Archives for posts with tag: alienation

Nomads

John McTiernan, director of Hollywood blockbusters Predator (1987), Die Hard (1988), and The Hunt for Red October (1990), began his movie career rather more humbly with the flawed and eccentric but nonetheless entertaining debut Nomads (1986). Notable as McTiernan’s only credit as a screenwriter, Nomads was eviscerated by the critics when first released, and still has only a 13% green splat at Rotten Tomatoes. “Was there any sense in it?” asks leading lady Lesley-Anne Down in an interview included on the Nomads Blu-ray. “I don’t think there was very much sense in it at all for anybody.” Is Down correct in dismissing the film as a shallowly offbeat curio – and were the critics who panned the movie motivated only by an objective assessment of its merits?

Nomads stars Pierce Brosnan as a French anthropologist, Jean Charles Pommier, who in the opening sequence dies in the care of Down’s character, Dr. Eileen Flax, in a Los

Down

Lesley-Anne Down freaks out in John McTiernan’s Nomads.

Angeles hospital. He appears in a beaten, bloodied, and seemingly insane state, and his enigmatic last words initiate what will be a strange paranormal ordeal for Flax, who over the course of the film will both investigate and experience what befell Pommier, with most of the story told in flashback. The anthropologist and his wife (Anna Maria Monticelli) had only recently moved to the U.S. and purchased a house that, as it turns out, has a horrible history attached to it. Soon after moving in, the Pommiers discover Mansonesque graffiti on the garage door and more graffiti inside: “Gutman’s a Hero”. The home, they learn, was the site of a horrific child murder, and a band of elusive antisocial misfits who live out of a van have adopted the house as a holy site.

Pommier, being an anthropologist, follows the titular “nomads” around Los Angeles with the intention of documenting and studying them in order to gain a better idea of the threat he faces and to understand “what kind of people could think of a murder as some sort of shrine.” He determines that none of them have employment and watches them from a distance as they laze at the beach, party, and generally terrorize people. The nomads become aware of Pommier’s surveillance after he witnesses them murder a man and put the body in a dumpster. After first being pursued by them and escaping, Pommier again works his way into proximity with the group – at which point they seem to accept his presence and stage an impromptu photo shoot, with one of them, Mary, played by Mary Woronov, doing an exotic dance. When Pommier develops the film, however, he finds that none of the nomads appear in the exposures, which invites a comparison with vampires – although the nomads, who have no problem frolicking in the daylight, are clearly not vampires at least as conventionally depicted.

These quasi-vampires – vampire lore comprising a traditional understanding of the eternal Jew – are nomads, or what Pommier, drawing on Eskimo legends, describes as an urban variety of Innuat. As related in the film, “It has to do with wandering the desert. […] It’s all the same. Nomads live in deserts, whether it’s a desert of ice or sand or whatever doesn’t make a difference. […] They were supposedly hostile spirits. According to the myth, they were capable of assuming a human form” and traveled from place to place, bringing ruin and madness with them wherever they went. As Pommier tells his wife:

None of this may mean anything. None of it at all. […] But I may have found people who are living outside – outside any structure. They do not participate. No exchange, no constraints. They resort to violence with no provocation and then get away with it. It is as if to the official world they did not exist.

All of this rootlessness, in combination with the confluence of ritual, child murder, the reverence for a killer with the Jewish name Gutman, as well as the general depravity and destructiveness, contributes to an accumulation of clues that the nomads may be the Jews. Curiously, composer Bill Conti mentions during his Blu-ray interview that the soundtrack includes what he describes as a “Middle Eastern sound” – though to this reviewer’s untrained ear such a flavoring is difficult to detect in the synth-and-guitars music cues.

Adam Ant Nomads

Adam Ant portrays the leader of the titular band of roving marauders.

