Saturday, May 27, 2006

Tokyo-Ga (Wenders, 1985)

Tokyo-Ga is a film with no point; it is a search for something that may be lost. Wenders travels to Japan to discover the world portrayed in the films of Yasujiro Ozu. The result is an experience variably introspective, superficially concerned, philosophical, pessimistic, reverent, ironic, alienating, and inclusive.

Early in the film, Wenders remarks that he wishes one could film as one sees, just to observe without trying to prove anything. Wenders does just that in much of Tokyo-Ga: we watch children play baseball, adults watch baseball or play pinchinko, people swing golf clubs, craftsmen making wax food dishes, and trains come and go. Wenders rarely makes value judgements: he acknowledges that Ozu often portrayed the Japanese fixation on golf ironically, as most Japanese will never play on an actual golf course, but then marvels at how the sport has been boiled down to a perfection of movement, the standard goal of the sport (putting a ball in a hole) entirely forgotten in the act of swinging. The point of the game is gone, much like Wender's idealization of filming as one sees, and much like Tokyo as is portrayed in the film.

People sit in pinchinko parlours, alone in numbers, watching balls fall and hoping to win. The piles of pinchinko balls and the piles of golf balls are very similar, visually. Though these people are sitting next to eachother, they seem willfully isolated. Similarly, Wenders himself is isolated both by language and by the fact that he is holding a camera. At the beginning of the film he remarks that, if he had not made the film, he would probably remember his trip to Japan better, and we can see why: when you hold a camera, it is a wall. You are burdened with not only the need to observe, but the need to observe skillfully, meaningfully, cinematically. There is no assimilation, you are marked as an outsider looking in. The remarkable thing about Ozu's cinema, then, may be that it is so inclusive. One is very consciously on the outside looking in, but in an Ozu film the outside is a beautiful place to be.

The only thing holding Wenders' film together seems to be chronology. He spent an entire day watching men make fake food dishes from wax for display in front of restaurants, and this takes up a good chunk of the film's 91 minute running time. We watch, though, and we are forced to contemplate why. Then, we are forced to contemplate why we are forced to contemplate why. After all, why must everything have a point? Because it is a recorded image. But why must recorded images have a point? The film is very conscious of its actions, what the recording of images does to the images. They are no longer reality, in most cases, and the reason Wenders is in awe of Ozu is that his films, moreso than any other director, do seem real. However, there is only scant evidence of that reality left in Tokyo; it seems all has changed.

We do get a glimpse of that beauty, that simplicity, when Wenders interviews an actor and cameraman for Ozu. These are scenes ripe with nostalgia, as we can only look back to find what the Tokyo-Ga seeks. The only direct signs of Ozu's filmic beauty are anecdotal ones from the sets of Ozu films. The interview with the cameraman has a stunning emotional arc, and the power lies entirely within the words and face of the man speaking, and the camera's unflinching gaze. Wenders speaks the translations himself, and since Japanese seems to be a slower language (that is, it takes longer to say something in it than in English), there is always a pause before each series of statements in which we are watching a face and hearing a language we don't understand, and are forced to contemplate the image, to scour the surface for what lies beneath the surface. The essence of cinema, one could say.

Herzog shows up for a while, and gives a monologue about how finding potent, relevant images is nearly impossible in the modern world. This was in '85, and he's been doing a good job since then, but the proliferation of information and the nullifying of an image's power is a crucial concern for those crucially concerned with art and society. Chris Marker shows up... kind of (interesting side note is that Chris Marker directed an excellent, excellent documentary [titled A.K.] on another great Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa, the same year that Tokyo-Ga was made, on the set of Kurosawa's Ran). He doesn't show his face, though he is a creator of images himself. It's as if he wants to contribute to the zeitgeist by creating, but doesn't want to be a part of the zeitgeist himself. Though Herzog makes a rant about the non-potency of the image, he is seemingly powerless against his compulsion to create them himself. These men are part of the problem, if only in search of a solution. A fascinating dichotomy in a film full of fascinating dichotomies, digressions, observations, and insights.

