Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Overcoming Dogphobia, Volume Two.

Four months ago, I posted about my quest to overcome dogphobia, a quest that I expected to be long and grueling, but ultimately worthwhile.

Instead, it's been roughly the equivalent of that comedy routine staple of the man running into the brick wall, only to find that it's made of paper, and passing right through it.

I'm loath to say my dogphobia's over, because I may well find myself in an unexpected situation where it emerges, but, well, as far as I can tell, it's over. I haven't had anything resembling a fear of a dog in months, despite running into them reasonably frequently in walking around town and the like. More than that: it's transmuted into not just tolerance but appreciation for and empathy with dogs, which I was neither particularly trying for nor expecting as a side effect.

That's the short version of what's happened. For those curious, a bit about the how.


As I've previously noted, I'm a deep believer in the current discoveries of neuroscience, which indicate that the brain is not a fixed system but constantly changing, and which can be rewired not just by drugs or electrolysis but through focused, repeated conscious thought. (A neuroscience maxim: "Neurons that fire together, wire together.") I believe we do this - or more pointedly, have it done to us - all the time, unconsciously. So why not take charge and do it yourself?

The method that I principally relied on stems from a technique called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). While I didn't discuss this issue with a therapist, it might have helped; nonetheless, I think you can attempt to apply the principles without doing so. Unlike traditional therapy, which is about dredging up your past ad infinitum (and, for those who have asked, I never did dredge up any particular trauma from my past that caused this), CBT is about identifying the thoughts that you have that trigger an emotional reaction, and then consciously supplanting them with a plausible alternative.

So to break it down:

The triggered thought was that a dog of a certain size would jump up, attack, knock me over, and rip my throat out whilst I was falling out of control. (Specific, I know, but when I probed into exactly WHAT I was afraid of happening, it kept coming back to that.)

The plausible alternative was NOT, as many have tried to get me to believe over the years, that all dogs are great, or that "there are no bad dogs, only bad owners". The former is eminently falsifiable with five seconds on Google, while the latter doesn't really change anything but my view on the fact that the dog that could be ripping out my throat might have had a bad owner, and is only helpful to the extent that I know the owner.

So the ACTUAL plausible alternative thought was this: "if a dog would be likely to attack me and rip its throat out, it would be sufficiently unsafe that it would probably be put down, so this dog in front of me is, more likely than not, not going to do that".

Which sounds verbose, and in actual practice it quickly became a subverbal thought that summarizes that - almost thinking "replacement, safe" as a synecdoche for the whole sentence as I physically calmed myself (which in turn initially developed as a corrective to my instinctual flight response - unexpectedly, it may have resulted in me finding dogs not just non-threatening but actually calming along the way). It's hard to explain, but, well, it worked.

A few things helped along the way. One friend suggested reading a book called INSIDE OF A DOG by Alexandra Horowitz about dog behaviour. Although it wasn't meant for me (the preface starts with a sentence along the lines of "So you've loved dogs all your life, and I bet you've wondered about their crazy idiosyncracies!" - um, wrong), it did give me a bit more insight into them, particularly the value of scent, and that their curiosity is borne of that. So now I offer my hand to dogs (in fist form, which I'm told is better), and they smell it.

Another thing was talking about dogs with other friends who, it turned out, had been attacked by dogs, in some cases viciously. Whilst it might seem counterintuitive, it put my phobia into perspective - these people had actually been through much worse, and overcome it successfully, so what I had to deal with was relatively minor.

The day that I recognized a turning point was meeting my friend Peter's dog, a dog I had feared to the point of avoidance. I remembered her being a reasonably large dog, aggressive, and, well, a dog to be feared.

Sofi was not a dog to be feared by any reasonable person. Sofi is a whippet blend who basically acts like a cat. Fifteen minutes after coming over, Sofi was curled up next to me on the couch. The only thing that keeps me from saying that Sofi is impossible to fear is the fact that I HAD feared her.

It's been a couple months since then. I've gone from crossing the road to avoid dogs to deliberately staying on the same side, not so that I can overcome my fear, but because I want to meet them. The other day, there was a reasonably sized, glorious dog owned by some people in front of me, and I tried to catch up, but they were too far, and I watched as they entered the park, let the dog off its leash, and it ran, a figure of beauty.

By coincidence, the dog and its owners wound up at my cafe. Turns out it's a Weimaraner. Of a size that, while not massive, could easily knock me over and rip out my throat if running at full tilt.

I want one. I've been looking at Weimaraner puppies on TradeMe.

I can't actually own a dog right now at this point in my life, for lots of reasons, but the fact that I'm doing this, at some level, makes me feel almost unrecognizable to myself.


Which is, to me, the most emboldening thing about this whole experiment. That I don't have a tedious crippling fear of dogs is nice. But if that's a part of me that I've carried for most of my conscious life as "me", and it's gone now, what else is contingent? What other personality characteristics and behaviours that I don't like about myself, or that give me problems, can I get rid of, cast by the wayside?

I'm not sure yet, but I look forward to finding out. And if you have anything in your life that you don't like and want to change, hopefully you can find some small gram of inspiration and motivation for positive action from this.


For further reading:

THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF, by Norman Doidge, is a good introduction to the frontiers of neuroplasticity, and first awoke the notion in me that if stroke victims could rewire their brain to walk again, that smaller-scale change should be much more easily achievable.

TEACH YOURSELF COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY, by Christine Wilding and Aileen Milne, is a book I haven't read in full, but is a great resource for anyone interested either in understanding CBT or putting it into practice in their life.

In my attempt to devour all the neuroscience reading in the library, I am currently reading TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO GET HAPPY, by Teresa Aubele, Stan Wenck, and Susan Reynolds. It's a self-helpy text that provides many of the current ideas of not just neuroplasticity but plasticity of the self in complete layman's terms, as well as providing bite-size summaries of CBT and other methods for changing unhealthy mental patterns.

Finally, I should note that I don't view CBT as a cure-all for all mental health issues, and certainly not the half-assed self-administered version that I did. In some cases, medication may well be appropriate; in others, a professional can provide the distance that you may be unable to provide yourself. But, from my experience, I do think its potential everyday value is underknown and underutilized.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on We Can Create

I'm not a graphic designer, by trade or even by skill, but when my flatmate won tickets to We Can Create, I thought I'd check it out, both as a window into a world I don't know much about and under the theory that creative people, regardless of their endeavor, can offer insights to other creative people about process and attitude. Plus it wasn't entirely non-filmy: Taika Waititi, director of BOY and EAGLE VS. SHARK, was speaking, and The Light Surgeons were performing a live VJing work called SuperEverything. So: why the hell not?

The seminar was absolutely worth it for the first two speakers alone. Sarah Maxey came out of the gate a bit goofy - my third note is "apparently (this presentation is going to be) nothing but bear jokes" - but once I clicked into her mode of presentation I found her both entertaining and inspiring. Her field of hand-drawn lettering fits into what she calls the "awkward space between art and design", but she doesn't limit herself to that - her project "World Animal" was about finding unexpected appearances of animal simlucra in the manmade world. Perhaps the most exciting was a joint project called "Sentimental Journey", where she and another lettering artist independently handled half of 20 two word phrases, which were then combined to sometimes incoherent and sometimes astonishing results. "Productive tension as result of inconsistent aesthetic", I noted. It also underlined one of her major points: "talent plays less of a role than persistence".

Creating first and analyzing second was a pivotal message of the morning, and one brought fully into perspective by the even more inspiring duo of Thomas and Martin Poschauko, twin Bavarian designers who showcased their thesis project NEA MACHINA. They limited themselves to two elements - a picture and the words NEA MACHINA - and, with that strict brief, created 10,000 artworks over four months, a thousand of which are showcased in their (currently German-language only) book. Their philosophy also extended to free flow between computer and handmade - so, after reaching a certain point manipulating an image in Illustrator, they'd realize it looked like yarn and built a simulation in yarn, then photographed themselves playing it. Or, radically simplifying the number of vectors in a hand drawing scanned into Photoshop until it looks like an expressionist woodcut, then making the woodcut. "Doing is a precondition of thinking", they stated at one point, and whilst much of their work didn't appeal to my personal aesthetic (and perhaps sometimes to theirs), it was clear that the result for them was one of expanding a toolkit, challenging one's selves, and refreshing their creative world view.

Neither "Sentimental Journey" nor NEA MACHINA were particularly economically-driven works, which left one wondering how applicable this was to day-to-day operations. NZ advertising agency Assembly, who described themselves as working at the boundary of art and science, came out after the lunch break with work deeply committed to creative challenges while fully embedded in a capitalist structure. Their advertisement for the NZ Herald involved printing the visual material they wanted to shoot (HUGE rolls that took multiple days to print in color), then putting it through a printing press (which has a tendency to take anything on it that's not as strong as unprinted paper and rip it to shreds), then photographing it (whilst not having anything resembling a registration system). Meanwhile, the V Motion Project (linked above) used XBox Kinects to create an interactive music system - my favorite hack in this was discovering that overlapping Kinects cancel each other out, so they attached a motor to one so that it would be permanently shaking slightly, thus obviating the cancellation. It was great to have such an in-depth look at the processes for these projects, even if they weren't particularly personally applicable.

