A fusion reading of some works in Michael E. Smith’s exhibition at 500 Capp Street Foundation, SF, January, 2018.

Rev., Jan 24, 2018.

New byline, FUSION. Mention also made of Jutta Koetter, Bortolami, Baltimore project, March, 2018, all art pics from CAD. Disclaimer: As I did NOT see this exhibition in person, and rely entirely on pictures, this is only a POV think piece, not a review. FUSION byline seeks  to discern crossover between popular culture  (genre, horror movies) and contemporary art.

With the goal of writing more fusion pieces I am just going to mention a few “tropes” that Michael E Smith did or did not use, to his awareness or not, in an installation at Capp Street in December-January 2018. He included some set drawings by Ireland then there is the trope of the misplaced chair

asmi 1in fact, there are three of them, one in one door, two off to the sides, out in the hall

asmi 2

and then one apparently shines, or reflects a light, from a source in front of it

asmi 3

as such, across the way

asmi 4

it is hard to explain what this means. But chairs and their slats were a trope in the original Cat and the Canary, indicating  bannisters and slats as an imprisoning forces. I recently saw this trope play out in the Japanese movie, Female Vampire (1958)

asmi 5and it was used again at the beginning of Get Out (2017)

asmi 6

and again

asmi 7

moving into the room

asmi 8It is also true that the empty chair is a trope that goes way back, indicating the presence of a ghost, or a haunting, as discussed in my entry “Smoking ground and the empty chair in Lon Chaney’s silent films (Rev., Aug 4, 2017)), not yet posted.

asmi 9and again

asmi 10and again

asmi 11It is also true that there is an empty chair as the focus of the drama for a ghost guest in the 13th Chair (1937)

asmi 12

And so there is some hint here of some ghostly thing. I cannot at the moment place where the placement of chairs has been used as a device of conjuring, but…it is possible. In any case, all I can say at this point is using the trope of the chair, placed strangely in a house, it is haunting

asmi 13

and a last one

asmi 14

there is more business with other chairs, in another room, one with some odd something on it, then the one next to it turned upside down

asmi 15but this one at present stumps me. Then, there is another shot of a black cloth hung over a narrow hall

asmi 17

this one strikes me as a magic device to increase the “what is it?” nature of the dark space of the narrowing hall, at present I relate it to, the best example of the trope on film, the ghost approaching Barbie Benton in Horror Hospital (1983), and then too the same effect of the witch of the dream come whooshing down at the woman in the dream a long corporate hallway in The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

asmi 18It also relates, in terms of the trope of space use, to this same figure or cloak as a whooshing effect so commonly used in Mexican vampire movies, and it could relate to the moving forward wall that is to crush you, which can be seen in figural form in Hellraiser (1987)

asmi 19Thus, by its very presence, Smith knows, this hanging, in that situation, causes discomfort, and that is what it is all about.

Another good piece entails reacting off a picture by Ireland in situ over the bed, by placing a cooler lit up in some way next to the bed, as if to state something about the bed having become a place of convalescence or the camping out that occurs when beds become more convalescence (an example, ahem, would be the onthefloor book shelf I have set up next to my bed). (this source of a possible use in contemporary art, however, is not related to movies, but to everyday life, and the little rearrangements and situating of things where there are not the means to fully realize functionality in a modern home, so by shortcuts, makeshifts and making do, things end up in odd situations, I will call them (see revew of Everyday object art, Summer, 2013). So, this too is a deft placement, I would, however, at the moment, have to work on any references to tropes in movies.

asmi 20

Though I am on the record for arguing that this object on the coffee table in Mulholland Dr. (2001)

asmi 21is meant to indicate that the actions taking place in the scene are actually a fantasy of something that might have happened in the past

asmi 22there is also a crazy “installation” of a more arty sort in that objects are more clearly disjointed from normal posture as it looks like to me there is a joining of taxidermy and workout machinery to create a joke in the corner, an African artifact strung up in a way that better bespeaks what it really bespoke in the modern era, and then the hanging pair of baby pants is a bit disturbing, giving the room a psycho quality, but, again, this in my view is second line Smith, making some ‘installations” that are more readable as contemporary art because so obviously displaced

asmi 23but then my favorite is the Pikachu doll splat against the window.

asmi 28It bespeaks several things, with a fusion eye towards tropes in movies that act as culture-training devices that people then would relate to from sources other than in other works of contemporary art. The splat is like a crow that hits the window, a common trope indicating bad luck

asmi 15

and a bad sign, see the Birds (1963), etc

asmi 26

The Conjuring (2014) too, the face at the window, it goes way back, any number of such hauntings (this is Todd Slaughter effort, called, The Face at the Window (1930s)

asmi 27

here perhaps unnecessarily accented by an African mask on the wall

asmi 28The fact that it is doll, however, speaks to the dead eyes of the world trope, such as epitomized by Raggedy Ann dolls, here in a Scared to Death (1981) I quoted in my treatment of Black Christmas, this the Cold Dead Eyes trope meaning that the world does not care about you

asmi 29But then the fact that it is Pikachu

asmi 30might more specifically and topically speak to the fact that in the middle of the Trump campaign when people had to have been paying more attention the Pokemon app game swept through the country as a fad and maybe it was true that they took the eye off the ball by playing that game and maybe some people were killed for lack of attention due to the game or some folks even killed or raped by being lured by an exploitational manipulator of the game to those spots in “augmented reality,” so that is funny (more sinister the possibility that the evolution of the bot trope of Russian meddling election-theft conspiracy theory is a kind of sick attempt at atonement by those with unspeakable-about guilt at having not paid enough attention)

asmi 32Then in a back room the art gallery, and here it is all yellow, following from Pikachu, and which I have seen a lot of, and then a cornered screening of a silent Fantasia, which I really liked for the lava flow scenes, commented on on my FB page as equivalent to my interest in flow as a sign of wriggling in heavy rapids confusing times

asmi 33this weird, backroom showing reminds me of the video sequence in Lair of the White Worm (1988), when the two snake hunters searching Donoho’s manor, the girl comes across her mother sitting in an otherwise empty room, watching tv.

asmi 34

I am not quite sure what to call this trope, the Place Apart, or the Far Place, but what it signifies is that apart from the rest of the proceedings of the active household, there is a holding place, out in the ambient spaces, where a horror lies, or a person is arrested or reduced to a thing, and there she, sans any other accomodations, rests. And, then, in this context, Russell rightly gives her TV, but it is not TV as if watched by humans looking for entertainment or news, it is a snake charmer video, to pacify her

asmi 35

and for that it is, in fact, a kind of entoptic hypnosis by way of pattern alone, she watches with an animal stupefaction, not human interest the daughter doesn’t understand that her mother is basically a hostage or animal in a cage being fed indoctrination video, to keep her in her snakeness (not unlike terrorist video priming in form, but with a zoo-cage keeping in purpose), so steps around to talk to her mother, as if she is still human

asmi 37but then a close-up reminds us, mother is gone, a creature entirely transfixed by the shining surfaces of the culture she loves, snakes

asmi 49with a look of drunk satisfaction on her face

asmi 40and, interrupted, like an animal, responds immediately, lightning quick

asmi 41

It is a strange scene, but beautifully understood, and some artists today seem to be taking in awareness from other genres that in order to give to an object an aura that captivates, however abstract or elemental it might be, one has to lead the viewer to it, for it to then rest in the Far Place, where there is a mystery, and at that eccentric end of a trail, it recoils with symbolic meaning, that then has some dark  global meaning (In fact, I see the same effect in an an exhibition of Jutta Koetther, care of Bortolami, at a townhouse in Baltimore, where she leads you up the narrow stairs

asmi 42Through a narrow hallway, with a peek at a picture in a back, of course, back room

asmi 43And then we come to the room, there is a picture on the wall, we don’t know what it signifies, it is alone, too, we are in the Far Place, the Place Apart

asmi 44And it turns out it IS about a horror, Botticelli’s wedding night nightmare story of Nastagla degli Onesti, a hard-hearted woman who nightly was hunted down and disemboweled for laughing off her lover’s proposal, who knows to what effect here, however

asmi 45

and with a self feedback loop of reference to traditional horror too, the Botticelli


but the point is, by coming at this in the Place Apart, at the end of Gown Prowl or searching-the-house trope to get there, all other meaning drops away, and the mind and eye begins to concentrate on a single fear (passing through the dream state I call the Lattice), which is then answered or resolved, in a final whoosh in to the close-up, or not, in one thing. Without doing any research, or having visited and experienced what steps one had to take to get from the rest of the exhibition, to this video, I feel Smith’s placement of the video in a room lit just so has a Place Apart energy, to work, as an eccentric setting, to give exclusive, global meaning to what appears to be marginalia in the exhibition.

And it also then ends one up watching the meaning of the exhibition as a whole allegorically in a video, and watching movies that speak to the moment happening on screen in horror movies is an old trope, here, the Lord of the Manor, again in Lair, seeing an old silent movie by Lumiere, with a white worm, this to suggest to him during his subsequent sleep that there is a connection

asmi 50between the painting on his wall, hung there for years, unseen

asmi 51and the news in that situation

asmi 52in the same way, the lone set viewing of the Fantasia video makes of it a foreshadow prophecy, an intercessional dream guide. But, later on, when he discovers Mrs. Trent in his house, as snake, she is seen hunkered down in the corner of an otherwise bare room, and the darkness of the room, and the content of the programming, and her fixation on it, indicates it is cult tv, a kind of visual snake charmer which fills up her zombie days, as discussed, so it is different, and changes one, perhaps to a state of dislocation

asmi 55the fact that the room is lit yellow, to host a video broadcast far in the corner, also might swing round and by involution put this video in the eye of Pikachu as a kind of warning, him seeing the end of the world in the thing. Yellow is also a color of complication, and usually means, when kids are going off to a haunted house, trouble. Here, Haunted House of Horror (1969)

asmi 56And, as my theme of the moment is liquidation, that is, discourses are liquidating, sinking in the green slime, I read it as lying out on the outlier offramp of the exhibition, an ambient presence, so this IS like a snakecharming presence, every splash of which speaks to the moment “out there,” My FB post of the video

asmi 57

And the flooding, a symbol in sequence of the liquid moment (January, 2018)

asmi 58

meant, I think, in each bubbling, capture another twist or spin of discourse in the present moment

asmi 59asmi 60

asmi 61

asmi 62

asmi 63

asmi 64

asmi 66

asmi 67

asmi 68

asmi 69

asmi 70

asmi 71And this idea likely spun off from the fact that the show is curated around some Ireland set drawings of a Karen Kilimnik sort, it’s Disney, but repurposed without the Disney.

asmi 72my sense of the space in other rooms is less clear, this, in fact, I do not know what it is

asmi 73nope, I still don’t know what they are, bags of cocaine hidden, folded up tshirts, no clue here

asmi 74there are other pieces, but these were the only ones I can fairly make out without seeing it all in person. This sort of house installation is not new. What is significant is that usually this sort of thing is, an artist just moves into a room and does his or her art. Very few artists know of, apparently, the haunting quality of houses and then how tropes have been used to express that by way of objects and thus use it in a knocked-down pure intuition “not calling attention to oneself as art” way, to just make some very creepy vibes arise in the space, and this, of course, is Smith’s forte.

I have followed tropes in many ways, and seen many varieties. Lately, too, viewing Turkish, Indian and other horror movies, the field of culture in which the tropes are worked also, it is clear, has a great influence on how tropes are played out, as, for example, the tennis ball bounce as a trope is much more worked out as a device of divination in Indian horror, and the mirror has a much more specific purpose in Turkish horror. In both cases, the expanded field provided the magic by the existence under secular modern life of a much wider and deeper spiritual base in the form of traditional belief and superstition which has shadowed, always, the development of Islam and Hinduism, and the same holds for Japan, allowing for greater expansion of the space. While a space by a modernist kunstkammer worker such as Ireland might force upon Smith a purely object-oriented approach to the issue, the house as such acts as an explanded space in the culture to help  to begin to read his strange and enigmatic placements, otherwise pretty much indecipherable to the art world.


The Ambients go down the Whoosh in Jose Majolica Marins’ Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (1977).

Rev., Jan 26, 2018.

Dream guide class: Glass Onion level, Ambients.

In a recent note on Haunted House of Horror (1965) I noted how there was an irregularity of a trope shot that I relate to the entry into or descent into the whoosh, from a state above, meaning that the dream is getting heavy, you are falling asleep, and losing control.

hauntedI called this shot, the ambients, and identified the ambients as images or figuring forths of impulses in the brain that lie at the perimeter of the spin-down zone of dream, centered in the glass onion in the cingulate, and thus descending, perhaps, to more primal urges as introduced in the next layer down, the thalamus. But the question is, where are the ambients in the brain? At present, I relate them to tinnitus, and new theory argues that tinnitus only gets problematic when the auditory cortex sends signals to the self-same ACC at the front of the cingulate, which then vibrates that, and these noises then feedback to cause the sound to take shape and reverberate in the medial wall of the temporal lobe lying outside and around, or up above and at the sides of the cingulate. And, this, then, is where I locate the ambients, and argue that they introduce us to the deeper dream state called the whoosh, or wormhole, or maybe will use the German word, Wurmloch.

So, it is odd that, not soon after discussing this variant, I run into a few of the later movies of JM Marins, and in the unsuccessful Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures (1976), while the naked pleasures are few, consisting mainly of an attempt to create a kind of immersive symplegma on screen, by way of closing in on one

mar 1this surround-sounding of breasts really doesn’t quite work, even to create a sense of an orgy, for whatever reason. Likely this occurs because it is an attempt to conjure up the ambients in waking life, and that is difficult. But, earlier, there was something else going on. Unfortunately, here JMM also tried to evoke the ambients in waking life, but at least he set it back into a ritual space, where the participants were a bit more free to be dreamy. So, we open with a variant of the ambients, a circle of women, circling round

mar 2and then they do something very interesting, up from out of the circle they have made by circling it as ambients, they rise up a flutter of hands and fingers

mar 3and it gets better

mar 4and better

mar 5and better

mar 6finally becoming a whole standing formation of the ambients, controlling all

mar 7but then he segways into dancing, and whatever visual magic was made by this flickering feature of the ambients is lost

mar 8or rather, I will say this last shot was an attempt to transition to the whoosh (fourth stage, spiral), the familiar trope figure of figures running back to front down or up a hallway at you. What this means is that he had a vague, but uncertain sense that somehow the fluttering the hands and fingers activated the ambients in a way that made their presence more insistent, if, here, a bit lightened up, that is, almost to reach back up to the glass onion, and even the entoptic, to pull all that down into the lattice, to create a kind of dream cave-in.

