Archives for posts with tag: Paris

As Above So Below

Perdita Weeks appears as a female Indiana Jones, an obsessive scholar and archaeologist of the history of alchemy in As Above, So Below. Convinced she has learned the whereabouts of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, she convinces academic colleague Ben Feldman to accompany her into the labyrinth of catacombs beneath Paris. Unfortunately, as they descend, they find that the tunnels they take are mysteriously closing behind them, compelling the expedition into ever deeper recesses of this subterranean world. Even worse, they are not alone. Directed by John Erick Dowdle, who co-scripted with brother Drew Dowdle, As Above, So Below is a first-person footage film in the long line of Blair Witch imitators and is fine by the standards of that genre; but the tale tends to lose its mystique to the degree that the Dowdles insist on depicting their rather mundane vision of Hell onscreen.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that As Above, So Below is:

Pro-miscegenation. Weeks and Feldman, the film suggests, are perfect for each other.

Relativist. “As I believe the world to be, so it is.”

Feminist. Weeks is intrepid and unafraid to the point obsessive insanity. Hinting at the Jewishness of the feminist plague, her character is revealed to be an expert in the Israeli “self-defense” techniques of Krav Maga.

Pro-immigration. Non-white Parisians are depicted as fully assimilated citizens. If anything, it is Africans who are at risk of attack from strange Frenchwomen.

Neoconservative. As Above, So Below is full of Judaic resonances that are never articulated. The film reinforces the engineered impression that Jews and Middle Eastern mythology hold mysterious keys to understanding the universe. Weeks ostensibly makes the decision to bring Feldman along because he knows the ancient Jewish language Aramaic. The remains of six million corpses, the viewer learns, reside in the catacombs, with the number six million triggering audiences’ associations with the “Holocaust” and the history of alleged Christian persecution of Jews. The characters’ subsequent descent into Hell, then, may be understood in this context. The film’s title finds a visual expression in a variation on the Magen David that appears on a wall next to a door on the path to the underworld. The underground realm in which the characters move is revealed to be physically inverted, so that those determined to attach an allegorical meaning to the journey might consider the possibility that, in order to atone and to come to grips with their criminal history of “anti-Semitism”, the goyim must endure the ordeal of having their world turned upside down. Gratuitously endorsing the neocons’ Jewish foreign policy, Feldman berates Weeks as “a crazy lunatic” for traveling to Iran.

As Above So Below Star of David

“As I believe the world to be, so it is.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Multiple MickBlame_It_on_the_Night_poster

Blame It on the Night (1984) ***1/2

Top arena rocker Dalton (Nick Mancuso) has his busy but more-or-less freewheeling backstage lifestyle upset when he learns he has an illegitimate son, Job (Byron Thames), now a teenager attending a military academy. Dalton desperately wants to make up for lost time and to be a real father to the boy, who, however, has been accustomed to icy military discipline and insists on acting like he has a baton stuck up his ass. The clash of their personalities and the cache of Job’s unresolved emotional suppression and resentments provide the background for this innocuous 80s movie’s conflicts.

Philip Norman gives the following account of the Rolling Stones frontman’s involvement with Blame It on the Night in his 2012 biography Mick Jagger. Approached with the opportunity to star in the film, “Mick was initially interested, especially when producer Gene Taft offered him a co-credit for ‘original story’ if he would provide material from his own direct experience of rock stardom. He changed his mind, however, on realizing that the estranged parent-child theme had uncomfortable parallels with himself and his daughter Karis. When the film finally came out in 1984, ‘Michael Phillip Jagger’ was still co-credited [with Gene Taft] for the story.”1

The resulting experience suffers, haunted by the absent Jagger’s specter, so that one can only wonder, while watching Blame it on the Night, what the film might have been like had Jagger actually committed to playing the lead, which instead went to handsome but comparatively colorless Nick Mancuso. Jagger’s input on the rock ‘n’ roll life would likely have lent a gritty edge to what, in the event, is an overly sanitized portrayal of the world of rockers, roadies, and floozies, so that the movie almost seems to have been made to play on the Disney Channel. Scenes of Dalton angrily telling his son to clean up his room or, worse still, engineering a cringe-inducingly forced reconciliation around a campfire, are unconvincing, to say the least. Only former Willie Nelson drummer Rex Ludwick brings an air of rock excess to the film in the role of Dalton’s hearty-partying bandmate Animal.

Perhaps to compensate for the absence of Mick, notable Rolling Stones collaborators Billy Preston and Merry Clayton (whose fiery “Rape! Murder!” vocals fans will know from “Gimme Shelter”) appear as themselves in minor roles. Unfortunately, the music, with the exception of the marginally catchy title tune, is uniformly uber-generic 80s pop cheese delivered with sappy Michael McDonald earnestness. On the plus side, Blame It on the Night is appealingly paced and goes down as smoothly (and is about as nutritious) as a spoonful of Jell-O. Nostalgia aficionados, furthermore, will appreciate that Blame It on the Night features more than one obligatory 80s rock montage sequence. Think of it as a C-grade rock ‘n’ roll Over the Top minus all the testosterone and arm-wrestling.