Tokyo-Ga really is a unique creation. It is a film about Wenders' journey and insights concerning a man, not about the man himself. The man himself, though, was concerned with an entire culture. As such, the palette of the film is limitless, and it certainly takes advantage of its wide open space. The film meanders, and it's all the better for it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Funny Games (Haneke, 1997)

Funny Games is a film that is both profoundly disturbing and utterly ridiculous; the audience is caught in the middle of the psychological reality of the violence portrayed and the highly visible construct of the film and its manipulating mechanics of viewer expectation and desire. The title refers to the morbid, sadistic games played by the two men in the film that would be psychopaths if they were people, but they're more like jesters bred from the film itself, commenting upon it, looking out of it, utterly aware of it, and at one point controlling it (as a vicarious means of directorial manipulation and entrance into the narrative). The title also refers to the director's relationship with the audience and the audience's relationship with the film.

The film functions as a provocation, but one with a very definite purpose: Haneke wants the viewer to examine his relationship with media violence that is portrayed as "acceptable," to acknowledge his implicit advocation of that violence, and to experience a different kind of violence, one that he very much should feel terrible about. I don't know if any one could enjoy Funny Games on a visceral level, but if you do, you damn sure better feel guilty about it.

This is a triumph of structure; every piece compliments every other, but there are deft strokes scattered throughout that highlight and define the over all theme. When told they "can't do this," the only response offered by one of the perpetrators of violence is "Why not?" These are two beings that don't abide by the very basic restrictions of society, those immutable assurances that we take for granted in reality. In most fiction, these lines can be crossed without batting an eye, but Haneke's psychological realism doesn't let the audience of the hook here. Later, when asked why they are doing what they're doing, the family (and, of course, the audience) are told various lies, such as that they're drug addicts and need to rob for their fix, that they come from broken homes, and that their lives were too easy and they're struggling under the "weight of existence." These would make three nice plots for other films, and three nice artistic alibies for any filmmaker who wanted to get his rocks off with bloodshed. Of course, there is no justification for Funny Games' violence: the family is being tortured because they happen to be in a film, and the director decided they should be tortured. This is the case with any film, and Haneke's argument is against any artist or audience that wants to wipe their hands clean of the violence they create and enjoy.

At one point, a killer gets food from the refrigerator and we hear a gunshot. At this point, the viewer must make a choice: which family member does he hope has died? Chances are, we hope it isn't the child, so naturally it is. If a parent had been killed, there would be a sense that there is still a chance to move on; after all, parents generally don't outlast a child. But, most devoted parents would probably tell you, the worst thing that can happen is to lose a child, and Haneke manages to make the viewer feel the plethora of emotions consisting of outrage, despair, hopelessness, helplessness, anxiety, and an overall unwillingness to exist. Any one who wants to make an argument for Funny Games being mere violent exploitation with maybe a spattering of voyeuristic "guilty by association" need look no further than here to see there are definite repercussions for the violence, and brilliant examination of media experience aside, these are human beings being confronted with inhumanity, and you'd have to be a jaded individual indeed to be unmoved and unempathetic. Disgust is reasonable, and necessary, but the film is not vulgar in an intellectual sense.

At this point, the film seems as if it can, and should, go no further. But still it goes on. At one point, the mother grabs the rifle and shoots one of the perpetrators. But, Haneke keeps reminding us through the two men, there are rules to abide by. He refers not just to their sadistic ventures, but the rules of the film. In this film, the family loses the bet, and so the killer grabs the remote and rewinds for a do-over. This represents, then, a directorial decision: Haneke thinks "why not let her fight back?," but then realizes he is not being faithful to his concept, and rewinds. But, he lets the audience see this, and its reversal, so there is a glimpse of hope, followed by despair, and laced with sick irony. This is also a direct comment on our media saturated culture, as we all love to rewind, pause, turn off things we don't like. But when someone thoroughly despicable has the same power, and we are powerless, how would we feel? Well, we'd feel like we're watching Funny Games. In the supplemental interview on the DVD, Haneke says that audiences cheered and clapped at the woman's defiance, and then saw the rewind... and realized they had applauded a murder, and that they'd been thoroughly manipulated by the film. Bravo, Haneke.

Haneke has perhaps the most insight into how his audience will react to what happens on screen, on a psychological level, than any other director I've come across. He even bests Antonioni's Blow Up in this regard, or Carpenter's uncanny knack for projecting the camp value in his creations over time. Take, for example, the scene in which the mother is forced to strip: we are only shown from shoulder up. It is unlikely that any one doesn't expect, even secretly want, to see a shot of her body. This is not a sexual impulse, but one born of natural curiosity and our history with the film, as we don't expect any punches to be pulled. Yet we don't get what we expect, and we're left with an unfulfilled impulse that we have to come to terms with: we expected, maybe even wanted, to be spectators to this woman's degradation. We would've been repulsed, surely, but we felt compelled toward the repulsion.

