Twin Peaks: the Return (2017): mapping out episodes 3 through 7.

Rev May 20, 2018.

Note: This is Part 2 of 4 part treatment of Twin Peaks: The Return (2017).

At the beginning of Twin Peaks: The Return we get the first return, but how and why it is a return, or, rather, how much of the entity known as Dale Cooper is making the return, is something of a question (there being an inference that Lynch believes in several-soul theory). In episode 3, we rejoin Dale Cooper having been rattled out of the Red Curtained Place by the Oracle tree, and he is vibrating, descending, crashing through the atmosphere of space

atw 1There is no question, relative to consciousness, that we are in a dream state, but as I indicated earlier, we were pushed out of the mirroring dynamic of the drama, the twinspace of the twinpeaksness of this doppel space, into another doppel part of the universe in which Ambients preside, and, beyond them, even, Sentients.

atw 2and just to remind you where we are, vis a vis the head on your shoulders, with which you are reading this: Ambients exist in circulations of fears or whatever around the cingulate and are manifest in visualizations on film of any shot where there is a circle of people or objects surrounding one, or spinning around one, as part of a horror, ambients might speak to dizziness, or to claustrophobic, the brain spins out to them in states of higher concern, it is the fear of ambient hauntings that makes “circling the wagons” a circling, the circle must be closed against danger from the outside. The Ambient zone is a zone of heightened fear, taking the form it does because of that. Then, beyond them, in the area of the brain way out at the edge of the temporal lobe, say, where tinnitus occurs (but actual tinnitus becomes intolerable when it circles back in), Sentients are the visualizations in film and inside the head of imagined terrors coming in at you in abstract, nonfigurative, usually invisible form, often in the form of slashes or serpentine entities, to attack you from far out. It is a zone of very high, almost alarmed, emergency, a fearful tension characterized by a spinning, often dangerous.

atw 3

I only developed my vocabulary to include Ambients and Sentients because they were required to explain other classes of visualized images in horror movies. In, for example, Wolfguy (1975, Japan), there is a very succinct example, as a man is running from a Sentient curse, he thinks an invisible tiger is whirring at him, to claw him to death, then, at first, to stop him, the cars come at him in a circle, so this is Ambience, to get him to stop

atw 4but they fail, so the invisible tiger, the manifestation of a curse, and mainly rendered by noise, not this graphic

atw 5comes in out of nowhere visible and slashes him to death (which is exactly what the sentients in Twin Peaks did the love-makers in NYC early on, and to Hastings in the police car in episode 11 later, an invisible buzzsawing of their bodies and heads)

atw 6These are very common horror visualization modes, and maybe I delayed writing on Twin Peaks: The Return until after I had gained better insight into these peripheral classes of visual hauntings. So, at present, my guess is Dale Cooper is descending in a whoosh-like straight on falling-into-a-dream sequence, but it might be that he is floating out in the borderland between Ambient and Sentient space (indicated by his shaking). But then we get an interesting, and to me maybe a nonsequitur, later included clarification shot, because it might’ve been asked, where is he?, so Lynch decides to partly materialize the outer membrane of, say, the Ambient zone of the atmosphere lying outside dream, and entry into that atmosphere from beyond is figured out by a puff of smoke as if a kind of egg breaking through a wall of one zone to the other (this might relate to a similar shot, said by some to be a birthing, in the vision in the theater in episode 8)

atw 7and this I locate horizontal to the lattice-whoosh (third and fourth levels) of hypnagogy, as Cooper spins in from a violently shaking Sentient, tearing-apart space, into a calmer Ambient space, lying outside the main precincts of dream imagining, but at the level of breaking into the whoosh down to nightmare

atw 8

and then we see that we cross over a vacant empty and purple ocean. It is not unlike the oceans in Tarkovsky’s Solaris, simple ambient entities, not really oceans, but oceans made use of to rationalize for a moment a boundary in the passages of dream space

atw 9but then he sees something, a floating castle, a Magrittean idea, and it is a typical remote island castle, with many sources in horror, except that this one is floating over the weird inland or Ambient zone sea

atw 10in this, the sea is the “floor” of the Ambient space, just above full on REM dream space, while the castle floats at the lattice level above it, just hanging there (as lattice-like forms will)

atw 11

there is also a psychopomp present, to show him the way through. She warns him, there are dangers about, be quiet. She is blind, or rather, patches of skin have grown over her eyes, she is also Asian, this might speak both to the special combination of the unseen and the dream nature of the experience of the Ambient zone as a space

