Saturday, May 28, 2011

Where God Lives


Janani said...

i guess i liked this movie more than you did, but does anyone else think the official poster design looks creepily pro-life? (and not as in pro-tree?)

Chris Stangl said...

My actual deeply-held convictions on the topic notwithstanding, there is no better pro-life propaganda than, you know, looking at a damn baby.

Well, I liked THE TREE OF LIFE quite a bit, insofar as it matters whether or not I like it. It is also many things, and among those things it is an oversized, hippie-dippy scented candle of a movie. Because I think it is fairly easy to become enraptured, awe/dumb-struck in its thrall, it is a picture that might be well met with some skeptical good humor. While it seems to have, say, and want to be Everything, what it is utterly lacking is any hint of cosmic irony, hilarity, jovial sexiness or grit. There is no funkiness in this movie and its vision of Life, the Universe and Everything. Maybe this could've been alleviated, complicated and dirtied up by, say, playing Sun Ra or Charles Wright records over the Hubble footage. As Mojo Nixon might have said, Terrence Malick has no Elvis in him.

Point being that ENTER THE VOID is at least as formally ambitious as TREE OF LIFE, and covers similar territory: the story of all things, the story of you, the journey of every soul demonstrated by way of a story of a specific soul, the creation of the universe and evolution in motion and how they are continued in micro in the psychological development of every human. But VOID puts burning passion, flaming sex drives, and death-of-ego tripping at the center of its cosmic vision. Both films fly on the wings of Eastern/Xian/New Age philosophical smash-up, pop science spirituality (VOID's shamanic neurochemistry, TREE's Transcendental abiogenesis) and nutty Freud/Jung/Lacan smish-smosh. Where TREE OF LIFE is about learning to be a dove opening its wings to glide on the breeze, ENTER THE VOID is about how even the worst of us may zoom into the supernova like a phoenix ablaze.

Other films I might suggest as antidotes/retorts to TREE OF LIFE (or, simply, good double-bills) are A SIMPLE MAN, THE STRAIGHT STORY, the Brakhage shorts WINDOW WATER BABY MOVING and YGGDRASILL, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN and BAMBI.

Janani said...

"While it seems to have, say, and want to be Everything, what it is utterly lacking is any hint of cosmic irony, hilarity, jovial sexiness or grit."

totally acknowledged. i knew i wasn't going to get any of those things going in. to use a musical metaphor, if the thing is a symphony, it's all monumental first movement and blaring finale, and missing a scherzo somewhere in between. didn't mind. the hilarities of TREE probably lie in its effect on the humans who watch it: all who squee of it (myself included) are sincerely awed, and hilariously over the top. (and the despair of those who hate it and can't wait for it to end, and keep getting faked out by Mr. Flame, is funnier still).

it's the baby's foot that's so creepy. shades of "at x weeks your baby has y characteristics."

growler said...

Chris, if you have already written about A SIMPLE MAN, I wish you would and point me to where. Such an odd movie that haunted me in ways I can't explain for a long time after. It's a puzzle of a picture, and will take me many more viewings till I can begin to figure out what I think it means.

If you haven't, please do.

Alfred said...

Growler: If by "Simple" you mean "Serious," Mr. Stangl wrote some excellent words on the Cohen bros' flick that can be found here:

Unfortunately it looks as though the author has found himself sidetracked with pursuits other than the Kinetoscope recently. I can only hope he returns to finish up his best of the decade series - I was introduced to Joon-ho Bong through them, whose films are now among my favorites.