But then he did nothing else with it, and in my view that movie failed. But, then, Marins tried again with Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (1977), and this one turns out to be his Busby Berkeley spectacle of making use of the same device to create an entirely body-formed lattice formation pulling the glass, onion rotation down into the whoosh, to descend to deep dream. There is a hint early, with a kind of BB effect of a leg tunnel, that this movie is, in fact, going to take place inside the lattice, where it is that, in general theory, all dreaming becomes as it were a reflection on the body that is sleeping without, so everything in the movie is architected as a structure of bodies (the same principle applies in the deep sex formations found in pornography).

mar 9but then this impulse expands to include a kind of hallucinatory sequence where it appears that he wishes a whole building were actually made of a pyramid of bodies, which he then shows his control over by walking on them

mar 10

the whole building is filled with bodies, paved, in fact, with bodies

mar 11

but, then comes the next nightmare, and the ambients transmute to the entirely original device of having not the fingers flicker, but the toes on the feet on the legs, raised up en masse from presumably a group of unclothed women, flicker

mar 12

and he (as Ze) walks through this gauntlet

mar 13

it is quite creative, Busby Berkley-wise

mar 14


mar 15

and, then, even better, they all do the bicycle (a game we’d play as kids)

mar 16

then, once again, this acts as a kind of portal, to a deeper portal, obviously vaginal, leading deeper into dream, as imagined by a man having a nightmare of a woman leaving him through a clingy interiorizing of her body, imagined in his sleeping body

mar 17

he does revert to the hands again later

mar 18

he obviously just likes this effect

mar 19

but, for me, the feet are much more intense, suggestive, and full-body, and since more full-body than the use of hands a sign of the dream entering a deeper body stage, the lattice (stage three, fixating on single image)

mar 20

and then the vertiginous whoosh space shows up right on time, but it is also made up of bodies, this time partially clothed, but in a kind of kaleidoscopic whoosh where you don’t even know up from down

mar 21

so, let’s assume that is where we are. He has made use of a dream sense, or a reading of the phases of dream (and as a modernist not knowing of the transitions of hypnagogic light sleep, to deep REM dream), and decided that dream primarily takes place at the level of the lattice, and in that heavy, falling asleep place it is basically the body that is dreaming, the sleeping body that provides the heaviness, the physicalization of the dreaming that makes the dream be enacted in the mind as a dream of and built up of bodies, the body is the structure, and, in his world, because the dreamer is dreaming about his lover, and her body, the body is the content and materiel of the dream world, so this is what it looks like. Since it is likely that in his thinking he pancaked higher levels onto the lattice, we may say that the wriggling of fingers represented the entoptic pulled down to the lattice, and the wriggling of the feet represents the glass onion pulled down to the lattice. And, somehow, the fact that he knew that different and more involved and “heavier” and “sexier” parts of the body had to be involved to negotiate and symbolize that descent is pretty creative of him, I don’t know if I have seen the gauntlet of wriggling legs and feet before in a movie.

And, then, as I imagine it, he had a sense that there was a portal, a doorway leading INTO dream, and all the higher four stages were compressed into that door, all elided together to create a lattice-dominant entoptic-glass onion-lattice-whoosh form to lead one down into deep REM dream state. But, then, the fun or at least intriguing thing here is that, it does once again seem that JMM gave thought to the aesthetic problem, if the body parts I have shown thus far represent the falling into dream, what represents the being in deep dream. I strongly suspect he had a thought, deep dream is the realm of the buttocks

mar 22

because as we tumble down deeper, into a deeper zone reiteration of the whoosh, there is a stairway of bodies

mar 23

and then we begin to get bodies that are immured in floor or wall

mar 24

and the body parts are now separated off from one another, and left entirely dissociated, or alone, on their own

mar 25

though there is a contextualization of the big picture with references to body immured imagery that goes back to Dante

mar 26

but, most of the time, separate body parts stuck

mar 27

and, then, here, right here, a kind of startling shot

mar 28

this is two breasts, entirely isolated from the rest of the body they are part of, sticking out of the wall. Rarely do you see this sort of thing (except in close-ups), it is kind of shocking, and abrupt, it almost presents itself to the eye as an amputation, grotesque, unpleasant, as if they have a life of their own. And, then, it becomes clear that this in fact is the form that things are going to take here on out because now we discover that this lower region is inhabited by some much more intense ambients, in this buttocks people

mar 29

perhaps a carnival, certainly an entirely infantile, even slapstick mode of representation

mar 30

and they go all ambient too

mar 31

and, then, later, in the final nightmare, we reach the darkest tunnel (and again my giving sequential depth to these images is slightly artificial because he is repeatedly shifting back and forth with a kind of visual turbulence wrought by not fully understanding the levels of hypnagogy), the tunnel where the walls are butts, or boobs, here boobs, entirely surreal

mar 32

and stomachs, who knows, maybe Marins got the idea from cut out swimsuits of the time

mar 33

then boobs again

mar 34

there is even a very odd sequence where mice are dangled in front of boobs, a shot you do not see everyday in the movies

mar 35

and the tunnel of buttocks, very weird

mar 36

yep, that’s what that is

mar 37

and then this woven, not only to an apparently unrelated sequence in a statue factory, but also supercloseup of ambients crushed into a digestive mush of broken apart body parts even faces next to errant disembodied detached boobs, the ultimate ambient close-up nightmare

mar 38

it is actually the fact that the ambients have a kind of built in downward trajectory, it is no surprise that they begin to sound, and therefore appear at the lattice, but, then, the form they take, as a circle of faces, it all goes back to the black hand, which is the hand at the window, one of the oldest tropes in horror, but refocused upon from one’s POV outward as a hand that comes at you from afar and then closes in and closes in until, at the nightmare moment, approaching REM state, having closed in on you all the way down from the entoptic to the bottom of the whoosh, it closes over one, and one screams out of it–voila, the definition of an ephialtic (leaping) nightmare. This elemental dynamic I think underlies JMM’s clever expansion of the ambients’ presence from faces overlooking a captured self to a plethora of body parts, but mostly the feet sequences, which deepen things, and, then, once he whooshes down in (and I cannot decide at the moment if his salt mine Dantesque images of people immured being tortured is actually in deep REM zone or in lateral adjunct ie ambient whoosh zone), for that then to most creatively manifest in the form of the homunculi of the lower depths, made up entirely of body parts, and separated and disjoint busts and butts most of all. It is strange, though all the imagery could be taken as “sexual,” because it is bodily, and nude, in truth, this is a highly unsexual movie, it is fueled rather by a kind of body disgust that sees the body as a trap and wants to transcend it, as Ze expounds, so for JMM to envision the hell of the body as an architecture of body parts derived from the lattice formation of the Ambients, and the ambient trope, to pull one down to nightmare, is pretty creative.

Visuality in The Undertaker (1988), with parallels to the conceptual artwork of Jef Geys, Max Mayer Gallery, Dusseldorf, 2017.

Rev, Dec 21, 2017; Jan 22, 2018; note, Feb 16, 2018.

Byline FUSION. The FUSION byline features articles which compare and contrast the instrumentation of tropes in movies and in contemporary art both, regardless of whether or not intended by either party. Similarities at present are also deemed coincidental. It is also recognized that fusion remains at present inadmissible in specialized discourse.

Note: 40 days after I wrote this article, Jef Geys, at age 83, a classic Belgian conceptualist died, I dedicate this to him.


In the not bad 80s slasher movie The Undertaker (1988), Joe Spinell plays Roscoe, a mortician down on his luck, who needs to drum up business by killing all the young things around town, and then he gets into a tad of trouble with necrophiliac impulses too. But, his psycho visuality is nicely worked out, and it struck me that his desk, in his basement, in a woodpanelled cell, is not bad. It includes a classic landscape picture of a barn, as if an idyllizing of his own situation.

untake 1he also has one of those scenic lamps, also from the old days, though the doubling up on them might indicate double trouble, or that he prefers is ominous landscapes in a more enclosing form. Since it also casts shadows on the under the lamp world of his desk, and his maid’s assistance, it might also bespeak the funereal aspect of his vision. Otherwise, his funeral home, though nicely spaced with warnings of houseplants, is routine

untake 2though then there is the problem that underneath it, in the basement, through a zone of solid woodpanelling, bespeaking, by then, out of date decadence, coffins are stored, which always means, replacing all the furniture expected of a room with coffins, that death looms

untake 3and then it seems that at the end of the basement hall, as in so many other mad scientist labs, he has a special chamber, a stonewall dungeon, in which he does his dirtier work, keeping pictures of his kills like trophies over his desk, planning the next kill to supply, nonsensically, bodies and business, presumably paid for by the morgue, to his faltering business

untake 4the interesting, if maybe overdone, bit about this movie is that it makes quite clear this his visuality is grounded in a prototype visuality related to the movie, The Corpse Vanishes (1942), a quite good, Bela Lugosi cheapie, when Lugosi’s career was beginning to tank. The story there is that Lugosi has delivered to brides on their wedding days poison orchids for them to sniff upon saying I do, to then apparently drop dead, then Lugosi shows up as the faux coroner to take the body back to his place, to drain it of whatever to then use it in serum form to restore youth to his aging wife, suffering at aging. It’s quite good (and, more or less, true to trope, this template trope, of course, also the form used to format 2017’s breakout horror hit, Get Out, same plot). This movie features a basement dungeon, against a stone wall (in fact, a whole maze of a basement)

untake 5Since this movie shows up time and again, it is to be assumed that it rests like a filter of black eyed glasses or glass darklies over his eyes, for him to see the world in that way. For someone operating in 1971, to see the world through the eyes of a mad scientist of 1942, what this means is that a grown man, past middle age, has reverted by stress and degeneration of his business back into a kind of madness whereby he sees the world of the 1970s as if it is of the years of his childhood, the 1940s. It then becomes a situation where you have to assume, in everything you see in the movie, that the visuality of The Corpse Vanishes is operative, and, in the gap between what it assumes should be there, and what is there, is his judgmental outrage and perverse POV, and this difference creates the edge or slash, that allows him, in moral impunity, to kill. And, then, with this, what is fun is that, in fact, the movie shows clear signs to, at least, try to work out this visuality in the movie.

For one thing, all the rest of the interiors in the movie are a bit dowdy, as if his basement office style spread through the world. This is a common horror movie practice, a palliative zone of 2d imagining, where the boundaries between life and death are depleted, is cast over the whole procedure (even in The Conjuring (2013) we saw this trope). Here, the apartment of one victim is decidedly old fashioned, this for a hot young woman of the 70s

untake 6it even seems to have, on the other side of the body bag, some Mary Shelley pictures, which belong in a haunted house, not a modern single woman’s apartment

untake 7though it has to be said, these could be very strange amalgams, gilt frame, traditional Mary Shelley presentation, and yet close-up they seem to have a pin-uppy quality, even a Bettie Page look to the posing, it’s very odd

untake 8

Even weirder, the offices of the investigators seem to have ridiculously out of place pictures of a romantic, antique sort

untake 9this one is a horse and buggy racing picture, so, OK, it is a sport picture, in the tradition of sport pictures at bars where men hang out, but in an oval, and painted, and framed in gilt, it’s like they found an antique at the local store, and this might have a “this is suburbia” vibe, and just plunked it up

untake 10then, even stranger, at the main cop’s office, a truly traditional motel room landscape painting, bespeaking trouble coming, even with the winding road down the middle, which says so, immediately

untake 11so, it is as if, the retro aesthetic of the funeral home, through his POV, has spread itself out over the whole milieu, which is strange indeed.

And then it gets stranger. There is a very good, or a few very good shower sequences in the movie. This nails the movie, as per accumulation of trope, as a sexploitation movie, probably played on the Deuce, which will make an appeal-to-audience appearance. But, the funny thing is, having set up the old-fashionedness and outofdatedness of his POV, and then compared it to the today’s world, the gap between the two causing him to develop a sense that the world has gone mad, a scapegoat (in the psycho mind) is found to blame for the moral degeneration he sees having happened from 1942 to 1972, and that is all those ridiculously sexy girls showing way, way, way too much of their skin, getting everyone excited, being total whores, immoral sluts (this is a very common trope in the moral outrage trope plot of 70s horror, see Judy Geeson in the Spanish movie, It Happened at Nightmare Inn (1973, where a woman did the killing), and so takes it upon himself to embody the gap between then and now in the bodies of sexy young woman, and to erase that gap and distance by killing them. So, there is a first really good shower, in which we see the young woman who lives in the above apartment undressing to a robe

untake 12that must include, he supposes, her at one point removing her bra

untake 13then there will be a shower, and a full on view of her in the nude (this shot, as discussed, previously framed-within-framing to as an iris evoke the voyeuristic, peeping tom aspect of it as a “score,” that is, after a time peeping, actually seeing what you are after, nudity! Bingo! (and in the 70s this accentuatedd for the raincoat crowd too as actual nudity, not partial nudity, by the capture of her pubic bush)

untake 14and then we get some good beating about the bush shots, him outside, his eyes now fixated upon the bush he has seen, going round the bushes, to get in

untake 15this shower sequence, in fact, somewhat reverses the charges, from the norm, the nudity came in the run-up, then in the shower, but the looking away from the world, the preoccupation with bodily intimacy that causes the woman to for a moment not look after herself happens after, not when she is washing her hair, but when she is putting that hair into a towel turban

untake 16and then she sits down and watches some TV, too attentive to the screen, not watching her back, the turban then in this compound trope becoming the sign of her pedestaled egotism not attending to her care

untake 17but then comes the punchline, and the surprise part. A modern day woman, in 1970, 20 years old, after her shower, sitting around naked in her robe, sits down to watch Abbot and Costello in Africa Screams (1949)

untake 18Bedtime for Bonzo (1951), with just then (in 1982) elected President, Ronald Reagan

untake 19and then two horror movies, Roger Coreman’s The Terror (1965)

untake 20and another one I know, but cant name at the moment, from the 30s

untake 21with the head in the suitcase (a warning she ought to have taken, but she is complacent in post-shower turban royal-treatment, guard-down relaxation)

untake 22and, then, almost as if a throwback to silent horror, the hand comes through the window, once the sum total of household scares, and poisons her

untake 24it makes no sense in the diegesis of the movie. The girl is born in 1950, though I remember as kids watching Johnny Weismuller movies from the 30s, and even a good deal of silent comedy, on some strange shows, not to mention Shirley Temple, and Boys Town seemed to be part this viewing culture, that was all before we were ten, it happened under the shadow of parental viewing habits, in their culture, we were being indoctrinated into their world, by twenty, one would have entirely broken out of that, and begun to watch what 20 year old women watch, new stuff. So, this is weird. It has to be accepted at present as a device derived from the POV framing the whole movie, to create a palliative state to make his somewhat less than plausible killings, a bit more plausible, as everyone is more or less sleepwalking, and thus it represent the contamination of even the so-called objective space of his target’s lives with his surveillant POV, to the extent that it alters the viewing content.

