South Park Self

what a fantastic death abyss

Today I appear to be listening only to music from bands in the letter C. Reading from the top in the pile of random CDs which recently arrived from Loot and still need to be ripped to my work machine, these are The Cure, King Crimson and The Carpenters. I accept no responsibilities for muscle trauma resulting from your conceptual whiplash, thank you very much.

Talking about concatenations by odd thematic link, we had Movie Club on Friday night, with a theme of vampire movies which was - gasp - not actually chosen by me! Stv was, in fact, guilty of the choice, probably more accurately described as "really odd and thoughtful semi-art-house vampire movies", with a side order of "human emotional realism and pathos arising from unnaturally prolongued life". When I say that The Hunger wasn't in the mix but darned well should have been, you will (if an educated vampire-fancier) immediately realise that the movies we watched must have been Guillermo del Toro's Cronos, and the Norwegian Swedish Let The Right One In. Neither of which I'd seen, incidentally (although I have a copy of the original Let The Right One In novel, which I haven't got around to reading yet, does it count?), so I consider my vampire-fondling street cred to have been materially raised by the evening's watching.

Cronos made me realise exactly why Guillermo del Toro was keen on a Mountains of Madness adaptation, and why he'd be perfect for it. While being considerably beyond my ick-barriers in terms of the usual delToroid gaping wounds and peeling flesh, Cronos made me incredibly happy because it's completely and perfectly Lovecraftian. It has the fascination with the past, with ancient tomes filled with occulted, terrible, secret knowledge; the greed and blind obsession of men desperate for particular kinds of power at any cost; the occluded mystery and inexplicable significance of supernatural manifestations; and the inevitable self-destruction which results from grasping at the forbidden. No-one does "hideous things man was not meant to know" better than Lovecraft, and del Toro gets that, perfectly. He's materially assisted by the cinematography, which is atmospheric and often oddly beautiful - the framing of the last scene in particular was heartbreaking. (Guillermo Navarro, the cinematographer, also shot Pan's Labyrinth and both Hellboy films, and, oddly enough, From Dusk Till Dawn).

Cronos was particularly fascinating, though, because del Toro also has a far more real and meaningful grasp on actual human emotion than Lovecraft ever did (other than fear, of course); the grandfather/grand-daughter relationship at the heart of the film is warm and vital and often endearingly sweet, which makes the bloody horror of the film's denouement all the more telling. Mad props to the child actor playing Aurora, who speaks precisely one word in the entire movie, but manages to convey volumes through her silence. (Also, Ron Perlman is always watchable, if hammy beyond ham. Seeing his cheerfully dim lout stumble through the film somehow made me want to see him play Bulldog Drummond). As a vampire movie it's also interesting in its ability to render explicit the costs of immortality, and the abject, bodily grossness of an addiction to blood-drinking.

I don't think Cronos is a great film in absolute terms, but I think it offers an almost perfect rendition of its chosen tropes. Let The Right One In, on the other hand, is a great film. It's exquisitely shot and beautifully paced, and the story-telling has a minimalist restraint which is peculiarly satisfying and deeply evocative. Once again the film is carried as much by its child actors, who are wonderful, as by the stark chill of its snowscapes which so powerfully underpin its exploration of childhood themes - innocence, trust, dependence and, ultimately, power.

I loved Let the Right One for its exploration of the vampire myth. For such a deliberate and thoughtful film, it's actually using an extremely conventional version of the vampire - supernatural strength and speed, sensitivity to light, inability to enter without an invitation. All that's missing is the fangs. Nonetheless Eli is anything but a stereotype, a fascinating construction skating with exquisite poise on the liminal edges of child/adult, predator/vulnerable, monstrous/pathetic. One responds to her with a curious mix of terror and empathy, as does Oscar himself. In fact, empathy is a powerful device in the film; you cannot help but sympathise with the dogged, desperate incompetence of Eli's protector, with the narrow but likeable world of her victims, even with the abusive home life of Oscar's main tormentor. Ultimately, though, the film suggests that Eli is not the monster; her violence and her disturbingly drifting identity (this film does incredible things with gender) are simply an externalisation of the strange undercurrents of alienation and violence and eroticism which underlie Oscar's everyday world.

The vampire in the twentieth century has become internalised, psychologised; rather than othering the monster with proper terror, we seem to be driven to understand it. Both these films represent a highly-developed form of that impulse. They deny the easy erotic appeal which motivates many more popular versions, in their empathetic address to the unnaturalness, the loneliness, the physical distastefulness of being a vampire. If the monster is not in the vampire, disturbingly, it must be in us.
  • Current Mood: drained astonishingly tired
  • Current Music: The Cure, Wish
Lisbeth Salander
"Let The Right One In" is actually Swedish. Those Swedes have a thing for dark fiction. :-)

I've only seen the American remake, Let Me In; Chloe Moretz (from "Kick-Ass") does a chilling job as the child killer; just the right blend of pitiful and horrific.
Re: Lisbeth Salander
Phooey, I was mislead by the Norway release date at the top of the IMDB record - you are quite correct, Sweden it is. Thanks for pointing that out.

I have no idea why they had to go and bloody well remake it, fond though I am of Chloe Moretz - it's a perfect thing in itself.
A completely unrelated question
Mrs Xavier is going to be preparing a project with a bunch of 13-14-year-olds in a few days's time. The topic is love, sex and tenderness, and she's looking for a film snippet to use.

One option is the famous 'flying' scene from the Titanic, but that's a bit ancient for them. So Mrs X was thinking of using something from the Twilight series. I know it spits blood and that you're not exactly a fan, but it's a Big Thing for the babyteens and you have engaged with it through students. Do you know Twilight well enough, vicariously or otherwise, to be able to suggest something usable?
Re: A completely unrelated question
aargh. I do take your point about the series' resonance with Today's Yoof (which I mistyped as Toady's Yoof, hee); unfortunately, I've never managed to persuade myself to sit through more than about fifteen minutes of the first movie, so would be unqualified to suggest which scenes are appropriate. I'd also hesitate to use Twilight as any sort of exemplar about sexuality and tenderness because its gender and power issues are so totally screwed up (although I suppose that's a teaching opportunity in itself). There are various stills from the latest film doing the rounds, though, which have a Bella-and-Edward-cuddling-in-bed vibe, so if Mrs X has the gumption to sit through it, some of the bits around the wedding and honeymoon may work?
Re: A completely unrelated question
Thank you: Mrs X is very grateful. We sat through part of the first film and have no real desire to repeat with the latest one. So Twilight will probably not grace her particular project.
Re: A completely unrelated question
I think that's an excellent call :>. If any alternative scenes from contemp pop texts occur to me, I'll let you know.