Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It was cold, and it rained, so I felt like an actor.


Recently me, DJ, and our friend Natvig (of the awesome death metal band Burial of an Era) went to see "Strangers with Candy" at a theater slated for demolition this fall. I thought the movie was very funny, but not nearly as good as I expected. But then again, how can a 97 min. movie live up to the cumulative high points from three seasons worth of a show? Like the movie, the series was filled with comedic hits and misses, but the movie's misses were just more disappointing because you could hear all that expensive film stock running through the projector. Still, I’m sure it’s better than any other comedy out now.

But the reason I’m writing this is to gush over the preview I saw for John Cameron Mitchell’s new flick "Shortbus" which I am probably more excited for than any other upcoming film. Mitchell is the one man dynamo behind 2001’s fantastic Hedwig and the Angry Inch which he wrote (based on his Broadway musical), directed, sang and stared in. Because of the preview, me, DJ and OMGIMike watched Hedwig again a few nights later. Being a musical (and one staring a flamboyant drag queen as a punk rock neuter) it’s necessarily excessive. I’m not a fan of musicals, and usually the foundational conceit and exaggeration turns me off, but here it totally works. Being a film which stems from, cannibalizes, and eventually spits out the heavy handed ideology of the cold war and the plastic transcendence of 70’s glam rock and rock operas, the film’s artificiality and excessiveness create the perfect framework to deal with the products and repercussions of such didactic world-views. The many over-the-top rock numbers (which overtly reference Tommy, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Dr. Strangelove, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Douglas Sirk and more) along with the exaggerated set design, acting and plot, all serve to buffer the highly symbolic film. The character Hedwig (Mitchell), who due to a botched sex change (intended to allow her safe transit over the wall) now has neither a cock nor cunt, functions primarily as a symbol of both division and union. Through her/him, Mitchell equates the dichotomy of slave world/free world to the equally rigid and artificial one of man/woman, and later to the Christian notion of good/evil and freedom/security (via Adam and Eve). Whenever the film’s symbolic decadence gets too much to bear, Mitchell cranks up the volume even more, making it clear that we are on the level of metaphor or hyperbole and that such heightened symbolism is the only way to deal with the divisive rhetoric of which Hedwig is a product. However, the film doens't get lost in cold metaphoric dealings, rather it quite warmly addresses issues of true love, loss, and identity within its diametric framework. Although all the lesser elements meld together seamlessly to express and advence the really quite beautiful symbolic statement(s) of the film, all the rock songs still stand alone completely. Truly, this is one of the best soundtracks/concept albums of recent memory. I’m still in my old stomping ground of Madison WI and, being away from my record collection, am unable to post my favorite songs from the album yet, but I promise to do so when I get back. No text, just the fucking music.

I don’t know much about "Shortbus" except it looks sexy and artsy as hell, Sarxy, which of course is nothing new (look at Antonioni or Lynch). Supposedly, it’s loose and highly improvised plot follows several couples (from all parts of the homo-hetero spectrum) as they explore…stuff. You can read more about it here.

And you can watch the short yet highly enticing trailer for it here.

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