The same thing happens in another scene, a girl is at the movies, then walks out after

untake 25but the movie she is watching is….the Corpse Vanishes, possibly at a midnight showing, really?

untake 26she then evades an attack, followed by a car. But the important point in this sequence is that it is suggested that the movie is being watched if not actually at one of those theaters, then certainly in the milieu of The Deuce, the ultimate grindhouse of 70s movie culture

untake 27indeed, the 1980ness of the moment is conveyed by seeing, this always amazes me, a billboard I actually remember from seeing in real life, for the revival of 42nd Street, the big hit of that year, but also where Gower Champion dropped dead on opening night

untake 28and, then, of course, as a serial killer, he primes himself, he keeps himself in the mood, and in the zone, by repeatedly playing the Corpse Vanishes, so that it is as if he is living in that zone, in a timewarp, lost in time, in a psycho space as it were

untake 29and, I have to say, the extent to which the movie now and then brings the clip from The Corpse Vanishes forward for it to merge with the cinematography of this movie effectively blurs the two worlds in a convincing way that speaks to his loss of sense of reality, it’s effective, and fun

untake 30so, the world of movies that he imagines these girls all live in is the Deuce, it isn’t, anymore, but that is where he places them socially, and, since he is obviously no longer at the top of his game, trolling the Deuce looking for actual victims among the population of woman who were still there in 1980, prostitutes, as that would be too challenging, and unrelated, perhaps, to his business needs back in the burbs, he fixates on the nearest field with conveys the idea that women today are all sluts and completely immoral monsters who deserve to die for how much they are torturing men with the illicit exposure of their impossibly sexy bodies, and that would be workout or gym culture. Well, this IS the 80s, and even Fulci made use of the workout craze and its revealing fashion to design a fantasy New York where all women were undressed and unnecessarily sexy in the context of working out (in New York Ripper). Spinelli’s psycho tastes seem to be more boyish even than that, as we revert to that universal trope, the locker room, here, of course, lots of girls, some nude

untake 31and it is in this round-back adjunct culture to his atemporal POV that we also get the benefit of some shower scenes, and nudity

untake 32his imagination cannot keep out of the lockerroom, we are back there in another context, later

untake 33and another psycho scream shot of :I can’t believe that women today are walking around like that, all naked:, we even ogle with excited disapproval, and they deserve to die moral outrage that there is no way sexy women like that would fuck him, in the park, resting, sweating, after running, all entirely leaving zero to the imagination

untake 34but, now, it is fun how this movie plays with us, in this adjunct space, off to the side of, and misidentified from his notion that the world is still The Deuce, and all those porn movies, a particular young woman shows up, this shot she is done showering and dressing, talking to the others

untake 35but we had seen a lot of her earlier, sweating, after her workout

untake 36and sweating during it

untake 37and, in fact, we see so much of her, it is more or less, according to the rules of the genre, expected that the killer will glom onto her, follow her, and kill her, but, then, she completely disappears from the movie! On one level, this could be just inept movie making, fixing on a really good looking “perfect girl” (almost the soft whipped cream type, in any era in the modern era), just to get things started, but it is also possible she represents his no doubt repeated pshaw that men with Candy Shop complex as I heard it once called in New York in the 80s, the realization that there are just too many beautiful women in the world, why make a choice? So she represents that, but as she is definitely dangled before us and then withdrawn without consequence means to me that she is a type of red herring but as applied to the victim, and for that I am going to call this trope, if trope it is, the Black Swan. The Black Swan is a red herring presented as a possible victim, and is simply thrown away, leaving you nonplussed. So, to find this “dead end” as it were at the end of the workout adjunct adventure in his fantasy visuality is fun.

Then, the movie tosses in another loop, looping out from a different source, but in a way that loops farther out from this, in to his fantasy world. There is a teacher, she teaches necrophilia

untake 38she, in fact, gives one of her student’s the idea that maybe his uncle is doing that, at his funeral home. She then also has to fend off his advances, and somehow gets involved in looking into the crime. This also means that she becomes another kind of target, which means that we loop into her private life too, and, yep, end up in the shower with her

untake 39but for her the attack in the shower is a false positive, it is just a girlfriend, this too a trope, having no problem at all pulling the curtain back talk something over with her wet, nude girlfriend

untake 40and then it turns out that it is them, those two, who are at the park in such undress, and this then justifies for his POV yet another psycho charge of moral outrage, they must be lesbian! a common mansplain blaming of too sexy women who reject their entrees

untake 41then it turns out that, in fact, that’s right, they are, indeed, “degenerate” lesbians who, in the undertaker’s psycho mind, deserve to die

untake 42and then the final complications come at the funeral home, when one comes to search, and the other comes to search for the other, if I remember, so the whole movie eventually does go town the whoosh or his dark fantasy vision of the world, to his death

untake 43thus, then, this landscape painting over a basement office is not simply a motel room painting warning one of trouble coming. It is deeper than that. It is an iris that in its datedness, its depletedness really to the point of being mentally dead, its ersatzness in the sense that maybe he has not looked at it in 20 years, its projection out into the world of a fantasy view of rural goodness which it turn makes the urban, modern world a degenerate den of iniquity of evil sexual women whose death will be no loss to the world, thus it anchors his justification morality for the killing, all of this is grounded in that picture, that signifies the entire POV of a very sick psycho undertaker who ahs taken up a serial killing spree on the flimsy pretext that he is only trying to save his business.

Now, the interesting thing about this picture, right now

untake 44is that a very similar work showed up in the context of contemporary art in the work of  veteran conceptualist Jef Geys in a show at Dusseldorf covered by Contemporary Art Daily.

untake 45in a fusion mood, I see a new wave of bad painting reconsideration, that weirdly parallels my working out the symbology of haunted paintings and other paintings just hung on the walls in the background shots of horror movies, and then my making a distinction between a work of art and the “things people hang on their wall” (Wanddingerhangen is my joke word), and then thinking that in scaling back from art to things people hang on their wall, as indicated by this retrench in Turkish horror movies to purely apotropaic talismans on walls replacing art on walls, direct address replacing indirect address, do, in the matter of a collocation, get back to a more base and common way of thinking that people do, which acts as a sort of ground of “what human beings are really like” stripped of the rationalizing prevarications and rationalizations of higher culture life, and, alas, art. There is a temptation to get all essentialist about this, much in the manner one might with so-called outsider art. But it also strikes me that there is a comeback in the sort of art that makes use of ersatz motel room painting styles as the template for types of bad painting in contemporary art but undertaken with a more pointed and holistic sharpness with the intent of undermining the very idea of the critique of contemporary art. And, indeed, I often find myself, when delighting in finding an actual language, thinking, who needs contemporary art, or, more common of late, a fusion is on the way, THIS, the things I have learned, is what pictures mean, placed in certain places in rooms, or in certain genres, THIS is what they mean, anything artists devise is secondary and rationalized. So, this interested me, Geys is  working with the motel room painting genre, with nonart

untake 46and there might be some understanding of their nature of ground in the use of wallpaper patterns to back them up, or drag them down. But, it also has to be said, he never did arrive at fusion point, because he still felt the need to alter the picture with a Magrittesque inclusion of a collaging surreal sort a shovel, to, I suppose, parody it as just a plot of grass. This is unnecessary, and, also, btw, a misreading of the picture.

He also sets up the installation, not as he ought, if he “gets it,” as Reese did a few years back, but in a schoolroom setup, with the desks placed as if to look at the pictures, as if they are lessons, this is a rationalized leading the witness device that comes by intellect over the top to highlight the point in a too obvious way, and ruins it (attributable to his generation of conceptualism)

untake 47

and the whole installation is set up like this. While this vibe might relate to the experience of looking at paintings in doctors’ offices

untake 48and the wallpaper scratchback of their status as art too

untake 49

and he actually bases his conceptual program on the discovery of a manufacturer artist of nothing less than motel room paintings which showed up all over the world, Martin Douven

untake 50

which is a real thing

untake 51and, indeed, Douven’s over the couch style is so familiar, it might even be that the picture behind the desk in the office of the psycho undertaker in The Undertaker is a Douven, it IS close

untake 52And he a lot of entirely ersatz warning landscapes

untake 53

Geys is more concerned with the manufacture side, and relating it to high art, and thinking over that gap, and imposing over his consideration rationalized structures of critique that derive from ersatz conceptual art tropes, rather than just descend into the reality of where the Douvens ended up to explore the anthropology of how it was they spread, what people got out of them, what they mean, and, the eternal question I ask, watching horror movies, why do people hang the things they hang on their walls? Then, too, that, in horror, they have, no doubt, a meaning, none of these questions are addressed. Meaning, Geys’ art is rationalized conceptual art, not actual conceptual art with agency consideration of the degree to which this form of art has or has not agency, and actually communicates what movies says it does, etc (again, very much of his generation). So, it is very interesting. A movie and a dated psycho POV, resulting in some odd placements of visuality over all, and then, at the same time, a work of contemporary art which appears to swing close to a consideration of the same type of work, but does not in fact approach fusion, and remains aloof and rationalized in the cul de sac of high brow conceptual art, not to encounter psycho space.

Discovering Rita in Mulholland Dr (2001): a twisting fixation leading to madness.


Rev Jan 6 2017. This is part 2 of a 2-part treatment of Mulholland Dr. (2001).


Having, I believe, worked out at least a plausible mapping of the movements of the dreaming mind of Diane through the phases of her memories and fantasies about her experience in Hollywood in the movie Mulholland Dr. (2001), it now seems advisable to fill some of the blanks of the whole system. And the best place to do this is to focus on what the movie fixates upon, and what Betty-Diane fixates upon, Rita-Camilla. Rita, played with voluptuous crypticness by Laura Elena Harring, shows up early, the victim of a car crash, and stumbling away from it in amnesia, only to take up in Diane’s aunt’s vacant apartment. It’s rather odd, she is the psychopomp that leads us to Mulholland Dr.

mud 1but we also know that the explosion of the car, the smoke, is a premonition or foreshadowing of the explosion of the smoke at Diane’s suicide, at the end, so, right away (at least on second viewing), we are wondering, who exactly is this Rita?

mud 2the fact that she sneaks down towards LA and the lights which seem to repeatedly hover like a cross in the eye

mud 3and then rather improbably hides in bushes

mud 4means that her coming to be in Betty’s life, parallels her as Camilla, later, stopping Diane in the same care, on Mulholland Dr. and then leading her dreamlike to a reckoning

mud 5the Hollywood Hills have such a deep lore in horror, and here is another example of someone leading another to a waterloo experience that will crush her. So, early on, Rita unnamed is in a car, and because of a crash wanders injured through the Hills to find the apartment that Betty is staying in, so they can meet cute. But then later, Diane is in the car, knowing she is coming to meet Camilla, whom she loves, but apparently is going through a rough time with, and then the car stops, and Camilla comes down to by a short cut personally lead her up to the execution of their relationship in public, at a dinner party (perhaps Camilla thought that this friendly access would soften the blow, but maybe not). Thus, one scene is a transposition of the other, in full reverse, and, for that, one in retrospect (but not in seeing it the first time) as a fantasy dream formation, subjected to inversive dreamwork, by Diane to rewrite their history positively using pieces of the disastrous end.

At first, we simply assume that this woman is a real woman, though she is acting rather odd. When she decides to sleep under the furniture, in an apartment she has broken into, this is the first inkling that all is not well, in terms of the logic of what is meeting the eye

mud 6then Betty comes to her aunt’s apartment, and it is a haunted house, way too Sunset Boulevard, indicating it is not real

mud 7and she is not even put off the unreality of meeting Ann Miller as the landlady

mud 8though the movie signals to us that all of this is going on in her head, as signaled by this traditional shot of the back of her head (see my treatment of Repulsion)

mud 9and then after a tour of the lavish, old fashioned, old Hollywood apartment, she spies into the bedroom

mud 10where a picture of a girl plays the part of a blue boy picture to warn us, a young woman is in trouble

mud 10 (2)

and by way of her excited body in her sparkling fantasy-representing pink sweater, she sees through a rather dark landscape, of the Whisterlian sort

mud 11to the first manifestation of Rita, her clothes on the floor

mud 12this is a weird thing. It says a few things. On a purely practical level, it suggests that Rita stripped down right away, and, not entirely of right mind, left everything on the floor, including her purse filled with money, and walked nude all the way over into the bathroom, to shower. This indicates both absent minded dreamlike action on her part, and a sore survival need to return to normal, because she’s been crawling around the bushes all night, and stinks. But then, symbolically, the trail of clothes on the floor leading to a body is a movie trope of great age and standing, but usually ending with sex at the end of the trail. It is often discovered by a husband or lover, and in fact we have a sequence like that in the movie, with the director and his wife, but in any case acts as a trigger to provide an erotic charge, it turns her on. At the same time, at the bottom of REM dream, falling down the whoosh into dream, is, often, the splat figure, a figure entirely crushed by the fall, possibly dead, so this trope brings death into the picture too. So, right away, a strong suspicion that this is a subjective perceptual image, not reality. Anyways, now she goes through to the bathroom, first, oddly, stopping to smile at herself in the mirror, an odd mirror arrangement with a secondary mirror in support

mud 13and then from that glass, and the weird sort of teeth like art décor tile formation, she turns to find frosted glass, and a naked body in the shower. So, this is a shower sequence, but it is odd

