It’s still hard to believe that 2005’s Werner Herzog film Grizzly Man is real. Timothy’s personality is over the top, the beats of the documentary are comedic, and the interviews often seem extremely staged, especially the coroner’s spooky performance. The presentation of the film leads many to wonder about it’s veracity. Despite news reports about Timothy’s death and a rich recorded history of Timothy’s work and presence, upon viewing the film some people still think his death, and Timothy himself was a hoax.
It’s an insanely hard matter to exist. First, of course, we have to make sure our basic needs are met, which is a chore in itself. The problem with having them met is that it is only briefly satisfying for us. The hunger that’s hard to feed and the rumbling that seems impossible to quiet is the pull of the dread of death and a swallowing ache of loneliness.
This disorienting pain is where Don Hertzfeldt’s films live.
In 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond’s anachronistic glamour singes in its desperation. And still, we can’t get enough of her. She represents for us something awful, a monster choosing to reside in a delusion, trapped in a narcissistic painting of the past.
Getting incoherency right is a hard job, but that’s exactly what Paul Thomas Anderson pulls off in his delicious adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. To further the disorientation a bit, some of the explanatory details from Pynchon’s packed prose had to be cut, like why private investigator Doc operates out of a dentist’s office. This added confusion makes the film even better, in my opinion. When you’ve entered a twisted, paranoid world like this, exposition can detract from the absurd brilliance.
Ariel is grand, but you don’t know the tale of the little mermaid until you’ve read Hans Christian Anderson’s version. His decadent and mournful twist on mermaid lore has shaped our imaginations for centuries, and shines a searing light on the pains of growing up, identity crises, and, of course, unrequited love, which can snap an indescribable place in the heart. Cloaking this particular hurt in a macabre mythological tale gets this feeling precisely right, especially if you throw in the problems of bisexuality in an especially unaccepting time.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s film Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, is an electric fever-dream of a movie. It’s a swan dive into ego and madness shot with the kinetic motion of a seemingly unedited single shot.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
There is popular lore that novel Leaving Las Vegas was author John O’Brien’s “suicide note,” and that he killed himself upon learning that his book would be made into a movie. The idea of Leaving Las Vegas being a suicide note unintentionally originated with a letter O’Brien’s sister Erin wrote to Nicolas Cage after John O’Brien’s death, and with a New York Times article that claims his father also called the book his suicide note. It’s an poetic idea, but it seems to oversimplify the life and literary ambitions of John O’Brien.
The Room’s auteur Tommy Wiseau is an American. That’s the first thing he’d probably want you to know about him. And he’s right, he is American, and like most Americans and their ancestors, Tommy is an immigrant, but he doesn’t like to talk about that. He’d prefer that fans of his magical film experience believe he’s from Louisiana, where he spent some time with his aunt and uncle before settling down in San Francisco in the 1970s, but his broken English and tangled accent are embarrassingly obvious tells. It’s been tracked down that Tommy was probably born in Poland and he has often said he spent a good part of his younger days in France, which accounts for his mixed accent. Most people would think nothing of mentioning their native country even if they want to keep some details private. For Tommy Wiseau, all details are private and the truth is something that you construct for yourself. Tommy isn’t interested in the wonderful mixing of cultures in the United States, instead he’s locked on with a vice-grip to an important American trope: The Self-Made Man. This dude is vampiric absurdist Don Draper who everyone knows is really Dick Whitman.