Having said that, there was something deflating about the level of passion, dedication, and commitment going in to create something that was meant to sell energy drinks. (Note to self during presentation: "I saw the greatest minds of our generation working 70 hour weeks to increase share prices by 1/8th of a point.") Assembly spoke about their moral limits in the work that they'd take on forthrightly (no cigarette advertising, for instance), and intimated that they saw a future where they weren't doing advertising work, even if they were vague about the path: "it's like we're training for some other event; we don't know what it is yet".

This is getting remarkably unshort, so: Jonathan Barnbrook, graphic designer (most famous to many for his work on David Bowie's HEATHEN, with Damien Hirst, and Occupy London). After some prefatory remarks on the relative place of the artist and designer in societal perception, he launched into a career retrospective of his work, in both font design and more conventional graphic design. He was perhaps the most well-spoken presenter of the day, and the mixture of his work (focusing quite extensively on non-economically driven work, such as pictograms critical of the Olympics, which stood in effective dialectic to Assembly) was hugely impressive, as was his closing admonition that "the important thing is to be happy". (Also interesting: him drawing a line between himself and artists in that the work he did for the Olympics e.g. was free, whilst everything artists do is monetized.) I'd have liked a bit more process, but it was a full and worthwhile hour, so basically I'm probably just complaining that it wasn't longer.

A short break, and then followed perhaps the most colossal miscalculation of the day, or perhaps a strategic provocation. I won't link to Rockin' Jelly Bean for those of you innocuously reading at work who would be unexpectedly confronted by boobies shooting energy bolts, but: well, that's how we spent the next half hour and change, with the Japanese designer basically showing page after page of variations on huge-breasted women in various situations. Oh, there's one with a tail. There's one riding a fish. There's one who has an entrance to a circus between her legs. etc. I wasn't personally offended (tho many were - I was in the front row, but heard of walkouts later), but I did find it a rather odd inclusion to the day, especially when somebody whose work was so provocative was unwilling to speak much to its provocative contents other than "I like strong women, and this work celebrates women's bodies". (Anatomically impossible bodies that help reify an impossible ideal for women whilst monomanically positioning them as sex objects, no?) To add to the general discomfort (already high because of his positioning after Barnbrook's socially engaged work), he spoke in Japanese and had a female translator, whose role became exceptionally awkward during the Q&A when issues of sexism and portrayal of women's bodies came up. I'll give WCC this, though, it definitely added some great grist for the mill for conversations for the remainder of the day. There's a wonderful discussion to be had around the free expression of individual sexuality vs. the role of creators in controlling a mediasphere and the responsibility that in turn engenders in re: the depiction of female form, even if it didn't happen on stage.

Am I a horrible person for finding AdBusters equally problematic? Perhaps. I found myself taken aback to recognize an early image in their slideshow (shown above) as being from an old friend Lyza Danger Gardner. Whilst everyone else's work was either about creating something new or creative reappropriation and transformation, much of what AdBusters does is nick imagery in service of creating a narrative. I was more than somewhat appalled when Ellen, a graphic designer there, basically said she went through Tumblr, grabbed images they like, and had gotten in trouble because of using images without permission ... and then, when I thought this narrative would end "and now we're more considerate of using pictures of 17-year old girls that their friends might have posted on Tumblr without permission", instead ended by saying "we think it's easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission. To which I say: fuck that. There's plenty of images in the world, and no shortage of options. It's one thing to subvert a piece of art or corporate branding that's in the public space, and another to take somebody's image to use for your political narrative. And it's a narrative that they're advancing in disingenous ways: in introducing their new book about economics, their editor stated "it's about emotion, not facts". The slide that they used, whilst difficult to discern in complete detail seemed to underscore the point. The left side of the page had a graph that represented population growth as suddenly spiraling out of control, while the right side had a graph of gross domestic product (IIRC) that was growing at .2 slope or so. Only trick is, it appeared that the graph on the left spanned 2000 years, the graph on the right spanned 200. Don't get me wrong, I generally agree with these guys more often than not, I just wish I could support their mode of behaviour, one I suspect they would find repellent in an organization that they ethically opposed. I don't know if a Q&A would have engaged these more problematic issues; sadly, for time reasons it was axed.

If you've seen the above, you've basically seen Taika Waititi's talk. He dicked around for five minutes in some inexplicable combination of awkward comedy and flat-out awkwardness - to the point where people walked out - then finally got into it and provided the most laughs of the day. The main new material was hysterical examples of the drawings he's been doing for his Kickstarter rewards (famously delayed in delivery, as noted in the papers lately; "Never do a Kickstarter", advised Waititi), and some clips from his new vampire film shot in Wellington and co-written with Jemaine Clement. The presentation space wasn't very forgiving to the darkly-shot material, but it seemed like his signature mix of cleverness and stupidity, much less polished than BOY. He's self-funding the film and will own it at the end; I got the impression that BOY was a bruising process, and that this is a retreat to safer, more nurturing creative environment.

The Light Surgeons closed the day with their piece SuperEverything. I'm largely unfamiliar with VJ culture, but apparently they're big names in it, and having seen snippets of their work and being fond of split-screen composition I was quite curious to see how it played out. In theory, the two-screen depth-based setup - a scrim in front of the stage, the performers in the middle, and a second opaque screen in back - seemed appealing as a unique way to experience projected imagery that couldn't be simulated at home. In practice, I was a bit disappointed in both form and content. In terms of the former, there were moments of beauty, but overall the design of the piece felt overly cluttered; as if to make up for this clutter, the actual content was excessively didactic. I'd been bemoaning the inevitability of narrative in films like BARAKA and KOOYANISQATSI earlier in the day, where beautiful natural images are contrasted with highly deterministic factory images to create a pointed political message. If you like that, this will be up your alley, I guess. I'm still glad I experienced it, but I doubt I'd see them again, unless other projects have a radically different spin.

Overall, despite being generally less positive on speakers/performers as the day continued, I did enjoy the hell out of it, and even the criticisms of the presentations that I've brought up are, I think, equally important to challenging and developing one's ways of thought and practice. (Those criticisms should not be taken as criticisms of the event itself: my only criticism on that level - apart from not running on time and thus losing Adbusters Q&A - is that the sound seemed to be a recurring problem throughout the day.) Would I pay whatever the hell tickets cost next year? Maybe ... while I'm wary about falling into the trap of going to seminars to get inspiration instead of actually, you know, DOING THINGS, it's certainly given me a lot of inspiration.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make something.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Auckland Cinephile #1 (week of August 23rd)

Auckland Cinephile is a guide to the various arthouse and retrospective releases of the week that in our highly subjective opinion are worth mentioning. Listing doesn't guarantee a theatre will follow through with their plans, or I might have fucked up, so double check before going. For a full listing of screen times across Auckland, Flicks or the theatre website is probably your best bet. If you think we've forgotten something, please mention it in the comments. Suggestions for improved formatting also welcomed.


* NZ documentary HOW FAR IS HEAVEN was one of my highlights of the NZFF, and I'm glad to see this beautiful observational documentary about a small community is returning to local theatres.

How Far is Heaven Trailer from Deer Heart Films on Vimeo.

* Kenneth Lonergan's MARGARET, starring Anna Paquin and feted by many critics as one of the greatest US films of 2011, unexpectedly returns to Rialto for its third trip to theatres this year (after World Cinema Showcase and a May run at some other theatres). Screening in 35mm!

* Pang Ho-Cheung's VULGARIA, a cheap quick and filthy film about the perils of filmmaking, is the first film from NZFF's Incredibly Strange section to return for a theatrical run (at Event Queen St and St. Luke's). Other Asian films releasing this week: the Chinese STARRY STARRY NIGHT and LAN KWAI FONG 2.

* Academy Cinemas are hosting a mystery screening of an "ultra-out there black comedy involving splatter and irreverance (sic) at every turn blows the politically correct society apart, literally. Rated R18 contains violence and offensive language, this film will have its Australasian premiere at the Academy, Sunday the 26th of August at 7.30pm."

* And, rather unexpectedly, a lot of major critics have reasonably nice things to say about HOPE SPRINGS, despite it seeming like blue-rinse fodder and having a poster I can't bring myself to look at without cringing.

Continuing in release are a passel of NZFF '12 films, including:
* I WISH directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda (STILL WALKING, AFTER LIFE)
* SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS, the LCD Soundsystem concert film/documentary.


* Terrence Malick's second film, DAYS OF HEAVEN, returns to Academy Cinemas in HD for four screenings. They're also showing a Who double feature of THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT and QUADROPHENIA on Sunday at 3:15.

* This Monday's film at Auckland Film Society: VACATION, a 2007 German film directed by Thomas Arslan (35mm).

* Dave and Dan present LABYRINTH on Sunday at Britomart Country Club (Blu-Ray).

* Monterey Cinemas plays digitally MAX MANUS Friday at 6:30 and THE BIG SLEEP Sunday at 2:00.

