Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bedroom Lost and Found 2

heavy shapeless no-mind time

full motion stagger charge

fuck the bedroom, fuck getting into someone

I'm nude and yelling and glorious in the cold

have no way of knowing this

was all in the police report

I'm back in my bed, contemplating a future court date

all is slow and hurting

feels this way forever

Copyright 2018 by William D. Tucker. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bedroom Lost and Found

People wrapped in sleeping bags, sitting in doorways, found bedrooms.
I'm just downtown to get shitfaced,
hopefully find myself into an actual bedroom end of the evening, into someone new.

Copyright 2018 by William D. Tucker. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Lynch Meditations 5: Eraserhead (1977)

WARNING: If you've never seen Eraserhead, go watch it. It's excellent. It's a high point in the career of David Lynch. It's best to go into it totally blind, with no pre-conceived notions. Don't read what I think about it, don't read any other reviews before you see it-do that after, if at all. Eraserhead's worth the time spent with it.

An evil man in the moon manipulates a set of levers setting in motion a nightmarish existence for a printer named Henry.

Henry is full of monster sperm he doesn't want.

A woman with a face full of tumors-or maybe Jo Shishido-style silicone injections gone bad-sings of heaven inside a radiator, and stomps out the unwanted sperm monsters.

Henry is so ashamed of his desires,
he literally loses his head sometimes.
When he really gets down, the grotesque head of a monster baby replaces his own.

Henry's apartment transforms into a muggy jacuzzi when he finally has sex with the woman across the hall whom he has desired for so long . . . assuming this isn't a dream.

Henry lies in bed with his fiancee (not the woman across the hall, btw), post-coitus. Suddenly, he starts trying to remove the monster sperms he has filled her with by reaching inside of her and extracting them manually which causes extreme pain to the fiancee.

And then there's the dream of becoming an eraserhead . . .

Eraserhead is full of nightmarish imagery in glorious black and white meticulously planned, lit, designed, shot, scored, sound re-recorded, edited, and mixed over five laborious years in the 1970s. I had to remind myself that this was 1970s American cinema. It has that timeless look that Citizen Kane has, where I have to remind myself of the true age of what I just watched. Eraserhead feels even more contemporary than Citizen Kane, whose snappily paced dialogue and German Expressionist style clearly dates it to the 1940s. Eraserhead is still very much of this present moment with its long stretches of ambient sound scoring, and characters who alternate between anguished silences and awkward exchanges. The characters inhabit a world of deep loneliness and isolation, and so they turn inwards to keep their own counsel, nurture bizarre fantasies, or have outright hallucinations. Or are they transcendent visions? (Maybe these people need social media. I mean, if they could just situate themselves within solipsistic always online echo chambers I'm sure their angst and alienation would be geometrically amplified to lethal proportions-oh, wait . . .)

The question of whether this movie takes place in reality or a dream is seemingly settled by its well-know tagline: "A dream of dark and troubling things." Of course, you could say that every movie is a dream of one kind or another, especially if we define a dream as a discrete set of images, sounds, and moods that constitutes a hermetically sealed experience complete in and of itself.

Gojira is a nightmare of a giant radioactive monster laying waste to Tokyo; Double Indemnity is a fever dream of forbidden desire run riot overturning the placid surface of prosperous lives; Zero Dark Thirty is a slow-burn nightmare of vengeance hollowing out an intelligence analyst's soul; La La Land is a bittersweet dream of attractive young people making it in Hollywood; Mulholland Dr. is a nightmare of attractive young people making it in Hollywood hidden inside a bittersweet dream of attractive young people making it in Hollywood.

Eraserhead is, perhaps, a nightmare of a man who fears having to take care of another living being.