atw 12normally, in this sort of haunted house encounter, a chandelier might be expected to be the major lattice form; but in this particular house, it is a very large plug-in outlet or apparatus in the far wall (this also has roots in horror, as in The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1965) it is the intercom that becomes the main utilty of the room; and in numerous other examples, such as The Amityville Horror (2005) remake, it is the air ducts, the duct was even instrumentalized in Still/Born (2018), recently showing on Shudder

atw 13 this is familiar, then

atw 14but it would appear that while it is there, and fritzes, not even this works without some other kind of power being required, so the psychopomp is also, as it were, the electrician of the device, because she has to crawl up on top of the floating castle, which now looks more like the Nautilis in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

atw 15then there is a belllike form, meaning what I cannot say

atw 16she hugs it

atw 17this causes her to float away (as if her sacrifice fixes the problem)

atw 18allowing a cloud of the Admiral to pass over the station

atw 19then, back in the station, where Cooper is, there is now another woman, or maybe the same woman, only represented as just a sliver of consciousness more awake than in her former state, she tells him it is time

atw 20he then is zapped through the two prong outlets of the outlet

atw 21in a truly Magrittean moment, not unlike the locomotive coming through the fireplace

atw 22

but in reverse

atw 22leaving his shoes, and maybe his grounding in one being, behind, by mistake

atw 23causing him, in the logic of a twin universe, to split again, this time in  causing Mr C to get sick in his car, and lose some control over his being

atw 24and then by finding a place to put the other half of him split in the transmission by depositing it in a lookalike guy in Las Vegas called Dougie Jones

atw 25the fun part about the Las Vegas Dougie Jones scenario is that this transmission interrupts him in his normal life, a total loser, gambling and whoring his life away, and up to his neck in debt to organized crime, he is caught at the end of an assignation with a lovely prostitute in Las Vegas. She then goes back to shower, a classic trope in which people washing themselves take the eye off the ball of life around them

atw 26so at the same moment the red curtain and a kind of oozing sets up Mr C up in the Dakotas

atw 27and Dougie Jones waiting out in the outer room in this vacant show house. This show is excellent weaving of the curtain trope into the Venetian blind shadiness trope, as well as the carpet and empty house trope, as well as something going on out in the house when the woman is preoccupied taking a shower trope, all vacant crawlspace zones of modern life (there is a good Adrienne Barbeau movie, Open House (1987), in which she plays a realtor who does all her assignating in vacant show homes too)

atw 28and like Mr C he throws up, as if the soul in this universe is partly a matter of intestinal fortitude

atw 29then that Dougie Jones as was ends up back up in the Red Curtained Chamber

atw 31to be informed that he was not a real thing but manufactured for a purpose, a tulpa, that is, in the Lynch language, and he in this form is liquidated

atw 32while back down below a semblance of Dale Cooper, the new Dougie Jones, autistically limited, comes out of the socket into the empty room, to take on a new half life in Las Vegas (then the complication being that he is stuck in so many messed up situations) (this is also a funny commentary on how most people just “satisfice” their way through lives, they only need a bit of an explanation for the unexplainable, for them to just shrug and move on, this Dougie has just barely enough to function, but he does). His being dressed in his old clothes is a confusing point, as is the fact that, she finds out, he has a key to his hotel room at Twin Peaks in his coat pocket, reminding us that he is half of Dale Cooper, the inversion of Mr. C though) (she later mails it, waking up the investigation in Twin Peaks from another direction).

atw 33There is also a woman across the way, in another underused house, so like in the remake of Fright Night and the Paranormal Activity movies, Lynch working well with the horrors implicit in the cookie-cut tract housing that has spread across America in the past 20 years, all of which has become a trope, who seems to sense a problem. This woman might be the receiver of the sending of Dale Cooper, the opposite of the woman up in the floating castle who let him know it was time to go through the plug, up in the Ambient zone, but somewhat derelict in her duty, she calls out, not paying attention at all to her son, while she is drunk, “119,” mysteriously (it might be 911 backwards, it might split to 10, the perfect number which 253 adds up to; in any case, she is a kind of minor messenger of some sort), but this sort of circumstantiating of scenes with mis en scene donuts that make them all seem fuller is pretty much Lynch’s forte