* Berkeley Cinemas in Mission Bay plays THE WIZARD OF OZ Sunday at 6 pm.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Unfinished notes on the sadness of HOLY MOTORS

Arriving on a wave of hosannahs from Cannes (although no laurels - it left the Croissette prizeless), HOLY MOTORS was my most anticipated film of NZFF 2012. The word was that it was bugnuts, joyously insane. And I love joyously insane. I love Leos Carax, the director, who is responsible for my favorite live-action scene in cinema, Denis Lavant's run to David Bowie's "Modern Love" in MAUVAIS SANG. He's responsible for THE LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE as well, a glorious film that was ruinious financially and to his career: HOLY MOTORS is only his second feature in the 21 years since then. His previous feature, POLA X, I've only seen once: it lives faintly in my memory as an artistic challenge but spiritual slog, certainly nothing as uplifting as HOLY MOTORS seemed to be from a distance. I knew little going in, other than Denis Lavant featured prominently throughout playing different roles, and many of them were absurd, and all in all, it seemed like riotous fun. The remarks that I heard post-the first screening at NZFF (a Friday afternoon one I couldn't make) attempted to mitigate my expectation - "it doesn't add up to much, but it's lots of fun", was the common refrain.

Fast-forward to the end of the screening, and my immediate question was not "what the fuck did I just see" (a question most of the audience seemed to have), but this: why am I so sad?

And why the hell is nobody else reacting like this?

Maybe it's where my brain was. NZFF 2012 was a festival, as I've noted elsewhere, characterized by the transition from film to digital, DCP stepping in for film, works like SIDE BY SIDE (which I skipped watching but couldn't avoid hearing about) analyzing the trend, TABU sending a love letter to cinema's past, and TWO YEARS AT SEA waving goodbye to the physical medium of film altogether. HOLY MOTORS, not content with these challenges, took things a step further, and imagined a near-future world where the apparatus of cinema is vanishing completely. That it's often hilarious as fuck and relentlessly inventive is true, but it's often funny in the way Samuel Beckett is funny, maybe: in service of a bleaker truth.

I've only seen HOLY MOTORS once, and I'm bound to get some details wrong, but herewith, a spoiler-filled discussion of what I saw in this film. (Well, until I bailed. You'll see.)

SETUP: We meet an older man, alone, in his room. (This man, as it transpires, is the director Leos Carax.) Hidden away in his room is a secret door to a cinema. This is the only cinema we see in the film. Am I right in remembering the audience sleeping? Perhaps not. Regardless, it's disconnected from the world. Is this where the films that we see are going - to a hidden audience - or is this (more likely) the tomb of the cinema audience of the past? A black dog roams the audience - a guard dog, like you'd find at a deserted warehouse, perhaps? Or is there other symbolic freight here?

(Incidentally, Drew McWeeny's review, which is pretty insightful and great albeit seemingly unwilling to address the obsolesence of cinema as more than just a possible reading, reminds me that the film starts with early Meuybridge photography. It's the birth of film, and perhaps it's not unreasonable to read this opening as the dateline on a tombstone, showing the birth and death, before we get to the epitaph.)

MEET THE ACTOR: Somehow (the precise shot order eludes me) we get to a lovely house with sports cars that the actor, Denis Lavant, emerges from. We are led to believe that this is his home, and therefore he is well compensated for his work. (But is it? Bear in mind when we flash forward for the night he winds up in another home entirely, and as the movie progresses, it becomes clear that the boundary of the films is not as clear as the inside/outside of the limousine that appears to be the organizing principle.)

With only a limo driver as staff, seemingly, he prepares for his first job, and like many things in HOLY MOTORS, parallels should be made with that which is absent. He does not have a hair and makeup department. He does not have a director. He does not have a camera crew, and as he arrives on site in an old woman's costume, no crew whatsoever are apparent. For some reason, I think all the great films about filmmaking (DAY FOR NIGHT and 8 1/2 spring immediately to mind), and how they take as their principal text the nature of the filmmaking family: the group of people that must come together to make a film happen. With the exception of the singular indulgence of the driver, and one other forthcoming character, we never see any non-actors involved in making these films. (Again, as I recall. Correct me if I'm wrong on this or any point.)

PERFORMANCE #1: It's difficult to work out on a first viewing the entire schema for what Carax is trying to do with his choices of scenes, but I think that the sheer variety of textures and stories that he chooses are meant to reflect the cliches and limitations of cinema. Nonetheless, things must be ordered for a reason, and it seems like a thesis statement for the film that the actor's very first performance is of an elderly woman, alone, ignored on the street. Metaphor for film as it once was?

PERFORMANCE #2: there's clearly a dialectic intended between the first performance, reliant on makeup, and this, its total opposite: a performance in a green-screen. Actors enter one by one, exit without interacting with each other. This scene is of course an amazing demonstration of Lavant's physicality, but it's equally noteworthy photographically: in that the images captured of the performance of Lavant bounding about in motion capture are far more striking than the CGI results, not just in this film but virtually any film I can think of. This reaches its apex when a second performer, a contortionist, joins, and Lavant and her are joined in stunning physical twists and turns, whilst simultaneously transformed into laughable serpent gods having sex.

Again, humans (apart from a disembodied voice, which may or may not be human) are absent from the means of production.

PERFORMANCE #3: And the Godzilla music hits the screen, whilst we have allusions to LA BELLE ET LA BETE and KING KONG as the monster attacks. Here, I decided that Carax was exploring every genre and turning it inside out (a decision that later scenes, perhaps, made me equivocate). As this went on, I found this more and more a bleak, trenchant commentary on the limits of genre: by seeing something so outside our expectations within that genre, we were reminded just how entrenched the rules of each genre were, how ossified our expectations of cinema had become.

But that darkness would settle in later. There's no question this section is a glorious goof, and I think it's here that many viewers decide just to take this film as a comedy. (It's quite significant in this context, though, that the subsequent scene, of a cab driver picking up his daughter from a party, is almost mirth-free: a needed corrective.) But it's also the first place where the reality of what we're seeing starts to break down: when a fashion photographer's assistant's fingers are bitten off, there's no sense that it's fake. It's actually quite scary, as we still don't even know the ground rules at this point: is this an actor intruding into other's lives? We eventually learn of invisible cameras, but here is our first (and not last) sign of invisible special effects artists.

It's also quite a mean-spirited moment - the assistant isn't THAT terrible of a person, as I recall - and one where I perhaps in retrospect feel the anger overwhelming the silliness. And if I'm not wrong, it's somewhere in this section where if I recall correctly we first see the Pont-Neuf, the site of Carax's career Waterloo (I mean this in terms of his ability to get films made). Is there a connection here? Is there something to be made of the fact that, whilst the film being made has no real crew (and Carax, more than likely, has a crew a shadow of the size of his old crews), the insipid fashion photographer has a gigantic supplemental entourage?

… and this is the point where I would love to continue, but I'm reasonably confident that I can't do a great job without a second viewing (possibly even with one, but anyway), and this terrific piece captured more eloquently than I many similar points, and so, I intended to abandon it, or perhaps revisit on a second viewing. But upon (bizarrely enough) popular request, I do want to publish and finish this, in order to address the ending.

To contextualize broadly: the visible apparatus of filmmaking only consists of two visible elements in the end of the film: the white limousines and the people who travel in them. (The cameras have all been left in an abandoned building, the one Kylie fell from. [Which McWeeny points out is possibly a reference to Carax's wife, Katerina Golubeva, who committed suicide last year.] If I remember correctly, it's after this scene that the digital nightmare invades our actor's dreams.) After leaving the actor Alex in his last role for the night (with a chimpanzee, or perhaps monkey, family, I can't recall - endearingly goofy, but also deeply cynical in its address of the cinematic gesture of evoking an emotion of narrative completion, and perhaps a hint that the future of filmmaking doesn't even require other human participants?), the limousines return to their home at Holy Motors. The driver, Celine (played by Edith Scob), leaves the car, wearing the mask that she wore in EYES WITHOUT A FACE 50 years ago (simply an allusion to cinema history, like many others in the film? or an allusion to a further absence?), and disappearing away.

And then, quite unexpectedly, the limos talk to each other.

One person I spoke to afterwards said something to the extent of "I was with that film til the last scene, but Carax was just trolling us then, wasn't he?" Even people who love it see it, as near as I can tell, as a goofy fun digestif to a buffet of cinematic joy.

But beyond the superficial absurdity, in a film where there are no other humans left to talk about the filmmaking appartus with, these machines are noting that they, too, are about to become extinct, just like the cameramen and makeup artists before them. And in a world where cinema has been reduced to such a bare existence, if these limousines are removed, these holy motors, what is left to drive cinema forward?


Result: fin du cinema.

And maybe this is all too bleak and/or overdetermined of a reading. I get films wrong often, when what I expect collides with what I get (DRIVE and SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK being two films I completely misread on first viewings). And I don't mean to imply that I didn't laugh a lot and viscerally enjoy many scenes in HOLY MOTORS, because I did. But I can't reconcile the seemingly popular interpretation of this as a simply joyful, ecstatic, goofy, playful, fun film with the contents on screen, and I certainly don't see it (as some NZFF viewers did) as a funny goof with no organizing principle.

But with such a rich movie, I'm sure that it doesn't give up all its secrets with one viewing, and I can't wait to return.

Monday, August 13, 2012

NZIFF 2012: awards wrap-up.

The New Zealand International Film Festival, for the most part, doesn't give awards (with the exception, this year, of a curated section of New Zealand's best shorts, about which more shortly). So I thought I might give some. Because why not?

BEST OPENING TITLE CARD: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. (Although I'm counting the sound design as part of that.)