Running out of Luck

Running out of Luck (1986) *****

Previous to helming this epically bizarre film, Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1980) director Julien Temple had also created the atmospheric music video for the Rolling Stones’ “Undercover of the Night” (1983). “For Julien Temple,” relates Philip Norman, “the filming [in Paris, passing for South America] was an experience that made the Sex Pistols seem almost a rest cure by comparison.”2 But whatever his bad experiences on that set, Temple agreed to reunite with Mick for another tropically-themed collaboration in 1985 when he jaunted to Rio de Janeiro to film the absurd rock musical Running out of Luck.

Essentially a vanity project for Mick, Running out of Luck finds the star playing his arrogant, sneering self in what amounts to a series of several music videos connected by a loose adventure narrative. After shooting a video for self-absorbed director Dennis Hopper (!) in Rio, Mick picks up three women who turn out to be transvestites (“She’s a geezer!”) and who beat him up, rob him, and stow him in a meat truck that takes him into the middle of Brazilian nowhere. After stumbling around and hallucinating in a desert, Mick gets picked up by a horny virago (Norma Bengell) who forces him to work on her banana plantation and satisfy her sexual needs. While there he hooks up with Brazilian bimbo Rae Dawn Chong (who has a steamy, bare-breasted love scene with the star) and makes his escape from the plantation only to fall into further misadventures and gets thrown into a grimy prison, which, fortunately for the viewer, is lax enough to let Mick to sing and wiggle his butt to his heart’s content. Mick’s moll Jerry Hall, who also appears in the film as herself, has meanwhile decided that Mick is deceased and entered into a tawdry affair with an American politician.

For those who feel, as this writer does, that the “Dancing in the Street” video with Jagger and David Bowie camping it up like a couple of move-busting insane asylum escapees is one of the finest slices of cinema ever broadcast, Running out of Luck is the real thing – a veritable mother lode of eccentric 80s Mickness in full-lipped snarling glory. Among the various sights and sounds and marvels awaiting the viewer of this freak show of a flick is Mick in drag, Mick getting manhandled and stepped on, Mick licked, Mick groping a tranny, Mick eating maggot-infested prison gruel, Mick playing the roulette tables like James Bond, Mick writhing with a tarantula on his back – and more! The funniest scene has him stumbling into a country store, trying to convince the proprietor that he is, in fact, Mick Jagger, and futilely jumping around, shouting, and shaking his ass to prove it. In short, any Rolling Stones or 80s obscurities fan should pounce at the chance to watch this sicko sweetness dredged from the VHS trash trove.

Mick Jagger performs “She’s the Boss” in Running out of Luck (1986)

Endnotes.

  1. Norman, Philip. Mick Jagger. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2012, p. 475.
  2. Ibid., p. 526.

Miserable is the word to describe the bunch of filthy French people with British accents who spend this pretentious two-and-a-half-hour musical moaning and wailing about how poor and passionate and in love they are when all they really need is a bath.  So much of the footage consists of claustrophobia-triggering close-ups of scraggly facial fur, snotty nostrils, and gaping mouths full of rotting teeth that the viewer can almost smell the sewage and revolution in the air of nineteenth (or is it twenty-first?) century France’s capital.

A handful of rousing musical numbers, notably “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Master of the House”, and “One Day More”, share the scales with a lot of filler in Les Miserables, with nearly every line in the movie quavered or belted awkwardly rather than spoken.  Make no mistake: this Les Miserables is a musical.  Anne Hathaway, sporting the worst haircut of her life, fares fairly well in her vocal contributions, with the women generally being easier on the ears than the men in the film.  In career lowlight performances, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe look dazed, confused, and as if both might just as soon tap wieners as duel while they serenade each other.  The standout scene of the film both in terms of musical enjoyment and choreography is the hilarious rendition of “Master of the House”, sung by Sacha Baron Cohen with help from Helena Bonham Carter as Monsieur and Madame Thenardier.

Simplistic in its message, Les Miserables suffers from an overbearing, banner-brandishing earnestness, with insufficient comic relief or moments genuine humanity to break the bleak, seemingly unending whining and self-righteous howling of the various undesirables.  See it for Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter and just hold your nose through the rest.  3 out of 5 stars.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Les Miserables is:

6.  Multiculturalist.  The teeming, nasty masses of Paris are peppered with a few conspicuously placed Africans.

5.  Pro-slut.  Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is a sympathetic single mother.  Prostitution with its profit motive is, however, discouraged.

4.  Pro-castration.  Les Miserables celebrates the cult of the womanish, sensitive man.  Jean Valjean (Jackman) vows to be both “father and mother” to young ward Cosette (Isabelle Allen).

3.  State-ambivalent.  Javert (Crowe) is an honorable man devoted to public service, but questions the correctness of his mission when it means opposing the inexorable march of Equality.

2.  Ostensibly Christian, espousing more Hollywood liberation theology.  Characters invoke God throughout, usually in the context of helpless yelping.  The Catholic Church is useful to the extent that it harbors fugitive criminals and redistributes wealth.

1.  Communard/anti-capitalist.  Young Occupy thugs waving red flags sing of “red, a world about to dawn.”  Liberty receives revolutionist lip service, but Equality is the tune they croak most enthusiastically.  Commerce is represented in Les Miserables by prostitution, dehumanizing factory work, and the Thenardiers’ tawdry inn, where, in addition to other acts of crudity and knavery, they blithely pick their customers’ pockets.

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