atw 34It can be fairly said, in criticism, it is an odd way to depict the reentry of a soul back into life, in a kind of reincarnation, but one gone wrong. Belief in reincarnation is so similar in many ways to Christian belief in the afterlife, but, then, in keeping with pressure from secularization and egotism as well as fear of death, it offers some consolation to the dying that they will continue to live on in some form in this zone of life, that it hardly needs much nudging for the viewer to simply accept this as a zigzag conceptualization of the process of reincarnation, and move on (like Dougie, we satisfice too, and I have worked through the text in this spirit). The soul of Dale Cooper was stuck up in the Red Curtained Chamber, he was knocked out of it by the Oracle tree, then whooshed down through the atmospheric border to the shaking Sentient zone, then fell into the calmer nightsky over a sea in the Ambient zone, and there in a floating castle, representing an abstraction of a fixating image as one might find at the lattice stage of hypnagogy, usually represented by a chandelier, here by a kind of floating Nautilus of a knockdown sort, he is engaged by psychopomps, typical Lynch figures, guides of the soul, then the custodian of that place, if she did not have to die, had to give some of herself back, to complete the transaction, leaving him depleted, to go through a large magic plug in the wall of that chamber; but then in his passage through the red curtains that separate the Ambient world from the adjunct spaces of hypnagogy, somehow there is a dysfunction, to split him into one half as Mr C, and the other half as an autistic Dougie Jones. It is complicated, but, basically, just as the “God” of the red curtained place told the returned Dougie Jones, he was never real, he was a tulpa, a manufactured being, who simply held part of a soul they were trading with, and so it can be said Dale Cooper in this form will have to trade his way through the confusions of his double predicament to get back to one piece and become, voila, Dale Cooper (which won’t happen, alas, until episode 16, and we are on 3—and certainly it was expected by most viewers, myself included, that Lynch would make the return of Cooper happen fast, then we would spend the rest of the series with him back in action as might happen easily on a soap opera seeking out the final conclusion of the crime he was investigating; but, no, only at about week eight did I realize this entire season is about and to be taken up by The Return in all its zigs and zags. It is an odd decision, almost like Lynch was sitting in a council of Nicea and just decided he was more interested in trying to figure out how the heck to plausibly without too much of a jump, and in a transitional nature which did not violate the nature of life, bring Dale Cooper back from the Red Curtained Chamber into this world. As a result, the series feels more like a theological dissertation on the cosmology of the Twin Peaks universe, than the action series many might have expected). But though I was nonplussed, I did not mind. And one of the major reasons was that the half or quarter of Dale Cooper who has returned to earth in the body of Dougie Jones turns out to be one of the most interesting and endearing characters on TV in recent years.

And, then, there is another rhyme between the intuitive dynamics of Twin Peaks, and what is going on elsewhere. Hawk has enlisted the whole staff in going through the cold case files looking for something missing. At one point, Lucy suggests it’s the missing Easter bunny, but Hawk decides, no it is not the Easter bunny

atw 36but, humorously, it is a visual not unlike, in form and color, the Easter bunny, that makes plausible Dougie Jones reentry into life on a sort of new footing, that is, dressed up, thinner, but entirely autistic, so he has to have some strengths, and it is that he suddenly sees, in his state of hypnosis, or sleepwalking hypnagogy, a form form in the air over the slot machines, leading him to go to that machine and pull the lever

atw 37what the form is, is partly inspired by all the flashing symbols of the slot machines themselves, which, like that, can put one into a dreamy state, but at the same time, close up it is apparent that the sign is in fact a symbol sent into his vigilogogic, that is, waking but kind of sleepwalking state, of the Red Curtained Chamber, that is, it is a triangular section of the red curtain, then a portion of the zig zag floor, and then the entire thing encircled by a mandorla of visionary light. It is a classic glass onion formation, a pure all but alchemical symbol, but he is seeing it as if the spin off flash effect of being unable to deal with all the slot machines

atw 39it forms then, too, like a crenellation pattern in the eye, like something you might see in a silent migraine, but for him it is all good, it leads him on a magic primrose path from machine to machine, winning over and over and over again, 32 times!