“You must not try to fight them,” a sinister nun (Blue Velvet’s Frances Bay) tells Pommier. This encounter takes place in a dilapidated cathedral where, in a sequence of nightmarish phantasmagoria, a flock of satanic women in habits is seen running through the halls in masks, one of them flashing her bare breasts at Pommier – all of which points to a faith corrupted. Dancing Mary, the nomad portrayed by Mary Woronov, wears a cross that glints in the sun, and later, when she is seen at night, she wears an even larger crucifix so that the viewer can hardly help but notice it as she cavorts like a stripper. Are these Christian elements ironic and indicative of cultural subversion, or have these been added as fig leaves to hide the almost naked Jewishness of the menace? Woronov’s features, it must be noted, are rather evil and arguably Semitic-looking.

In a key moment toward the end of the film, Pommier says to his wife with an air of wistfulness as they survey the Los Angeles skyline from a rooftop, “We are so very far from home, you know. All of us.” He laments his “bourgeois” life in a “civilized” world – in short, bemoans his condition of rootless cosmopolitanism. Both he and his kindred spirit the doctor, another childless middle-aged professional in the process of moving into a new and foreign home, have agricultural surnames, Pommier (“apple tree”) and Flax, that betray their simple origins and relatedness to the earth – Flax also connoting blonde and distinctively northern European looks – that set them apart from the dark, mysterious wanderers who move in their midst. Pommier’s polyglot cosmopolitanism, peripatetic ways, and sophistication nevertheless present a thematic parallel with the lifestyle of the nomads, so that it comes as no surprise when Pommier finally succumbs to them. The horror of Nomads is loss of a sense of belonging to a place and one’s own native culture – the horror of an alienated world in which, for instance, Dr. Flax’s colleague Cassie Miller (Jeannie Elias) complains about the “meshuggenah lunatics” who people the city. Whatever the meaning of the film, it may be worth observing that it is set in the entertainment capital of the world and that the final nomad antagonist Dr. Flax encounters is unable to pursue her beyond the California state line.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

KMFDMAdios

Adios – the “final” piece in constructing the “Columbine Matrix”?

On Hitler’s birthday, April 20, 1999, the abrasive German electronic pop group KMFDM (depending on the source, either “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode” or “Kein Mehrheit Furh Die Mitleid,” which means “No Pity for the Majority”) released what was supposed to be its final album, Adios. This would be a comparatively insignificant footnote in history if not for the fact that this was also the day of the Columbine High School massacre. Eric Harris, a fan of the band, took notice of what he seems to suggest is something more than a simple coincidence. “Heh, get this,” he wrote in his journal. “KMFDM’s new album is entitled ‘Adios’ and its release date is in April. How fuckin appropriate, a subliminal final ‘adios’ tribute to Reb and Vodka [i.e., Harris and Klebold], thanks KMFDM…”

“The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, amid pressure over the long delay in publishing their investigation’s findings, released a report in May 2000 including over eleven thousand pages of lead sheets, ballistics and eyewitness reports and other attack-related media,” Evan Long states in the introduction to his essential documentary challenge The Columbine Cause. “The length of these reports did not lend them to rapid digestion, and the 9/11 attacks and overall shift in the American political climate of 2001 obscured many of the pressing domestic troubles facing America,” Long continues. “Perhaps the dust of the Twin Towers has settled enough by now for the people of the world to take a fresh look at the attack launched on Columbine.”

Was the “Trench Coat Mafia” something other than what mainstream media outlets reported it to be in 1999? Was the Columbine massacre something other than what it appeared to be? “Now, as far as the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency or some type of brainwashing network, we have to be careful here in terms of avoiding that which our convictions may prejudice us to believe,” Michael A. Hoffman II cautions in “The Columbine Matrix”, a lecture he recorded shortly after the event.

In other words, a good researcher doesn’t act a priori. He doesn’t establish what he wants to see in a story and then look for those things. But rather, he goes to a story with an open mind, even if that report, even if the news details, contradicts his own convictions about something; and, therefore, to the very best of my knowledge, I have not yet seen evidence of an organizational brainwash going on against these two boys. In fact, I think we need to understand what happened in Littleton at a higher level of mind control than what has been previously put forth.

Trench Coat Mafia

Note the KMFDM hat.

