VI

“I like meeting a wide variety of people… to see faces come and go.” 

Apichatpong Weerasethakul once again taps into some of the endless possibilities that cinema has to dilate on, but uses them this time around as a playful vessel to reconceive the aura of his two creators — mom and dad, and the origin for which they’re about to become such. Just like Tropical Malady (2004), the auteur divides the film into two very distinct segments: one that takes place in a rural and one in an urban hospital. Curiously, the urban segment acts out almost like a revision of the rural, but with a focus on Dr. Nohng (Joe’s father) rather than Dr. Toey (Joe’s mother), and, to an unorthodox extent, not necessarily on their relationship but the relationships of those around them for which they encounter, the fleeting bodies that had the potential to fit in each other’s impending parental roles yet at the least wind up making valuable marks in their journey getting their whether that be from the rejection turned nurturing of one-sided lovers or sick young, even old, patients. Doctors and parents 🤝.

There’s also a conjoined side-plot with a dentist who can sing and some monks that I doubt anyone will mind because it’s so pure and endearing. Watching natural and industrial complexes, religious and scientific remedies coexist and exchanged peacefully is just hella therapeutic too.

And that finale??? Consider me baffled in the best way possible. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s cinematography has only gotten more and more immersive and Fez by Neil & Iraiza is an absolute banger. The enigmatic symbolism has me blissfully stumped!

Verdict: B+

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ranked

“Syndromes and a Century” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

Quick-Thoughts: David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

Screened at The Roxie Theater

Lynch’s expositional rodeo but with say the first-person narrations and “bedtime legend” vibes he at least tries to play it off like an ancestral poem, which isn’t enough though for the glut of material its manipulating to not evolve into something that only becomes more and more exhausting by the scene. My complaint with Denis Villeneuve’s recent adaptation was already that the story rushed to its own detriment, but this? Especially the third act, the plot here is communicated via one serious jump-fest of ridiculously momentary story beats.

Though, not as terrible as I’ve heard many Lynch fans make it out to be, it’s still certainly teetering between mediocre and bad. Thankfully, the performances are *sometimes* fun to watch and it’s also *sometimes* fun to look at — should’ve gone in plastered!

There. I’ve finished the feature-lengths of David Lynch alas.

Verdict: C-

David Lynch Ranked

“Dune” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts, Again: David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986)

Screened at The Roxie Theater • 2nd Viewing

“Well, I’ve never really been hairy enough. You know what I mean? Always too boyish. Been looking forward to a hairy body. It’s one of those compensations of old age.”

AKA THE F*UCKBO*Y

One of the most tragic stories in horror cinema: a man giving into change, giving into a terrifying amount of supercilious behavior from his evolving physicality and mentality and then riding off that high even as it erodes, letting the old and new flesh dual to do the talking of his ego. The world wasn’t fair enough, the world became fair, the world became too fair — against that of its once scrawny subject — and then we wanted the unfair world back or nothing. Aging is a completely natural process met by a fist of completely natural suicidal repercussions. 

Highly recommend watching a Cronenberg in a packed theater too. Should’ve known better that people would be quite reactionary to this kind of stuff!

Verdict Change: B+ —> A-

David Cronenberg Ranked, The Greatest Horror Movies Ever

“The Fly” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (2004)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Marathon Part III of VI

“That’s static from my heart. It’s calling out to you… You’re hot and wild like a forest fire.”

Film by film “Joe” Apichatpong Weerasethakul sinks deeper into the roots of expressing reality through the mythic after a) letting his interviewees create it for him, and b) disguising the contrived with a physique that reads of pure anthropological sincerity, and now c) mingling them both with his own collection of folk lores and nature-orderly truism theories by literally dividing the two into the halves that make up Tropical Malady.

As frustrating as a movie this ambiguous has the potential to be, the end product ultimately circumvents such by means of the almost euphoric wonder it awakens from the commanding structure of its mutative storytelling. The prologue is the first dead giveaway that this is something on its way to being an arresting experience whether remotely comprehensible or not, presenting a perplexing scenario where an on-call flirtation between one of the soldiers and a lady occurs immediately after the discovery of a dead body for which the men mistreat as if it were their souvenir, then literally sucking us into the remainder of the world via a camera dolly and a dreamy alt track. In following, we are abruptly greeted by a naked, suspicious spirit roaming the same soil, and thus the film sets itself up with the subjects of each act: the front of romance and the hunt in it. 

The first half is essentially made up of a commercialistic portraiture of love, the usual dates and cuddling. The older lover seems to be embracive of who they are as probable partners and the other is obviously a newbie to this public expression of homosexuality, as if he’s still learning who he can be or, for that matter, really is; there’s a twinkle of coming of age to this, but the bottomline is their expression towards one another is shown to be intimate, complex, sometimes assertive and sometimes reassuring, even to points where they’ll gnaw at each other’s arms and hands in such a beautifully primal way that needs no explaining if you’ve ever too felt the urge for one-on-one embrace: “once I’ve devoured your soul, we are neither animal nor human.” 

The second half asks a lot from the viewer, to relocate entirely into fable, and a very docile one for that matter which lingers and lingers on a soldier being drained in the woods till he is mastered by its mysterious creature lurking about. There is no confirmation that this is a parallel of what we had just seen in the previous half, but it’s hard not to assume some connection between the two, thus opening the door for speculation. Is the legend of the shapeshifter an allegory for the savagery of its previous lovers, and the jungle-set headspace their exclusive source of ecstasy that they can bleed into (through familiar motions such as the “gnawing”) as part of their desire to bleed into each other? This hunt reads like an initiation for violence, and yet it feels as if it’s only coming from a place of love, but perhaps a greedy, predatory excursion of it.

Tropical Malady is certainly a hodgepodge of genres in these cases, and at that surprisingly seamless when it comes to stringing them together. It’s a one-of-a-kind movie that begs of you to look through and past everything on display in the language of your own imagination as its and maybe our own — is this the message? — reality. 

Verdict: A-

Apichatpong Weerasethakul Ranked

“Tropical Malady” is now available to stream on Kanopy.