Sunday, April 22, 2012

Zulawski orgy roundup part 3: Without you, I wouldn't feel anything at all

(Image: Smashbox Studios)
(My previous entries on BAM Rose Cinema's Andrzej Zulawski series can be found here, here and here.)

Sometimes you have to go crazy to tell the truth. A scene early in Possession (1981) finds Sam Neill as a betrayed and estranged husband, camped out in rented quarters, red-eyed, unshaven and grimy in sweat-soaked, days-old clothes. He thrashes about on his bed like an inconsolable toddler, calls his wife but can't speak, and careens around his room and down the corridor, running into walls, collapsing on the floor, flailing and moaning like a wounded animal - in other words, embodying the Zulawski hero par excellence.

Somewhere in the course of this tableau, I recalled my own experience of bottom-of-the-barrel romantic despair, the worst days and weeks of a dysfunctional relationship close to a decade ago. And I realized that this was exactly how I felt at the time - that the only reason I didn't indulge myself similarly was my deep-seated commitment to certain norms of civilized behavior, and my network of patiently supportive friends and family. Also, I had to go to work. But if I could have gotten away with it, I would have approximated Neill's performance. With that thought, the distance between myself and the alien being on the screen collapsed into an identification as close as that with a twin brother. The filmmaker's world not only made sense to me - it became, at least briefly, my world. Never did I see more clearly that in his own way he's trying to be quite direct - by clearing away the masks of conventional expression to expose raw emotions and naked psyches. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Zulawski orgy roundup part 2: By the light of the silvery moon

(Image: Panopticum)
(My previous entries on BAM Rose Cinema's Andrzej Zulawski series can be found here and here.)

Anybody who takes the time and trouble to be an enthusiast in any field has their holy grails, their tantalizing unattainables. It's like the grown-up geek's version of an ever-receding Christmas morning, where the anticipation of getting is in some ways better than the actual thing. Maybe it's the out-of-print live album, or the uncensored first publication; the baseball card with the misspelled name, or the suppressed and unfinished Polish religio-mystical science fiction epic nightmare.

To cut to the chase, last month I finally saw On the Silver Globe (1977/1988), nine years after first reading about it in Film Comment. And it was only somewhere between 30 and 40 percent a disappointment. That would be the tediously and pretentiously talky part. The other 60 to 70 percent is the surreal, synapse-frying kinda-masterpiece I was promised. Which is more than enough to make it worth seeking out if getting synapses fried is your thing.