This is a film that, unfortunately, has and will be misunderstood by many. It could probably function on a level as a horror film, for those that like their horror to disgust and frighten and no more. It's a very inappropriate but necessary irony that Funny Games can be used as fodder to feed the same impulses it finds so direly abhorrent. I would love to pull the rug out from under any one who views the film in this way, but I wonder if accepting the film at face value is a sign that it's too late.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Batman Returns (Burton, 1992)

If Tim Burton has a strength, it is conceiving and crafting an elaborate misé en scene, and Batman Returns is a wholly more garrish production than its predecessor. In some respects, it takes its silliness too far, and doesn't go far enough with its more pertinent themes. As such, it never rises above summer movie territory, albeit with a few smart laughs ("Lay off the constitution, it's Christmas"; "Sickos don't bother me, at least they're committed"), but for a minute there it gives the ol' college try.

Burton's bone to pick with corporate crime and irresponsibility, like Batman, returns, this time embodied by Walken's Max Shreck (a cinephilic nod to the actor who played not-Dracula in Murnau's Nosferatu, a film in the German expressionist tradition from which Burton seeks inspiration for his aesthetic). This remains relatively unexplored though, culminating in a brief but foiled plot to lead the first borns of Gotham's citizens into a pool of toxic waste Pied Piper style. This isn't the only thing overshadowed by the two psychopathic villains, though, as Batman seems peripheral to them as well.

It seems that Burton purported to create a sincere tragic figure in Penguin, but it's only half heartfelt. Penguin was abandoned at birth for his deformity, floated down a sewer, and unbeknownst to his parents found and raised by Gothan's burgeoning intersewer penguin population. Penguin is unique in the narrative as he is the one character in whom you get what you see, and he keeps reminding us by pointing out Batman's mask. A true outsider, unlike the other two cartoony tortured souls in the tale, who are not often taken seriously enough, the result being we spend too much time laughing at the zany psychopaths.

Batman/Bruce Wayne and Catwoman/Selena Kyle are similar in their dual natures. Bruce needs Batman as a practicioner of vigilante justice, in general Batman mythos because his parents were murdered, filling him with a sense of obligation to society (this causality is, as far as I remember, not mentioned directly in Burton's first Batman flick); Selena needs Catwoman as an outlet of sexual aggression and proto-feminist militarism. If there is an aspect that is stimulating in the film, and one that the film would most benefit from developing more and being less afraid of, it's its sexual politics. Instead, the film straddles the line between exploration and family friendly entertainment.

Selena and Bruce play cat and mouse (the sceenwriters would've worked that into the script if they had a chance, I'm sure) in and out of costume, and both modes of interaction are sexually charged. After slapping the head and hat off a bourgeoisie female mannequin in a department store with her dominatrix whip and then reminding two security guards who confuse their pistols with their pricks that they're overpaid, Catwoman bests Batman in combat only to fall off a roof and be saved by the big bad (bat)man. They then embrace under mistletow, and Catwoman goes so far as to grope his batmobile. This parallels Penguin's own fondling earlier in the film, and he is on a tangential though less direct socio-sexual odyssey himself. Selena is reversing the inferiority bestowed upon her by her position as a secretary to The Man, which she self-deceptively referred to as an "executive assistant" career. Penguin eventually comes to terms with gender equality when he plots and indiscriminate massacre, even shouting "the sexes are equal." Not subtle, but that should be expected... this is a film in which Michael Keaton dresses in a bat suit.

The Batmobile (not the one in Bruce's pants) eventually resembles the one in Bruce's pants, though theoretically larger and blacker, when he avoids cops by stripping the sides of the car and fleeing through a damp, moist corridor. Okay, I'm just speculating with the adjectives. Anyway. He speeds through the sewers in his phallicar to stop the yet-asexual Penguin from doing his Passover thing, and the four crazies all congregate here. Bruce points out that him and Selena are similar, acknowledging that they are both hiding behind masks representing ideas, and that they could live together. Selena says she'd like to live in his "castle" just like in fairy tales, but she "couldn't live with herself." This is a strong feminist statement, obviously, seeing through the fairy tale bullshit and shunning it. She then seemingly commits sui/homicide with Shreck.