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE, TECHNOLOGY DIVISION: DCP. With the Civic Theatre upgraded to DCP, digital titles no longer have the "must-avoid" stigma that they did for me just a few short years ago, and the back to back screenings of MOONRISE KINGDOM on film and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS on DCP left many suspecting the latter may not just be equal but a superior format. (MOONRISE, being shot on 16mm, and seeming to have registration problems during projection, may not be a fair comparison, but anyway). Two of my three favorite "films" (an increasingly quaint word now that "film" is no longer part of their medium) were TABU and THE LONELIEST PLANET, both screened in this format. (TABU, in particular, looked luminescent.) So the good news is that, by and large, digital projection is under control during the festival. On the other hand, it's underlined the factor that the subpar digital projection which features at many local venues outside of the festival is really and truly no longer acceptable. (The author makes plans to see I WISH, which he missed at the festival, realizes it's playing at the Rialto Cinema Newmarket's e-cinema, and cancels such plans as he waits for the rest of Auckland to catch up with the film festival.)

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE, FILM DIVISION: TWO YEARS AT SEA. It shouldn't have been a total surprise, given its recommendation by film critic Michael Sicinski, but I wasn't expecting to be this profoundly affected, or that it would be in my top three films of the festival. On paper, it's a wisp of an idea, barely deserving of feature status - an almost speech-free portrait of a man living alone in the woods in hermitude. (I went in thinking it was a drama, and it sort of is, but it's based on a real guy who lives like this, closer to documentary in some ways but still dramatized.) What makes this film so special is that it was shot on short ends of black and white 16mm film stock that's no longer being made. Just as we get the sense of loss from our protagonist when he looks at pictures from his past, so too we feel the sense of loss as shots are abruptly truncated or damaged because of limitations of the source stock. The grain is monstrously, overwhelmingly alive - arguably, film grain is as much the subject here as our human character - and seeing a pristine DCP of FROM UP ON POPPY HILL the next day, I couldn't help but long for the life of film grain, now forever gone in a static, crisp DCP universe. The final shot of TWO YEARS AT SEA (which one of NZ's best film writers, the ever-perceptive Steve Garden, adroitly pointed out evoked THE TURIN HORSE) is a gorgeous long goodbye to that grain; it will be missed.

(As a quick aside: DCP can do a wonderful job of capturing film grain; for instance, I saw THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY at Fantastic Fest last year, and it looked gorgeous and astonishingly film-like. But other times, grain doesn't exist; still other times, it inexpertly pops in and out (such as in STUDENT). The application of grain in a post-film universe is something that will be interesting [to nerds like myself, anyway] to chart over the next few years. In the meantime, the alchemical life that film intrinsically brought to even the most static frame is gone by default. Perversely, my second most satisfying film experience, image-wise, was THE WALL - shot on Red Epic, it gets insane levels of detail normal 35mm stock wouldn't capture, and amazing definition in low-light conditions. But projected on 35mm print (for whatever reason), it managed to combine the sharpness of the digital with the softness of film for something altogether transcendent, beautiful, and undoubtedly transient. Three years from now, it's hard to imagine any film following that workflow.)

BEST CHARACTER: the lifeguard, IN ANOTHER COUNTRY. Festival perennial Hong Sang-Soo presented his most accessible film in ages, not just because of Isabelle Huppert's appearance but because of its uncharacteristically clear structural conceit. Overall, it didn't strike me as one of his strongest works. However, no character in any other film made me smile like the not-particularly bright, easily love struck lifeguard (played by Yu Jun-Sang). In a film where everybody has their secret purposes hidden, his guilelessness was not just winning but transcendent.

BEST DOG: Lynx, THE WALL. Both the regular readers of this blog know that I have a complicated (at best) relationship with dogs. If I had known going into THE WALL that despite its clever conceptual sci-fi premise (a woman is separated from the rest of society by an invisible wall), at heart it was really about the friendship between a woman and a dog, I might have skipped it. Thankfully, I didn't know that. But after spending an hour and a half with Lynx, I wanted him as my own. I mean seriously: if you had to be cut off from the rest of the world, why not choose this furry dude as your companion?

BEST ACTOR: Denis Lavant, HOLY MOTORS. He only deserves all the awards ever.

MOST INDELIBLE MOMENT, ONSCREEN: When I say it's from HOLY MOTORS, I think those who saw it might think of any number of moments - from the opening, to the Eva Mendes scene, to the green-screen, to the accordion, to the ending … the list goes on and on. But it's a peculiar moment that I've seen nobody else comment on that's stuck with me. Driving late at night, we cut outside the limo, and as the trees pass by, the image starts degrading. Just as I looked back unconsciously to see if the projector was somehow freaking out (like I could even tell from my seat?), our protagonist wakes up, and the nightmare is clear. It's a short sharp sad moment that's a skeleton key for the whole film, which is, beyond the silliness at its surface, a deeply mournful statement about all the losses we face at the end of this era of cinema. Godard's WEEKEND may be the film that ends with a title card "FIN DU CINEMA", but this film deserved it more.

MOST INDELIBLE MOMENT, OFFSCREEN: Festival director Bill Gosden calling the Civic "fucking awesome" during his closing night speech. It's an amazing place to see movies, and it's sad that 50 weeks of the year we're denied the pleasure, but it makes the festival all the more special.

MOST ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENT: I bailed on the short film programs a couple years back because they were virtually all coming of age stories, a genre that as a rule I don't value very much. When a friend's film* made the finals of New Zealand's best shorts, however, I had to attend, and was pleased to discover that five of the six shorts were not coming of age stories in any meaningful sense. Does this mean that we've finally got stories to tell in this country in short films that aren't about twelve year olds gazing dolefully into the distance as adults do bad things?

LEAST ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENT: The coming of age short won both jury and audience awards. (Insert covering one's ass statement here about how it's a well made film, no offense intended to the filmmaker, it's not his fault I never want to see a coming of age film again, etc.)

MOST DIVISIVE FILM: KILLER JOE. I loved it, personally. Yes, the third act (violent/sexual act everyone's discussing without regards to spoilers but me) is a hell of a slap in the face, but I've come to terms with it as a necessary violation of the audience relationship that we've had up to that point with the character who commits it in order to reset our moral compass. But man, people HATED this film with a passion that I haven't seen since … well, since SLEEPING BEAUTY last year.

MOST AFFECTING FILM: COMPLIANCE. The last film I saw at the festival. I won't tell you anything about it if you don't already know the story; suffice it to say that it's based on a true story which seems too outlandish to be believable, and too infuriatingly sad and horrible to want to believe. The astonishing performances (particularly Ann Dowd, the credulous manager) go miles towards making this film work; while I'm not convinced by every aesthetic decision, its sum impact was so great that merely watching the trailer a few hours after seeing the film left me shaking with anger, tears streaming, after only 30 seconds.

MOST CRUSHING DISAPPOINTMENT (BUT ONLY BECAUSE I'M AN IDIOT): HIMIZU. Should I have known that the casually transgressive Sion Sono (COLD FISH, LOVE EXPOSURE) might not have been the man to count on for integrating real life disaster footage from Fukushima with subtlety and tact? Yes. I should have known that. A mess of a film that became distasteful. (Runners up: BEYOND THE HILLS, IN THE FOG.)

BEST Q&A: David Bruckner, V/H/S. After defending KILLER JOE, I found myself struggling with this omnibus horror film, which comes out of the gate with some casual attacking of women on the street (stripping their tops to expose their breasts whilst being filmed for a porn site) segueing almost directly into the first segment about a guy getting glasses with spy-camera installed so that their voyeur porn dreams can come to life. Since it's a horror anthology, it's not a spoiler to say it doesn't end well, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. However, hearing David Bruckner (who directed this first segment) speak made it a lot clearer what he was getting at and retrospectively increased my appreciation of the sexual politics of his work. That aside, he's a fucking smart and thoughtful guy, I'm grateful to Ant Timpson for bringing him down, and I hope he gets to make a feature soon. And I hope his next trip to New Zealand doesn't feature a question which begins with a certain someone reading Ray Bradbury's definition of horror yet again.

(I should note: in sum, I don't find V/H/S particularly offensive - and certainly not enough to get worked up over - but I think I'm the only person in NZ who had any qualms with the sexual politics of V/H/S whatsoever. Conversely, my Australian Twitter friends have largely loved KILLER JOE but found V/H/S epicly offensive. What that says about cultural relativism, I have no idea.)

WORST AUDIENCE MEMBER: The dude who got up every few minutes during THE WALL to wander around the cinema. Runners up include the woman who refused to turn off her phone despite my request during IN ANOTHER COUNTRY and the pair who ate an entire Renkon meal, then left halfway through STUDENT. In general, popular wisdom to the contrary, I don't think audiences were much better this year; I just did a better job not letting them get to me.

BEST DIRECTORIAL REINVENTION: Ursula Meier (SISTER). Meier's last film, HOME, was a masterpiece of deadpan existential surrealism, about a family who lives next to an abandoned freeway whose life becomes a game of Frogger once the freeway re-opens. (Cheers to critic Mike D'Angelo for the Frogger analogy.) SISTER trades in the surrealism entirely for a story more akin to the Dardennes (albeit a version that uses a tripod and doesn't follow the back of people's heads for ten minutes) about a boy who steals ski gear to make a living and his sister who he lives with. For the first half I was, truthfully, so homesick for the voice that we'd lost that I was having trouble adjusting. But Meier's direction is so assured (thanks in part to all-time great cinematographer Agnes Godard's work) that ultimately I was won over, and the precision in the ending deserves comparisons to THE SON: it's one of the most perfect endings I saw at this festival.