Notwithstanding the absence of concrete and credible evidence of intelligence agency involvement, Long, using material released after Hoffman delivered his lecture, presents a compelling case for a cover-up of testimonies concerning disturbing aspects of the Columbine event. The details are beyond the scope of the present essay, which the reader should supplement with a viewing of The Columbine Cause. A further quotation may, however, whet the appetite:

According to an unnamed individual in the JCSO report, the attack had been “the big rumor for two years.”

And Martin Middleton, who had been in the Jefferson County area in the mid-90’s, at that time encountered an individual talking about the attempted bombing that would take place on Hitler’s 110th birthday who also told him that the Trench Coat Mafia which would be attempting it was not just a bunch of lonely depressed kids, but something much larger.

Indeed, we were told after the attack that the Columbine attackers had planned to not just shoot and maim a few dozen students, but to kill 500 people, level the school with bombs, hijack a plane from Denver’s New World Airport and, despite their total inexperience with aviation, fly it over 2000 miles where they would perhaps lodge it into skyscrapers in New York City, a plan which may have sounded foreign to audiences of 1999 but which today seems all too familiar.

KMFDMAdios2

Natural selection, a concept that interested Harris in the social Darwinist context, is also referenced in “Rubicon”, a song by KMFDM, one of the boy’s favorite music groups.

KMFDMParty

Original artwork for the Coup’s album Party Music. A few promotional copies of the CD were sent out with this cover before the official release.

Those acquainted with 9/11 conspiracy lore will be aware of the theories of eerily prescient content in the entertainment media during the years leading up to that event. Such films as The Siege (1998) and Fight Club (1999), in addition to the notorious pilot episode of the short-lived Fox TV series The Lone Gunmen, furnish examples of these alleged indications of foreknowledge of the World Trade Center attack, as does the scrapped artwork for rap group the Coup’s 2001 release Party Music, which depicts the Twin Towers being remotely detonated. Similarly, with Columbine, conspiracy-oriented researchers like Hoffman and Long have pointed to the proliferation of a violent trench coat goth image and sensibility in Hollywood productions like The Crow (1994), The Basketball Diaries (1995), Blade (1998), and The Matrix (1999), which was released a mere three weeks before the shootings in Littleton, Colorado.

As with Warner’s Party Music, the cover of TVT Records’ suspiciously synchronized KMFDM release displays a startling parallelism with the events of that day. Mimicking comic book artwork, the Adios imagery created by Aidan “BRUTE!” Hughes shows two gunmen being rammed and run over by a scowling driver. The content of at least one of the songs is strangely relevant to the Columbine massacre, as well. The lyrics of one track, “Full Worm Garden”, go in part as follows:

Tincture of lead be said with no remorse full of confusion
Wish to enjoy this weightlessness lay me out full worm garden

A noose-knit put on sweater tie it up around the arm
Looks to grip along the trigger down the barrel of a gun

KMFDM

KMFDM’s Sascha Konietzko models the trench coat look.

Another song on Adios, titled “R.U.OK?”, concludes with these interesting lines:

For a moment you might question what you see
For a second your whole world will disappear

This is mind control and you know it
This will shut you up and you know it

Mind control

This is mind control
Mind control
This is mind control
Mind control
This is mind control

That’s all you get
It’s all you need

“That’s All”, meanwhile, features the enigmatic phrases “Get defamed in isolation two plus one negate divine”; “News-print news-peak nevermind”; and “Free the hostage situation taken as a simulation”. “Rubicon”, another of the tracks on Adios, has this to say:

Violence for inner-peace
Bombing for therapy
Terror is everything you need

Cross the dotted line
Fake your destiny […]

Natural selection is based on deception
The ignorant elder empowers the youth

KMFDMAdios3

KMFDM fans

Both boys were known admirers of the group and were photographed wearing KMFDM apparel. Eric Harris made multiple references to the group’s body of work in his writings, and it is difficult, in retrospect, to listen to KMFDM’s output in the years leading up to the Columbine massacre without psychologically hyperlinking much of the band’s imagery back into the Trench Coat Mafia’s “Columbine Matrix”, as Hoffman terms it.

