Friday, 26 February 2021

Article: Glasgow Film Festival – Findings - Part 2

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this festival for me has been a more enhanced feeling of discovery. My excursions to the London Film Festival have so often been hurried trips to packed cinemas, watching the more marketed films a few months before they are released to the awaiting public. Films by popular filmmakers are filled up quickly, and while that buzz of watching such films never truly leaves, patrons such as myself who do not have the luxury of absorbing all the fruits of the festival must economise what little time they have.

Glasgow Film Festival in its current form has given me a far more open stance on viewing opportunities. Save for Minari which I labelled as a must-see, I have found myself making a lot of choices at random. Decisions based on little else than I have the time and the film might have only a solitary element which I find worth investigating.

It may be a female director. It could be that I have simply not seen a film from that country. Hell, it might just be down to the blurb on the website. Hell with one choice, it was all these things. Either way, I took a divining rod approach to things to see if I found anything that I would consider worthwhile.


Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time:


With a running time much more merciful than its title, this mysterious drama takes place in the gloomy streets of Budapest. A doctor travels from America back to her home country for a date with another doctor in a pact reminiscent of the end of Before Sunrise.  She finds herself dubiously stood up by the supposed love of her life. When encountering the man soon afterwards, he claims to have never met her before.

Director Lili Horvát produces an intriguing premise to get one’s teeth into, and the blurb on the web site make grand comparisons to Hitchcock and Kieślowski. Oddly enough, this drama had slight feelings of Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, although far less cynical. The film becomes a quiet study of the irrational risks that love can produce. So much of the film harbours the kind of tension usually obtained in a more violent thriller, however, Horvát is far more interested in the light cracking of neurosurgeon Márta Vizy’s (Natasa Stork) icy veneer than delivering an overdramatic psychosis.

Vizy’s decision to leave her high position in America to pursue the doctor opens a world of perceived irrationality. She takes residency in an empty squalid flat. She takes a position in the same hospital as this stranger. Her choices lead to her work being scrutinised in spite of being the best in her field.

Holding its cards tightly to its chest, Preparations works for most of its brief run time. Stork’s impassive expression often leaves us to wonder if she is lost her mind, or something even more insidious. The film stumbles slightly as it heads towards it’s fragile yet hopeful finale, but this doesn’t stop Horvat’s impressive methodical drip-feed execution of the story from keeping everything on tenterhooks.


Sweetheart:


The type of film which deserves to find its audience. Sweethearts: a coming-of-age story of a socially awkward, environmentally conscious teenager forced to go on holiday with her family to a Butlins style park, is not a film with many surprises. It is by no means a reinvention of the wheel. Nor does it have to be. Instead, Sweetheart is a strong remainder type of film that the British can do well. Taking advantage of its beachside location and filling it with a fun cast of up and comers and character actors, the film nails the anxiety of the passage of time between leaving childhood and finding the beginnings of post-adolescence.  It works because it does the basic things well. The closest bedfellow to Sweetheart is perhaps Submarine, while the former is not as quirky as the latter. Nevertheless, Sweetheart should be seen for its sharp observations, tender moments of drama, and generally being a good laugh for most of its runtime.


Tina:


Not one to lie to my blog readers. Seeing this as a Sky produced documentary filled me with a certain dread. A niggling feeling that this overview of Tina Tuners musical career would be a rather flat, uninvolving affair. I was happy to say I am wrong.

This is a comprehensive and appealing account of one of the most electrifying black female performers of Rock and Roll. Beginning with her modest, church-going beginnings and her breakthrough RnB success with her abusive musician Ike, to her astonishing pop music comeback decades later. This film is a perfect introduction to the queen of Rock and Roll for the uninitiated.

One would find it hard to believe that the likes of Beyoncé were not more than a little influenced by Turners headstrong shimmying and powerful vocals. The archive footage that is shown is certainly infectious. However, this documentary, possibly at the subject’s own trepidation, cannot really do the passion without the pain. While all the elements within Tina were agreed to by the singer, the films most telling, and distressing moments are the affirmation of how trauma recurs and routinely inflicts its pain. The media near-obsessive desire to connect her career with her ex-husband is a chilling reminder of how the media machine situates its lens.