MOST JEALOUSY-INDUCING FILM: SOUND OF MY VOICE. This wasn't the best film I saw at the NZFF: it's either at the bottom of my top ten or just under. But as somebody who's just directed a first feature on a low budget, to see a first feature made with a similar economy of means and no-budget fantastical concept but such compelling narrative and stunning precision editorially was by turns inspiring and depressing. This should be required viewing for every first time low-budget filmmaker that aspires to reach a mass audience.

SEXIEST MOMENT: rope dance, CRAZY HORSE. I could go on at length about my issues with this film formally and in the context of Wiseman's work - and spent a great deal of the running time doing just that in my head - but then this scene happened. (With eleven or so burlesque scenes shown, and human sexuality being what it is, everyone will have different preferences; it's worth noting, however, that the most uniformly admired scene is not a proper performance at all, but an open casting/cattle-call tryout. THAT scene, regardless of one's personal tastes, is truly great filmmaking.)

BEST SONG: "This Must Be The Place", as performed by David Byrne in THIS MUST BE THE PLACE. Despite some qualms about the end, I loved this strange, unlikely film by Paolo Sorrentino. Others did not. But this performance is a wonderful, special, mysterious thing, in a film that seems largely to exist in order to contain strange and unlikely moments.

There's other great films that I didn't talk about (or talk about enough, like TABU and THE LONELIEST PLANET) here, but I have to save something for the next installment of Best Worst Podcast … coming when I can get through speaking a paragraph of thoughts without coughing up a lung.

*The film in question is Thomas Gleeson's HOME, and it's fucking excellent, and also pleasing to see a non-narrative film so well recognized (it won the Friends of the Civic prize). I'm a bit disappointed in myself that I can't discuss NZ films more extensively, but I only saw apart from this program the excellent HOW FAR IS HEAVEN, a beautiful observational documentary that will be returning soon. Of the many local films that I missed, I heard particularly wonderful things about THE RED HOUSE, and am quite disappointed to have missed it. Of course, I also missed Haneke's AMOUR, Kore-Eda's I WISH, Linklater's BERNIE, etc ad nauseum. The festival is, as always, a firehose of riches, and you drink in what you can.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Overcoming Dogphobia, Volume One.

Of the various deviations from mental normalcy that I have - whatever that is - one of the more tedious and socially debilitating is an acute fear of dogs. I don't know where this fear started, though I expect that stories about pit bulls killing people hitting the papers around the time CUJO was on repeat play on cable had a big part to play.

I should clarify: I don't fear all dogs. If it's small enough that I could keep its mouth closed with one hand, I'm fine. It's when they're big enough that they might suddenly, unexpectedly lunge at your throat and tear it out (which is typically what I imagine happening) that problems arise. I have met big dogs that I come to trust (like a friend's old arthitic German shepherd - catlike in disposition, could barely walk) but they are few and far between. Most are the enemy.

So I cross the street when I see a big dog, even if they're on a leash. I take alternate entrances into supermarkets if there's a dog tied up in front of one of them. I avoid visiting friends who have large dogs. I freak out when people bring their dogs to work.

Of late, I've had a spate of experiences where I've had to confront this fear, above and beyond the average. I had a brief relationship with a woman who was crazy about dogs, and would sing their praises, and show me pictures of "cute" (gigantic, huge, fucking scary) dogs. I had a co-worker habitually bring his dog (a dog I, and nobody else, found quite threatening) to work. I went to a recording session, and a dog was there. I came home about two months ago to a visiting large dog in our living room (note: when I say "large", I generally refer to any dog who can gnaw my testicles off whilst remaining on all fours), and immediately had to flee the house (not the room, but the house) for the remainder of the night. That hasn't been a problem for the last six weeks, because I've been living in Dunedin, but I passed up an accommodation in town for a farther, less convenient one because the close-in had a dog. Somehow, nobody managed to mention that the farther afield one had not one but two dogs on the property - bulldogs, at that. Thankfully, I could avoid them most of the time, and did. But it was stressful, and a pain in the ass, and embarrassing.

For these and other reasons, I've decided that this is a fear I need to conquer. There's social inconveniences, of course, but also, the effects of stress. Without boring you too deeply with health shit that depending on your world view sounds more or less scary than it is, I've had some indications of elevated liver enzymes of late, which are correlated not just with alcohol use and other dietary stressors (refined carbohydraftes, like white flour and sugar, are big ones) but with stress itself. The stress response I have when there's a big dog near me - which is almost every day, one way or another - is putting unnecessary stress on my body, and while I won't pretend that all of my health problems are dog-related, every little bit helps.

Can I change? I hope so. I have to believe so. I've spent a lot of time reading neuroscience lately, and while I wouldn't class myself anything more than a blowhard overconfident amateur in the field, it is clear that the brain can and does rewire itself into adulthood. Becoming aware of core, underlying beliefs, then replacing them with realistic but saner beliefs, is a process that can hopefully get rid of my dogphobia. And this is a phobia that might be quite ripe for this sort of attack, because unlike a lot of fears that people have, this isn't rooted in self-image, but exclusively in the perception of how an animal might behave. (I certainly don't think that dogs are going to attack me because I'm a bad person. [Should I?])

Of course, the main thing that supports a new belief is experience. So I'm going through what a friend calls "dog training". Which is the process of finding low stress ways of having interactions with dogs that end with my throat intact, undermining old beliefs and reifying new ones. Apart from hanging out with friends with dogs, I find that photographing dogs that are safely tied up outside stores or what have you is a good distancing tool. If I'm thinking of the frame and hoping the dog stays still at the right angle long enough for a good picture, I'm not thinking that I need to run.

More than one of my friends has suggested that, perhaps, this is all a bit unnecessary. "You don't like dogs; that's who you are", goes the argument. And in many ways, it would be easier to just leave it at that then spend the next few years (so goes my understanding of how long it's likely to take) going through this. In the short term, it would probably be less stressful: I spent 5 minutes Saturday with a 38 kg puppy and could feel the adrenalin shaking through me more than an hour later.

But, ultimately: I need to know that I can change. Because, at the risk of expanding well outside the scope of the "dogs are/aren't scary/dangerous" question, no small part of me places what hope I do have for the world in the belief that we can overcome our limiting beliefs, not through prayer, not through "being true to yourself", not through the motherfucking Secret, but by hard, focused work.

And so: this is where I put my money where my mouth is.

I'll update in six months or so, unless anything particularly interesting happens in the interim. In the meantime, if you have any tips for overcoming dogphobia, feel free to share.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

NZFF 2012: Some Films I'd Like To See. (You might, too.)

Truth in advertising: I briefly contemplated skipping this year's festival. Last time was an all-time low for me, not in terms of the movies (sterling selection, as always), but in terms of the insufferable audience. My worst memories are a three-way tie between the person who took a call during the opening to ANTON CHEKHOV'S THE DUEL, the fellow behind who began ridiculing ELENA during its opening shot, and the combination of the three sets of seniors around me who talked through NOSFERATU and the entire audience, who seemed under the illusion that it was a comedy. (Special mention to the woman who packed a three-course lunch in crinkly plastic bags to eat during THE TURIN HORSE.) 

I ended the festival broken, worn-out, and above all, dispirited, not even using my final ticket to PINA. And recent trips to the cinema (and, for that matter, the theatre) have left me convinced that audience behaviour is on a permanent downward spiral, one that can be stemmed with the use of tasers. Sadly, that's illegal.

But: the siren call every year is irresistible. There are two social rituals that bind me together with my filmgoing friends every year, the 24 Hour Movie Marathon and this. Whilst the former is a self-selected subset going through a sprint, the latter is like a sprawling 2-week plus family reunion, friends I haven't seen since last year bumping up against close friends as we compare notes, share enthusiasm, and generally celebrate a bounty of riches. 

And it is, as always, a bounty of riches. There's no event that even comes close in NZFF to catching the breadth, depth, and scope of film titles, with something for all tastes. While this can lead to an expensive proposition and/or scheduling trainwreck for those of us like me with sprawling tastes, it's also testament to the fantastic job that they do. Some fests claim there's something for everybody; the NZFF is the real deal. And, as long as I care about seeing film in cinemas, it is the very definition of a can't-miss event. 

So I'll practice my meditation and deep breathing exercises, get aisle seats so I can escape talkers who are infuriating me, and go, once more, into the breach.

The biggest problem is: what to see?

Herewith, 10 films, maybe my most recommended, maybe just the ones I had something to say about, intermittently supplemented with relevant quotes from the program. I'll see them all, along with many others. 


This is the only new-release film that I've seen in this year's festival (and, before you ask, I saw it legally - last year at Fantastic Fest - FUCK downloading films before they've had a chance to screen in New Zealand in my opinion, about which more shortly). I will nonetheless be using valuable fest time/money to see it again. Why? Because I love to laugh. I expect two things of a good comedy: that you laugh hard, and you laugh often. These are surprisingly challenging criteria to fill, but KLOWN delivered both in spades. (Offensive spades.) One could discuss how it's a crisis of masculinity for its two leads as they flounder through continual embarrassments, or discuss the integration of real Danish celebrities a la CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Jorgen Leth is here, for fans of THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS, as well as actress Iben Hjejle of HIGH FIDELITY and THE BOSS OF IT ALL fame, amongst a coterie of unfamiliar-to-me Danish faces). But that would distract from the main message: KLOWN is a non-stop riot, and the few times it seems to be veering into a heartwarming betrayal of its core principles, rest assured that's only so it can get maximum effect from the follow-up comedic sucker punch. 