mud 14I want to point out that this is a classic “lattice shot,” one really does wonder where the directors learn all this, but any shot in which the primary figure is on the side looking out or in and often with her back to you that means that, ipso facto, by the nature of the shot (but again we experience film so quickly even I did not pick up on this on first viewing), what she sees is in her mind, or at least part of her fixating obsession. The other odd thing about this is that not only is it a meeting cute, but it is a very odd almost fetishistic Female Dressed Female Naked control formation, meaning again that she is not real, (very strangely, in this new year, I also just viewed The Hypnotic Eye, and there is a very strange shower scene in that one in which vengeful Alison Hayes stands clothed to force hypnotized Marsha to strip and step in under a scalding spray that will kill her) but, also, how many people have you met on planet earth naked body first, that is, how many people have been naked when you first met them? Very few, I would imagine. For me, that casts the image back to a kind of infantile, when did we first meet imagining, the 2001 star baby framing those musings to come up with this pretext story. Finally, though it is rather late in the day for this, as this was a classic 70s horror movie trope, what we “see” of her most of all in this pose, her breasts elided, is her shadowiness, evoked mostly by her presumably unshaven crotch

mud 15again, it has to be asked, as to the reality test of this story, how many women have you met in this life vagina first, none. So, right away suspicion in the shower scene that it has been orchestrated to communicate to us that Rita is a figment of Betty’s dreaming imagination, the thing she needs to make this perfect fantasy of arrival in Hollywood perfect, a lesbian love. But, of course, whatever her deeper mind wants, Betty being Betty backs off apologetically, shocked to have walked in on a naked lady, because that is just soooo Hollywood

mud 15 1now we find out that Rita is in fact clueless, amnesiac, an old soap opera trope, and she casts about for a name, and finds one on a poster for Gilda, a movie starring Rita Hayworth, so she says she is Rita

mud 16and the double mirror indicates that she will latch onto that persona, but also that, given the earlier shot, this persona may be a projection’s of Betty. Now she comes out to talk, in her bathtowel, which is quite intimate

mud 17and though it’s true she exhibits some mental issues, with her injury, and her blankness is now evoked by the misty landscape behind, it has to be noticed that Betty puts her hands on her very, very quickly, I mean not three minutes after they have met, that too is odd

mud 19and after she sits her down, meaning five minutes after their meeting, she has both hands on her, her upper wet chest erotically exposed, on the bed

mud 20

and, here, too, profiled by the “blue boy” picture on the wall

mud 20 (2)

and then she lays down to sleep, all she wants to do is sleep, and, in doing so, basically shows Betty the whole show that she was so shy about seeing earlier in the shower

mud 21there can be no mistaking the foreshadowing effect of the hand gestures in this shot

mud 22later, when we come back to her, still sleeping, we are given license to see her as a figment of the figurations on the closet paintings, and as a filling out of the figure of the robe

mud 23then later Betty is happily talking on the phone, but finds out that there is no woman staying at her aunt’s apartment, and there is, as a result, a total stranger in the bed in the other room

mud 24Lynch now gives us this new approach by the distancing effect drawn from the trope of the gown prowl in horror movies, as we pan close by threatening trouble landscapes and potted plants

mud 25we zig zag through the hall, coming upon this painting, representing her as stranger

mud 26and then we come back on her through a door chink, meaning that she is trouble a third time

mud 27their second meeting is an encounter, opposing each other

mud 28but then it is this conversation, with tears, that makes Betty, that quickly, fall in love with her

mud 29this then the conversation too where we get the unzipped handbag, symbolic of intimacy by way of a suggestive form

mud 30so, early on, in her imagination, with a perfect alibi formation, with no strings attached, and exonerating her entirely, like a caught in the rain have to get out of these clothes sexual fantasy, Betty imagines herself coming to Hollywood and falling instantly, day one, for a total beautiful stranger who also does not even know who she is, except she has a lot of money. It is shady. After another break to other ends of the fantasizing, we return to find Betty now totally on board to help Rita find out who she is, and so the great fantasy Hollywood caper is on. But Rita is still in her robe, and profiled by that picture, in back, making one wonder again of her reality

mud 31this now weaves them through the diner, which is a dream spot for Betty, and because of other things that happened there, Rita remembers a name, Diane Selwyn, so they look it up, and go looking

mud 32they call her up, that is, they call up the number, and Rita comments that it is strange to be calling yourself, another self-reflexive device along the way

mud 33then the map comes out (Betty has said let’s go look because I haven’t seen any of Hollywood, and what better more authentic way to do that but through a film noir mystery plot

mud 34next day, Betty rehearses with Rita reading lines, but at first we don’t know this, so it seems like the relationship has gone sour, but no, they are having fun

mud 35then Ann Mille discovers Rita and asks who she is

mud 36and we also find out that the aunt wants to know who she has staying in her apartment, and also that men drive by to case the joint, for reasons they do not quite know

mud 37when she returns from her audition to take Rita to search for the address of Diane Selwyn, the men are still watching, adding to the fantasy drama

mud 38But then the movie does one of its odd pauses. That is, as the mis en scene is cruising along, Lynch pauses to concentrate in detail on a particular sequence. There are several aspects of the search for apartment 12, or 17, that is interesting, in terms of dream formation. Firstly, they go round the back, and secondly, the complex is an antique set in the middle of more modern buildings, this makes of it a counter space on two counts

mud 39then, there is a tunnel that one has to go through, to get into the courtyard, deepening its cult quality

mud 40then they glance by another event in the mis en scene, which involves the men again, and appears to involve the men taking the chosen starlet to star in the movie, and we have seen her a few times, and will again at the dinner party, to go off to her new quarters, as the moll of the moment

mud 41there is also a lot of disorienting vegetation and since Rita is in a red top which lays obvious her generous chest, compared to Betty’s rather boyish figure, there is a twinge of Adam and Eve meaning here too, that is, a drive toward essentialism, a belief by both of them that they are headed toward the solution to the mystery

mud 42but then they are waylaid as it turns out for weird unexplained reasons apartments were exchanged and the resident of apartment 12 now lives in apartment 17, having exchanged with the current resident (a fact which suggests strong personal, even intimate connection, deepening the same-sex link)

mud 43the degree to which the woodedness of the surroundings and the rusticness of the tudor style was emphasized made me think that we were delving into a sarcophagus, and from all this I got a bad feeling, worse that they had to break in from the rear, with Betty’s rear showed up

mud 44but then immediately upon entering the apartment they are overcome by the smell of decay, and it turns out that on the bed in the bedroom is laid out a body of a woman who has been dead for at least two weeks, if the level of decay means anything, and the smell, and, for that, for them, it leads to a dead end, they do not know who this person is. The face of the decayed person is also effaced so that they cannot see that, what we will learn later, it is Diane

mud 45it is at this revelation that the movie indulges in the only spazcam or blur effect of the proceedings, and they are both shocked

mud 46What has happened here, but we only know this in retrospect of seeing the ending, is that Betty has encountered her real avatar, Diane, that is, a fantasy figure in the mind has encountered the real creator of the fantasy, and she is long dead, having shot herself in the face. It would appear by the mis en scene that Rita experienced early on is a fantasy of self by Betty-Diane, and, then, as the relationship develops, a double of Betty’s wild side, which then helps Betty, too shy, to come look for and find the boy of Betty-Diane who has committed suicide. Thus, Rita is, ultimately seen here as a an unreal internal psychopomp fantasy figure possibly of her repressed homosexuality, to lead Betty to the posthumous awareness and sadness that she committed suicide.

But in the flow of the movie, the result of the finding of the body is a shock to the spurious mendacity of the fantasy which is being carried on in the movie, and it is expressed by that. It is also expressed by the fact that very soon after this self-revelation, seeing one’s death but not being prepared to see it, Betty decides that Rita needs a disguise and to do that she transforms Rita into a copy of herself, This represents a kind of defensive retrenchment, pulling her into her, to shore up her denial of the facts of who that body on the bed is (suicides often project into the future to imagine how horrible it will be for survivors to suffer over their demise)

mud 47This strongly suggests that first Rita was a fantasy figure of the perfect lover, encountered cute and magically, and needing her, and then she is pulled in, after a shock, to be revealed as but a doppelganger of herself. That is, she is the other half of herself, and she is in fact seeking out love of self, by way of this partial recipient of it. This, in the mirror, creates a kind of narcissitic feedback loop, that then leads to the next scene. Betty is alone in bed, awake, aroused by Rita being in the same apartment as her

mud 48therefore when Rita, eternally wearing only that towel, always, in her being, getting out of the shower, peeks around the corner, under the aegis of the picture, says goodnight, she gives Betty an “in” to change the scenario of separation

mud 49saying that she does not have to wear that wig now offers her the alibi in, in keeping with classic adolescent fantasy, to then say she does not have to sleep on the couch, there is plenty of room in the bed, and thus make this sexual offer in a nonsexual way, as a convenient courtesy. But then after Rita takes off the wig, she also, for bed, has to take off the towel, and at last we see her entirely naked get into bed. Remember that Betty was appalled and thrilled to first encounter her as a human being naked in the shower, with a heavy emphasis on the shadows of her private area. And now she gets way more than she asked for in simply offering her a comfortable corner of the bed, as she comes to bed cluelessly nude, her boobs and bush entirely hanging out, all over the place

mud 50here, too, again, profiled by the blue boy picture

mud 50 (2)

this is a full on display of her boobs from every angle too, then Rita turns out in this case, naked to her, to be entirely engaging, and grateful

mud 52and so leans over to kiss her thank you goodnight

mud 53which very quickly turns into a completely different kind of kiss, a sexual kiss, and they make love with exposure limited to Watts’ breasts

mud 54and again back to hers, the major points of interest in the current situation

mud 55I have argued that the lattice in dreams is represented by a single form which just hangs there, like a chandelier, and there is little question that this love scene was required to make sure that Rita with her breasts, in particular, hanging heavy, to indicate that she is entirely the center of the obsessive lattice stage of dream of the movie. It is also interesting that having already entered into a copycay wig stage of imitating Betty, Rita after having made love to Betty is represented as a kind of half of Janus of Betty

mud 56it is then at this point that Rita wakes up and asks Betty to go with her somewhere, at 2 in the morning, and how could she having just fucked her that night say no, so she goes to a theater, where they encounter some figures leading to the blue haired demon who utters the word silenzio, and they cry, possibly only the visualization of an intimation of mortality, that life is short, and time is of the essence, where they see to encounter a torch song singer who then defers to a woman in the opera box in a blue wig who utters the word, Silenzio, described earlier as an avatar in younger form of the witch of death which predominates in this corpse imagining

mud 57then, when Betty is revealed as the fantasy figure inside of Diane’s imaginings, Rita reverts to being real life Camilla, whom real life Diane was in love with, but is now in the process of being dumped from, and she is so upset that she cant get out of bed, has completely bottomed out, and even in the kitchen is so nuts as to see her in the flesh in front of her, when she is not there

mud 59which gives us the frisky love scene, which turns out to be a dumping scene, on the couch, an entire fantasy, but which aligned with the way in which far into a relationship sex becomes more incidental and opportunistic and less ritualistic

mud 60then there is a kind of a flashback to another scene in which she was cruelly asked to stay to witness Camilla give in to the affections of the director, bringing tears to her eyes

mud 61and then there is the business with the dinner party rebuff, and the news that she recoils from, that Camilla and the director are getting married, and even some offputting insider gossip with the chosen girl

mud 62all of which ends up with Diane wanting to, way opposite of Betty falling in love with this mysterious woman, to have her revenge by murdering this woman who toyed with her, and then let her loose, to return to heterosexuality

mud 63there is no question, then, that Rita/Camilla is the lattice figure, obsessed upon, hanging heavy, in the movie. From her, all the other complications come. From Betty/Diane’s love for her, told as a fantasy cute meet alibi in the Betty part of the movie, and as a cruel dumping in the Diane part of the movie, all of the mania and eventual madness of the proceedings derive. That is, she is twisted in her figuration inside out of the imaginings of Diane’s vengeful dying brain as first a pure fantasy and then as a terrible reality that altogether by that blunt twist drove her crazy, to want to kill. It may well be that in retrospect from her raging dream brain Diane saw it all as a narcissitic love of self or doppelganger, but it remains that as the movie settles in on Rita-Camilla, she is the instrument by which all else is brought down (much in the manner of the movie that is quoted to offer her an identity, Gilda, see analysis) and clearly the reason that Diane goes mad and commits suicide. This analysis has shown that as a lattice figure Rita-Camilla was then pushed down the whoosh, into complications of identity and encounters with death, and at last ends up as being the cause that makes Betty in anger and rage and despair shoot herself to death on her bed, only, oddly, to lie there, a mystery, until discovered by fantasy avatars of herself days later (in the manner of they’ll be sorry when they find me suicide fantasies too). The key point of this whole core plot of Rita is that it is never quite clear if Rita is real, and the fact that Diane ends up in the car in the exact same position as Rita in the opening scene of the movie only reinforces the possiblity that all of this was nothing more than a bottomed out masturbatory fantasy of selfhate as well. And it is to support with nuance the complicated nature of the way that her relationship with Rita-Camilla drove her mad that the movie superimposes and circumscribes around the romance a dream structure which gives a death trajectory to suicide of this sad tale of forsaken love.

The dream of the suicide: encountering guardian figures in the hypnagogic structure of David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001).

Rev., Jan 6, 2017.

Disclaimers: There are no spoilers here, as a screening of the movie before any of this makes sense is assumed.

It seems opportune that I screen Mulholland Dr. (2001), just as soon as I expand my musings in dream theory to an ancient and even Roman dimension. In my musing on movies, and in conjunction with the fact that six years I was told I never have deep REM dreams anymore, and yet something was still going on in my head when I was in light sleep, I devised a staged model of sleeping which parallels scientific dream theory at present, but also has strong parallels to Macrobius’s phased notion of sleep in the ancient era. According to this model, there are five stages of sleep, entoptic, glass onion, lattice, whoosh and deep REM sleep. This, I have explored endlessly over the past few years. Then, I discovered that somehow the language of the modern movie was imbued with this secret knowledge in ways that art and literature was not, and the question then is, why, or how? I would guess that because it was a visual moving art with parallels to dreaming, as noted by Belting, this lead to these micro internal explorations of the shifting nature of eyesight as it muses on this or that. And yet in the formalist regime, a visual critical system parallel to the material-rationalist world we live in, most of the dream involvement of movies is treated only superficially, if at all, and people are always after the fact, and need an explanation. In addition, it has now occurred to me that movies are populated by a whole cast of stock characters who serve as ushers or gatekeepers to the phases of the dreaming as the movie fluctuates from one stage to another, and that these figures are parallel to the guardian figures that the ancients also apparently believed presided over the stages of sleep, and were also positioned within the labyrinth of sleep (I have figured that there are between 34 and 54 figures that show up in a creative odyssey in dream thinking in a movie). Finally, on the basis of all this, I began to note that the art of the Roman sarcophagus was stylized to accommodate the veils of consciousness as they surrender to death (confirmed by Platt), and one passes from life to death, and these phases were imagined by the Romans as parallel to dream stages, meaning to them death was a dream, but then at bottom it did bottom out into a concrete place, where true death takes place.

