On First Reformed



The form perfectly matches the content. And so, with First Reformed, Paul Schrader has done it, just as Henry Jaglom, another disciple of greater directors, was able to hit jackpot once with Deja Vu. William Gass said if tragedies weren’t tragic, no one would go to them, but these days if a serious film doesn’t “speak” to the issues of the day (how the issues of certain human beings are greater than others is a different discussion) it is pretty much DOA. First Reformed is concerned with everything we worry about today—including race, but in an offhand way—without blatantly stacking the deck, as a film like American Beauty does. It promises to be a tragedy and even though it turns out not to be, there is still catharsis in its last second Ordet-like save, and I don’t mean because some in the audience think the priest is dead and imagines being saved. “Nothing matters but the quality of affection,” Ezra Pound wrote in Canto LXXVI. What is the quality of affection in that swirling rapturous kissing between the priest and the pregnant widow? Carnality, like in Ordet? It might not matter if it proves affection is still possible. Continue reading

Lifeforce—or, Mary Poppins Is a Naked Space Vampire

Space Girl (Mathilda May) (Possibly related to Moon Maid?)

[Update 7 April 2012: I wrote a bit more about the film here, and you can find the entire thing here.]

Tobe Hooper‘s science-fiction/horror film Lifeforce (1985)—and I’ll confess right up front that it’s one of my guiltiest 80s pleasures, despite it not being “all that good”—is a mess. It begins as an Alien ripoff, rapidly veers into sexploitation territory (where it dwells for a good long while), drops by an insane asylum to pick up some Gothic overtones, then devolves into a relatively generic zombie movie before metamorphosing one last time into something of a vampire flick (which it’s supposedly been all along).

The plot, very briefly:

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Top Films of the Decade


Robert Altman and a happy Shelley Duvall before she met Kubrick

In March 2002 I woke up one morning in a trailer in the south of France, near the city of Carpentras. I worked on a fully organic farm (nothing mechanical, horse-drawn tills). There were no entertainment devices, save a transistor radio that picked up a plethora of European and Russian stations at night before evaporating during the first hour of sunlight. Though glad of the break from the tyranny of media, I knew it was still Oscar night in Los Angeles and I switched on the BBC to hear if someone Robert Altman’s Gosford Park or Todd Field’s In the Bedroom had beaten Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind for the grand prize. They didn’t.

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