KMFDMNihilMore than one of the songs included on KMFDM’s 1995 album Nihil conveys an angry anxiety coupled with a lack of agency. “Flesh” declares “I am the thing that I can’t control”, while “Beast”, the following song in the album’s sequence, screams “I got no choice / I’m out of control / And the kids just love it”. The listener can only expect to “get respect / When you’re kickin’ ass,” the singer explains. “Some people call them terrorists,” says the sample of an unknown man’s foreign-accented voice that opens the track “Terror”; but “these boys have simply been misguided.” Repeated lines in the song describe a fragile mental state: “I’m close enough to trip the wire / I cannot keep my hate inside.” “Our societies are saturated with bloodlust, sensationalism and violence as a result of alienation from oneself’s reality,” explains another of the sampled voices in “Terror”. Nihil’s next song, “Search & Destroy”, asks, “Are we victims or winners / Believers or sinners? / Do we sit in the saddle / Or are we just cattle?” Here again, as would be the case with much of the public discourse that followed the Columbine massacre, the lines separating automaton and deliberate actor, victim and brutalizer, are blurred.

KMFDMXtortKMFDM’s 1996 effort Xtort declares itself the “Industrial soundtrack to the holy wars” and, in its opening number “Power”, prescribes the use of “Excessive force”: “The children of fear / Are not alone / Rivers of tears / Flesh and blood / An eye for an eye / That’s all we’ve got”. “Craze”, a particularly evil-sounding song on this same album, is especially interesting in consideration of Hoffman’s advancement of his theory of “Revelation of the Method”, or “Must Be”, as James Shelby Downard termed it, according to which a shadow establishment openly mocks its intended audience, both confirming and strengthening its control over a population by “telling you what they are doing to you”. “There’s nothing like giving the game away / All the people are feeling the same today,” asserts a demonically processed voice in “Craze” that goes on to command, “Take a hammer and break a bone for me / There’s nothing like giving the game away”. Whether intentionally or not, the song expresses the wicked delight an elite manipulator would presumably feel in dropping such cryptic hints as to his doings and intentions. Also notable on Xtort is “Son of a Gun”, which describes a “Massive attack” by a “Son of a gun” who has been “Born to kill”. “All are equal” to this “Superhero #1”, who exercises “No discrimination” in his murders – a characterization that prefigures Salon writer Dave Cullen’s description of Harris and Klebold: “They were equal-opportunity haters, railing against minorities and whites, praising Hitler’s ‘final solution’ – and then ranting against racism.” Harris said “Son of a Gun” was one of his favorite songs.

The song “Stray Bullet” from KMFDM’s 1997 album Symbols is known to have been of interest to Eric Harris, who made reference to it on at least one occasion. A “Stray bullet / From the barrel of love” is both an eroticized explosion of violence and an apotheosis: “Stray bullet / From the heavens above […] I’m the illegitimate son of God”. “Megalomaniac”, another track from Symbols, declares “Terrorism our trade” and “Chaos our mental state”. “Anarchy”, a song from Symbols mentioned in Harris’s entry in classmate Nathan Dykeman’s yearbook, evokes a character motivated by revenge who has “made a God out of blood”. Had Harris and Klebold, as Hoffman suggests with reference to the desensitizing content of The Matrix, taken their “MKULTRA marching orders” from KMFDM?

Konietzko

Konietzko

KMFDM snarler-songwriter Sascha Konietzko has complained that “a giant shitstorm came down on KMFDM” after the Columbine horror, and it is entirely possible that Konietzko is justified in his outrage at the band’s being falsely implicated. It is not this essay’s intention to charge that the personnel of KMFDM or Rammstein or any other group are Mossad or Central Intelligence Agency contractors bent on programming America’s youth for commission of acts of mass murder. Easy answers may never be forthcoming where the Columbine massacre is concerned, with more mystery and convolution emerging the more one examines the case. This essay is purely exploratory.