atw 40even better, a homeless woman, who the staff has decided is harmless, and lets play, sees what is going on and tries to exploit him, he is so guileless he has no problem, so she plays and wins too, totally changing her life (his lack of guile allows all other persons to project their feelings on to him, and he just saying enough to relate but not more to get himself into trouble is a very funny commentary on the nature of communication in relationships in today’s internet world). The scene is so deliriously funny in a good-hearted way, it is quite surprising, and a real entrée into life again, but as a different Dougie Jones, an impersonator, but whom everyone lets play along because he is such a nice guy. He, in fact, is given all his winnings and returns home, but only because he remembers a phrase “red door”, that is, it is still the sign, the autism is still operative, and so he is deposited into his new life.

atw 41while Naomi Watts, playing his wife, still living reactively as the aggrieved wife in his old life, is ready to rip him a new one, she then opens the bag, to realize, eureka, we are suddenly in a new life, she even says this is one of the happiest days of her life

atw 42I suppose to make this all seem more plausible, and to bring the goal posts of reality a bit closer together, to play in a more 2D zone (which means much of the fill-in of the genre elements of scenes acts as Beglaubungsapparats, that is, plausibility enhancing devices, in Lynch’s universe), some other identity switchings were tossed in anecdotally to portray a world that Dougie has returned to with issues of identity on all levels, everyone changed, so Duchovny as a trans person who suspects that Cole is interested in Tammy, Cole retorts, I’m old school

atw 43Lucy unable to get over the miracle of cell phones

atw 44and then their son’s mock millennial new sincerity homage to Brando by way of wishing the sheriff well for whatever, but my dharma is the road

atw 45It has to be conceded, some incidental TV moments were tossed in, for comedy, to fill things out, just like in the TV series. But the mainstream of the story is now that Dougie is part of Dale Cooper in the world, struggling to find his way, and Mr C is in the world, trying to find his way to the coordinates, to avoid being taken out. Now and then, as when Dougie wakes up having to pee, but unsure how to pee, which is how autistic he is, he sees the One Armed Man again, telling him, one of you must die, we made a mistake

atw 46the appearance, a larger dissolve of the red curtain over the carpeted floor, evoking the double world he lives in

atw 47And, because of the doubling, just as quickly as we move forward with the Dougie Jones side of the plot, we also move ahead with the Mr. C part of the plot, so we are following as if two different characters, but, somehow, they are halves of the same being, Dale Cooper, trying to get back into balance in this world, but now being split between these two manifestations of himself. Thus, this is an all but baroque spin in on the Twin Peaks doppelganger plot, and very much in a Glass Onion-descended, bookended, twinfire world, which I, as an identical twin, know well of. At one point, after Cole et al visit the body, and find out that it is the body of the Admiral, and how can that possibly be? they also have to go to Buckhorn state prison to interview a man who has come up as Dale Cooper with his ID, it is Mr. C, but is not him. Out in the parking lot, Cole asked Albert, what do you think? and Albert says, blue roses, to which Cole replies, it doesn’t get any bluer.

atw 48A pause here. In this context, blue roses means a case that is unsolvable, or way out of the norm, and might even involve something occult or paranormal (they have a task force for cases like this, and later induct both Tammy and Diane). But, in the culture at large, blue roses is the nickname that the gentleman caller had devised for the lead character of Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie, he did not understand the word pleurisy in high school, so in humor called her blue roses, as if to accentuate her oddness, her specialness, her unique personality. In that regard, it is said that the term blue roses is reinforced in the symbology of the play by the fact that she likes glass unicorns, and it certainly is odd that I write this note only a bit after having dealt with the extent to which Barb in Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) was also a unicorn, and had collected for herself a glass menagerie. How does this relate? Twin Peaks’ original problem, as I construe it (without, for now, going back into it) was that under the spell of its two peaks, everyone in town bifurcated into a Jekyll-Hyde state where they were basically both themselves as Dr Jekyll, and then also (if taken over by Bob) their Hyde state. That, at least, is my reading. What this means is that, not unlike in a movie like The Crazies, the entire town had come under the spell of a strange contagion or pollution. Psychologically, the altered state whereby one is caught in the web of someone’s unwanted attention because you look exactly like someone else, or remind them of someone else, these situations often leading to stalking, or, in the case of Dracula with Lucy, death, I call twinfire. Recently, in the movie The Dark Mirror (1944), I saw that by its cinematography and the level of complexity at which it laid out the devices of the playing out of the mystery of the twinness of Olivia de Havilland as twins, as it relates to whodunit and a murder, that the entire movie was shot in a zone descendant from the glass onion binary device of twinfire. Thus, the movie as a whole operated in a facsimile of straight or full mainstream whoosh effect, but in a more controlled, bifurcated, symbolic adjunct zone, a world, that is, entirely mirrored on itself, a simple kaleidoscope world, a world of twinfire. In that movie, while the plot was supported for its solution by the superstition that envy among twins can get so harsh because there is no alibi in terms of looks or whatever to excuse oneself from the realization that he did not want you, in, for example, matters of love, it made that plausible by shooting down other “superstitions” about twins: that, for example, one sucked the life out of the other, or that, because they both shared intelligence, and intelligence is given to one entity, they each have a half of intelligence, and both twins, then, are somewhat dim. It was amusing, to hear these twin superstitions raised, and shot down, but then some not. But the movie depended entirely on this back and forth, indeed, the main conceit was that neither twin could be arrested for murder because a witness could not tell them apart in a police line up! The entire movie, then, took place in a twinned universe. But, my point is, Twin Peaks is the ultimate expression of the twin universe view of the self, it takes place, in its entirety, in the zone of twinfire (as one commentator rightly points out, twinfire, or he says the influence of evil Bob, also encompasses, not just Jekyll-Hyde stuff, but personal dissociation, getting stuck in a rut, harboring resentments that gets you stuck being someone else, all good points relative to other minor characters in Twin Peaks). Hypnagogically, this would seem to limit me to a particular point of departure for every foray in the movie, as I mapped out in my piece on The Dark Mirrror (1944), that place is located as follows

