Double Bill #04: Jackie Brown & Out of Sight

Both based on novels by the famous crime author Elmore Leonard and made roughly around the same time (Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino in 1997 and Out of Sight by Steven Soderbergh in 1998), the movies have a lot in common. They are both light hearted crime stories with not so much violence, especially compared to Tarantino’s other movies. They also both feature a romantic story about a love that doesn’t entirely come to fruition. Stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) tries to bond with bond bailsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), but despite him being in awe of her, he doesn’t go for it for somewhat mysterious reasons. US Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) and convicted bank robber Jack Foley (George Clooney) fall in love after he holds her hostage in the trunk of a car after a jailbreak, but because of their chosen professions, they cannot be together. Both movies also revolve around a big score (a half a million in cash and five million worth of uncut diamonds) that several parties try to get their hands on. And in both cases, the relative ‘good guys’ prevail and the badder (and stupider) ones meet their demise. As can be expected from the fantastic writer Leonard, the characters are top notch and the dialogues are both smart and funny. One character crosses over from one story to the next; Ray Nicolette, and Tarantino and Soderbergh cleverly casted the same actor for the role: Michael Keaton. Out of Sight also features quite a few actors from Pulp Fiction, which was one of the defining movies of the era: Ving Rhames, Paul Calderon and – in a surprise appearance at the end: Samuel L. Jackson. The better movie of the two? Jackie Brown for the brilliant screen adaptation by Tarantino and the unforgettable performances of Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro as stupid criminal duo Ordell Robie and Louis Gara. Not to forget a superb Grier and Forster! But both movies are great and together form an ideal double feature.

Enter the Void


Director: Gaspar Noé
Written by: Gaspar Noé, Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander

Year / Country: 2009, France / Germany / Italy / Canada / Japan
Running Time: 161 mins.

Death is the greatest drug!

Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void is hypnotic from the trippy credits onwards. The entire film is shot from the perspective of the heavy drug user and dealer Oscar who dies fifteen minutes into the movie. He gets shot during a police raid in a Tokyo bar called ‘the Void’ when he locked himself in the toilet trying to flush his stash of gear.

Oscar, who was just reading ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ which he borrowed from his friend Alex, sees his own dead body on the restroom floor and it feels like a genuine death experience. The rest of the film follows Oscar’s consciousness point-of-view that keeps hovering above people he used to be close to, seeing psychedelic images, or just strangers and old friends having sex. He also re-experiences scenes from his own life from an outside perspective. Oscar is no longer burdened by the restraints of a physical body or the flow of time. Philosophically, the laws of cause and effect are one of the main themes of the film.

His main memory is the car crash that killed his parents and left him and his sister traumatized orphans. They ended up in Tokyo where she became a stripper and he became a dealer and user. Oscar observes the aftermath of his death which includes police interrogations, dramatic arguments between his old friends, and lives going seriously off the rails. Watching the human tragedy play out from an eagle eye perspective is playful and refreshing. (Spoiler: It ends with Oscar’s soul reincarnating as a baby).

Noé’s dream project is a successful experimental film with a number of powerful scenes and some stunning visuals. The film’s main problem is that it is more than two and a half hours long! For an experimental movie that is a major sin. But Noé is all about trying new things. Unfortunately, the film became a major flop (not even a million gross worldwide versus a sixteen million dollar budget according to IMDb). Still these beautiful crane shots of neon-lit Tokyo were worth every buck. With some proper editing, this could have been a masterpiece.

Another downside is that Enter the Void is mostly a visual experience. The electronic pop helps to create the unique atmosphere, but there are no thoughts by Oscar after he is killed or other sensations. Therefore, I hope that monsieur Noé will one day create a virtual reality project of his vision. About his elaborate view on death two notions stick. One, dying ain’t so bad. And two, voiced by Oscar in a discussion with Alex about the ‘The Book of the Dead’ on their way to the club is; are we really gonna be stuck forever on this shit hole of a planet?