Henry has a child with his fiancee which is a monstrosity seemingly created before the camera from an actual cow fetus, expertly puppeteered like something out of a Clive Barker story. The newborn is piteous, magnificent, repulsive, and irritating in equal measure. He keeps it on top of his dresser in his tiny apartment. It mewls in pain at all hours of the night, and in this world it's almost always night. Henry tries to ignore the monster freak baby, but then he tries to tend to its fragile, bandaged body and everything only gets worse. Which is exactly what drives people from trying to love one another, right? A peculiar fear not just of failure, but of rejection, that no matter what you do you'll only become more vile, more alone, more unworthy of being loved. And because Eraserhead is a discrete set of images, sounds, moods, performances that constitutes a hermetically sealed experience complete in and of itself the only possible escape or transcendence flows from the logic of a dream or a nightmare . . . you just need to see it for yourself.

I really don't want to spoil the ending on this one, but I'll say this: a number of Lynch's movies play like nightmares with a transcendent climax in which some mercy or salvation is achieved even if that transcendence can't help but also encompass a high degree of perversity, of madness, annihilation of self and others.

Eraserhead. It's some weird shit.

1/22/18: The Elephant Man (1980)
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Lynch Meditations -5

A man sitting on the edge of a bed gets up to walk through a door
a year and a half later
the man walks through the door
that was the shooting schedule,
how it worked out.

Two years into the shoot, the original cinematographer died of some unspecified illness.

Leading man Jack Nance kept his hair all crazy teased-up like that during the entire shoot.

Money ran out, no one knew if it would ever be finished,
everyone involved gave whatever they had: time, money, labor,
with no real profit motive or hope of breaking in to the Hollywood scene,

Five years of filming
Eraserhead's the result.

It's some weird shit.

I saw Eraserhead for the first time sometime in 2002 on VHS with a couple of friends in a dingy, collegiate apartment. We watched it in mostly rapt silence, all Lynch fans, a perfect screening.

None of us knew anything about the making of the film. I assumed it was a movie made like any other movie. Maybe I thought of it being something like Night of the Living Dead, shot on weekends by a dedicated group of people over five or six months.

After Eraserhead, I recall us watching Tetsuo the Iron Man but I'm not sure. That would've been a terrific double feature.

David Lynch screened Sunset Boulevard for the cast and crew of Eraserhead to put them in the mood of a black and white reality. I guess we should've watched Sunset Boulevard with Eraserhead back in 2002. Well, we didn't know any better at that time.

Maybe I'll watch Sunset Boulevard first before watching Eraserhead this time around.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Comics Review: ORBITER by Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran (2003)

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Colleen Doran
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clem Robins 

Review by William D. Tucker

In the not-too-distant-future, a NASA space shuttle disappears not long after launch. No one knows exactly what happened, but this loss deals a deathblow to the program of manned spaceflight. The government is no longer willing to invest in any mission which could get people killed, and only robotic space exploration missions are funded. This shift in policy works alongside a drift towards militarism and growing economic inequality inside the United States, and within  a decade of the space shuttle's vanishing, Kennedy Space Center has become a shantytown squat for growing populations of the permanently unemployed, climate change refugees from the flooding coastal regions, and masses of sick junkies, the untreated mentally ill, and those disenfranchised by jingoistic nationalism and white supremacy.

And then one day, the vanished space shuttle returns, crashing into the shantytown, and killing scores of innocent people. The military government of the United States moves quickly to investigate the returned shuttle, and try to crack the mystery of its disappearance. The military supervised scientists discover rather quickly that the shuttle is not what it once was: it is covered in a mysterious skin. Only one member of the original crew has survived. And they may no longer be human . . .

Orbiter is a science fiction allegory about the death and rebirth of manned space exploration in the United States of America. I describe it specifically as an allegory because the emphasis here is on themes, ideas, and an overall message about the necessity of interdisciplinary collaboration among the "hard" and "soft" sciences of physics, biology, psychology, and engineering in order to overcome the vast challenges of intergalactic exploration, as opposed to a focus on characters and interpersonal drama. The characters are important, and well-sketched for the most part, but like many science fiction tales, the ideas are what matter most. This results in a cast of characters who mostly exist as spokespeople for different values and philosophical points of view, with a few devolving into stock stereotypes of geekdom and hardline military authoritarianism. I was able to forgive the weaknesses of some of the characterizations because the overall thematic development was so compelling.