However, Turner’s dignity and professionalism not only outlay her as a performer, but it is also among the highlights of the film itself. Watching her desire to perform, along with her decorum throughout the low points of her career, it’s difficult to think of any modern-day performers who will hold as much grace in a career as long.


Saturday, 20 February 2021

Article: Glasgow Film Festival – Findings - Part 1




With many parts of the world still in the grip of the pandemic, Film Festivals have been forced to reconsider how they function as a main cog in the industry. The focus is now heavily based on streamed screeners and zoom interviews as the main approach. Something that festivals were aiming towards for a small while anyway. However, the acceleration of this possible new normal has allowed a broadening of scope which perhaps had not been tapped into in previous years.

With Glasgow film festival having to adapt to the situation at hand, it has allowed the likes of myself – unable to travel up to bonnie Scotland – to be able to take part in the proceedings in a way that I would have perhaps been able to before. If the new adaptation is adopted and improved upon even further, the fact that we may be able to see a flourishing of diverse opinion provides a profoundly optimistic outlook to the world of cinema and film writing. One hopes that when COVID-19 is no longer a mainstay of our news and lives, such broadening of horizons remains with us.


The Toll:

Set entirely in the sparse but photogenic Pembrokeshire countryside, The Toll casts Michael Smiley as the quiet yet sinister Tollbooth operator whose shady secret from his previous life sparks a whole manner of chaos in a remote Welsh town. Ryan Andrew Hooper’s loads his debut feature with a hefty amount of local colour and oddball characters. The film’s cast is filled with solid character actors that help deflect the purposely fractured storytelling, which may or may not convince viewers. However, the main strength of the film lies in the wryly comic observations on topics such as teen criminals asking for Instagram engagement and English ex-pats claiming Wales for themselves.  British cinema could do worse than have a few more attempts at what this Welsh Western is trying.


Minari:

While we may only be in the second month of the year at the time of writing, I would not be surprised if Minari stays high up in my list of favourite films of the year. Lee Isaac Chung’s tender drama takes place in rural Arkansas in the 1980s following a Korean American family moving from California to a remote plot of land, to grow Far Eastern produce for immigrant vendors. With its naturalistic cinematography and warm performances, the film is quietly disarming in nearly every scene.

Semi-autobiographical in nature, Chung’s film eschews the kind of typical racial conflict which one could have expected from such a film. Instead, Minari is more interested in the frayed family tensions that come from Steven Yeun’s Jacob overwhelming desire to make his way through the American dream. The film is not overtly plotted and does not have to be to deliver its emotional gut punches. A film that delivers a strong wind with butterfly wings.


Undergods:

A myriad of interconnecting stories which meld within one another, the Estonian filmed Undergods is an eyeball hijacker from a production design standpoint. The stark, dilapidated landscapes perfectly capture the nature of this anthology of dour tales which centre around broken family values, mistrust, and isolation. Spanish director Chino Moya starts proceedings well. Opening with a snappy, spiteful story of a splintered relationship being suspiciously invaded by a too-friendly neighbour.  

However, the film becomes a bit too self-absorbed in its bleakness to be fully invested. The film falls down rabbit holes, telling stories within stories and punctuates itself with moments of dark violence. But by the time Kate Dickie starts wildly dancing to Conway Twitty’s Lonely Blue Boy, Undergods steers into David Lynch territory, but with none of the engagement.  



Saturday, 13 February 2021

Review: Paradise Cove

 Year: 2021

Director: Martin Guigui

Screenplay: Sherry Klein

Starring: Todd Grinnell, Mena Suvari, Kristin Bauer van Straten

 

Synopsis is here:

Every so often, a movie will have me thinking about Pauline Kael’s seminal essay about appreciating great trash. Watching Paradise Cove, always makes me wonder what she would think of a film like this or the many similar features like it. These off the beaten track thrillers which love to highlight their gaudy wares at the expense of logical plot.

