“Commercial cinema is the totalitarian space par excellence.”—Raúl Ruiz
I would’ve been amazing under a regime—totally put-out, totally grumpy, almost never collaborating. Refusing to publish—as a point of honor. Who trusts art, anymore? Not us. It couldn’t stop Bush, he pretended it didn’t exist and poof. But have you heard the audio of the subjects (quite a few, apparently) who resisted in the Milgram experiment? The one guy’s voice, when he tells off the experimenter, has that unmistakable, all-too-familiar note in it: A Problem With Authority. The kind that rises up from the medulla oblongata and in an instant makes your throat go desert-dry.
Seventh film in the famous torture series and, one imagines, by its mind-blowing quality, without however having seen the others, the best. If Buster Keaton had made In the Penal Colony. A string of scenarios—as in old serials, or porn, or the literature of Christian comeuppance—played out by soap stars and Law and Order plaintiffs and a puffy Cary Elwes. A woman quartered by a spike on train rails. A woman who tells lies caught in a trap the key to which is attached by thread to a fishhook in her stomach, and the dude has to pull both key and hook out and if she screams a decibel-meter will advance four spikes into her throat. She screams. Later he must extract two of his own molars to find a lock combination that’s been etched on the teeth in his drugged sleep. His sin: he faked being a survivor. How we wish to be modern, i.e. cut up. And the pun is all too apt: we are split apart by what we “saw,” our complicity of vision means that we, too, are bound for a contraption, and the trap is: this, the 3-D space in which we are, by this spectacle, pierced. Come to think of it, the first time I ever even realized there were three dimensions was when I got that screensaver that ceaselessly builds the pipe, and pipe is the crude, endlessly available, and fundamental technology from which most of the evil stuff in this movie is built. Almost everyone at this Saturday show appears to be on a grim but weirdly giddy date.