All of this now coalesces in a moment to allow me to make an attempt to unlock the mystery of Mulholland Dr. (2001), David Lynch’s ultimate statement on the Hollywood dream. I think that the movie demonstrates that Lynch has a pagan imagination, that he envisions the phases of sleep as consisting of different states of consciousness, that he also imagines each phase introduced by a figure of a godly or demonic sort, and then represented by an avatar of the dreaming self. It also strikes me that the overall obsession of the movie is with death, and that since it is apparent that when Betty and Rita break into apartment 17 to find a body on a bed that has decayed and it later turns out that that body is Betty’s, when she was Diane, sleeping, but, then, killing herself

mul 1that the whole movie can be mapped out as a disjunct representation, on its surface, with lots of fluctuations and forkings, of the dream of a suicide. It could even be said that, even more extremely, that the movie traces the disappearance of consciousness in the dying mind of a person who has just shot herself to death (in that sense, one of the most painful explorations of the horrible question, I wonder what they really is like, those first few moments after death?). This seems like a radical conclusion, and it may be off a bit, but it would seem that in general the movie bears this out.

To work out the structure of the movie, one has to first simply grab onto some moments where scenes in one scenario parallel to those in another, and thus acts as ‘clues’ to figure out what is going on. This is done only by having seen the movie previously, where one’s mind can loop back and put two and two together, when in the viewing they are not put together until the second recurrence of the image happens. Here are the parallels I have devised thus far.

Early on, Rita is in a car being driven to Mulholland Dr., and there is a crash as some kids in hot rods come barreling down the canyon, crashing head on

mul 2that same shot is then repeated way at the other end of the movie when Diane shoots herself, and the room explodes in magic smoke

mul 3The smoke then clears to a sighting of the blue witch, a classic hag attack, I believe a harbinger of death

mul 4the witch has shown up previously at the end of the odd sequence in Winkie’s, the diner, where the unnamed man with the eyebrows tells of a dream, and that he is afraid of something behind the diner, and back there, we find the witch

mul 5later a variant of the witch shows up at her door warning her of trouble, Louise Bonner played by Lee Grant, and accompanied by Ann Miller, all veteran actors

mul 6then later the witch shows up after Diane meets her hitman to order to the killing of Camilla/Rita,  she is the custodian of the blue box, which shows up several times

mul 7it is related to a blue key, which first shows up when Betty and Rita look into Rita’s purse, to see who she is, and out comes some money, and the blue key

mul 9the blue key opens the blue box

mul 10the blue witch and the blue key appear to be related to the blue haired elderly woman sitting in the opera box at the mysterious performance Rita takes Betty to at two o clock in the morning

mul 11and, indeed, it is right after that, when they get back, that they look at the blue box the most closely in the movie and put the key in

mul 12and open the box, there apparently being nothing in it

mul 13but then the box drops

mul 14and the movie experiences its biggest “break” or plug pull, as the dead aunt now presumably comes into her apartment, having occupied it all the time, wondering of a haunting, if she had not heard people, and so it is suggested that Betty and Rita’s possession of Betty’s aunt’s apartment was entirely a fantasy in the mind of Betty, and the movie now breaks back to the “real Betty” which is Diane, an actress come to Hollywood to be famous, but who is having a terrible time, made worse by the fact that she appears to have had an affair with Camilla/Rita, who has now dumped her, and is kind of torturing her. But we will get to that second break, at the dinner party, in a bit.

All of this suggests to me that the blue witch is the presider over the threshold from the lattice, the whoosh down into deep dream, but then since this is a nightmare, the splat figure hitting bottom, to bounce out of dream in a nightmare panic wakeup, and the blue box is more or less the mechanism by which the plot moves from the dimension of the sleeping body to the surfacing to reveal the real life experiences that the dream has tried to evade or obfuscate. And yet she is also, since REM is not here, a threshold figure to death, perhaps then the personification of Diane’s sleeping body as it bears down on itself to then die. Since the smoke at the end of the suicide reprises the smoke at the beginning of the drama, the accident that hurts Camilla, this could even be construed as a suicide’s dream, or an imagining of the draining away of consciousness in the head of a suicide, in figurative sort of way. By this circular scenario the first trip up Mulholland Dr. is a figurative evasion, transferred to Rita, the gun shot that suicides her.

But then the smoke and the passage up Mulholland Dr. also bespeak a whoosh too, and so that level must be filled in. Here, too, though it is not worked out entirely, here, I would argue that, in terms of the dream phases in which the movie takes place, the sleeping body of its framework waking to higher and dropping to lower levels as the movie progresses, and even looping out into adjunct spaces when, momentarily awakened, or lightened up, one’s rational mind momentarily kicks in to want to explain and rationalize why a figure is there, the Betty-Rita fantasy is the working out of the symbolic glass onion phase, Rita/ Carmilla is of course the lattice that the mind of Betty/ Diane obsesses on (so this is, all of it, a lesbian revenge breakup story), then the whoosh itself, the vertiginous falling, this is less well worked out, but I will argue that the space that occupies this zone is the oddly placed diner, which is surprisingly central to the workings of the dream logic of the movie, for having such a cryptic and incidental role in the consciously-perceived proceedings, and then we drop straight to the palace of death, and that would be the Twin Peaks man in his glass enclosure, the mob boss like God pulling the strings, and then even the Silenzio blue haired avatar of the blue witch who presides over the dying moment.

Getting back, then, to connecting tissues, back to the diner, we see it a few times. Early on there is a strange, unexplainable scene, which seems, like so many of Lynch’s dream sequences, to go on too long, of a strange character explaining a dream, in the diner where the dream takes place. The diner is Winkie’s on Sunset Boulevard. The place helps lame critics to easily link this movie up with Sunset Boulevard, the movie, but Winkie’s is perhaps a diegetic wink at them for thinking that, and bespeaking the blinking that occurs as one moves from one phase to another.

mul 15he tells the dream

mul 16and there was another guy over by the counter

mul 17then he claimed that there was a man in back of the place, who could see through the walls, and it made him very afraid, and that was the whole dream. But it also means he takes him out back

mul 18and they go down a whoosh

mul 19and there is a specific haunted place in the alley behind

mul 20and it is there that he sees the witch which causes him to faint

mul 21later on, we see the killer that Diane will hire, with a prostitute, walking behind the same sort of place, if not the exactly the same place (in dreams one rarely returns to exactly the same space and one’s memory is impaired)

mul 22and then later after Betty takes Rita off on an exciting film noir caper to find out who she is, calling up the police to see about an accident on Mulholland Dr., then meeting up, reading the newspapers, just like in the movies, in the diner, in the same seat, apparently, as the earlier figure sat

mul 23she notices that the waitress looks familiar, and is named Diane

mul 24and it is at the diner that Rita says, I remember something, a name, Diane Selwyn

mul 25but it is very shortly before that that Betty returns to find Rita sitting on the edge of the bed, crying, and in the crying, close-up, she apparently falls for her, and will now go out on the caper with her, to find out who she is

mul 26and it is at this point that Lynch again very slowly and carefully in close-up emblematizes in microcosm a hidden fact of the story in the unzipping of the bag, making it, by that slow mo treatment, a symbol of private parts between them

mul 27and in the bag is the money

mul 28and face of an old man, or man

mul 29and the key

mul 30and then for the last time we return to the diner, she is Diane, and ordering a hit against Camilla, from the sleaze we have seen a few times before (in what I would classify as momentary-waking-explainings of his presence in an adjunct space)

mul 31and she looks up to notice that the waitress’s name, who looks nothing like her at this point, is Betty

mul 32Camilla is represented by a head shot, which she wants her shot in the head, or her breaking up and betrayal

mul 33and here too there is a blue key involved

mul 34and when she looks over to the counter, she sees the man we saw earlier explain his dream and his fears of that place, staring at her, she’s creeped out

mul 35to then return us, in that alley space in back, to the witch

mul 36from this zigzag weavings of connectives I would argue that as the sleeping-dying mind of Betty-Diane is fabricating a fanciful dream version of her life in Hollywood, to exonerate herself of her failure, and cleanse herself of the awful feelings that have overcome her, she has at the plug-pull or “break” moment of the movie a night panic, which is not exactly a hag attack, but possibly related, and related no doubt to the Ephialtes terrors of the nightmare leapers (see Roscher), in which in panic the whole thing explodes in her mind and she realizes with horror the what have I done? reality of things and is utterly despondent, the kind of panic, using forced by depression, and then teleological thinking, that ends up in a suicidal moment, and, for that, the eyebrowed male figure is also a threshold figure, but he is the equivalent of Mercury, believed by the Romans to be able to pass between life and death, and therefore often depicted on the sarcophagi of both men or women opening the door between the zones, thus leading her to death, or the recognition at least of the crime she committed that now in guilt leads to her death, and he exists as the threshold figure at the entrance into the whoosh, and the crime of the diner might be the whoosh flattened out, and it is he who ushers her to death, the blue witch. It is also wonderful to me that Lynch catches on that these figures that represent for example “death thoughts” exist in the dream-structure of the brain in very specific places, often even externalized into places of ill repute, in the real world, and thus the early scene where the man at the diner talks about the stark unexplainable fear of a figure behind the wall, he is bespeaking Diane’s fear and shock that she actually did this, it is the scene of the crime, guilt over which will propel her suicide.

mul 37So, the diner is the symbolic space that hosts the whoosh, the crime, and it is the event of this crime, that she wants most to forget. She is filled with rage and regret, gall and guilt, really, completely messed up.

There are two ways to go from having landed at this juncture, in an adjunct sacred spot in the wild space outside the fantasy diner. When we see the witch drop the bag with the blue box in it, dropped as if some fish and chips in the alley, there is a strange object next to it

mul 38(again, this has always been Lynch’s linchpin space, in terms of his particular visual genius, detailed emblematic microcosms that bespeak other elements of the movie)

mul 39the other object is the lid of can of soda or beer, meaning that somehow the blue box has been envisioned from, and is now being cast back into, alleyway garbage, as might be tossed out by clients leaving a diner

mul 40but the truly truly Lynchian wtf moment here is he then makes use of that can-top to envision in a hallucinatory way two little figures

mul 41this then cuts back to the blue key, but now it is on the table of Diane’s apartment

mul 42she stares at it

mul 43but with such attention that there is a close-up, and then it goes further, she, afraid, haunted by what she has done, sees the same little people crawl in under her door

mul 44there they are, two little old people crawling under her door

mul 45

she closes her eyes, hoping it will go away, aware that some sort of hallucination fueled by turmoil in the liquid in her entoptic eye field has caused her to see this horrible thing

mul 46This miniaturized sequence, that then goes macro, is made plausible, and fronted, by a previous sequence in which, alone as Diane in her rundown apartment, she imagines that Rita is there, with her, and this sequence too fluxes from micro to macro. She is awoken by knocking, and it is the neighbor wanting her stuff back, but she sees the blue key, and hears that two detectives are looking for you (meaning that they suspect she had something to do with a killing)

mul 47then there is a close-up of the coffee machine, and its red light must’ve activated in her a capacity to envision Rita, because she is there

mul 48but then she disappears, but, just as quickly, is there again, and it is a very frisky scene that is imagined, as topless Diane sportily crawls over the top of the couch to Rita at this point playing the role of nothing but the figuring out of the couch

mul 49the ability to touch her perhaps figured out by the piano tschotke that is still on the table, indicating this as taking place earlier

mul 50but then this breast to breast lesbian fantasy, or memory, is broken up by the fact that after being entirely receptive and open and lying around topless Rita announces that this is it, we can’t do this anymore

mul 51and then Diane seems to try to get rough and even rape Rita, accusing her, it’s him, isn’t it, she is furious

mul 52and after having given a startling performance of her bright and happy faces, Watts now offers us some truly dark faces, and after an intervening insult of revelation of the way it is on stage, she is back in the apartment, and making ugly faces indeed

mul 53crying

mul 54and even laboring very, very hard, almost with fury

mul 55and we discover that she is masturbating, hard, desperately, trying by this imagining to get Rita back and to fixate on her, and if by magic like to like, to arouse her further down her own pants

mul 56she fixates on the gap between the rocks of her wall and the ceiling, a little dark gap that I presume she is imagining as Rita’s crotch, and by that likeness come

mul 57this then marginal crawlspace fixation evocative of madness and setting up the plausibility of her also seeing the little people come in from under the crack in the door, a place so rich in horror history as a trope of evil (I also want to point out that though in general I believe Lynch has progressed past the polarized modernist model of conscious versus unconscious, and waking versus dreaming, ignoring all the spaces between, by that dual binary model therefore demonizing as psycho or mad all the crawlspaces between the two, and it was in fact in the context of that model that I first explored crawlspace, as psycho space, in the early 90s, and later in art began to appreciate a more nuanced view of such space by way of the art of Polly Apfelbaum and, more or less, with My Secret Business, Kiki Smith, this site was exactly the space that Smith herself first found evidence of crawlspace parsing of mental dream space in her art, and here is Lynch doing the same thing, in his fluxing forever between extreme detail and lifesize living), but then the two are in the room with her, coming in close up, terrifying her

mul 58she completely freaks out, and in classic horror movie trope way, they chase her down her dreammaze halls, she backing off in hysterics

mul 59and is so pushed over the edge that without thinking, in pure instinctual panic, she jumps on her bed, everything blue

mul 60grabs the gun in her drawer next to the bed, puts it in her mouth, and pulls the trigger