This is the sort of Yuppies-in-hell type of movie that does not seem to be much of. Inequality is through the roof. People buy homes less to live but to profit from. Late-stage capitalism has left many in despair. It is the perfect time to update Pacific Heights (1990). Paradise Cove holds none of the financial muscle of John Schlesinger’s movie, but it should not need to. What Paradise Cove has going for it is relevancy. Its dog-eat-dog story brings a certain amount of connectivity to an audience. To have such a topic thrown into such an over-the-top thriller is usually enjoyable.

That said, Paradise Cove is seriously lacking in the type of craftsmanship which could turn it into an enjoyable pulp smothered tale. It is a film which lacks the guts or coherence to be as interesting as it could have been. Hampered by poor pacing, cardboard flat performances, and a patchy narrative which needed to be tidied up in the pre-production stage it is a film which far too happily enjoys its contrivance. Better films can often have its audience asking the same questions that one may do here. But Paradise Cove is deficient in having the ability to distract its audience. It would perhaps be beneficial if the film had characters who worth investing in.

Watching a young couple being terrorised by a disturbed, homeless women could be an intriguing premise if the screenplay cared about any of the people at play. However, Paradise Cove is a place where every person is annoyingly uncompelling and profoundly unsympathetic. A couple who seems uninterested in the memories within the house they cannot wait to flip. They go up against a middle-aged vagrant, whose tragic backstory never feels strong enough to tolerate her causal slip into needless violence. The film’s habit of playing fast and loose with plot strands, along with some tone-deaf characterisation ensures that none of these characters provides empathy.

The annoying thing is when you have the likes of Mena Suvari in the casting roster, you should allow her to be more than a shrill, hysterical wife. It is a role with no agency or sympathy and some of the most egregious pieces of dialogue. So much of what this character says makes whatever plight this couple may have unappealing. Kristin Bauer van Straten has a better time with things. Her performance as a jilted housewife is at one which knows what type of movie this could have been.

Unfortunately, this is not about what the film could have been, but what the film is. Folks like me may get a kick out of the unintentionally humorous set pieces and plot points that seemingly go nowhere (that shower sequence does what for the film exactly?). However, for those who are looking for a thriller with more…well thrill, it may be worth heading elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Article: Giving The Shunt a Punt

 


During this pandemic, the wish of many has been revisiting films which bring about comfort and losing oneself in safety. I, however, found myself routinely absorbed in more disconcerting material. I have gone back to reading Pet Semetery and re-watching warped texts such as Society. Escaping the bleak into the realms of cheerful escapism does not make it go away. Staring at the abyss may not bring warmth but it has helped me push away that sense of complacency which can arrive in the face of uncertainty.

Society deals with one teenager’s deep pit of uncertainty. Billy is unsure of his parents. On the face of things, in the eyes of those without certain privileges, it is difficult to see why. Growing up amongst Beverly Hill’s upper class, Billy’s increasing worries over his parents and sister should come across as the kind of growing pains one expects to face if your hill has one tree, or your creek has a Dawson in it. Billy’s fears deepen as he slowly uncovers indications that suggest his family are not what they may seem. As a horror film, it is best to keep quiet on the gory secrets, however, Bill soon learns the price of privilege can cost more than an arm and or a leg.

There is a somewhat twisted pleasure in watching Brian Yuzna’s cinematic attack on the ruling classes. Even now 32 years on, as a sickly satirical horror film Society is still notable for slapping its social commentary right in the face of those who watch it without a hint of subtly. The rich are different from you and me. They see the world almost as if they are a different species. By the much-commented end of the film, we find how just how different they are. This is a film with no room for subtext.