A lack of conclusive information does nothing to dispel the number of anomalies and bizarre circumstances surrounding the event, the release of Adios being one of many of these. Evan Long cites “an unnamed individual in the reports [who] called up accounts of a Denver-area culture well outside the bounds of humanity.” He continues:

This individual, who attended another high school in the area, related that he had been to parties attended by goths and Trench Coat Mafia individuals in their 20’s across the area, and that most of the Trench Coat Mafia individuals were out of school and that there were not very many who were still in school. He stated that they were into bloodletting, cutting and violence.

He also was questioned on sexually explicit photographs found in his backpack which were homosexual in nature, and stated that he had been to the house of an individual known to some in this circuit as “Pedophile Bill”, a homosexual man who was, quote, “not nice sexually” and had given him these pictures and also showed him photo albums which made him sick to his stomach. The albums, he said, contained sexually explicit photographs of small children up to the age of fourteen.

Who was “Pedophile Bill” and what was his connection, if any, to the events at Columbine High School? How extensive was the Trench Coat Mafia, and what was its organizational structure – if indeed it had any to speak of? If Long’s film The Columbine Cause demonstrates anything, it is that the public does not know what happened April 20th, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, and that further research, much of it on the ground, must be conducted before the case can be closed to any critically conscious observer’s satisfaction. As Sheriff Ted Mink’s reported destruction not only of weapons and shell casings from the crime scene but also the infamous “Basement Tapes” of Harris and Klebold indicates, the authorities are determined that no independent investigator will ever be able to challenge establishment narratives with the aid of this key forensic and psychological evidence.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

buzzard

Writer-director Joel Potrykus and star Joshua Burge create one of the cinema’s great characters in Marty Jackitansky, as scathing a condemnation of this critic’s generation as has yet dared to bring the pain to the screen. Jackitansky is a loser, but seemingly unaware or unconcerned by this indisputable fact. He “works” for a bank’s mortgage division, but does little to earn his pay and actually spends most of his time devising ways of clipping the company for a quick buck. He orders useless supplies just to sell these back to the vendor for a cash refund, and even thinks he can get away with signing customers’ refund checks over to himself.

Jackitansky, a child of the 1980s, seems to have lost touch with reality sometime during the 1990s, as evidenced by the fact that he plays video games obsessively and yet refuses to use a computer because, as his even nerdier friend Derek (Potrykus) suggests, he is “scared of technology and robots and stuff.” He is young enough to suffer from the same desensitization and nihilism that characterize Generation Y, but too old to be comfortable with the personal technology that defines the social lives of those a few years younger.

Digital technology and an ineffectual public education system have left people like Jackitansky with little or no understanding of rudimentary math or economics. He blows all of his money on horror paraphernalia, and it never seems to occur to him to ration his limited resources once he goes on the run in order to elude the authorities. He thinks nothing, for instance, of eating out or throwing away the bulk of his dwindling cash on one evening in a nice hotel – and ordering room service, to boot.

Jackitansky is almost infectiously likable as an anti-heroic protagonist, his scams indicative of a creative if stupid and misguided resourcefulness and mischievously rebellious streak – at least, that is, until his anarchic revolt reveals itself to be little more than self-absorption and lack of regard for his fellow man. His intensifyingly hostile rudeness toward the admittedly goofy Derek kills any sympathy the viewer might have harbored until the point when Jackitansky finally becomes insufferable. Hoping to avoid detection by the authorities, he crashes in Derek’s father’s basement. Rather than being grateful, however, he dismisses his friend as a “fuckin’ loser” and even has the nerve to complain that his couch “sucks”. Buzzard progressively darkens in tone as the viewer begins to understand that Jackitansky is driven not by merely merry pranksterism, but by genuine junk-food-fueled psychopathy.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this journey into the nightmare realm of cubicle jobs, adult virgins, and institutionalized alienation is:

4. Reactionary! Jackitansky, a representative socialist, has had his head filled with vague notions about the unfairness of capitalism. Consequently, he has no compunctions about cheating a “crap mortgage company” out of an honest day’s work or threatening or even attacking a small businessman (Joe Anderson), whom he accuses of “corporate thievery”, for standing in the way of one of his idiotic schemes. “I’m gonna strangle you and rape your fuckin’ face off,” Jackitansky tells him, unaccountably adding, “You’re the reason people get mad and die.” At the same time, not much can be said for an economy that reduces Derek, a man who appears to be in his late twenties or thirties, to living at home with his father. One could, if one chose to find an anti-capitalist message in Buzzard, interpret Jackitansky’s parasitic hustling as merely an echo and reflection of the unproductive vulture economy responsible for the subprime mortgage collapse.