The Batmobile bursts through a snow formation, and its symbolic nature can't be mistaken (my chronology of the climax may be out of order, by the way) and stops Penguin. The penguins' missiles all go off, possibly signifying male destruction to equal out the male victory that is Batman's triumph. I think it's definitely after this that the above mentioned Selena stuff happens, but I'm not going to backtrack now.

So anyway, in the end Bruce is being driven by Alfred and tinks he tees a puddy tat. He did, he did tee a puddy tat, as Selena survives. Bruce picks up a stray cat, presumably left by Catwoman, and then closes the film with the line "Good will towards men... and women," the pause signifying a glance down at the cat. What is is that spurred this alteration of the phrase to give it a more unbiased effect?

Selena's gift of pussy. Burton, you're an inspiration to feminists everywhere.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Incident On And Off A Mountain Road (Coscarelli, 2005)

Incident On And Off A Mountain Road is nothing but an excuse for tired slasher film clichés delivered by a villain who is in turn an excuse for mildly diverting make-up effects and ironically meek attempts at coherent thematic development of themes not worth developing.

After crashing her vehicle, a woman is pursued by a man with a knife. She fights back, however, using techniques learned from her husband that the audience comes to know through flashbacks. He is a nihilistic Mr. Miyagi of forest-based guerrilla warfare who forces his wife to train in psuedo militaristic fasion whilst spouting weak lines that rival "wax on, wax off" for faux profundity. This is, of course, after he charms her with verbal misanthropy and amusing tales of child prostitution in Thaiwan. A real Casanova, this one.

These flashbacks actually convolute what would be better off as a lean, meaningless but not intellectually insulting slasher film. This is not unlike the other Masters of Horror episode I've seen, Carpenter's Cigarette Burns, in that rather than recognizing the fact that the series works best as a treat for genre fans rather than an opportunity to reinvent the wheel, the filmmakers choose overly ambitious projects that they simply aren't good enough to pull off. Not that Incident is mired in weighty concepts, but it's readily apparent that Coscarelli can't handle anything beyond stabbing and bleeding. The flashbacks do intrude upon the mediocre slasher portion, lending a tonal diversity, but diversity isn't inherently better than harrowing (if Coscarelli were able to muster such a thing) monotony and in terms of content we'd be better off without them.

The film is stupid to the point of being amoral. It seems to suggest that the totally fucked up husband deserves posthumous "hate to say I told you so" bragging rights for the fact that it's his direct influence that caused his wife's survival. Of course, maybe she was going to dump his body, so his presence got her into this mess in the first place. Regardless, discerning a purose that isn't utterly trite and juvenile is beyond logical expectation. This film is all surface, constructed with the skill and diligence of an amateur, with very confused undercurrents. Near-omnipresent shaky cam doesn't do much to smooth matters over, either.

Though it aimed for profound insanity, Incident On And Off A Mountain Road only attains dazzling heights of inanity. Hey, at least they rhyme.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Capsules: Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)/Rebel Without A Cause (Ray, 1955)/Escape From L.A. (Carpenter, 1996)

Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
When I first saw Chinatown, I liked-it-not-loved-it. I saw it as a well crafted and executed plot, and not much else. To an extent, I was right: at the end of the day, what happens is sometimes more important than why it happens. However, Polanski's skill is readily apparent. The last scene, for example, is staged as well as any scene I can think of in any film.

"Chinatown" refers to a state in which, by striving to do good, everything goes wrong. Cops in Chinatown, Jake says, were told to do "as little as possible." By the end of the film, we understand why. Along the way, the audience is subjected to an unraveling plot of concealed intentions and motives, and audience involvement is required as each layer is peeled away. Meanwhile, the film's aesthetic subtly mimmicks (though in color) the noir genre from which it is a loving descendent.

At one point, Jake is in his room and he shuts the curtains hastily. Suddenly, the lights coming from inside the room shut off, signifying the lack of imagined light filtering in through the window. This is utterly transparent, and it must've been an intentional recognition of the film's construct, calling attention to it's shoutout to noir films of the past.

I was a bit hesitant to jump on the masterpiece bandwagon with this one, but when I think of all the Polanski films I've seen, this best showcases his skill in the medium, and he's no slouch in my book. An excellent film, 'tis.

Rebel Without A Cause (Ray, 1955)
Rebel Without A Cause is problematic in that much of its meaning can be discerned from its title alone. The film positively wallows in didacticism and melodrama, so that either you buy into the world portrayed or you don't. I buy in about half way.

