Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): May 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

True Detective episode 6: "Haunted Houses"


The following is a viewing diary I wrote as I watched the show for the first time, pausing after each episode to collect my thoughts. As such, it is spoiler-free for upcoming episodes (although the comments section may not be).

This is certainly the darkest episode of True Detective and also very likely the best. There are no brutal murders, mutilated corpses, bloody crime scenes. The darkness is inside and when it manifests itself in violence it only goes so far as a fistfight. But when Hart and Cohle pummel each other in a parking lot, their punches land with more force than all the gunfire of five episodes.

We begin with two scenes that could easily be played for righteous catharsis, but are delivered as something else entirely. First, Hart confronts the two young men who were caught having sex with his daughter. He offers them a choice: allow him to beat the shit out of them or go to prison on statutory rape charges. Of course it isn't really a choice at all - he doesn't want his daughter's sex life made public and he would very much like to punish these two himself. It's many fathers' vengeful dream come true, yet this interaction is scored and shot without any sense of deliverance. The following scene contains the biggest surprise: before he can drive off in triumph, Hart vomits all over the parking lot (the same lot in which he and Cohle will fight a far more evenly-matched bout).

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Mind Reader


When we meet Chandra the Magnificent (Warren William), he is neither Chandra nor magnificent. Instead he is a traveling huckster, a dentist in one town, a hair tonic salesman in another. After being impressed at one carnival by a scam psychic, he chooses the name Chandra from an advertisement and enters his new career with gusto. Chandra's (admittedly rather transparent) scam is to take questions from his audience and deposit them in a "furnace" which actually sends the slips of paper beneath his stage. There, assistant Frank (Allen Jenkins) - when he isn't talking racehorses with Sam (Clarence Muse) - collects the clues and reads them back to Chandra, who listens via a wire emplanted in his turban. Pretending that he picked up these questions from the ether (no one ever asks why a psychic needs them written down at all, even out of sight), Chandra offers advice to the spectators. One night he advises Sylvia (Constance Cummings), a restless young woman choosing between her Chicago-bound boyfriend and unknown adventures elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, he encourages the naive girl to choose the latter and before long she has...in his arms. Will he change her or will she change him?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

True Detective episode 5: "The Secret Fate of All Life"


The following is a viewing diary I wrote as I watched the show for the first time, pausing after each episode to collect my thoughts. As such, it is spoiler-free for upcoming episodes (although the comments section may not be).

Oh boy, now we're really getting somewhere!

I didn't want to be tough on the previous episode but in light of this one it feels even more like filler. I was worried the show would waste Ginger and sure enough, he's hog-tied with duct tape within the first five minutes of "The Secret Fate of All Life," but that's ok because we have way bigger fish to fry. Where to start? Well, how about at the beginning...in which the '95/Reggie Ledoux/Dora Lange case is resolved, or "resolved," way sooner than I expected.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Welcome (Back) to Twin Peaks: some thoughts on David Lynch's departure...and return


Every month, I will be offering one post on Twin Peaks...up until Showtime re-airs the original series. Then I will post extensive coverage of each episode (mixing new reactions with my many older pieces) immediately after they air. Stay tuned.

I always thought he'd be back - I swear!

Late Friday night, David Lynch and Mark Frost simultaneously tweeted: "Dear Twitter Friends, the rumors are not what they seem ..... It is !!! Happening again. #TwinPeaks returns on @SHO_Network." Fans quickly noted that Lynch, who loves numerology, had chosen May 15 to announce his return, the one-year anniversary of the Missing Pieces announcement. One fan (kmkmiller) even pointed out that he'd tweeted at 5:02pm and 5 + 2 = 7 (Lynch's oft-cited favorite number). Synchronicity strikes again? Or everything going according to plan?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

True Detective episode 4: "Who Goes There"


The following is a viewing diary I wrote as I watched the show for the first time, pausing after each episode to collect my thoughts. As such, it is spoiler-free for upcoming episodes (although the comments section may not be).

Hart is now a hot mess. About halfway through this episode, his family has left him, he's threatened to "skull-fuck" his mistress, security has nearly ejected him from his wife's workplace, and he spends the rest of his time wandering around in an alcoholic daze and dirty wife-beater, threatening suspects at a rave while off-duty. Hart even moves in with his partner and oddly it's Cohle who is the more anchored of the two (this in an episode where Cohle lies to his superiors, steals police evidence, gets high, and participates in a deadly raid with a biker gang).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Manufacturing Dreams in Street of Crocodiles (video)


Last week my first video essay for Fandor was posted. From now on I will be contributing videos regularly to the site, probably in addition to videos for my own YouTube and Vimeo channels. So after the break following Journey Through Twin Peaks, I am very much escalating the video pace this year. You can read the introduction to my contribution on Fandor (although the video in this link no longer works), and I would also encourage you to check out the short story linked in my description:

The Quay Brothers’ stop-motion masterpiece Street of Crocodiles presents a dream world composed of eerie objects, sharp movements and cryptic visual associations. The film borrows its title and one of its scenes from Bruno Schulz‘s avant-garde short story about a small-town neighborhood that imitates big-city life (select “Ulica Krokodyli” to read the story here). Likewise, the onscreen puppets experience both uncanny promise and frustrating limitation. “Manufacturing Dreams” is an open meditation on Street of Crocodiles, exploring the Quays’ techniques and dramatic motifs through a series of questions and observations.

The video follows the jump, along with some pictures...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

True Detective episode 3: "The Locked Room"


The following is a viewing diary I wrote as I watched the show for the first time, pausing after each episode to collect my thoughts. As such, it is spoiler-free for upcoming episodes (although the comments section may not be).

We don't hear much about the Yellow King this time. For that matter, we don't hear much about Dora Lange. The mystery is getting bigger and the case goes from checking up on local dives and flophouses to investigating organizations (beginning with the traveling ministry inhabiting that burnt-out church). Meanwhile the detectives pull all-nighters to sift through endless files, hoping to stumble across a corpse whose dead eyes will tell them what they need to know.

Cohle spends much of the episode ranting: nothing adds up, there's no "closure" or "fulfillment" and dreams of religious salvation are a hoax. Yet it is Cohle who most obsessively attempts to see the bigger picture at play in the Dora Lange murder, who refuses to let the case go, who seems intensely invested in determining not only what the answers are but establishing that there are answers, period. His general pessimism is belied by his faith in the hunt and its destination.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Film as Film, and what is film? (a status update in the form of rambling personal musings)


Three and a half years ago, I recorded some of my frustrations with writing about and watching movies. In VertigoVertigo Variations, and Watching Movies While Blogging, I wrote about "a disengagement from actually experiencing, enjoying, and understanding the movies themselves" that resulted from almost obsessively trying to organize that experience. Since then I have experienced both an escalation of that process and a re-discovery of the central phenomenon that was getting eclipsed at that time.