Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Movie Roundup #16: A Cure For Pain

(I dropped the "Weekly" part of these posts because obviously I'm not writing one of these movie things every week. I've discovered that I just have nothing to say about some of the movies I watch. Also life occasionally gets in the way of doing this regularly. At least I'm still keeping to my goal of posting on a regular basis, whether it's about movies, music or something else. And so, to this week's impressions...)

Diane Lane punks out.

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982)

There are some good elements to this pop music rags-to-riches fable but taken as a whole, it doesn't hang together too well. It centers on Corinne Burns, a disillusioned young woman from a small Pennsylvania town. She becomes a small-scale celebrity by mouthing off to a condescending television reporter. From that, she and the band she's formed with her sister and cousin are invited to be a support group on a tour with an aging glam rocker and a snooty British punk band. The girls can barely play but at their first gig, Corinne sporting a skunk-like two tone hair style, talks back to hecklers with a defiance that strikes a chord in all the young girls watching. That leads to Corinne and the band really becoming popular with the requisite jealousies and other problems ensuing before it all comes crashing down...temporarily.

Several well-known actors appear here at the beginnings of their career, notably Diane Lane as Corinne, Laura Dern as her cousin, and British actor Ray Winstone as the lead singer of the British punks, the Looters.  Lane is good with her suspicious, flinty attitude and  a very slim and boyish Winstone really shows the depth and aggression he would later bring so well to movies like Sexy Beast and The Proposition. The rest of his band is played by three guys who were non-actors but knew all about acting like punk rock musicians, Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols and Paul Simonon of the Clash.

Overall  though the movie feels flat. Lou Adler direction's does not have mirror of the edge or rebellious attitude of the main characters. The scenes that seem like they should be ridiculing the smarminess of the "straights" and washed-up rockers can't make up their minds to be serious or funny. The plot of the film makes little sense as well. The "overnight sensation" and "packaged rebellion" things are well-worn tropes that were done very well in films like Breaking Glass and Privilege and still hold true today but how does that happen with a band that becomes hot without recording in a pre-YouTube world? Also what little you hear of the Stains' music is repetitious, monotone stuff without a drummer, more Raincoats or Sleater-Kenney than Sex Pistols and not the sort of music that would seem to inspire hordes of American teen girls. Also the climax of the film would have you believe that an unknown punk singer can tell a hostile crowd of teenage girls that their idol is a fraud and they will instantly turn on her when she next comes out to perform. If it were that easy we could have been rid of Justin Bieber long ago.

Not to worry though because at the very end of the film, Corinne and her friends make an instant comeback becoming glammed-up music video stars (looking strongly like the Bangles, actually) performing the same song the movie earlier condemned Corinne for stealing from the Looters.  Not the clearest message in the world.

This man is having a very bad day.
Oslo, August 31st (2011)

Anyone who has problems with depression should stay far away from this film. It is set in Norway and concerns a day in the life of Anders, a young writer who had previously fallen prey to drug addiction and is now living at a rehab center. He gets a day pass to leave the center and go to Oslo for a job interview and also tries to see his sister and some old friends. To say tht things don't go well is a massive understatement.

At the very beginning of the film Anders tries to commit suicide but doesn't, so it's established early on he isn't in the best frame of mind. As he goes through the day nothing improves his mood. He visits an old college friend who's now married and a father, but he's unhappy with his life. He calls his ex-girlfriend who's now living in New York but never gets to talk to her, his sister does not want to see him and he sabotages the job interview he has at a magazine by telling the editor about his drug problems and leaving without giving the man a chance to respond.


At the end of the film Anders deliberately O.D.'s and dies, leaving you to wonder just what the point of this film was. It's very poetically made but it's no fun watching someone spiral down deeper and deeper into depression and alienation until they irrevocably crash and burn. For anyone who's been in similar emotional pain these kinds of experiences are all too familiar. often the only thing that keeps you going through this state of mind is the hope that things will get better one day. That doesn't exist here.  In the end nothing matters to Anders. Even going to a party and briefly flirting with a pretty girl gives him nothing. Maybe from a detached standpoint, this film can be appreciated for its technical qualities but if you know anything about this situation, this can represent your worst nightmare, the horror you don't escape. It's not a scenario you want in your head.

This girl is trying to have a good day.
Turn Me On Dammit! (2011)

Fortunately this Norwegian film shows that not everyone in that country lives under an unrelieved cloud of gloom.  The film concerns Alma, a 15-year-old girl who lives in a small village, bored out of her mind and always fantasizing about sex. Most of her daydreams center around a schoolmate named Artur. She halfheartedly flirts with him at a party and he responds in a unique way.  He takes his penis out and rubs it against her thigh. She tells some of her friends about this, not in a disgusted way, but in a "Gee, he likes me!" way. Still Artur denies it all and Alma is looked on as an outcast and weirdo by her friends and mother.

The best thing about the movie is that Alma's interest in sex is considered to be normal. Her fantasies and urges are looked on as just part of who she is, not sick behavior.  She does have one friend, Sara, a fellow misfit who talks matter of factly about moving to Texas and working to abolish the death penalty (Good luck with that.) which turns out to be as much a bored fantasy as Sara's sex dreams. The entire mood of the film is lighthearted and the best thing is that by the end, Sara does not change but learns to accept herself and define her own life. This leads to a response from Artur that made me laugh out loud. It's the kind of climax (no pun intended) you'd see in an Afterschool Special in some alternate universe.

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