The film portrays generational conflict and family upheaval within a society with a very conservative value system. The families and their surface surroundings are made clearly to represent picture-perfect, functioning units, yet the discord between parent and child is simulataneously made abundantly obvious. In a way, we have opposing forces of aesthetic and narrative that create a conflicted whole (intentionally and successfully).

There is a clear but overshadowed homoeroticism between one kid's fixation on Jim, and in that respect the film earns "ahead of its time" status. There's nothing terribly wrong with the film, and it's thematically relevent, it just doesn't attain sheer greatness.

Escape From L.A. (Carpenter, 1996)
Escape From L.A. is every bit the perfect blend of satire, kitsch, action, and atmosphere that Escape From New York is. Like its predecessor, it is essentially an extended, campy political cartoon with an overblown power struggle in which a single infamous convict is unbelievably enlisted by the government to save the nation by invading a walled-off criminal complex and obtaining a certain item in exchange for his own life. At the end of both films, there is a last-laugh switcheroo in which Snake maintains badassery and humilates the dystopian United States regime. Somehow, Carpenter and Russell make the "fuck it all" attitude work, and the films positively ooze this ambiguous rebellion, resulting in two movies that earn the title "guilty pleasure" for me not because they are not good films, but because of the extent to which I love them.

Escape From L.A. has terrible, terrible CGI. Who cares? The worst looking film shark ever tries unsuccessfully to bite Snake's submarine in a particularly unnecessary bout of computer generated indulgence. Awesome!

What makes the film work, though, is that it juggles many competing facets simultaneously. It's tongue in cheek, but it also successfully depicts a horrible, yet almost outlandishly believable future. As I've mentioned, it's a cartoon, but scarily reminiscent of deep seated fears that could very well be justified in the current political climate. Just as she begins a monologue about how great the freedom afforded by Los Angeles is, the woman (who we feel Snake may actually care about to some extent) that accompanies Snake briefly is shot down and dies immediately. There is a pang of injustice here, and Carpenter doesn't smooth it over. Unlike so many other films, there are implications and consequences to the actions here.

Though it or anything else in the film won't win any prizes for subtlety, the ending is fantastic. Snake refuses to aid either corrupt force, instead shutting down the entire world, setting human progress back centuries and leveling the playing field. Eventually, the circle will turn again, and ultimate progress leads to ultimate regression. This is, I would argue, very likely true, and though it's possible to gauge such matters, I used to (when I was, oh, fifteen or so) be convinced that the world would end in my lifetime. Now, I'm not so sure. I think the inevitable will just be prolonged for many years more... but I'm digressing.

This duo of films from John Carpenter are a pair of loud, obvious, and charged challenges to establishment. Any establishment, just pick one.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Gladiator (Scott, 2000)

In Gladiator, there is a conflict between a man who was never loved, and a man who loved and lost. One is a psychosexually confused emperor, the other a general-turned-gladiator. This little slave who could wins the hearts of the people and single handedly saves Rome, ensuring that it would never fall... well, not really.

On a whole, the film is a poorly directed epic with all the epic-ness vacuumed out of it. Scott's direction is remarkable only for its ability to wholly deflate a sequence. This is most painfully apparent in early scenes, especially conversational ones. Scott has not realized that the relationship between character and location, especially in a period piece, is as important as any other aspect of character, and so we get medium-to-close talking heads, boringly composed and intercut to show the speaker, because we love to see lips move. My distaste for this pedestrian style of subjectivity-seeking automaton filmmaking knows no bounds, and unfortunately it's a very common occurrence of which Scott is not the only culprit.

The action sequences (this meaning any passage of visual storytelling, not necessarily battles) are similarly cramped. There is no majesty, no scope, to Ridley's frame; when watching I feel as if the camera is tethered by its limited range of movement, probably because the filmmakers were too busy with overblown and unnoticed details to accomodate for good filmmaking. The editing lacks any remarkable structure. The aesthetic on a whole ranges from mediocre to poor, the latter especially apparent in the "Russell Crowe faints (drops acid?) in the desert and is kidnapped" sequence, and the "heaven is a blue-tinted grassland" sequence near the end of the film.