The art is seamless and cinematic, foregoing sound effects text and thought bubbles, and emphasizing shadows, earth tones, faces, and the magnificent returned space shuttle which has undergone a startling biomechanical transformation. Scenes of crushing poverty and cataclysmic mass death set a very dark tone early on with an abundance of detail depicting piles of corpses and heaps of trash side by side. Human life has lost much of its meaning and value. But as the human investigators probe deeper into the mystery of the returned spacecraft, the people-with their questions and memories and theories-take center stage lifting the story into a higher plane both visually and textually.

At one hundred brisk pages, Orbiter cuts all the bullshit, and gives you everything you need between two covers.

This comic was originally published as a single volume hardback "graphic novel" way back in 2003, the year the US embarked on its disastrous Iraq adventure, and it seems even more relevant now as the United States struggles to keep its shit together under the shameful administration of Fake President trump and his government of white supremacists, hyper-nationalists, and climate change denying anti-intellectuals. Orbiter, for all its gruesome dystopian world-building, actually depicts a path forward by dramatizing interdisciplinary cooperation in the face of nihilistic inertia and despair. Sometimes dystopia clarifies one's thinking, and makes you realize you need not be bound to the failed institutions and ideologies of the past. This, too, is what I see as the primary lesson of the ordeal of the Fake President trump White House as it implodes in real time: what kind of country do we want marching forward into the future? One that is inclusive of all people regardless of skin color, sexuality, and gender identity? Or a corrupt shithole of jingoism and white supremacy?

Orbiter offered transcendent hope in the dark days of the lying, warmongering Bush/Cheney regime in 2003, and it holds up in this present moment as well.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Long Walk to the All-U-Can-Eat Country Buffet

crumbling before the memory of some stupid fucking golden age
memories sliding into one another, now sloshing down the drain
all soaring, all charging, all shouting, all slogans, all ideals
hopes for the new order of the ages:
utopia for me, dystopia for you,
same shit, different era

all of it

crashes into my knees,
stiffens 'em up corpse painful
pulls my skin taut, see my enemies jeer and parade
as I halt towards the all-u-can-eat country buffet

no metaphysics
just physics,
every statue
coming down.

Copyright 2018 by William D. Tucker. All rights reserved. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Lynch Meditations 4: The Amputee Version One and Version Two (1974)

A woman (Catherine Coulson) writes a letter or maybe a script for a daytime soap opera as a nurse (David Lynch) tends to the stump of her freshly amputated left leg. The right leg has also been amputated. The woman jots down a series of jealous accusations and insinuations exchanged between a group of close friends as the nurse tries to staunch the bleeding stump. The blood continues to flow. The letter or soap opera script or outline of a turgid novel of love and betrayal a la Peyton Place just goes on and on and on narrated in voice over by the woman who does not even seem aware of her amputated legs, the eternally bleeding stump, or the nurse who seems to be incapable of staunching the flow of blood.

Petty soap opera conflicts obscure the larger truth, the larger wound.
This short little flick-available in a five minute and in a four minute version-seems to encapsulate in miniature all three seasons of Twin Peaks + Fire Walk With Me.

The two versions were each shot on a different kind of videotape that the American Film Institute was looking to purchase presumably to cut costs. So this is early video work from Lynch, who would shoot web videos and the labyrinthine epic INLAND EMPIRE on digital video farther on down the line.

The video is a rough looking black and white that enhances the dreamy surrealism of the scene that plays out in one continuous take in both versions.

The scene has no real ending. I was left with the feeling that it just goes on and on, cyclically, a warped soap opera playing out inside the amputee's mind,
while the nurse tends the wound he cannot close,
the wound that will never stop squirting blood.

NEXT: 1/15/18 The Lynch Meditations 5: Eraserhead (1977)
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