Saturday, May 23, 2009

requiem for a dream . fight club . east palace west palace . the passion of joan of arc . 27 dresses

in a mildly sardonic piece in the mumbai mirror talking about the sudden growth of foreign language film possibilities in mumbai over the past year american art films are said to be about suburban malaise and dysfunctional families. ‘ requiem for a dream’ mines both (except that the malaise is not suburban but is instead is in a modernist housing project outside new york much like the one in ‘l’haine’) here the three teenagers are a white kid who plays the brain behind the maony making plot, his gorgeous and disenchanted girlfriend who ends up prostituting herself for her fix and their black friend who is the point man for the drug dealing. meanwhile in a lonely apartment building a mother is getting her fix of television and prozac. the film is part of the antiestablishment angry posturing about american life of the 1990’s in the wake of grunge. as far as cult cultural objects go it belongs to the same category as nirvana’s ‘smells like teen spirit’. really good- but the hype outstrips the work.

another commentary on the same issues is david fincher’s ‘fight club’ – edward norton grows a split personality to compensate for the emasculation of his masculinity by corporate america. so brad pitt is the penis- perfect casting. helena bonham carter plays goth token female character- but the film is really all homoerotic undercurrent that ends up being about lusting after oneself.

more power dynamics regarding gender and sexuality in ‘east palace west palace’ supposedly china’s first gay film.  a policeman arrests a man for cruising in the parks where gay men meet in beijing. as the interrogation proceeds the relationship between the interrogator and the prisoner become more and more complicated. towards the end of the film the power relationship inverts when the prisoner wears a dress. all very well but did it have to feel so artificial?

cross dressing and the dangers it poses to all concerned are also touched upon in the very silent and stark ‘passion of joan of arc’ whose men’s clothes are causing great consternation among her interrogators. after she confesses under duress she only goes back to christ after the last vestige of her female-ness- her anyway short hair is shorn away and she is then burnt at the stake unleashing revolt among the masses.

and after all this talk of clothes i had to watch ’27 dresses’ a film so mired in classic gender stereotypes it would make you ill if you took it more seriously. forever the bridesmaid, never the bride the heroine hordes the dresses of all the wedding she has attended as she plays the humble pretty slave of everyone in her life. she is saved by love and marriage- as every woman should be. 

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