3. Media-critical. A Freddy Krueger poster enlivens the protagonist’s apartment, the Nightmare on Elm Street films clearly furnishing the inspiration for the deadly weapon he fashions from a Nintendo Power Glove. That he chooses to make this game control into a weapon for use in the real world, too, indicates a dangerous confusion of reality and the virtual world of glorified violence. Jackitansky’s given name, Marty, carries for this reviewer associations with two other famous Marties of the American cinema: Ernest Borgnine’s conversely sympathetic role in the 1955 film of that title, and Martin Scorsese, a godfather of trivialized movie bloodshed. Jackitansky, unlike Borgnine’s Marty, allows his self-pity to drive him to lash out at others, with whom he is unable to empathize. Significantly, he wears a T-shirt advertising Demons (1985), an Italian horror classic about demonic creatures emerging from a movie screen to do their evil in actuality.

2. Anti-white. The Jewish-looking Jackitansky, asked about his unusual name, replies that his ethnic background is “White Russian”, an answer that verbally reinforces the character’s presumptive whiteness vis-à-vis the non-whites he encounters during the film. Blacks appear as orderly, clean-cut, honest workers, whereas whites are lazy, crazy, socially awkward, and criminal. A blond convenience store cashier (Alan Longstreet) cheats Jackitansky out of a five-spot. Others, such as Derek, who has “party-zoned” his father’s basement, or those who aimlessly vegetate at a hip-hop performance, waste their lives.

1. Anti-Y. Generation Y, as personified by Marty Jackitansky, has no work ethic whatsoever. It has been made self-absorbed and autistic by spoilage, instant gratification, and pop-cultural depravity.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Bauer VHS

In a recent issue of the VHS fan culture publication Lunchmeat, enthusiast Mike Dank describes his experiences exploring other people’s discarded home-recorded videocassettes. “After you accumulate a few hundred ‘normal’ tapes, you tend to want to go a little outside the box and seek out something truly bizarre,” he explains1. One passage of Dank’s account strikes this writer as having a greater significance than the immediate find he details – a resonance more societal than personal.

I started to accumulate more interesting personally-recorded tapes. Some of my initial odd-balls were an audition tape from a terrible actress, a recording of some guy bungee jumping, and what appears to be an amateur recording of an awards dinner. Nothing too terribly exciting, but far from what you might define as run-of-the-mill VHS pick-ups. Then, as if by some sort of VHS-obsessed fate, I found something truly intriguing on the side of the road. Not a block from where I lived, I spotted a cardboard box containing a Betamax deck, and a handful of VHS tapes left out for the trash man. One of these tapes contained the first 30 minutes of an empowerment seminar for women (the kind of half-infomercial, half-roundtable discussion you might see hypnotizing the masses at 2 in the morning) followed by around an hour of soft-core pornography clips stitched together for… well… use your imagination! It seemed to be an inarguable textbook case of someone camouflaging their porn. I mean, who on earth would watch the first 30 minutes of that tape straight through on a whim only to eventually uncover the Skinemax-harvested goods concealed afterward? You start to wonder about the story behind this tape. Did I snag this from some sneaky teenager, maybe a hen-pecked married man?2

Could this be a more perfect encapsulation of sexual trends in the West? Women’s “empowerment” as a ruse, leading into a lonely, voyeuristic depravity, and all of it bound for one civilizational garbage dump.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Dank, Mike. “Finding Forgotten Footage: Unearthing Ultimate Home Video Obscurities”. Lunchmeat Midnight Snack no. 4 (Spring 2015), p. [21].
  2. Ibid., p. [22].