mul 61to which we again see her body, dead, lying in the blue smoke

mul 62shockingly, for those wishing to follow the movie in a rational way, the figures that in miniature crawl out of the disposed bag with the blue box of death in it, and under her door, then to become life-size and haunt her in a classic hag attack, literally a nightmare panic attack, as, in fact, Ephilates, are the people she arrived in Hollywood with, when she was all golly gee aw shucks pure and innocent Betty come to Tinsel Town to be famous

mul 63and this arrival is so picture postcard perfect that she arrives to a sign

mul 64and they wish her well, and bon voyage

mul 65but, then, surprisingly, the camera stays with the couple, we don’t know who they are, and we see the world out of their back seat

mul 66and they are beaming, not just smiling but beaming, all teeth, all smiles

mul 67and with the smiling woman in particular, with all her teeth (or dentures) showing

mul 68

we then cut to the Hollywood sign, and realize that she he is the personification of the Hollywood sign

mul 69and that she represents not just the Hollywood sign and therefore all the innocent dreams of ingenues come to town, but the Hollywood dream as projected from Diane’s aunt, or even grandmother, from way off in Ontario, and therefore a Hollywood dream that by 2001 is about 70 years old, and this accounts for the odd opening title sequence of the antiquated jitterbug

mul 70and seeing Betty as a dreaming idealistic projection onto that antiquated dream space

mul 72but then we descend into a pillow (it’s right there, for those who will not see that this is a visualized dream narrative) we descend face forward into a pillow, meaning all of this is something going on in the mind of Diane-Betty as she is sleeping

mul 73and the Hollywood of idealism and dream and Tinsel and glamour is instantly replaced by its darkside twin, Mulholland

mul 74but then she arrives at her fantasy old Hollywood apartment, and it is even run by a still robust 1930s star Ann Miller, all done up in pearls with that old 30s showgirl moxy

mul 75then Rita is amnesiac in the formulation of her dreamwork, and thus has to be patched together with references to Gilda and Rita Hayworth

mul 76and we see the sign again when we break from the director meeting the cowboy, to her and Rita trying to figure out who Rita is, and getting into the whole caper

mul 77then she goes off, with all her smalltown girl naïve gestures of moxy to the audition

mul 78and we end with her spirit exulting over the lights of Los Angeles

mul 79and see that she is accompanied now by other dancers, one of them Rita (making it possible that the nice old lady who ushered her in, then scared her to death, was the prototype from which Rita was fashioned as a fantasm)

mul 80all of this means to me that the two old people who usher her in to Hollywood are not only personifications of the Hollywood sign, but personifications of a dated Hollywood dream and, as such, I place them as the ushers at the threshold of dream leading her into the glass onion fantasy phase of her evasive cover-dreaming to erase from her memory the plot she undertook to kill.

But, then, to wrap up with trying to identity all the threshold figures that occupy the various forkings or branchings of the dreaming mind that oversees and frames the whole proceedings, there is also the cowboy, and the mob boss who is trying to make sure that Camilla gets the job. First, with the cowboy. He is one of these strange Lynch personfications that mystify critics, and have no realistic role in his movies. But they serve as dream figures or guardians of the gate as they help the mind of the dreamer of the movie to navigate through the movie. If the Hollywood Sign elderly people are the ushers into the glass onion fantasy stage of the movie, then I place the cowboy at the bottom of the fantasy leading out of it, into deeper stuff. He is such a clichéd figure, and speaks in oracularly cryptic ways, that he can only be that figure in her head that will not let her forget Camilla. We first see him in a very adjunct way. In one of the segments of the movie that I liken to a brief awakening from a dream, to then set the rational mind temporarily to work to try to rationalize it, we follow the director on some errant imaginings of what his life must be life (but all of it Diane thinking what he had to go through to cast her, or not), and after he has walked in on his wife fucking, then got beat up and thrown out by her latest lay, then had to go to a crummy hotel, then had all his funds stopped, a cryptic assistant who offers him her body for the night (she has the same whimsical elf-eyed oddness as the desk clerk played by Alan Cumming in Eyes Wide Shut, a very curious manner, that movies exploit a lot), he has to drive up to the end of a canon to a corral, a glass dream extenuation space, to find him.

mul 81and he tells the director, after some narcissistic insistence, to choose the right girl at auditions tomorrow, meaning presumably that he was hired by the mob boss and those dealings to make the point in the guise of a hit man who, crazily, is such a killer that he dresses up as an old fashioned Tom Nix Hollywood cowboy, and meets people in out of the way places to say cryptic things to him. And he says, if you choose right, you will see me only one more time, but if you choose wrong, you will see me two more times. It is hard to determine what exactly means. I took it to mean that if you choose wrong I will be the last person you see, I will come to kill you. But it is also to remember all of this is going on in Diane’s mind, so he can be read as an avatar of her will to kill Camilla, a figure to fixate on Camilla. I would also relate him to the biker at the diner who after accepting the money, says that it will be done. So, he is the figure that tells her, through the director, in her dreams, if you forget about her, you will survive, but if you choose to fixate on her, and never get over getting dumped by her, you will see me twice more. And, in fact, we do see him twice more. Later on, just after the blue box has fallen on her aunt’s carpet, and the movie “pulls the plug” and now we come in one Diane lying in the place of the dead body on the bed in apartment number 17, and before she wakes up, we see him standing at the door, watching her

mul 82so he is the break figure that represents the impulse that weighs down and destroys her fantasy evasions by reminding her that she is still obsessed with Rita/Camilla, and can’t get away from it. And then we do see him one more time, in what must be a wtf shot to most viewers, and maybe even to all but Lynch, but at the dinner party, at the table, when she is taking a lot of hits to her ego, having to explain herself as she is backing up in increasing pain at seeing Camilla with the director, and announcing their engagement, just before she flinches in rage away from it, and we plug-pull a second time back to the Diner and her making an assignation for a hit, the cowboy walks through the room in the background a third time, announcing, explicitly, that he represents dreamwise the break of her fantasy, into a killer impulse against Camilla/Rita, meaning that as a threshold dream figure he exists at the bottom of the glass onion, as we drop into the fixated zone of Rita.

The vertically formalist array of guardian or psychopomp figures that lord over the proceedings of the movie, as believed by the ancients to occupy the transitional and threshold spaces in the descent to dream, this whole army of personfications and symbolic figures, is completed by death himself. And he is more or less outside the picture, but is classic David Lynch, as he showed up in Twin Peaks too, and it is the apparent mob boss, incapacitated, sitting in a curtained room

mul 83in a wheel chair, behind glass, so obviously has breathing and germ problems too, and he is pulling the strings of getting either Rita or the other girl cast, pressuring the director, and in Diane’s mind he would be the embodiment of the “it’s all a fix” mentality that she resorted to after the crushing of her dreams

mul 84there is not much to say of him, except that he exists at the very bottom of it all, he is god, he weighs her down, insisting on her never forgetting Rita/Camilla, never getting over that, and, for that, he is Thanatos, the god of death, who pulls her down, insistently, to death. Thus, all up and down the vertical shifting structure of the dreamwork of this movie, all of it going on in the head of Diane, Lynch has really very Romanly scattered a host of stock symbolic figures to guide us in taking the temperature of the moment and knowing at what level of escape or facing-up we are at, and these are the Hollywood Sign couple at the beginning of the glass onion phase (and before the drivers seen from behind in the limo in the entoptic phase), the cowboy figure at the bottom of the glass onion fantasy stage, Rita herself, of which in a bit, and the one fixated on, but then, below her, a Mercury figure, the Winkie’s Diner man leading her down the whoosh, the Blue Witch at the bottom of the whoosh (with the blue haired opera box lady whispering Silenzio a less extreme form of her), and then the Mob Boss as Thanatos at that point when the nightmare ends, not by waking up, but by suicide. For all this, I posit that Mulholland Dr. is entirely a dream inside Diane’s head, as she tosses and turns, sometimes lifting back up to lighter stages of dream, and fantasy, but then dropping back to nightmare phases, and then often having short waking moments where she rationalizes and even in horror realizes what she has done and is paranoically depressed to the point of mad hallucinations resulting in her committing suicide. It is all about then, the dream of a suicide, if not, strictly and literally speaking, the dream drain that occurs in a body that has just committed suicide.

I read it said, in passing, that in order to follow the movie, you should follow the red lamps in it. It is certain that a red lamp is a classic horror movie trope meaning that death is coming, and I can document for you many examples of it. It is also true that the red lamp does appear at “break” moments in the movie . The red lamp first appears after we see Betty arrive in town

mul 85involved in some sort of phone call to some entity who perhaps is being asked to watch her

mul 86it was never entirely clear to me whose phone this is, or whose bed table this is, but I did note that the ashtray is in a mosaic style I made in school, so it is old-fashioned. But the second time that the red lamp appears is in the context of the plug-pull back from the evasive Betty fantasy, to the bottoming out in the Diane reality, but it would appear that the masturbation that Diane had recourse to, in desperation, perhaps worked (ie she came), because now in that musing the mis en scene flashbacks to a previous encounter when she is ready to go out, with Rita/Camilla, but now Camilla calls, with a car, a change of plans, and the phone is under the red lamp

mul 87and we pan down from the lamp, to the phone and ashtray again, in exactly the same sequence

mul 88and Diane comes in, dressed in a black dress with a red fringe, to answer it

mul 89commencing, by its assignation, ie take the car, her encounter with Mulholland Dr., and her tragedy there, entered into by red lights

mul 90the red lamp, therefore, exists in the real apartment 17 where the dead body of Diane is lying all this time, and in the first instance reminds us, in a jarring intrusion of reality into the fantasy, where this is all coming from, and, in the second, actually launches us into the folded back second flashback in the Diane recounting her experience section, after the masturbation (even representing a fucked vulva, another trope) and thus again directing us to the body in the apartment. In both cases, the red lamp signals that there is a break in zone from one level of dream to another, in each case it suggests that things have heated up and a kind of climax is approaching, but if you follow the red lamp you will not find your way, it is only by paying attention to the back and forth of imagery from spaces claimed by threshold figure mental avatars of Diane’s moods as she dreams that will you be able to see that this is all a dream imagined by Lynch as happening in the mind of a suicidal sleeper, if not an actual body left over from suicide.

In Part two of this note I will fill in the blanks by focusing on the lattice figure, fixated upon by Betty/Diane, of Rita/Camilla.

Capturing the conflictedness of the moment, 1974 A.D., in Black Christmas (1974).

Rev., Dec 22, 2017.

In discussing Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974), it is now impossible not to see the movie from the point of view of later times, after which he had then flipped to the completely opposite point of view, and shot A Christmas Story (1982), a movie which captures so perfectly nostalgia, and good feelings about even bad things going wrong in good old times, that it surprisingly, after failing in the theaters, took on a life of its own on cable TV and has become a seasonal classic for the more ironic keepers of the day. For Black Christmas is a paean to anti-nostalgia, and even to feeling good about the present moment. I have said before, and often, that no other movie exists which better captures the particular mood of the moment, 1974 AD. I was in freshman-sophomore year that year, and suffering mightily. We still lived in the shadow of the 60s generation, the upper classmen, but, for us, it was no longer that time. We had become cynical, but in a kind of clueless-cynical way. We were vaguely aware that the freedoms gained in the 60s were now going to be bringing some bad side effects. This is nicely captured both by the pre-slasher movie quality of this movie, and by the nature of the crime, and its uncertainty, at the moment, in the movie.

Let me start with this shot.

blackx 1I have noted before that no shot in the movies better captures the conflicted nature of the times, than this one, it (or a nighttime variant, repeated) screams 1974. And the question is, why? To use my variant on Barthesian photo theory, I argued (in a catalog for a show “Inherent Vice,” at the Photography Center of Woodstock, NY, in 1991), that while Barthes believed that a picture captured a single, solid plain, and then there was a detail which the POV of the viewer picked up, or a general awareness of some aspect of it infusing it, the punctum, my argument was that, no, that argument is too rooted in a holistic view of subjectivity with intention who controls what he or she sees (the singleton ego view of life), in fact, all photographs, as a medium, outside the self, in the world, have an “inherent vice,” which means elements which are degrading to its stability, disabling its homoestasis, and resulting from the as it were movable plate tectonics of two overlapping fields (the term was invented by conservators having to work with trying to preserve modern paintings which might have included anything from mustard to spilled alcohol). Since 1974 was the year in which I first used the word “postmodern” in a paper at school (circled in red, and wreathed in question marks), I guess I would say that this photo theory is my variant on my original intuition that the hero of Sartre’s Nausea simply had no access to reality in-itself in modern Paris therefore did not suffer real nausea at all. I did not believe that reality was objective and to be taken for granted as an ontological whole, I also did not believe that subjectivity was a whole uncontested “self” which singletons in particular seem to entirely believe in uncritically (the word at the time, which I had never read, had an uncanny ring to it, as “modern” meant up to date, happening now, so how could you live in the present post of another time, but I was also speaking to a complaint that too many of my hippie teachers were telling me, the 60s is over, time to synthesize the results, James Joyce was in the 20s, no more innovation like that; I also quickly after began to see how, in fact, people could live in the present in a culture of “aftertaste” from another time, and, upon my move to NYC, discovering myself a zero in the world, devised the notion that I was henceforth “posthumous,” so my use of the word postmodern had more college-student-angst inferences in it). Today, using my post-formalist movie-based dynamic agency theory, I guess I would map out the problem this way. Barthes thought the scene was solid, with a single subjective eye picking out this or that (here placing the single plain in the fictive zone of the shot)

blackx 2

I on the other hand saw it this way

blackx 3

that is, spacing the planes of the film image diagonally, according to the fore, middle and background division, push-pull from before and aft, and as seen with preference by the POV of various parties, and then there also being a POV of a V viewer who saw only into the gaps in the image, because it had somehow begun to age, or wrinkle, or diffuse, or deplete, its “fissures,” as I called them, coming apart (this is why photos “worked” in one time, and began to “age” and look corny in later times, see my treatment of picture theory postpop painter John Currin), this made a photograph per se a very temporary rapprochement of contested POVs and therefore an unstable entity without essence, without ground, without in-itself, without any of the certainties that a modernist sought in things. So, when I look at the above image, in the foreground, in the framing, close to the viewer, is the image that has just moved off screen, the killer, it is HIS eyes which watch this scene of persons going away; but there is also an implication imposed I think by the mis en scene by Clark that we are also meant to look upon this with the dead eyes of the killed girl with her plastic bag over her head, so this as it were, in a general, exploitational way, beyond POV, deadens the scene, makes it cold. Then, there is my eye, my eye that looks into the gaps in the image, the passing through the gate, the space between the two people involved, a rather overdone battle between the righteous father and the landlady of the sorority house. They have previously had a visual contretemps over the fact that the missing daughter, now upstairs dead in the attic, had been doing some growing in college, and developing some testy ideas

blackx 4and at one point now to implicate the girl in having joined in with the others, or been evilly influenced by the others, also enthusiastically join in a project of devirgination, and having lots of sex

blackx 5this contretemps is a bit overwritten, perhaps purposely, meaning that they are fighting a rear guard action against a reality that the girls have already moved on in. All the behavior of the other girls, and the problems they are dealing with, makes the parent’s concerns, as expressed in an outburst by Margot Kidder, quite retro, out of step with the cynical times. All that is in the background of this shot. But, then, the overall nature of the shot is controlled by the exploitation reframing of the killer’s POV, a double POV, as it were, where it is the haunting almost undead presence of the girl in a plastic bag who looks

blackx 6interestingly enough, some of the posters for the movie “got it,” that some sort of metaPOVing of the POV of the killer was being introduced here in a truly chilling way, the inference that she watched the proceedings.

