Sunday, April 19, 2009

Funky Concoction - Film (first 3)

In an interview, writer William Peter Blatty stated that if done wrong, this film could turn into a laugh riot. I giggled when I saw this, because for many people I know, it did turn out to be a laugh riot. I mean a little girl screaming, "Your mother sucks cocks in hell" is always good for a laugh. And when the film was re-released in 2000, there were notable snickers in the audience. The audacity of the film - and its place in pop culture is just too much for many a viewer to overcome.

Though understanding these responses, I still find the film thrilling. Director William Friedkin executes a completely unapologetic approach to the material. It doesn't play down to its audience like most films in that genre. It is a true horror drama. It also highlights issues that fascinate me. Who are the priests in an ever growing atheistic culture? The doctors. The film looks at atheism and science as a religion that can't cope with the situation at hand. At the same time, it doesn't paint Catholicism as perfect. The exorcism fails, forcing a trade with the devil; one is left to wonder where power truly lies when the credits role.

All that aside, the movie taught me to go for it. When you see the top - go over it and see if it can work. My artistic endeavors have always been on that line between heightened drama and absurd histrionics. And one must only watch Regan masturbating with a crucifix, forcing her mother's head between her legs, spinning her head to face backwards and saying, "You know what she did? Your cunting daughter?" to see that the "top" was set pretty high for me. HA!

This was and escape for my 22 year old mother and her 4 year old son. We saw the film 17 times in the theatres in 1977 and 1978. I could not get enough. Like so many other young kids, it was the explosion of imagination. And its simple themes pulled from the fairy tales I already loved. It taught me that the definition of "win" is not always what it seems. I was horrified when Obi-Wan raised his saber and allowed Vader to kill him - but it shed light on how there's always a different that is truly noble.

What's very important to mention is that the first time I saw Star Wars, we entered the theater in the middle of the trash compactor scene. In 1977, you paid to go in and could sit through the reel as many times as you wanted provided there were enough seats. So we walked in right in the middle and I was immediately thrilled by this cliffhanger moment. There could not have been a better teacher of rising action and mini-climax. My heart was racing - and I loved it. Ironically, I now suffer from major anxiety issues - maybe it's the walls of a trash compactor about to squish me. In my work, I love that sort of rapid acceleration - and I also love epic notions of light and dark.

This comedy of the underdogs still makes me laugh. It combines truly hilarious performances with some sharp writing and a theme that anyone can relate to. Well...that I could relate to in 1980. Though not fully understanding my sexuality - I was not the typical boy by any means. And I found most men utterly distasteful - the way they treated women, the way they strutted about, they way they spoke in righteous cadences out their fat asses, all the while pretending to wear crowns - or in my region, Texas cowboy hats. I felt smarter than all of these idiots - and their sons who loved to make fun of me for not being athletic, for using my hands too much, for having a little sugar in my step. And I found ways to conquer them - through my academics and creative achievements. But what I really wanted to do was tie them up and make them look like the buffoons they were. So seeing Dabney Coleman's Franklin Hart in S&M Garage Opener Drag was very satisfying to the sissy in me. And I aligned myself with Lily Tomlin's Violet - strong but helpless in this world of dick swinging morons.

I find myself attracted to themes of the underdog - the disenfranchised - the abused - the forgotten. I also find my comedic taste to border on the silly and absurd. There's a moment when Franklin Hart comes into the office after everyone thinks he's dead and Violet has a sort of comic spasm which involves her trying to catch a piece of paper that has flown out of her hands. I love that stuff - silly and absurd mixed with sharp wit.

The next 3 coming soon...


Stephen said...

I surfed on to your blog a while ago & I am glad I did.. I like your posting today...good stuff.
I saw The Exorcist at a special screening, before the film opened,with a group of Jesuits- some who were in the movie.
It freaked me out!

Jeremy said...

I also revere The Exorcist. I love Burstyn and I never realized Sydow wsa actually much younger then and wore age makeup to appear elderly. You should look into Martyrs when it hits on the 28th. It's pretty much the only film that has harrowed me like The Exorcist in a while. But you can't hate me if it turns out to be too much for you. I'm sure it was similarly hard to recommend The Exorcist after its release.