SYNTHETIC_MAN_POSTER

Writer-producer-director (and everything else) John R. Hand’s The Synthetic Man is less a coherently narrative film than a filmed reflection on the writing process.  Though The Synthetic Man resists easy summary, it is generally concerned with self-absorption, boredom, paranoia, sexual longing, and various creative processes, both natural and unnatural, human and alien.

Framing its wildly scattershot content are scenes of an obese and probably insane young woman (April Hand) who in her directionless isolation decides to write a (really bad) science fiction novel in a spiral notebook.  Her initial inspiration is a rape fantasy nightmare in which she is groped and menaced while sleeping by an unseen knife-wielding visitor (Mike Engle).  This, she decides, is the Synthetic Man, who will figure as a character in her novel.

The woman appears to have no family or friends in her life, and certainly no significant other.  Furthermore, the way she rubs her notebook and presses it to her bosom suggests that the novel is just a pitiable exercise in redirected sexual energy.  Everything in her life and in The Synthetic Man as a whole suggests alienation and disconnect, from the sterile interiors of her home and other places to the snow on her television and the prophylactic barriers of fantasy, sleep, gloves, voice distortion, and video to all real human contact.

The material dramatizing her novel is quite the mess, with one highlight being the hero, Richard (Jeff Hartley), crawling around in a parking lot, abducting an old woman, and dragging her into the woods for a thrashing.  The idea of the story (no doubt derived from novels its dilettante author perused at the library) is that ancient aliens have planted secret agents among humanity, which is constantly under surveillance and occasionally falls prey to synthetic rape-seeding.  The latter event, depicted graphically (and to hilarious effect) during The Synthetic Man‘s concluding moments, is probably what viewers will most likely be discussing afterward.

One wishes the film as a whole had been as elegantly suggestive as the opening and closing creditscapes, which, graced by the electronic music of “The Greys” (Mr. Hand again) are fairly hypnotic as the introductory verses of Genesis are delivered in a distant, processed drone (director Hand giving Himself a too-big pat on the back, perhaps?).  The discordant sound design of these and other moments may be this self-consciously spare film’s finest asset.

If The Synthetic Man makes anything clear, however, it is that John R. Hand is a fiercely independent artist little concerned with what will appeal to a broad audience of conventional tastes or satisfy genre fan expectations.  Too cheap, self-absorbed, unfriendly, and uneventful an effort to be of interest to the typical science fiction, horror, or exploitation aficionado, this uncategorizable film will probably only appeal to a weird and very limited audience of seekers after the odd and independent.

1.5 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Synthetic Man is:

5. Antiwar.  “Blessed are the peacemakers . . .”

4. Anti-obesity.  April Hand’s gawking, self-mocking performance does little to humanize her difficult character, who remains an unengagingly lethargic and grotesque figure througout.

3. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Omaru (Esaw Parker Jr.), a black cosmic warrior, relates the origin of all suffering in the world as stemming from the machinations of an “evil race” (whites, no doubt) who bequeathed “gifts of hate and prejudice” to humanity.

2. Statist.  “Everybody’s being watched by someone – their parents, their government, their friends,” the aspiring writer muses in her tub.  “They’re all together.  They’re all related [. . .] What if we were all being watched by aliens?”  Distrust of the government and fears of something like an omnipresent New World Order are thus equated with kooky UFO talk and made the stuff of a lonely fat girl’s delusions.  The effect of her musings is to discredit those who question authority – a depiction that would likely meet with the approval of Cass Sunstein.

1. Sexist!  Women, especially undesirable ones, secretly long to be raped, knifed, or tied to trees and mistreated.

David Cronenberg’s newest film advertises and makes a production of its overwhelming complexity, with dense and enigmatic dialogue lifted directly from Don DeLillo’s novel.  At its core, however, Cosmopolis is a simple story, following young financial demigod Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) and his wilfully unraveling fortunes as his futuristically hermetic limousine slowly snakes its way across Manhattan while anarchist protests explode in the streets.  Along the way the detached Packer has a series of philosophically loaded encounters with the other unusual types who people his life.  The ride is on one level a seemingly pointless jaunt to an inconveniently located barber shop; on another level the trip is a self-obsessed one-man funeral procession, with Packer undergoing sartorial as well as financial and mental downsizing and disintegration en route.