blackx 7

and again, wreathing her, as if her dead eye view bespoke the season too

blackx 8

and then another one sought to animate her, to further imply that in a strange way, by her presence, and sitting in the attic in a rocking chair in the nature of the mother in Psycho, she is observing all that happens after her killing, and in a movie that is entirely about her disappearance and finding her

blackx 9

and again

blackx 10

and again

blackx 11

So, again, just a few years later, in 1978=80, the POV of the killer, the predatory POV, would be introduced, as the slasher movie takes solid form as a subgenre, and is developed. But, here, it is not quite formed, it is a bit amorphous, and, as I map it out, Clark has withdrawn back into the pure instrumentation of the film or movie in itself as a machine to make it bespeak the mechanical “stripping bare” of modern life, and then project THAT ice cold view of things back into the movie by way of the truly creepy inference, far creepier than the idea that the killer is watching, as sometimes evoked by this eye, and his POV, as to see in a moment, but the idea that SHE watches, as dead (this parallels to an idea expressed in King’s recent 1922 on Netflix that a dead mother can see the fate of her children, it has deep lore)

blackx 12

but this view, of course, folds into the movie nicely because it is, after all, an interesting, even inspired take, and only, again, by inference, as there is never the idea that she is alive and sees this all, an extension of a very common trope in horror, the cold eye, or the dead eye of life, often expressed by way of the expressionless eyes of taxidermy, dolls, and the like, “witnessing” but in a cold dead-eyed hyperobjective way that bespeaks the horror movie ethos that in the stripped bare world of modern life the world does not care one little bit about you, it watches on impassive, cold and indifferent. Examples of this trope are so numerous it hardly needs to be mentioned but in the movie Scared to Death (1980), the voyeur scores in his peeping, by seeing his victim nude, thus “stripping her bare” to the extent that his evil sexual-killing impulse having been awakened he no longer sees her as a human being

blackx 13and then when he strikes (he being in this case a monster), Raggedy Anne, the most evergreen trope of this type, the Raggedy Anne as roughed-up-by-life tossed-all-over mess of a doll extraordinaire, epitomizing victimized objectification

blackx 14and in this one they even take it one step further by having some blood spatter on her, so she can even ignore that, the blood of her keeper, and she does, not, care

blackx 15Thus, when I look back on this shot

blackx 16it is this structure of seeing it that I see

blackx 17

and that means that I see it as a push-pull tug of war between the foreground awareness of the killer POV, meaning I must have felt threatened at the time; the dead eye imposed over the shoulder of that meaning that I must have felt the world did not in any care one little bit about me (I did not then know that this was a trope in movies, so I cant count that in); then I saw into the contretemps of the adults as irrelevant and stupidly clueless, then saw college and hated college and hated my life in college so saw it on a negative background.

But, for all that, this STILL does not quite cover the picture, as it would appear there was still one final overlay, which as it were seals it all in one tight compress or composition of disparate elements and that is that I have developed nonetheless a kind of counternostalgic appreciation for the special battle that I was engaged in in 1974, that I did lose it, but survived, but also that this takes place at an elite university, I thought maybe Cornell, or in any case symbolize that state of comfortable eliteness that one gets at places such as Cornell (but it is Toronto(, and feel that had I been accepted at an elite college and not ended up at a feeder college, things would have gone much differently. This is what I think Clark infers by this shot, the dead eye over the stately church tower, on campus, a symbol of insider elitism

blackx 18I am not one of those people who say no regrets, that is simply ego talking. Life is  filled with so many decisions to be made and roads taken and roads not taken that it is ridiculous to stubbornly in recollection stand one’s ground and say, no regrets, I have many regrets, and my junket to see an artist in January, 2013, to Cornell Univ., so filled me with a queer sense of undefinable loss and time passing, that I know that I deep down (but not really) believe that had I been accepted at Cornell, everything in my life would have been different, here is the graph of that, a further pullback of meta POV, taking in the whole shot, all its fissures, as a great “negative,” projected from a cult goal negated by failure to get it, to turn the whole picture into the very image of regret

blackx 20This, then, for now, and, should I never be able to write about this shot again, as I have thought about it several times, this is as far as I will go with it, but at present I see it as a hornet’s nest of five contested POVs, but, for me, the “punctum” in the general infusing sense of the punctum of Lincoln’s killer Payne soon being dead being the punctum, according to Barthes’ reading of that picture, see Camera Lucida

blackx 21

For me, the punctum is, that is SO 1974 because I was not where I wanted to be, and knew I would’ve done much better if I had been somewhere else, and I suffered in the gap of that missing and that loss, and have ever since, and resent it, and still know, with a horrible longing to belong, that if I had got through the door at the place where I wanted to be, everything in my failed life might have gone better for me. So, in addition to looking at this picture through all the conflicts I have outlined, I suture it all back together to with a sick what-if sense of having back a thing I lost so see the gate as homey, and the snow as homey, and the view of going for the cab as reminding me of some time when “I was alive” or more alive than I am now, and, all that, wrapped up in it, makes this picture such an important shot for me (we are waaaayyy past Craig Owen’s simple analysis of film stills here). (The fun, inspiring detail, of this writing, is that this morning a 50-year-old dorm was imploded at the local University, and I took the occasion to recollect, on FB, using just these terms

blackx 22

And the pics

blackx 23

But, that, then, is enough of that shot. At least, at last, I have written something on it (even if not entirely satisfactory still).

The rest of the movie is also a nice essay on POV, and troubles with it. As for the mood of the times, and the confusions both visual and mental, the girls are “typical” 70s sorority girls, not yet by far the much more sororial mean girls after the 80s, so there are thrilling moments of them encountering some terrible new realities of the world in the negative fall out of the 60s in the 70s. When all of them gather round to listen to the obscene phone call, him using the c-word even more times than in The Exorcist, there is a look of appalled fascination on the faces of the girls, they are repulsed, but weirdly in awe of the horror of life which that voice represents (classic Freudian trope). They are also meant in this shot to be facing up to one of the unfortunate fallouts of the sexual revolution, some guys couldn’t measure up, couldn’t hack it, and so, according to slasher lore, dumped and damaged by women, went psycho, to take it out on girls in revenge, and maybe deep down the girls knew that due to their lax behavior they kinda deserved it (again, in he lore of the slasher; how different from the rationalizing pieties of today’s #metoo moment). Here is Andrea Martin, who is excellent here, the perfect wiry undergrad circa 1974, all those emotions in her face

blackx 24then there is Olivia Hussey, the star, who goes through most of the troubles, but is a modern 70s undergrad who will not let female life conventions keep her down, so she has the red herring battle with Keir Dullea over the fact that due to their having a sexual relationship she is now pregnant, but she wants to get an abortion, he to keep it, it leads to trouble

blackx 25

and though it appears she survives, though it is not clear with what mental health, in the end

blackx 26

she became frightened by Keir Dullea’s animosity and anger, he also complicated the situation by in one sequence actually playing the false positive red herring substituting for the killer because he had had such a free run of her part of the house he had taken a nap up in her bed, waiting for her to come home, and here is represented as it were by the uniquely odd, and somewhat inspired instrumentation of the spider cobweb covered Christmas tree, blue lights prominent, indicating Christmas spirit effaced by the problems everyone is having

blackx 27and then when he comes at her while she is cowering in the basement she thinks he is the killer and he comes in one her in this shot, as a blue mystery light (as per the trope of the blue lamp), meaning she is confused, and she kills him

blackx 28so, her POV is also contested (I will discuss her experience in searching the house in a moment). Then, too Kidder, she is the sexy, experienced, sassy, the liberated woman, sex she knows of, ie slut, of the 1970s, perfectly cast, fine performance, taunting the peeper

blackx 29but, then, very oddly, she is not even given a chance to be a fightback girl, her sassiness is unmanned by the fact that she ends up being murdered in her bed, just like lore says everyone should be worried of

blackx 30

then, even stranger, acting all big and tough socially, in private she collects glass figures, representing extreme fragility, and the killer takes up a unicorn, representing, then, an exception, a quandry and enigma, and uses that symbol of a fragile enigma to kill her

blackx 31

and the only shots we see of this fightback girl fighting back are grasping for life, clearly undone, knocking about her glass figure collection

blackx 32

and Clark lingers, perhaps again interjecting some personal POV inference of vengeance over a kind or type of girl at the time who, in the lore of horror movies, did a lot of careless damage (in the literary tradition of Tom and Daisy)

blackx 33and again, tres arty

blackx 35

but now we circle back to the eye of the killer, in the broader frame around the frame of the nest of character POVs (though I will return to Hussey in a bit)

blackx 36

the hidden stalking/peeping slasher is, of course, a trope, but the mistake that, if I recall, the remake made, and which a movie like The Boy (2016) also made, is that at some point it is felt by rationalizers that a person has to be made known, revealed, figured out entirely and, worse, explained, psychologically. But that usually ruins him, as in a hidden state he remains a bogey man, the figure representing all the random fears that pester modern life (heard that the Sydney Loofe killing, this month, RIP, in local news is, by rumor, even being blamed on the Rulo Cult, of the 1980s, I had to look it up). But, in this movie, he is a mere POV, who then, in a not so much abstract but abstract-ized way, kills. That is, like the bagged dead eye of the girl, whose gaze nonetheless usurps him, and, as we will see, also becomes the eye of the “to be continued” trope at the end, he is never shown, not even caught, the figures in the attic not caught, the police entirely absorbed in the girls (as if the movie plays on them the joke Kidder played on one dim cop by giving her a phone number spelling out Fellatio). But, his POV is suggested by the evergreen trope of constantly looking up and down the wooden stairway of the sorority house, the central feature of the house. We see it, after a rather too attendant following of the POV of the killer as he finds a place as the hidden homunculus haunting the house, early on, he is up above, in his wild space, civilization, their space, is below, the stairs are the great divide

blackx 37we get it often, moving up and down, between lives, from one experience by one character to another, as a transitional device

blackx 38in this shot, there is a formal portrait, perhaps of a former house mother, who knows, it is there, but did not play much of a direct role in anything

blackx 39the view gets longer when the prowl in danger begins and there is something interesting, relative to the above picture, in this prowl

blackx 40

as she moves upstairs, she is searching for evidence that there is trouble, she has not, as advised, left the house, but is looking, but the interesting thing is, and often shown, outside in particular Kidder’s room door is a raft of very traditional house pictures of the history of the sorority and group shots of former members, and classes, and all that

blackx 41

the camera approaches these pictures from afar, then comes closer, as if to equate the space in the house to public space in the sense that this is not space owned by the girls, but only temporarily lived in by them, and therefore the prison of the railings and the newell posts are emptied out even further by the ersatz bureaucratic group-culture group-think mechanical of modern life as exemplified by such pictures, the one strafes the other, they interact, quite inspiringly

blackx 42

as she gets closer, it is as if the slats of the bannister, the equivalent of venetian blind slats in bespeaking shadiness and questioning on screen, are accented in their emptying effect, and worry, by the form and layout, in quite long form pictures, of the pictures. It is also of interest that these pictures cluster most about Kidder’s room’s door, as she is the most contentious against the traditions of the house, and the life, and the prime violater of house rules, in every way

blackx 47

and as we close in on her door, visually attempting to increase the tension, there is a ratcheting up of both the slat strafe and the group picture facture, both by crepitation itching away at our confidence in the scene, the ironic Christmas wreath on her door also speaks

blackx 48now the camera pans over the long pictures of the groups and classes, almost as if this was the sorority house equivalent of the family tree portraiture of a family, an evergreen trope if ever there was, but this emptying things out in a more extreme, as if not only communicating that the house is in trouble, and she is in trouble, but they are in trouble because the lifestyle itself is archaic and corrupt

blackx 49

then, I also like this detail, on Kidder’s door is not an apotropaic keep out sign, but a “life of the party” trophy, a sign that says, we drink and have lots of sex in here, a black Christmas wreathe with tiny whiskey and other bottles attached as ornaments

blackx 50

a few things about this. Each year about this time, I see a bush at the corner where I fell (19th and Washington) and it is littered with tiny bottles of alcohol, with which the men litter what I even call after them, my street, Fireball Run, so this is funny to see the same trope in 1974, epitomizing the world of that wreathe, dorm life (sorority variant), that so tortured me (my version of a wreathe tossed? the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and dorm life was hearing bottles breaking all night outside my door, then opening the door in the morning to find the corridor littered an inch deep with broken bottles all over). But, two, it is also interesting that the posters for the movie tried to make a possible reference to this by making the wreath the central device, including horror in it, though not corresponsing to the mis en scene in the film

blackx 51

and here, with a reference to Kidder, so it might be connected,

blackx 52

other posters focus on the ornaments, with a dead body in it, not lifted from the movie, and then the tree in general, but this seems the source of that sort of resymbolizing of the movie, or postering of it. But, then, the punchline is only a punchline to get in the uncut version of the movie, and in this viewing was the first time I ever got the uncut version, because she is horrified when she opens the door to see a kind of wreath of two bodies on the bed, as if the killer combined the art of collecting glass figures, and making Christmas decorations, with fantasies of all the twisted sex that was going on in this house of sluts (in the language of the day)

blackx 53

In actual fact, Kidder’s body is merely placed over Martin’s body, but it visualizes as a pretzeling knot, suggesting, in a bed, of sex, of the accusation, common among men angry at refusal by women, of triabic lesbianism in the attraction of women as friends to each other, it is not as great a shot as it might’ve been, but for 1974, it is a lot (and, like I said, edited out of all versions I have seen of the movie before this screening) (one also fears that it is from a musing serpentinely on the wreath on the door as well as the webby christmas tree plus this suggested as the extenuation in a psycho mind of what a Christmas tree of sex would look like that the remake got the truly awful and unscary only gross idea of having the psycho’s tree decorated with organs of the murder victims, ew).