Rating:

Biography: Gaspar Noé (1963, Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-born French film director. Noé spent his childhood in Buenos Aires and New York before moving to France with his parents at the age of 12. He studied philosophy and film studies at the École Louis-Lumière in Paris. After this he initially started working as First Assistant Director before becoming a director himself. In 1992 he made his breakthrough as a director with his short film Carne. Noé mainly focuses on short films. Stanley Kubrick’s films in particular serve as inspiration for him. Well known feature length films he directed are the controversial Irreversible and Enter the Void. Noé is married to filmmaker Lucile Hadzihalilovic. She is credited as co-writer for his movie Enter the Void from 2009.

Filmography (a selection): Carne (1991, short) / I Stand Alone (1998) / Sodomites (1998, short), Irréversible (2002), Intoxication (2002, short), Eva (2005, short), Destricted (2006, segment: We Fuck Alone), SIDA (2006, short), Enter the Void (2009), 42 One Dream Rush (2010, short), Love (2015), Climax (2018), Lvx Æterna (2019), Vortex (2021)

Double Bill #03: The Terminator & Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Forget all the sequels for a minute, and consider the first two The Terminator movies as a diptych. As a diptych, they work perfectly. The first one is a hyper tense thriller, the second one a sensational action movie. The major downside of The Terminator movies, I always thought, is that you have to accept an extremely unlikely plot point. We’re supposed to buy that in the future, the resistance somehow found out about the machines’ new time travel capabilities, and destroyed their one and only time machine after they used it for the very first time. Not only that, the resistance also managed to send through one of their own soldiers before they blew it up. Since the humans are shown to be pretty much cannon fodder in their own environment, how would they be able to penetrate the machines’ base of operations? Anyway, this plot device was necessary to get a futuristic killer robot into the present to stalk the Conners (Sarah in the first, John in the second). Once you accept this unlikely scenario, the execution of both movies is pretty much perfect. In the first Terminator, Schwarz is truly scary as the ultimate hunter-killer. A great move by writer-director James Cameron is that Arnie’s T-800 joins the good team in part 2, but it is now technologically outdated. The new and improved terminator – the T-1000 – is perhaps the coolest non-human character ever created for a film. These movies have inspired countless others with their stories and special effects. The Matrix would never have happened if it wasn’t for these terminators. With more than a whiff of philosophy (“it is in your nature to destroy yourselves”), the two The Terminator movies also deliver deeper, underlying messages apart from just giving us the spectacle. Although there is more than enough from that. In T2, it even goes on pretty much non-stop. You could consider that another downside or just as a realistic screenplay measure following the unlikely time travel plot. After all, once you have a killer like the T-1000 on your tail, a non-stop rollercoaster is what you would get.

The Verdict – Crimes of the Future

The Master of Body Horror, David Cronenberg (now 79 years old), returns with a concept typical for him. In an unspecified future, evolution has taken a weird turn; humans don’t feel pain anymore and some grow new organs at rapid speed (‘accelerated evolution syndrome’). One of these persons is Saul Tensor (Viggo Mortensen, also getting older but he still ‘has it’). He forms a performance duo with Caprice (the always excellent Léa Seydoux). Together they perform the live removal of Saul’s newly developed organs in front of excited audiences. When Saul has a zipper in his stomach installed, which his partner finds sexually arousing and then performs fellatio on it, the movie reminds of a mix of Existenz (Cronenberg’s last science fiction film in which humans have a portal in their spine to connect them to virtual reality) and Cronenberg’s Crash (in which a group of people get sexually aroused from car crashes). It is typical of the Canadian writer/director to try to turn his audience on with images of grotesque organically shaped technology and horribly morphed bodies and their insides. It is a weird movie, even by the standards of the King of Venereal Horror, but those who have become accustomed to his style know it is probably also strangely fascinating. And it is. What also helps is the eerie music by his regular composer Howard Shore and the great cast, which also includes Kristen Stewart. How did he ever prepare his actors to get into character for this freakish story?

Crimes of the Future is now available on Amazon Prime

The verdict: to stream or not to stream? For Cronenberg completists, to stream. For all others it depends; can you stomach a dancer with his mouth and eyes sewn shut and ears attached all over his body?