It is easy to dismiss society as a film because a lot of the film's runtime would not look out of place in a bland 80's teen romp. The film has so much wrapped up in its outrageous climax that the rest of the film can feel off. A little forgettable. Save for some of the other more absurd visuals and hints which keep prodding us to the grand reveal. Charlie Lyne writes about the film’s ending as an extraordinary yet laments the films first hour as tedious. An unfortunate response as while the film’s opening hour rolls at a deliberate pace, it is peppered with crude and surreal clues. Contorted spines are witnessed through shower screens. Bodies disappear and are quickly covered up. The impassive reaction to the death of a school colleague by Bill’s parents is ominous, made bleaker in watching the current events at the time of writing in which a global pandemic has had politicians and talking heads make blasé comments about fatality percentages. Often because of their desire to kick start the economy. But Society is also a film about building to a crescendo. Its finale is a fountain of viscera, yet it means nothing without the build-up. The reaction to the apparent death of Blanchard is grim. His actual demise is a fate worse than death. 

At the time of writing this global pandemic has highlighted how labour outside the ruling classes has kept our current system functioning.  Elsewhere people have weighed up the economy in comparison to the health of others. Placing terms such as underlying conditions under disturbingly vague terms. Only recently Conservative MP Esther McVey made comments regarding “tolerable levels of death".  Referenced in comparison to costs in a way which would fit snugly into a rough draft of Dr Strangelove (1962). Such statements are stated with conviction to express seriousness, yet the blasé nature of such remarks come to be quite unpleasant when you consider the commenter to appear disengaged from the reality of the words. Something often stated about the comfortable class. The indifferent way those who do not worry look upon those that do. Something that Society enjoys toying within the most sweaty, gruelling way. Fuel for pleasure.

Society is so memorable because the metaphor is so blunt and yet so remarkably pure. Horror films are often great features to craft social-political subtext within them. Brian Yuzna does away with any idea of subtlety. Recent current affairs only seem to make the film more potent. Ryan Lambie notes in Den of Geek that the film’s title song is the Eton Boating Song. A piece of music associated with Eton College. A university is known for not only known for its elite standing, but also for the fact that both ex-Prime Minister David Cameron and current leader Boris Johnson were both educated there. Kieran Fisher remarks the dubious statements made by America's 45th President, Donald Trump about his daughter. They unwittingly mirror the incestuous nature of Bill’s parents towards their female offspring. 

Conversations over the one percent have been drawn into sharp focus in recent times. Billionaires made serious bank during a time of great trauma for many areas of the working class and a film like Society is not the first film to highlight the riches ability to feed off the lesser advantaged. But within the purity of the film’s message lies its relevancy.

Reaching comparisons aside, in the film’s text, the rich are just rich. You do not need knowledge of the Eton Boating Song. There are no party-political lines drawn, yet the incestuous aspect of the film brings around the feeling that it does not matter whose president or which party leads. Those who have can dominate those who have not. Despite more recent comparisons being made in this piece, the film still leans to the anti-materialistic cult films of its decade. Paired with John Carpenter’s They Live (1986) both make a potent double bill about the rich v poor era they inhabit. One of the most unsettling aspects lies in their protagonists discovering the hideous plot by the ruling powers, only to have their journey end in partial disruption, not completion. Both film’s climax with the secret world revealed, but not quelled. The film gives us a basic resolution to the plot but never imparts full closure.

The opening third features scenes which seem to imply that Billy paranoia is not false but has been blindsided by materialistic culture. His sister maybe favoured but he gets the flash jeep. There is an element of being bought into the culture. The film still resonates due to that point of view being still quite deep-seated in the current culture. As the western world glorifies billionaires while demonising lower-wage workers on social media platforms, ignoring the manipulation of labour which has allowed such an uneven balance between the rich and poor, Society still holds a sense of potency. We all have smartphones. We blast off whatever opinion about those we deem lesser than ourselves while those in the upper echelons feed off the exploitation. In Society, the antagonists of the film have been with us forever.  Still feeding and shunting. In the present, dark humour exists. Watching the space race between the Musks and Bezos’ of the world, it is as if we have modern-day shunters. Seeking a way back home after a long feed.