The battles fail to either repulse (whether at the violence itself or an objectivity-born non reaction to violence) or to be exciting to the point that the audience of the film is charged with the same bloodthirst as the audience of the collosseum. Speaking of which, the collosseum is full of very blatant phallic symbols. Once a reading of this nature takes hold, everything becomes a phallus. In the first battle, women (their femininity accentuated by their breastplates) ride into the circle of penes and fire arrows (phalluses) into men. Then, the emperor (who at any given moment can't seem to decide whether he wants to strangle or fuck the person he's interacting with) comes in and points his little prick of a thumb up in the air, letting Maximus live. The battle apparently is supposed to have some sort of coital connotation, and interestingly Maximus is essentially neutered by the death of his wife. This of course is consistent with his non-compliance, but this sexual reading doesn't really enhance what still remains a slight tale of rising above the odds spattered with paper-thin romantic concepts of life, death, and love. The film never hesitates to make explicit its themes, usually in single lines or exchanges, many of which could be cited. The film is by no means a challenge, which likely explains its popularity and Academy wins.

Gladiator is not a film without any redeeming values, but it's not a film that flirts with greatness either. It's just kind of there, blandly and obviously. Commodus has the makings of an interesting character creation, but he's not developed enough or important enough to be any major saving grace.

Verdict: meh.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Domino (Scott, 2005)

At first glance, Domino appears to be a hopelessly schizophrenic movie, one that thrives on the atonality of overdramatizing innopportune and seemingly random events with audio cues, over/under exposure/saturation/contrasting, expressionistic/idiotic lighting, and overbearing cameramanship, only to abandon the idea immediately. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is a schizophrenia born of an intense yet fleeting interest in every detail of an event, for better or worse. Moments like these can be taken either as microcosms of Domino Harvey's existence or experimentation for experimentation's sake.

The strange thing is that, in a film in which indulgence is the core concept, indulgence becomes restraint. Sometimes it's amazing how little of a striking image we may actually see. Scott is quick to flash and discard, which displays a strong conviction in his editing choices. The editing room must had been a very adventurous and stimulating experience for the filmmakers. Some of these images have a certain depth, such as one of Domino sitting on a couch with newspapers blowing all around her (we get barely a glimpse), or one of young Domino with an overlay of a fish swimming in its small allotted space. These aren't overly profound, but in a film that prides itself on momentary surprises, they become part of a larger syntax.

There are, of course, stylistic flourishes that are hard to swallow. Some usages of slow motion, some blur effects (from using hand crank cameras), some stop-frame zooms, and especially the repeating of lines can become tiresome. Similarly, some sequences consist of an awkward succession of close ups that quickly become annoying and disrupt any conventional establishment of mood, which could be intentional but whether that justifies it is arguable. The film is so willfully atypical that one sometimes hopes to find some mooring, some familiar ground aesthetically.

As far as narrative goes, the film refuses to acknowledge any lines separating such things as respectability, absurdity, stupidity, or coherence from their polar counterparts. Domino is an anarchistic, individualistic, arrogant woman who won't take no guff and finds some measure of spiritual ascension in the end. Still, thematically, one again turns to the film's aesthetic, as the film functions well on this and other levels as a satire of contemporary culture. Each character is introduced by voiceover and subtitle, and each location by the latter, mimicking television. Some things are spelled out blatantly in words on screen, like when the "Real First Ladies" and the "Fake First Ladies" are each labeled, juxtaposed, then labeled again. Throughout the film, there is a recurring pinging noise curiously reminiscent of the "yes, that letter is in our puzzle" sound from Wheel of Fortune. This is a film steeped in a world in which mass proliferation of information and culture (pop and otherwise) has permeated all facets of society, i.e. the present. Domino functions as an American zeitgeist on crack, the use of the cliché being very apt in a description of this particular film, right down to the casting of the 90210 guys as themselves and the Afghan driver blowing up the Stratosphere with, you guessed it, a remote control.

Domino opens with the disclaimer "Based on a True Story -- Sort Of." It has a narrator that tells us one thing, then doubles back to contradict, and we see the event in rewind (another stylistic device contributing to the reflection of other electronic media and therefore modern culture). That narrator (Domino, of course) later refuses to tell us what's true and what isn't, defiance being quite characteristic of Ms. Harvey. The film's acknowledgement of its artificiality is absolute to the point that Tom Waits, via song, announces the impending arrival of his cameo as a catalyst for Domino's absolusion with, what else? "Jesus Gonna Be Here Soon."

There's are many things going on in this film, and it succeeds in being a jumbled mess of all of them. It's understandable why this film was panned, but I happen to think it has something to offer. Not a great film, but not a terrible film. Though Domino's quarter deals in absolutes, apparently the film itself landed vertically on its edge. It's not heads or tails, it's something in between.