atw 50

I know that it is almost fantastical of me to suggest that Lynch drew his ultimate prototype inspiration from the simple film noirs of the 40s, where they made use of simple bifurcate devices to represent reality as a split bookended place, a twinfire zone, but I think there is something to this (another movie of the time that is also reminiscent, since it involves a man knocked into an evil twin self by a bomb during the Blitz of London is The Brighton Strangler (1945)). Everything in The Return is about parsing the one side of something, compared to the other side of the same thing. So, it IS a twinfire universe (by the way, in my more retrogressive politically correct moods I abhor all this bookend formalism as a strategy propagated by singletons to create a world they can egotistically control things, as bookending themselves formalistically makes them feel more grounded and feet-on-the-ground, arms-akimbo-out, wagons-circled, janiform-protected in the world. And, in this context, I find it all, and it’s coopting of the reality of twins as a metaphor to work out personal ego problems, more or less the entertainment equivalent of minstrel shows, and entirely stereotypical, as I do not believe the Jekyll-Hyde mythos–I let it pass in this case, since it is stretched imaginatively to a crazy idea of an entire universe and cosmology built on the idea–no wonder I felt right at home).

In any case, things now continue on. And in so far as in the middle episodes it was like we were switching from Mr C to Dougie Jones, and back and forth, it seemed to me that this was the logic we were playing with.

atw 51

but this also means, after the cosmology (though it will show up again big time in episode 8), that the filter as it were of the entire drama as it works to translate Sentient and Ambient pushes of energy through the twinfire world into conscious life, and full living, is the Twinfire formation I did not devise until this past month, and then that “bounces” as it were, as hypnagogic states will, to its vigilogogic counterpart, and, up there, as happens when dreamers awake, the kaleidoforms of the twinfire pair splits into Dougie Jones on the right, and Mr C on the left. And because Cole and Albert do not understand the dynamics behind all this, that the big wide world and all its badness by Sentient and Ambient forces has come tearing through reality to rip up a lot of people in the effort to reincarnate a person missing for 25 years,  they fail to also see that “blue roses” as it filters through the idea of the unicorn as a rare and special being also speaks to both Mr C., who is actually weak, and Dougie Jones, who appears weak, but turns out to be strong. So, the pleasant contradictions of lives built on dreams.

As the life around Dougie Jones, too, is expanded, so that it feels real, and he has enough space to by his actions influence something of it, Lynch fills things in with vigilogogic counterparts of dream guides or psychopomps, figures that, just like in Mulholland Drive (2001), lead one on your way, along the path that he must be going. And it is in the complications of the Dougie Jones plot that we first see and hear from Candie, one of the Mitchum brothers’ gofers, and, seemingly, always-around presences, like in an entourage. In her zonked out manner she is the perfect expression of Dougie-Jonesness rampant in the culture, her performance (Amy Shiels) is one of the very best of the series (in the middle), we will see more of it