Do we need more films that play in the same satirical playbox as Society? I feel we have them. Both Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) and US (2019) load themselves with similar sinister underpinnings. The death cult which inhabits The Invitation (2015) may not be as macabre in its dealings or as blatant with its targets, yet the film harbours elements of bizarre cult ritual which work well with Society as a double bill of the west of America losing its mind. One does hope budding filmmakers go back to films like Society and take notes. From its modest openings of late 80s cheese to its perverse ending. A finish which must be seen to be believed.  Society is a cult film for a reason. It is doubtful that a consensus will be willing to give the Shunt a punt. However, in a pandemic like which with the ongoing discourse of current events being what they are, it is quite possibly one of the perfect times to watch such a film.

Society is available on Blu-Ray

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Thursday, 25 June 2020

Article: I wanna be adored. – Looking Back at The Rules of Attraction


 …and it starts and finishes in mid-sentence. Just like the book. Echoing some of that stylistic ego of its author Bret Easton Ellis. I’m sure many can sense that kind of edgy pretension that one can feel from Ellis’ work. But starting in medias res but by mimicking the book in the way he does from the very beginning; director Roger Avery primes the chaotic nature The Rules of Attraction. Giving us a sense that the corrupt nature of these spoilt brats never truly ends. The final lines of Ellis’ most well-known book; American Psycho take on solid form. THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.

“From the corrupt minds that brought you American Psycho and Pulp Fiction”, the marketing screamed. With its teddy fornication poster, to its Clockwork Orange (1971) riffing teaser spot, Roger Avery’s adaptation of The Rules of Attraction knew exactly what it was selling. Although the hubbub wasn’t as loud as what we often see from mainstream movies now, the outcome was so very similar. The film split critics but captured a glut of the audience that went to see it. Consensus scores are not the best way to evaluate a film’s success, but I always remember how distinct the viewpoints were between the film’s lowly Rotten Tomatoes score (now at a Rotten 43%) and the higher-rated Imdb score (at time of release it was in the 7.0 range out of 10, it’s now at the still decent 6.9). The A.V Club listed the film in its New Cult Section. Roger Ebert felt an indifference for the film's characters and hoped they get better. When I first saw it on it’s UK theatrical release in 2003, I fell for it in a way I never really did with American Psycho, although that has changed over the years. My best friend who I watched the film with, walked out at a notable sequence. It’s that kind of film.

At the time of writing this film adaptation of Rules is 17 years old. In America, it is almost reached the lawful age of sexual maturity, yet the ramblings of the current culture wars still reek of this debauched little number. It’s no surprise that Bret Easton Ellis claimed that the film adaptation is the closest anyone had got to capturing his novel universes. Mary Harron smartly undercuts so much of American Psycho (2000). Capturing the shallowness of its era as well as the ugliness of the toxic masculinity of the time. Roger Avery goes all for leather in Rules. He gives us little respite. Attractive youngsters being entirely unattractive in a way only young people can. Controlled, nee overwhelmed by the id, wading rudderless in a sea of hollow depravity. But while many college/coming of age movies, leave its characters – and audience – with life lessons. Rules simply does not give a damn. Avery himself allegedly stated that the film is the assassination of teen comedies. Rules lumps us with people with no need to be depressed glaring glassy-eyed at the world as if it were a hopeless void. No life lessons here. Detention in purgatory. Simply said: Fuck Maturity.

Three kids attending a liberal arts college fall into what can only be considered as a love triangle of misconception. Sean Bateman (brother of American Psycho’s Patrick) keeps receiving glittery post from an unknown recipient in the mail. To Sean, this is a slight distraction from the borrowed drug money he owes from a couple of townie tweakers. Sean believes the notes are from his classmate Lauren, a cynical woman who pines for her beau, Victor, who is currently travelling Europe. Lauren is a virgin and starves off any urges to cavort with any of the campus boys by reading a rather large medical book of venereal diseases. Lauren’s dedication to Victor is strong but there are hints that she may have an interest in Sean. Lauren used to date Paul; a bisexual man whose attraction to Sean is set off by a misheard exchanged between the two. The film is less of a conventional plot as opposed to a series of loose vignettes. Much like American Psycho, the characters are driven by their base urges, so much so they often neglect their misunderstandings. So far so college am I right?