Everyone knows what this is, I think. (Joss Whedon-scripted deconstructionist horror film, critically lauded, etc.) But the other thing this has turned into, weirdly, is a cause. Unexpectedly doomed for home video after mediocre stateside performance, genre fans (including myself) loudly rebelled on the social medias. Thanks in part to said outrage (perhaps? - the inner workings are unknown to me), we now have a Civic screening. Distributors believe that horror movies don't have the support of a theatrical audience in NZ, and that genre fans are more likely to illegally download horror films than leave the house and watch them. This is our chance to prove this theory wrong. I for one love watching a great horror film with an appreciative audience, and if this one doesn't get the turnout, we may not get many more chances. So show the fuck up, or if you illegally downloaded it (as some bragged they would do when it seemed destined to avoid theatres), at least buy a bloody ticket to cast your vote for more horror on the big screen. Or don't complain and act surprised when you don't get it. 


Whee! Off the soapbox. I could list films from the Incredibly Strange section for this entire list (as both 1 and 2 are), but want to share the love. SLEEPLESS NIGHT, though, could quite possibly have been programmed in that section - it was one of the hits at Fantastic Fest ("DIE HARD in a nightclub", goes the pitch) last year. Nonstop action from the French that's gotten love from genre fans and cinephiles alike, and for me an action film is always a welcome treat at the NZFF, since it's usually going to be good, and a break from other, more demanding fare. 


And speaking of demanding fare. Michael Haneke is one of my favorite filmmakers, a spare, arguably sadistic Austrian whose last turn on the Civic screen that I saw (with 2004's HIDDEN - I missed FUNNY GAMES USA) had 2000 people flinching in unison at a key scene, and bitter arguments breaking out upon its conclusion. One might be led to assume the title of his new film implied a sick joke a la Todd Solondz's HAPPINESS, but no, it is a story of love - albeit involving an elderly couple, with the inevitable breakdowns and failures of the body implied therein. Why I seek out films that I know will be emotionally devastating, I have no idea, but if you suffer from the same ailment, here you go. 


This should probably be my #1, as it's easily my most anticipated film. Leos Carax directed my favorite live action scene of all time in his film MAUVAIS SANG, as a young Denis Lavant runs down the street whilst David Bowie's "Modern Love" plays. To say that description does not do it justice is an understatement. Anyway, Carax has been away for far too long (apart from a section in TOKYO!, which I've somehow missed) and has returned to work with Denis Lavant (who is, if nothing else, the best physical actor I know - see not just MAUVAIS SANG but the heartbreaking end of BEAU TRAVAIL) to make by what all accounts is a gleefully out-of-control ode to the possibilities of cinema. If you're not convinced, watch the trailer, which I hear is convincing people they have to see it. As for me, I refuse to watch a frame in advance. I love for films to astonish me, and no film has a better chance to do so than this one. 


There are several acclaimed films from the Berlin Film Festival I'm excited to see (most notably BARBARA and SISTER), but TABU is the one that's garnered the most love and for which I'm most excited. A throwback to the days of 50s cinema, this glowing black and white film evokes such phrases as "swoon", "rapture", "guileless", and "cinematic playfulness" from those who've seen it. It sounds like a film to get lost in, and I love those. 


Sometimes, the films I'm most eager to encourage others to see are the ones I can speak least coherently about. Such is the case with THE LONELIEST PLANET, which has met with such a groundswell of admiration from everybody that I know who's seen it that I expect it will be the word of mouth hit of the festival. The problem, such as it is, is that apparently much of its impact derives from an inciting incident which no one will discuss - namely, whatever it is that happens whilst the couple we're following and the guide they're with are on a backpacking trip. What I do know is that Julia Loktev more than ably proved herself as a filmmaker to watch with DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT, her previous film, an intense and rigourous portrait of a suicide bomber preparing to detonate herself in New York City. I doubt this will get a return visit, so see this one now or regret it later. 


Ah, "slow cinema". I can pretty much evenly distribute my festival friends on a spectrum from "despise the very concept" to "plan their festival around this section". As for me, some of my favorite NZFF films ever have been slow cinema (THE TURIN HORSE and AITA from last year), while conversely, HONOUR OF THE KNIGHTS remains my only festival walkout*. Anyway, I'd love to see everything in this section to give it a go, knowing full well that I'll love some and hate others, but realities being what they are, I'm focusing on getting along to this Kazakh film, "a retelling of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT without the policeman", which has quietly been gaining a coterie of ardent admirers that I trust. 


I like to get along to a couple dramas each year that I know next-to-nothing about, on very simple grounds: the less heralded something is, the more likely it's been chosen not because it will get viewers along, but because it's special. (Previous films to prove this principle include LONGING, 12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST, and the aforementioned AITA.) I hadn't heard word one about THE WALL, a drama about "a woman suddenly and mysteriously separated from the rest of humanity by an invisible wall", the sort of magical realist premise for which I'm a sucker. Apparently most of the action takes place alone in an Austrian alpine landscape. I can already tell 90% of you have moved on; see the other 10% of you there. 


In some ways, I wish the New Zealand local section of the film festival ran as a separate festival. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to prioritize international films, and thus often miss out on local films due to screening conflicts, lack of funds, et cetera. I'm sure (as with most years) I'll miss many great local films this year, but I won't be missing HOW FAR IS HEAVEN, in part because co-director (along with Miriam Smith) Christopher Pryor is a Facebook friend (met him a few times, lovely guy, haven't seen him for years, doubt he'd recognize me) but largely because he's proven himself to be a terrific cinematographer in his work on Florian Habicht's films, and by all accounts his depiction of a convent on the Whanganui River which may be well past its useful life is visually ravishing. 

A baker's dozen runner-ups for this list, briefly:

* Bad boy Japanese director Sion Sono (of LOVE EXPOSURE and COLD FISH) fame is back with HIMIZU, a teen-rage drama set in the aftermath of the tsunami ... 
* Paolo Sorrentino, director of this year's Auckland Film Society smash (and one of my favorite films of all time) THE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE, returns with THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, featuring Sean Penn as a Robert Smith-styled Nazi hunter, destined to either be the masterpiece or disasterpiece of the festival, but guaranteed to be an experience ...
* Festival mainstay and personal favorite, Korea's Hong Sang Soo, teams up with actress Isabelle Huppert for another film with a repetitive structure focusing on the foibles of drunken romantic longing, this one being called IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, sure once again to be a favorite of mine and nobody else ... 
* NEIGHBOURING SOUNDS has won many accolades since Rotterdam, particularly from those addicted to form over story in cinema (like myself) ... 
* Fresh to the fest circuit is VULGARIA, a new comedy from Hong Kong troublemaker Pang Ho-Cheung (whose DREAM HOME was a hit of the fest for me in 2010) that we've been promised is "deliriously offensive" ...
* GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING does what it says on the box, and since he's my favorite painter, that's plenty - that it does it well, by all accounts, is a bonus that may lure in those on the fence ... 
* BUG was a late-period high water mark of insanity from William Friedkin, and he's re-teaming with writer Tracy Letts for KILLER JOE, which promises to be one of the sleaziest good/bad times at this year's festival ... 
* ROOM 237 is an accounting of conspiracy theories involving THE SHINING (which itself is also screening) and sounds like an involving trip down the spider-web of insanity ... 
* SIGHTSEERS brings back Ben Wheatley, who threw a mind grenade into last year's festival with KILL LIST, and now takes his patented improv/genre hybrid style into NATURAL BORN KILLERS territory, the result having received raves and laughs at Cannes ...
* FROM UP ON POPPY HILL promises a gentle bucolic outing into 1960's Tokyo from the folks at Studio Ghibli, whose hand-drawn style is increasingly a distinctly retro, rare pleasure ... 
* V/H/S brings back Ti West (whose THE INNKEEPERS was a fest highlight last year) with several other directors in this horror anthology that creeped the hell out of Sundance audiences ...
* MOONRISE KINGDOM is the new Wes Anderson film, is by most accounts one of his best if not his best, what else do you need to know? ...
* ... and CRAZY HORSE isn't just an excuse to look at strippers for 2 hours, being yet another documentary from our greatest living practitioner of verite filmmaking, Frederick Wiseman, whose BOXING GYM was a quiet highlight of last year's fest for me. (But it does win for most perplexingly sexy still in the program.)

And, finally, five films I feel no particular draw to, but have been recommended to me loudly on Twitter, so may wind up seeing: BORN TO STAY, MONSEIUR LAZHAR, CAESAR MUST DIE, OUR CHILDREN, and SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN.

So: what am I missing? And did I convince you to see anything, or is this an exercise in self-indulgence? *Edited to note: actually, this isn't true. I walked out of THE WOMAN as well. Also modified the above to remove the erroneous assertation that Pang Ho-Cheung directed REVENGE: A LOVE STORY; instead, it was merely from the same production company as DREAM HOME.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Best Worst Podcast Episode 8: World Cinema Showcase 2012 Edition

This episode we are joined by guest podster Hugh Lilly (@insequential) and as a triumvirate go – totally uncut – into anticipatory World Cinema Showcase (WCS) seizures. We discuss the 14 films we've already seen (via preview screenings/screeners plus in other festivals or countries) then wander through the films in the programme we're still dying to see before rounding off with comments on a few films in cinemas now (or very soon) that are worthy of a wider audience than they may achieve.