atw 52but back in the bifurcate lives we are leading, Mr C is still making use of his “knowledge” to move through reality. He seems to cause a blackout, and undertake a jail break, simply by saying, “the cow jumps over the moon” into a phone (I would say that he is not operating by intuition, or magic, but by script, that is, his mind has been scaled back to simple scripts, and he is operating on them, but for a time it works)

atw 53but by far in this twin universe, the most enchanting is Dougie Jones travelling through the world. He stands under a statue of a pioneer pointing up out front of his office building because it is  shaped like the sign over the slot machines at the casino, it reminds him of a code that is in his mind that has come down to him from the One-Armed man in the Red Curtained chamber. He also does not understand the concept of time, or moving on, because he waits at the statue for hours, involved in his little things, until someone rescues him, it is intriguing

atw 54Then, in one of the very best sequences in the movie, he comes home, scolded by the wife for being late, but then he has to do some paperwork. But he is autistic, and does not understand insurance company paper work at all. But, then, he blinks, and notices something. He sees a pattern. Seeing a pattern in things is called apophenia, or, in the parlance, connecting the dots. Used to be news would be made when dots were connected in a way that had some semblance of investigative truth, that is, after the fact, knowledge was learned and established in one’s head based on books by experts or articles by reporters who’d done extensive fact-checking, which therefore had some semblance of truth, thus one got educated. By contrast, today conspiracy theories devised by hyper but troll  minds who connected the dots willy nilly by free association with regard for fact, have been put in the place of fact, and even feed news, but, then, even mainstream serious journalism today is often spinning the story before they report the story, meaning that dot-connecting is cart before the horse today. Everyone is connecting dots all the time, without any regard for checked facts, creating a mental breakdown in the regime of knowledge versus ignorance in our world. So Dougie Jones’ autism, and I use the term not in reference to an actual brain disorder, but to simply indicate a limited capacity at mindreading, and in connecting the dots (ignoring for the moment the hyper form of Asperger’s et al in The Rain Man etc). So, he looks at the paperwork, just going through the motions, because his wife says he has to do the work or he’ll get fired, he is not actually doing anything, but, then, he does something, he notices something, perhaps it reminds him of the slot machines

atw 55he then gets another dissolving message from the One-Armed man in the Red Curtained chamber, making a kind of hand sign (the pointing of the statue)

atw 56and as the zig zag of the floor runs out, again, able to be seen from this side of rationality as an optical disturbance like crennellations linked to a silent migraine

atw 57it transfers as a system of symbolism to the paper work, which is all a blur to him. The One-Armed man is telling him, wake up, he looks at the paperwork, and begins, holding his pencil like a first grader, with a backwards fist, making cave drawings on the sheets of paper!

atw 58It looks to me like a series of black dots, scribbled in hard, one in the upper part of the sheet, one in the lower, then connected by children’s drawings of stairs and two or three ladders, leading down the page

atw 59Things then break off for a few other genre scenes, but, then, when the evil cousin of Ray, part of the gang, kills a kid on the road, it seems that the other zone comes into it again as from his corpse rises up a yellow wedge not unlike the yellow glowing wedge that supported the sighting of the symbol over the slot machines.

atw 60Then Lynch seems to be making a point that this happens by way of some numerology

atw 61and that the forms of the world seem to also correspond to some script or code communicated from the other place, and not unlike the forms that Dougie has scribbled onto the insurance forms

atw 62Now, once again, in the twinned universe of formalism, someone has insights of a certain formation, it makes sense, or rather, those limited scripts are validated as real if they reflect other forces coming for or against him, in the same form. So it is somewhat humorous, and lovely, symbolically, or in a dreamy way, that when the mysterious man in Vegas orders a hit on Dougie Jones, thinking him the old Dougie Jones and not the new Dougie Jones, they hire the dwarf, Ike the Spike, certainly one of the most interesting anecdotal characters in the whole series, and after he gets slipped his “business” under the door of a motel room, eight by ten pictures of his victims, drinking too, so in a state of mind perhaps equivalent to that of Dougie, it is revealed that he acts upon paper much in the same way as Dougie does his paperwork, he has a ritual to “fix” the image of his victim in his mind, so that he does not make a mistake. He takes a knife and stabs at the picture at all the seven points of recognition, which make a face a face, this is quite funny, as it almost mimics Dougie’s paperwork the night before

