Movies

Ad pelicula insanitas

Women are good enough at making their lives impossible without movies providing fuel to the fire.

Okay, so when I say women, I mean me, but it’s more fun to generalize so I don’t feel so alone, here in front of my beautiful laptop, the only being to look at me so squarely in the eye so much of the time.

When I read “Anna Karenina”, I finished the book in such a trance, I was almost hearing the train coming at me, and I felt in a sort of crazied epiphany that I understood why she did it.

Granted, that was in Madagascar and I was in a weird place altogether but ever since then, I’ve tried to monitor what I watch and read. I tend to take things very literally, and simply very intensely and so it’s almost always never “just a movie.”

So “Abre Los Ojos” was not necessarily the best thing for me to watch at this point, because I finished it feeling exactly like Cesar. And you will soon see why. (?)

Cesar, a very handsome lisping Spaniard has a reputation to uphold: never to be seen with the same woman twice. He wakes up from having a dream. He messes with the wrong woman, Nuria, a psychopath who sees him come out of beautiful Sofia’s flat one morning, and gives him a ride only to commit suicide by driving the car off the road and disfiguring him forever. Cesar has another dream. Now Cesar el monstro is angry at the world, reconnects with Sofia, eventually sees her again. Dreams again, wakes up again. Start of relationship between Cesar Monstro and Sofia, then he becomes Handsome Cesar again. Couple more dreams, wakes up again. Then Sofia turns into Nuria, then Cesar is Monstro again, has a dream, wakes up, he kills Nuria/Sofia. More dreams, which become reality which is really a dream.

And this all translates as: yes!!!!! I too, wear a mask made of human flesh in the morning when I wake up and pretend to be something I am not and I have also signed a contract with a stiff French expatriate to cryogenically freeze myself and therefore…I am…..Cesar!

It’s ridiculous. I don’t think it’s actually really my fault or my sensitivity, (of COURSE not!) I just think that cinema is at its most powerful when it portrays mental insanity, and it tends to make me feel profoundly what it’s trying to portray.

It’s always hard for me to watch movies about insanity because they’re often so much more real than other movies. I don’t know what it is, maybe they tap into something psychological and very deep, maybe they are more manipulative than other movies, with soundtracks that are more haunting, a direction and cinematography which are more manipulative.

Movies about insanity/psychological trauma/mental illnesses are pretty crazy-making, I think. And they’re also brilliant, like “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” “Twelve Monkeys” “Spellbound” “The Shining” “Psycho” “Strangers on a Train” and on and on. I just find them hard to watch because they’re engineered to get into your head.

And make you think you’re a disfigured, lisping sweaty Spaniard, running through empty streets.

I actually tend to eliminate movies about insanity as a plot line (movies like Beautiful Mind don’t bother me, because they’re not totally fictional), movies that have disturbing scenes that I can never erase from my memory (if I can find out about this in advance). I avoid if I can movies that are gratuitously violent and movies that even use incest, pornography or child abuse in their plot, and that (suprisingly) eliminates a lot of movies which come out on a yearly basis. I wouldn’t see movies like Abre Los Ojos (if I’d known better), Monster (even if it is based on a true story, it is much more than I could handle), Requiem for a Dream, Mystic River, Snuff (was that the name of that movie with Nic Cage?) American Psycho, Kill Bill Any Volume, and so on, just to name a few.

It’s so funny. A few years ago I saw one of my favorite movies ever, “A Taste of Cherry” by Abbas Kiarostami. I just loved the movie, the slow, quirky, real pace of one day’s afternoon, dust flying into the car through the rolled-down window, sunglasses slipping down your nose from the heat, real people with hair in their noses, not like those actresses who only have hair on their head and eyelashes/brows.

I don’t know why I just said that.

Anyway. At the end, Kiarostami explains he doesn’t like movies that are manipulative at all, he likes to make boring movies that the audience sort of drifts in and out of, that don’t keep you riveted, unblinking, on the edge of your seat and tense…and I realized…geez. I really don’t like that either. I like to be able to follow a plot that tells a fantastic story (sometimes really strange) without really short CNN-style 1-second frames, super-edited and with crazy mood music that makes you feel as tense as during a college final, lots of explosions and people yelling or cussing at you.

And “Abre Los Ojos” was exactly that manipulative movie, which is entertaining, and well made, very well acted, well filmed, but you come out of it pretty much played because everything’s ready for you, everything’s been arranged just to confuse you according to plan. Sure, you’ve been entertained for two hours, but only because they had you by the GUT. You had no choice in the matter.

That’s exactly what a lot of people want out of a movie, a chance not to think, just to watch, and that’s perfect, everyone should get what they want from movies, that’s the great thing about them. Sometimes a good Chinese Hong-Kong movie, or a Mission Impossible type movie, or something that will just make you laugh.

I just don’t feel that good at the end of a movie like this. I feel exhausted, and manipulated, and I feel like I’ve learned nothing, except how a plot can twist on itself thirty times, and I don’t enjoy that.

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