Add scotch to taste and enjoy.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Best Worst Podcast Episode 6: Top Fives & Tarkovsky-to-Christiano

Doug & Jacob unleash their unfashionably late ‘top five cinematic experiences of 2011’ lists upon you, the unsuspecting listenership, and engage in discussion upon the spiritual themes of two cinematic greats: Andrei Tarkovsky and Rich Christiano! We know. And if you don’t, by the far away end of this episode you certainly will.

Add scotch to taste and enjoy.


(Note that I am deeply, deeply embarrassed about ... well, many things in this podcast, but mostly mixing up Jafar Panahi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Auckland Film Society 2012 Schedule Out (and looking great)

So a few great things to note about this year's Auckland Film Society schedule.

1. They're playing one of my top ten films of all time - OF ALL TIME! - Nicolas Roeg's experimental masterpiece, WALKABOUT.

2. One of my favorite cinema screenings was seeing the little-known but fantastic CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE for the first time a few years back. I actually had to turn to my companion during the middle of the first shot (linked below) and say "I already love this film". It doesn't work quite the same in miniature, but on the big screen it's electric. The rest of the film is substantially more dynamic, but equally engrossing. And it is back, and if I only see one film at film society this year, it's this one.

3. Several films with great reps that I've never seen before are playing, from such directors as Max Ophuls (LE PLAISIR), Jean-Pierre Melville (LA SILENCE DE LA MER), Jacques Becker (CASQUE D'OR), Michael Curtiz (MILDRED PIERCE), F.W. Murnau (TABU), De Sica (THE GARDEN OF THE FITZI-CONTINIS), and - possibly most exciting to me - R.W. Fassbinder's WORLD ON A WIRE.

4. Three pieces of New German Cinema - one of the more exciting film movements around are playing. I'm unfamiliar with AFTERNOON and VACATION, but JERICHOW is a sturdy, clinical piece of filmmaking that's also underseen. The trailer is spoileriffic; below instead is an unsubtitled scene that should nonetheless give you a sense of the slow-burn vibe and the precise compositional eye.

5. A decent number of the films are showing on 35mm. A few years ago, I was angry - petulant, really - when digital projection was introduced to the AFS, and took a break from it. Now, I'm grateful that we're getting to see so many films on 35mm - all of the above except WORLD ON A WIRE, plus such gems as THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, LA STRADA, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, and the relatively obscure - but fantastic - WAKE IN FRIGHT (released as OUTBACK).

6. As for the digital offerings, while I'd prefer seeing a film print of ASHES OF TIME REDUX, I'll still give the projected Blu-Ray a shot, and when it comes to documentaries like RACHEL and PLUG AND PRAY, I'm guessing the source material was digital anyway. The latter, in particular, hits an area that I'm fascinated with (artificial intelligence and the potential for post-humanity once AI parallels human abilities).

7. It's back at the Rialto this year, which means easier parking than downtown.

8. Okay, I'm going to double around to 5. one more time. It's likely that the major distributors of film in New Zealand will all phase out 35mm this year, as they are doing worldwide. It's a medium with many faults and foibles, but it's what I fell in love with when I got into film, and what I will miss when it's gone, and the chance to see 35mm is quickly moving from something you can take for granted to something that is rare and precious. Seeing these movies at home - ESPECIALLY, especially, THE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE (which has no NZ DVD or Blu release, although you can import the UK DVD) - is not the same. Honesty in reporting: I've left film society slip through the cracks the past few years. I'm determined not to make that mistake this year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Hey guyz, thee OSCARS are tomoro! (Today if u r AmeriCANT!) They ar vere importent in the filmy world and all serious blogz gotta have their pix! (I even got the memoe LOLZ)

HERE are my choices, which are 1000% guaranteed to be unbased ... unbiazed ... nuetral! I mean ... becuase I live in Noo Zeeland where non uf da movees r released yet! MayB I hav 2 go 2 MegaUpload 2 get them! MEGALOLZ (BECAUSE THEY'RE BUSTED AND THAT GUY IS FAT!!!!!)

N E way ...





No1 cares abowt ne othr of the Oscars!!!!! GO OSCARS!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Four Letter Word

Yesterday, Drew McWeeny wrote a strong, provocative article about rape in cinema. It's not a call for censorship, just a personal statement of what he is no longer interested in watching, but in terms of his observations on the larger picture, the money quote for me is this:

"We have created a code of film language in which the single most destructive act of sexual violence is perfect(ly - sic) acceptable to depict in the most graphic, clinical detail, but actual love-making has been all but banished from mainstream film."

For those unfamiliar, he's basically referring to the fact that SHAME got an NC-17 in the States for portraying its lead's penis (and possibly some sex acts; I haven't seen, so don't know all the details), thus blocking not only any youth from seeing it cinematically but also barring its distribution from most cinemas ...

... whilst THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO contained horrific rape scenes, and anyone in America can take their 5-year old to watch it.

That's the horror of the American system, and that's how we reflect our values onscreen. Which could be a whole blog in itself.

Now, in terms of my thoughts overall on Drew's article, I had four reactions:

1. Many of the commenters, all too predictably, have been unable to read his piece as largely a descriptive reaction about his feelings, and instead immediately leapt to the presumption that it was a prescriptive call for a ban on rape on cinema or some such. The fact is, as cinema fans, the discussions that we have about content generally remain at an infantile level of "censorship bad!" "rape bad!". And it's a fucking shame. Because this is a nuanced issue, and while most of us can see the line between THE ACCUSED and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (unwisely naming two films about rape I haven't seen, but hey), every single point along that line is a grey area you can argue either side of. And as adults, it would be nice to elevate the discussion. I've noticed the preponderance of rapes of late in cinema as well, particularly exploitation movies, and question their motive in some cases.

2. Along these lines: one interesting point here is McWeeny is a staunch defender of A SERBIAN FILM and THE WOMAN, two of the most controversial films of the past two years in terms of content. If you haven't heard of A SERBIAN FILM, I'm not even sure I can recommend looking up a plot review, as it's that beyond the pale in terms of content. Whilst I haven't seen it, I'm aware of many of the more disturbing scenes. Now, THE DIVIDE is the film that McWeeny uses as a whipping boy in his post, but he doesn't mention either of these other films, both of which he's defended on the grounds of allegory in the past.

I personally remain unconvinced that allegory or theme is a sufficiently elevated reason to go from excoriating a film for its rape-related content to praising it. In fact, in many cases, I think it's the opposite: the theme is used as a justification to include extreme content because it's somehow deep and important. It's not necessarily any more sophisticated than the difference between a child lying and a child who crosses his fingers when lying. In the latter case, he thinks it's "okay".

But it's not. Not to me, anyway. Not intrinsically.

I have not watched A SERBIAN FILM, and I walked out of THE WOMAN. (Long story.) So debating those films is difficult. But, similarly, Drew didn't finish THE DIVIDE. Does he know that it doesn't become an allegory for French colonialism in Africa in the end or something? And if it did, would that make it a better film, or retroactively justify the rape scene?

3. I do think there is a difference between historical films and current films. I watched BONE the other night, which is a fantastic, interesting film with some horrifically embarrassingly offensive sexual politics. I think anyone who's interested in exploitation film or innovative film, who's not bothered by that content, should definitely see it. That's just one example of, literally, hundreds we can choose.

But BONE is a product of its time, and we're a product of ours.

4. And here's something we know now that maybe we didn't know then, certainly not in such concrete terms. As anyone who's been unfortunate to stay still long enough next to me knows, I'm also fascinated with neuroscience. Total amateur hobbyist kind of stuff, no one to be truly trusted on the topic. But one aphorism that sticks with me is from Dr. Norman Doidge's book, THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF, and it's a simple one: "neurons that fire together, wire together".

Why is this relevant? People that get raped go through a traumatic experience. Exposure to depictions of rape will, most likely, lead to the neural pathways of the memory of that rape, and by extension, that trauma.

A statistic that got dropped in the comment thread in McWeeny's article is that 1 in 4 women are raped. I don't know if that's true. But say it's 1 in 5, or 1 in 6, or even 1 in 10.

Now, take all the women that you've ever met in your life, and divide by 4, or 5, or 6, or 10. That's probably the number of rape victims you know, whether or not you know it.

And - and I know this is an obvious point by now, but I'm belaboring it intentionally, as it seems to be lost on many - every film featuring a rape is asking those friends of yours, those potential audience members, and everyone like them around the world, to relive that experience.


But - look. As a filmmaker, I've never come up with a script that I feel so strongly about that it's important enough to ask an audience to go through that. But I won't say I never will. Certainly, there are other filmmakers who may have thought it through and decided yes, it is important. And some very great films, some very controversial films, feature strong, challenging rape scenes, and they're films I would recommend to an appropriate audience.

In the end, though, I think all that Drew wants, all that a lot of people want, is when we sit down to a movie, for the director to have thought through its effect on an audience as well.

Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


(Note: I wrote this for a book that the excellent film writer and all-around awesome guy Craig D. Lindsey was assembling on 80's action cinema. For reasons that I don't know in full, the book never came to be, and with Craig's blessing, I'm posting just what the world needs: 20+ paragraphs on one of my favorite films ever. Most of my background info comes from the DVD supplements; a month or so after I submitted this article, this interview with Barbara Anne Constable, her first ever, went online, which fills in many, many more blanks for the curious reader.)


To explain to the uninitiated why H. Tjut Djalil's LADY TERMINATOR is in fact the best movie in the world - once minor considerations such as taste, logic, and good acting are removed from the equation, anyway - a thought experiment may be helpful.

Imagine you are a low-budget Indonesian exploitation film producer, working for P.T. Soraya Intercine Films, and on the heels of the success of TERMINATOR, you've commissioned a low-budget ripoff. Maybe you've even come up with the name, and possibly even a tagline. (My favorite: "First she mates ... then she terminates!") All you need is a script.

And, one after another, they come: all the thinly veiled transmutations of the TERMINATOR story, with all the originality you might expect. An endless cookie cutter string of them. And then, one day, you hear a pitch that's rather different.

Specifically, it starts 100 years in the past, and involves a woman who has a snake living in her vagina that bites off the penis of any man who is unable to give her sexual pleasure.

(Presumably you, oh hallowed employee of P.T. Soraya Intercine Films, are leaning forward at this point, either in extreme interest or extreme confusion, thus foreshadowing the reaction pretty much any sane person will have to the entire running time of LADY TERMINATOR.)

This woman - the South Seas Queen, as it transpires - finds herself on the back foot one day, when one man, unexpectedly, gives her sexual pleasure, and catching her unawares, removes the snake and, using magic hand powers, transmutes it into a dagger. All of this leads to the South Seas Queen cursing his progeny, which takes us to the present day, and a beautiful anthropology student investigating the South Seas Queen, and ... well, you can see where this is going, can't you?

If you're this functionary of P.T. Soraya Intercine Films, your answer is: into production.

Thought experiment over. When I describe this story to people who need convincing that there is no better use of their time than watching LADY TERMINATOR, they are generally convinced that they are in for one of the most batshit insane experiences of their filmgoing lives. Which is in fact true. But what's really remarkable about LADY TERMINATOR is, in fact, that the plot device of the South Seas Queen is possibly one of the MOST explicable things about this film.

"The most important thing in a film is the script. It's like a blueprint for building a house." - H. Tjut Djalil.

The South Seas Queen isn't the product of the imagination of a feverish mind, or if it is, not one that was writing rip-offs of Hollywood films in 1988. It's actually an ancient Javanese legend. On the Region 1 Mondo Macabro DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS DVD, there's an interview with Djalil where he explains that there's actually two versions of the legend, one from west Java and one from central Java, and that the west Javanese version seemed more adaptable. And in the context of low-budget production, using a story set in the past means that you don't have the art department requirements of setting something in the future - just dig up some old costumes, wall hangings, and a four-poster bed, and you can be shooting by the afternoon!

(You might think, also, that there's a benefit about using an ancient legend, because it's in public domain and free of copyright entanglements. Then you remind yourself that the film in question is in fact LADY TERMINATOR, and that the chance of any such niceties being a concern to anyone at P.T. Soraya Intercine Films is next to nil.)

The legend also has the advantage of seamlessly introducing into the TERMINATOR mythos the magic, missing element of the original movie: copious sex and nudity. From our present-day vantage, it's easy to imagine a version of LADY TERMINATOR that's an ode to female empowerment. Despite multiple bloody castration scenes (on behalf of that aforementioned snake), it's safe to say that this film has other things on its mind.

“''Lady Terminator'' may sound like a female counterpart of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film ''The Terminator.'' In fact, it is a vile reversal of those nauseating movies whose point is to show naked women being hacked to pieces ... (it) is too lurid, repulsive, and psychologically warped for audiences to laugh at its badly dubbed English and thoroughly amateurish production values. Its single redeeming feature is that the ending does not promise a sequel.”- Caryn James, from the New York Times review of LADY TERMINATOR.

To underline the most significant fact about that quote, and to me far less explicable than the fact that a TERMINATOR rip-off involves Javanese legend and a snake living in a woman's vagina - LADY TERMINATOR was actually reviewed in the New York Times, and actually had a theatrical release in the States. From the far-distant remove of 2010, it's hard to imagine a non-ironic theatrical release of a film like this today, even in a small release pattern.

But in the late 80’s, these movies weren’t being sold to a jaded, ironic audience – they were sold to a diminishing but eager audience who wanted sex and violence in bucketfuls, and on this account, to say that LADY TERMINATOR does not disappoint is an understatement. And that’s part of the joy of watching LADY TERMINATOR, especially with an appreciative audience – it’s impossible not to revel in its excess. In this movie, it’s not enough for Lady Terminator to machine-gun a guard from a balcony, watch him land on a car, throw him on the ground, and machine-gun him at least 30 additional times from three different cameras – this sequence ends with Lady Terminator kicking him in the balls as she walks away, for good measure.

And it’s moments like this that the enjoyment of LADY TERMINATOR as a piece of “so-bad-it’s good” cinema collides with a feeling that is virtually indistinguishable from the glorious excesses of action cinema that are enjoyed as pure pleasures. It’s tempting to lump in LADY TERMINATOR with TROLL 2 or THE ROOM as a disasterpiece of gigantic proportions, but it’s neither accurate nor fair. All of those films are enjoyable precisely because they fail in such a committed way. As a director, Djalil couldn’t be called talented, per se, but he has at least a passing sense of where to put the camera more often than not, and a fair number of the film’s directorial failures, technically speaking, are borne of over-ambition rather than unremitting ineptitude. (An impending tidal wave that capsizes a boat early on, for instance, seems like an eighteen-inch tall wave photographed at a high angle.)

As a director of actors, it’s hard to be as forgiving. To be fair, once lead actress Barbara Anne Constable becomes possessed by the South Seas Queen and becomes the Lady Terminator, her woodenness almost becomes a virtue; until then, her plausibility as an anthropology student rivals Denise Richards’ turn in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH as a nuclear physicist. And while leads Erica (Claudia Angelique Rademaker) and Max (Christopher J. Hart) are pretty banal, I’ve seen worse. (Despite those glowing endorsements, none of the three seem to have appeared in any other movies.) There’s not much that can mitigate the sheer awfulness of a litany of supporting performances, however, from the cackling undersexed drinkers on the beach who are Lady Terminator’s first victims to the completely irrelevant stoner friend of Max (named “Snake”) to the bellhop who is overeager to jump in bed with our titular character, not to mention any number of random people who get shot by machine guns and writhe in ludicrous ways.

There’s a mitigating issue with judging the quality of the performances in LADY TERMINATOR (not to mention the script), though, which is that the only copies I’ve been able to find are dubbed into English. While many assert that that’s the original source language of the film, Djalil makes it clear in his interview that it was dubbed for export. I’m of mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I’m historically a purist when it comes to insisting on watching foreign cinema in its original language, and there’s something condescending about finding a film laughable on the basis of its bad dubbing. On the other hand, the dubbing work in LADY TERMINATOR is a glorious gift to the world, without which we would have never had such lines as:

- “I’m not a lady, I’m an anthropologist!”
- “I think I’ll marry my right fist, I use it so much already!”
- “Wow, that’s what I call police brutality, man.”
- “Listen, Jack and I have seen more dead bodies than you’ve eaten hot dogs, so shut up and eat!”
- “I’ve heard of the ultimate blow job, but uh… this is too much!”
- “Come with me if you want to live!”

Ok, in the case of the last line, that’s not remotely true. It is, of course, just one thing of many in this film blatantly lifted from THE TERMINATOR. And it’s the tension between making a movie that makes sense and having to arbitrarily fit increasingly irrelevant references to the original film in that help make LADY TERMINATOR such a singularly bizarre film. This incongruity reaches its apex in the scene where Lady Terminator cuts her eyeball out and washes it in the sink. Why? There are only two possible reasons: one of them might have to do with some mysterious energy ball that a mystic hits her with in the eye earlier, and the other might have to do with its notoriety from the original film.

(As an aside, the random descents into mystic shit flying out of people’s eyes or other locations are pretty stunning for their arbitrariness, especially given Lady Terminator’s over-reliance on machine-gunning the opposition. But Djalil is also the director of MYSTICS IN BALI, and fans of that movie will find some similar effects going on here; and even the plot of a woman interested in something of supernatural origin is slightly similar in structure.)

It’s easy to make fun of the endless TERMINATOR rip-offs, but just when you think you’ve seen everything LADY TERMINATOR has to offer – including a final, no-budget variant on the original TERMINATOR’s endo-skeleton reveal - there’s something even more unexpected.

“The struggle within our souls is never-ending. The life of man short and brutal, torn between good and evil. Of the eternity around us, we know nothing. The stars look on. They have been here long before mankind appeared on our small planet, and will be here long after we are no more.”

Those are the final lines of narration in LADY TERMINATOR.

Yes, really.

At what point someone decided LADY TERMINATOR needed to provide an excursis on existentialist philosophy as an outro, I have no idea. But this is just one of the many mysteries and glories of LADY TERMINATOR, a film that keeps on giving, a film whose greatest mystery may just be that, despite being designed as an eminently disposable rip-off, it has endured as not just one of the most enjoyable action films of its era but a truly astonishing, singular film, one that will bring more joy to your life than you could imagine any film involving multiple castration scenes possibly could.