Money, the business of his life, has become an abstract thing; like art, it is no longer narrative and now talks to itself in mad senility.  Isolated from the real life concerns of common humans, Packer is anaesthetized and knows it and will go to bizarre lengths just to feel something.  “Stun me,” he dares his bodyguard (Patricia McKenzie) as she levels a taser at him.  Even his relationship with his wife is absurdly cold and emotionally constipated.  Like Cronenberg, he is an intellectual who intellectualizes everything, so that his “chief of theory” or financial oracle (Samantha Morton) occupies an important place in his life and gives him daily debriefings.  Is it possible that Packer will be able to liberate himself from his psychological sterility only by consciously dismantling everything he has built with such precision?

Cosmopolis is a triumph of visual design and a remarkable feat in remaining consistently sharp and compelling despite being an almost nonstop series of scenes of Packer in conversation.  The stylized dialogue, which lends Cosmopolis an air of being the film adaptation of a stage play, rewards multiple viewings in its clever, showboating complexity.  Also indispensible in keeping this tasteful freakshow afloat is the splendid cast, with Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel, George Touliatos, Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, and many others contributing brief but memorable characterizations that help to define Packer by way of relief and speculation.   Cosmopolis is also very funny and comes highly recommended to fans of black comedies.  5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Cosmopolis is:

10. Multiculturalist.  Packer employs minorities and listens to sufi rap.

9. Faith-ambivalent.  “We don’t need God,” says the “chief of theory”.  Callous Packer’s tower has gone “unpunished by God.”  He mocks a health-conscious subordinate’s “Judeo-Christian jogging”.  He does, however, appear to long for some elusive spirituality.  He admires a sufi rapper (K’Naan) who for a time lived in a minaret, whereas Packer has lived his life in another kind of tower and in a different isolation.  He also expresses interest in buying a chapel.  The mysterious “Complex” is the closest thing to a supreme being in the film, however.

8. Pro-immigration.  Foreign cab drivers “come from horror and despair”.

7. Pro-miscegenation.  Packer avails himself of a chesty black woman.

6. Feminist.  Women are capable executives.  Packer has a female bodyguard.

5. Pro-slut.  “I am a single, struggling mother,” one mover-and-shaker pants sweatily.  Sex in this world has nearly succeeded in divorcing itself from emotion; it is now a medication, an “antidote to disillusion”.  Didi (Juliette Binoche) puts on an especially good show.

4. Anti-marriage.  In addition to Packer’s own failed union, reference is made to “some dumb wedding”.

3. Egalitarian.  Private ownership of art is questioned.  Art “belongs to the world”; and yet, “The more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind.”  Making money is Packer’s art.  Do his creations also belong to the people?  The precipitous crash of his portfolio makes him feel free, Packer says.

2. State-skeptical.  A financial pundit is attacked and stabbed in the eye simply for criticizing the stability of the yuan.  A finance minister’s movements are so absurdly awe-inspiring and earth-shaking that even his pauses and breaths as he speaks are studied with intense interest.

1. Anti-capitalist.  Cronenberg is reluctant to accept this label for his film, but too many elements point in this direction for Cosmopolis not to receive it.  Capitalism, not communism, is the “specter” haunting the world.  “People eat and sleep in the shadow of what we do,” Shiner (Jay Baruchel) reflects with trepidation.  “All wealth has become wealth for its own sake.”  “Foully and berserkly rich” Packer, the film’s representative magnate, is an unfeeling philanderer disrespectful of human life.  “You’re forcing me to be reasonable,” he says to a would-be assassin (Paul Giamatti).  “I don’t like that.”  “The logical extension of business is murder,” he suggests to a sexual partner; then, “Move to the left,” he instructs her, meaning physically, but unavoidably connoting the political to the viewer.

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