blackx 54later on, returning now to the girl who was the victim who ended up as the dead eye in the plastic bag suffocated, but to represent the dead eye POV of the cold world, she is not at all the Kidder type, in fact, quite tame, a more reasonable college girl, living between flowers and stuffed animals, in a dream of innocence, however the envelope stretches

blackx 55but then we see that she is being talked through a dry cleaner plastic bag hung over her clothes in her closet

blackx 56

and that is how she ends up as the first victim, and as the dead eye of the movie

blackx 57but, then, at the end, after we have apparently, down in the world of the living, in the house, in the space inside the cops’ investigation, wrapped things up, with no furhter search of the house, we trail away from the bed

blackx 58

some sort of grave rubbing of a medieval sort, meaning that Hussey was one of those, 1970s post60s undergrad escapists gone gaga on medievalism

blackx 59then we pull back through the corridor, light tinkling over the pictures of the sorority groups past

blackx 60

and the camera on its own, representing film per se, the dead eye of the world, pans, crossing the doors of rooms where victims were killed (thus, in this second, is clear proof that in this movie the sorority house pictures, the group picture trope, was definitely instrumentalized, and quite creatively, and may or may not have influenced the next great, and best use of them, unnoticed by most, by Kubrick in The Shining (1980).

blackx 61the first victim’s stuffed animal gives us a last dead eye glance

blackx 62

the camera crawls upstairs (can’t ID that pic, too dark)

blackx 63

we are informed, almost unbelievably, that the police did not find the two bodies in the attic

blackx 64

we even now pull out of that space by way of the window, and by way of the primary dead eye of the movie, victim in a plastic bag

blackx 65

to reduce her (the movie already working with the classic urban legend of the killer being, during a babysitting job, in the house upstairs) to the classic urban legend trope of the face in the window, that never moves, that is always there, eliding here into a ghost

blackx 66and in a “to be continued” withdrawal it is promised that, since he is still in there, it is going to happen again, because sororities are sororities, they don’t get fixed, it will happen again, he is the evil homunculus not yet formed into a conscious slasher with a distinct MO, is the abstraction vaguely haunting the lives of young women of the 1970s around the edges, that something has gone very, very wrong with the sexual revolution, and the world as a whole has converted into a place of threat and danger

blackx 67

and so Clark pulls all the way back to the POV beyond even the POV of the dead eye, which is in turn beyond the POV of the dead eye, to speak to us once again that in 1974 the world suddenly seemed scary (even if it wasn’t), and cold, and impassive, and it is from the pooling of this alienation and sense of corruption and emptiness, that the official slasher would, a few years later, emerge. For all of this–and this has only been a stab taken at a very difficult problem, one which I have mused on for some time, why this movie captures so perfectly the mood of being 21 in 1974 AD–Black Christmas (1974) continues to grow on me, as one of the best evil or scary Christmas movies ever made, and by the exact same guy who made A Christmas Story!


This note another of many I have written about sorority houses in horror movies, no doubt all for some fantastical psychological purpose of recoup since, in real life, as the college I went to did not have Greek life, in never once set foot in a real sorority house in my college years.

Tracking the green slime in The Green Slime (1966): intermedial representation of an invasive horror, Part 2.

Rev., Nov 22, 2017.

This is Part 2 of a 2 part treatment of The Green Slime (1966)


Having mapped out the movement of the green slime, in the movie The Green Slime (1966), I have thus far (in part 1 of this note), found two different times in which its movement escalated to a new level of excitement. Then, if that was not enough, the movie excites a third time, by ratcheting things up to the next level. And that would be that as the number of these things grow, they are slowly taking over the place, section by section, the crew is slowly being cornered, as they shut down one section after another, repeatedly having to move out, and shut off the doors, and this entails at several points, after isolating the monsters, going in to try to push them back to other zones, which involves a whole quite tense involvement of them going in with lights, which they realize blinds them

slim 48to go face to the face with them, more cycloptics

slim 49and, on it goes

slim 50on this level, in the real, fictive space, then, things go entirely polyphemic, that is, monocular, fixated on the monster, and its horror. In this, this is not only an expression of the movie having zeroed in heavily to focus on one thing only, in the lattice, these creatures then becoming the figure of the lattice, but in a menacing, monstrous form, the monocularity of it endangers the crew as well, because they might not be paying attention to other things. Of course, in every horror movie since the beginning of the 50s, there is a “debate” among the crew over what to do about these things, and this entails the age old war between the scientists, who want to study it, and the soldiers, who want to kill it. This, in this version, in these corridor wars, ends with the scientist getting his, taking care of that approach for good, so in this case the monocularity is composed of getting rid of all debate and focusing with totalitarian oneness of purpose to kill the thing, as it kills off science (in fact, the scientist having snuck into a block invaded by them, to study them, and, of course, they kill him, upon opening of the hatch, the crew gets a jump scare from the eyes-wide-shut corpse)

slim 51moviewise, this is a good thing. As I have repeatedly argued, the debate is certainly a good thing to have, but if the horror movie is going to move along, and escalate to horror, it has to come to a decision on the matter, and allow the debate to zero in on the emergency, to create that climate. Now, the debate was earlier engaged with some discussion over what it is. The scientist holds forth with some wonderful slide shows of the microscopic findings, an age old trope going back at least as far as Nosferatu (1921)

slim 52since microscopic reality is “gross” to the normal eye, he then describes some preternatural or extraterrestial power that the thing has, that fascinates him, but kind of freaks everyone else out, since this sort of thing inevitably shows that there is some sort of invasive anomaly that grows at a rate or in a manner menacing to mankind

slim 53it is to be noticed that this type of visuality entails, again, people in the fictive space, in the movie being watched, watching a movie, so it is intramedial, and in this case, the intramedial relation is between life-size space and under-the-microscope space, again, an age old trope. There are countless examples in horror, and if they are really well done, as here, it adds greatly to the movie. But, because the screen event cannot be in the fictive space, it inevitably is to be placed in the opisthodomic space, the back space, the realm, here, of the originating toycraft miasma discovery. That is, this is intercom space, casting back through fictive space into background space. The investigations in this sequence are shifted back and forth, under the wondering eye of the scientist, to the lab too, where its growth is then again remarked upon as phenomenally fast, and entirely abnormal, and we see it grow abnormally, from small

slim 54to large, with the device of stop action

slim 55it is well done, and, again, it sets up visually the idea of the thing expanding not just in fictive space, but in background space too, it has become doubly invasive

slim 56by this analysis, the viewer is asked to join in the wonder of the eye of the scientist in research to focus in on the slime C as an intriguing case. He then doubles up, and distances, his POV by secondarily making use of a microscope, then broadcasting micro discoveries in an enlarged format on the wall, distancing it all, it is now both in the reality, and in counterreality. But what the soldiers see is

slim 57that is, they cancel out and look through any gains to be made by research or science, and see with apotropaic eyes, this presence, on their craft, is, ipso facto, dangerous. The further demonstration of the slide show only intensifies their apotropaic vision, and convinces them, on a skincrawling level, that this C cult thing is a deadly menace, ie the backward C. As a result, we have the classic POV split of 50s horror between the benign liberalism of the scientist, and the apotropaic protectionist conservative rejection of a menace by the military. Fortunately for the movie this battle is decided by the soldierly POV coming to be realized by the fact that the thing starts killing.

But, the main event,visually, is that at some point this slideshow of science loops back to the previous remote control camera sightings of far off events, distanced, to have to be combined, when they trap one in an adjoining chamber, after the battle of the rolling beds in the infirmary. At this point, we get a good inyourface screensmear of the green slime, star of the show. This would have zero fearful impact or disgust reflex if not expertly set up as a horrible escalation earlier

slim 58and then the disturbing thing, which makes us to ick, is that it moves, of its own accord, spilling toward us

slim 59it is at this point, they retreat into a closed off chamber, but can view the thing by remote control by surveillance camera, that the movie reaches its new threshold of menacing visuality. I have previously worked out that this use of the camera, flat to the camera filming the movie, and reducing them to passive viewers of the screen, equal to us as viewers of the movie, as a device moves the entire visuality of the movie up into the pronaos or frontis space of the movie, in our face, upclose, highly engaging

slim 60

but the view here is now to something sequestered off in the background opisthodomic space

slim 61that is, there is a kind of visual boomerang, everything is brought forward into our space, to menace us, but then to do so by showing us something in the distance, by way of this distancing device.

slim 62now, the special character of that distancing is that it makes the scene acheiropoetoi, that is, without human hands, that is, an nonhuman eye is able to look in on it in a way that the eye in a human would not be able to, because what is happening is too horrible, or would kill, or we just could not get that close, as a result, we get to see things that, like an unmanned spacecraft, predicting future real life exploration of space, in fact, removing the mankind from it, we would not otherwise, and it makes out skin crawl, the horror of its pure, untouched, miasmic, outofcontrolness

slim 63that the movie then indulges us in this horror, this horrified POV, by showing us things about the monster we did not see before, all of it taking place on its own, without us, is terrific

slim 64And then it goes further, into what I consider true visual art. The director et al had to think of a way to make it all the more horrible and inhuman. It did this by a very special type of involution, as I believe I have discussed before. Well, in fact, it looks to me like it engaged in a double involution, as such

slim 65what THIS means is that in the opisthodomic space, itself divided into fore, middle and back ground, is spliced off in the foreground of the slime monster the abstract element of the slime itself, then having abstracted it, it activated the microsplicings of it sequentially, to create some truly bizarre abstract art, the remote show goes back to the abstract shot of the green slime

slim 66then, someone notices, its moving, and move it does, independently, nauseatingly, with an animal force

slim 67it wriggles, it is disgusting, as it moves, where is it going?

slim 68now, in the involution of it, as mapped out above, it reagently reaches back out over the preexisting plot points of the fictive level action of the movie as a whole to recreate that whole sequence on a micro level in the abstract splice space in the fore of the background distanced space, as it begins to invade a duct, with will

slim 70it takes up some sort of coagulating form, suggesting consolidation

slim 71it appears to want to get out

slim 72it is dripping down, in a form too suggestive of the whole thing, ew. The fun thing about all this is not only that it is entirely abstract, but it is in a reagent countering way recreating in micro abstract slime movement the previous plot points of the lifesize drama on board, so this comes off as a little abstract synopsis event, of that, but then all this is made possible by a second involution whereby this can only have been motored on screen, we know, by the spillage of some green slime, being run in reverse, backwards, a common technique, to give it its appearance of self-motive power. These two involutionary loops are inscribed above. But, then, there is a third!

slim 73

as once again, the remote viewers see a further something that absolutely sends chills through them, not only does it move on its own, and with an apparent will, knowing how it must invade vents, and attack with sense, in another little piece of it, looking like a puddle of vomit

slim 74it appears that in its very bubbling up, without any other source of procreation, it produces other forms not unlike the monsters sequestered and multiplying

slim 75and these bubble up so fast, no nine months in the womb for them, so instantaneously, to take micro form, with the red cycloptic eye in tact, that it totally freaks them out, and us, a truly terrifying shot, the centerpiece moment of the movie

slim 76then twisting the I-cant-believe-what-im-seeing lens even tighter, wiping off the lens, showing it more clearly, multiple monsters, multiplying at an alarming rate

slim 77it is at this point that the movie enters its emergency phase, they all realize they cannot possibly win, evacuation is recommended, to contain the menace, and so we pull back now, back up in the preset spaces, to see the whole station floating in the space of the background miniature space of the movie

slim 78it is really quite remarkably well done. And, then, it shows off even better. Most of the later part of the movie, as there are more and more places that the humans cannot go, is reduced to men looking at screens, just like us, it is all remote surveillant vision

slim 79and in a swell later sequence, they realize that a door is blocked, or there is trouble on the outside of the station

slim 80and here too the outside cameras now take a look, and shows us still more mindboggling, well done shots, the exterior entirely taken over by hundreds of them

slim 81and these shots, of just daft creativity, terrific

slim 82I mean just shots of Japanese extravagancce in model making, here also involuting the interior scenes into a remoter exterior

slim 83and again, superlative model making, and reimagining of the interior horrors plus the micro abstract horror propelled  out to the exterior

slim 84these also by involution of the previous plot points on the macro scale, now propelled into the deepest possible background space of the opisthodomic space of the movie, and looping back again to the visual abstraction of it all, from a remote view, and then repeating the interior battle sequences again, but back in a lifesize posture

slim 85

and then the movie even sends out some spacewalkers to swing round lifesize fictive space to reengage the lifesize monsters on it, and there is all sorts of swell swinging and dipping and darting, zapping at them

slim 86it is just a space game, lots of fun

slim 87and then a repeat of the encounter within, but now we are in fricking outer space

slim 89then there is the big final battle, where one of the captains gets killed, and the death of the one captain, of course, solves the problem of who Paluzzi will sleep with, and, by the way, they blow up the contaminated station, and thus save planet earth from an infestation of an uncontrollable biological enemy too horrible to think about

slim 90it is all remarkably well done, and incredibly complicated in the conception of it. But the thing that I like most about it is the intramedial dimension of the close-up distancing push-pull which becomes such an important source and visual device of horror in the modern period. Indeed, I would say that these remote visions of a self-generating monster are on par, in terms of their sheer horror, and visual artistry of an abstract sort, with the incredible video segment in Quatermass and the Pit, of the same period, where they see through some eyes a visualization of the first invasion of the monsters five million years ago on earth. This is a very high quality, and so for that The Green Slime is an exemplary piece of the art of combining model-making miniatures along with intramedial intercom/surveillant space visuality to visualize monstrosity in modern horror.