The film's disjointed plotting must have been something of a comfort to director Roger Avery. The other screenwriter of Pulp Fiction (1994) is once again swimming in a world of time-hopping narratives. As stated by the director, the jumps from point to point and hollow relationships between the characters were done so to resemble people's splintered memories of college. But was also a chance for him to direct another film with flashy flourishes and nihilistic themes. Avery’s first feature-length film; Killing Zoe, was labelled by Roger Ebert as Generation X’s first heist caper and is executed as such. A film in which characters are surrounded by the colour red and they delve deeper into the bowels of the bank they’ve decided to Rob. Avery also uses Otto Nemenz Swing & Tilt lenses to create the distorted feeling of being on heroin midway through the film. Rules is a mutation of this. While Killing Zoe has Eric Stolz’s Zed character holding the ability to ensure of earth-shattering orgasms to sex workers that he meets within minutes of sleeping them, Rules plays on the idea that these kids obtain absolutely no joy from their carnal pursuits or anything else for that matter.

Avery captures the novel's stream of consciousness with a variety of self-involved narration from a variety of characters. A handy way of capturing the distorted leaps in transition that occur in Ellis' book. There is also the splintering of the narrative in a way that candidly reminds you that this corrupt mind enjoyed teasing structure with Mr. Tarantino. The film punctuates acts through parties and leaps through seasons with little desire to notify the viewer, distorting the sense of time. Both the leaps and narration not only provide an insular feeling but give a sense that these characters have harboured these lustful misunderstanding for longer than they care to admit.  



The use of split-screen finds itself being used in a small dorm room scene in which we’re provided with what looks to be a fantasy and a reality. Paul invites Sean to his room for some pot. The screen splits in two as we see Paul and Sean kiss and initiate sex (perhaps an eye-opening moment for young Dawson Creek fans). The other half of the screen has Paul masturbating in the same instance. Perhaps to the thought of what’s happening in the former half. It looks to be a rather straightforward dream sequence yet actually becomes more interesting for fans of the book. In the book, Paul holds comprehensively described accounts of himself and Sean being sexual partners. In Sean’s accounts, these encounters are absent. This allows both accounts to be ambiguous and contradictory. Avery’s use of the split-screen allows that ambiguity into the relationship if only for a second. Either Paul is pursuing and fantasising over a straight guy. Something we have already seen him do earlier in the film, or he’s having a difficult intimate relationship with a closeted bi guy who by all accounts, wants to keep it that way. It’s easy to find the moment to be cut and dry, however having read the book, I personally enjoy the idea that Avery appears to be giving the fans a hefty nod to the duo’s vague relationship.

The film’s biggest trick lies in the middle of the film. A five-minute, split-screen meet-cute in which Sean and Lauren encounter each other in a class they share. A flashy sequence, but not one without substance. In The Sundance Anatomy of a Scene series, Avery details that he wanted to visually illustrate connection within a world of disconnection. Admittedly borrowing film language from Douglas Sirk; who used the frame to unify and divide characters within the frame. Avery uses the split to depicts the differing routines of the two students before melding into a singular moment. It’s a sequence so playful and in line with what one would typically expect from a sweeter college comedy, it feels like it’s been lifted from an entirely different film. This moment pertains to be the film's emotional centre. Sean and Lauren seldom share a scene together. The scene plays up the dissimilarity between the two characters. But the removal of Sean sunglasses by Lauren provides a spark of connection. Initiating a small, elusive moment of association in a film that enjoys disrupting connection at every turn. It’s also the rise before the fall.

For a film full of stylistic tricks such as the split screens or whole sequences where time moves backward you still need cast the right good-looking people to make all the ugly antics click. Rules is a film known for its stylistic traits but also features career-high performances from many of the people involved. Let us not mistake dead-eyed and disaffected for flat. Whether it’s James Van Der Beeks glazed Kubrickian stare or the way Shannyn Sossamon holds a cigarette in a manner that screams “sardonic swagger”. Each performance seems to grab hold of the film’s energy. Van Der Beek especially thrives in the film. Rules was released with the young actor having one last year has the so-called eternal optimist that was Dawson Leery. Sean Bateman gives Van der Beek the type of role that could break the shackles of the sweetheart character that made him known. Van der Beek holds a similarity to Ryan Phillipe. Both seemed more well known as late 90’s heartthrobs, here, much like Phillipe in Cruel Intentions (1999), both equally known their way around sleazy and corrupt slimeballs. One of Van der Beek’s best moments lies in the split-screen sequence. The small moment when Sossamon’s Lauren removes his sunglasses and that small flicker of emotion is glimpsed. It’s an earnest moment only bested by Sossamon’s tiny giggle moments later. Sossamon, who looked fast-tracked to be a major star after a formidable run of mainstream hits also hits her stride in this movie as a Daria Art School Dream Girl. It’s easy to see why a college kid (especially Sean) would fall for her. That air of devil may care attitude. The hint of being unattainable to anyone but Victor, yet the films playing with form as already highlighted a pain that is already made its mark. Ian Somerhalder may now enjoy a tv career of cavorting with the undead, but his naïve and catty bi-guy performance mines a lot of the more “approachable” humour. If you can call it that.

Credit should also go the film’s secret gem Theresa Wayman. Shannyn Sossamon’s actual roommate at the time. Her small yet pivotal role is wordless yet harbours all the feelings that the other character pretends to have. Wayman’s major scene still holds an unbelievable amount of potency. Mostly due to the combination of Wayman’s eyes wincing at the pain, and the distortion that takes hold of the musical score. Even now this moment, the hidden heart of the film, brings around destabilising feelings. The BBFC has since cut the “bathtub” sequence for home screenings due to a technique that is used. When I first watched it at the cinema in 2003 with a friend as stated previously, he immediately left his seat after this scene. Returning 10 minutes later. Understandable.

And yet an unforgettable moment is completely lost on many of the vapid characters. This is enforced when the film introduces us yet another tactless character during the film's third act. The introduction of Lauren’s beau Victor (Kip Pardue) is perhaps the most loved sequence of the movie. Possibly because it is the most flashy and inimitable sequence of the film. A rapid 4-minute hedonistic headrush, in which Pardue’s character leaps from city to city in Europe in a cornucopia of base indulgence. The sequence when isolated is an amusing four-minute short. However, when fitted into the film it brings around a larger point of how all this indulgence is without feeling. A young man with the means to travel Europe, notes his meaningless sexual deviances longer than any of the landmarks and experiences he breezes by. All the while his girlfriend pines for him, despite possibly wanting to feed her needs with someone else. It all becomes swings and roundabouts as everyone involved becomes entangled in their unrequited lusts. These people pine for connection and yet yearn for lust.

I find that I tend to lean into certain youthful black comedies and The Rules of Attraction is no different. I wonder if it is because we are moving further into a culture in which people bicker even more about what is politically correct. Ellis' book and in turn Avery’s film capture a dark psychosis which would perhaps be more lost on a more “sensitive” movie. As I loved the film from the time it was released to now, a part of me wonders if there is sometimes a bit of honesty in the vacuous. Avery detailed that there was a generational dissonance between critics and fans of the film and that if you have never met the type of characters in Rules of Attraction then how could you relate? I am inclined to agree with this. The American Pies of the world sell you the lie.

That said. One thing about that meet-cute moment I still really love is that the class they missed was on the Post-modern condition. A quick google shows that there was a good chance they had read up on Jean-François Lyotard, who argued the notion of knowledge in postmodern society as the end of 'grand narratives'. I find that funny to see that in a film in which the plot has no real beginning or a true sense of...