atw 63but then in one of the series’ best very scenes, which transforms how the world sees Dougie, Dougie turns in his work to the boss, Mullins, a great performance by veteran actor Don Murray, who was in Busstop (1956), and at first he is like, what is this shit?, all this scribbling, I am not happy with your work of late

atw 64but then, something happens, something remarkable happens. Because Dougie, following a code sent him from the other place, simply did the same pattern on every form, suddenly, the boss’s eyes are drawn to the same point on each form, and he realizes, there is repetition here, there is fraud going on here, he is shocked, his eyes, by this intuition, are opened

atw 65this shot makes clear that he thinks Dougie has made that black mark next to the name on the form to indicate that it is a repeat of another name, and fraud

atw 66so even though this Dougie is so formally impaired that he cannot figure out what Mullins is trying to do when he tries to shake his hand, all he can do is mimic him, because that is all he can do, stuck in the bookend twinfire world, like a parody of the sequitur twin, he is now the hero, for having uncovered rampant fraud in the company

atw 67then, once again, spinning off a circumstantial zone that is being remade around his intuitive way of living, Watts gives the men giving Dougie the shakedown a hard talking to, “we are living in dark times”, she says, they can’t deny it, but nor can they say no to being given half of what they want, but it is $25K in cash, they take it, so that is funny

atw 68 1then Ike the Spike lives up to his own autistic world view by following his MO to the tee by rushing into an office all but unseen, because of his height, knocking his victim to the ground, then spiking her in the throat, also “funny” in the sense that he is living life in a very narrow little path of functionality, in his particular Umwelt, as I call it, borrowing from Uexhull (even better comment that it happens in all those carpeted nondescript offices that people work in)

atw 68Back in Twins Peaks, the intuition clicks in even better, and more. Hawk had previously been told that something is missing in the files, and that it has to do with something in his own background, that is, his being a Native American. So, he has been mulling it over. But, and this is exactly how the Greeks decided what an oracle meant after it had said something, when, at first, they could not figure it out, they waited a few days for something to come up, for them to say, that’s it, and he is in the men’s room, and then sees some dropped changed, he picks it up, and it is an Indian Head nickel with a buffalo on the back

atw 70This particular type of nickel was very popular in my childhood years, when I collected coins, so I know, we saw them a lot. The last one was minted in 1939, twenty five years before my collecting days as a child, but they were still pretty frequently encountered

atw 71

These days, they are extremely rare, you hardly ever see them let alone get them in your change anymore. So, picking up a nickel from the floor, and it being an Indian Head, that would spark something in Hawk, hey, that has something to do with my heritage. Then, immediately after that, one two, as bread-crumbing in a pattern is also something that not only people in fear or love do to lead them in or out of trouble, he, having bent down to pick up the nickel, seeing what it is, now glances over at the back door of the stall, and IT TOO is about something having to do with his legacy!

atw 72Once is just chance, twice, now, that is something. So, he decides, right away, acting on the intuition, something is in the stall door

atw 73He goes gets stuff, is he just wasting his time? to pull it apart

atw 74and in it he finds four missing pages from Laura Palmer’s diary, of some signifcance, but, the thing is, THESE were the things missing from the files, and he got to them, exactly as the log lady said, by way of a path having something to do with his background, however mundane a form the path took–so, another incredible moment of the series pushing intuitive wisdom against the exploitational rationalization of the world, parallel but superior even to Dougie’s operation of autistic-signalled-scripts of an intuitive sort.

And what the papers say is that someone, Annie, went to that place, the Lodge, which they did not know before, and, two, the one who came out of (the lodge?) is the bad Cooper, not the real Cooper

atw 75now, after a few more ins and outs of plot, the Feds, back in the  Mr. C part of the story in Buckhorn, come out to examine the body, and it is the wrong age, so both the officer who came and the one back in Washington, playing up to conspiracy theory, know something occult is up. But, the important point in terms of the expansion of the symbolic topography if you will of the series is that as she is giving the report of the findings, we see for the first time one of the strange, homeless men, all blackened out, who passes her in the hall. This shot means that he appears as if in a state of hypnagogy, she momentarily lapses into the lattice stage, obsessed with the mystery, unclear if he is in her head, or real.

atw 76To then swing round and confirm that the body is not the body it should be, or that the Dale Cooper by his fingerprints held in prison is not Dale Cooper, they have to double swing back through a few scenes to recruit Diane to come back and confront Dale Cooper and she instantaneously knows that, it isn’t time passing, it isn’t that he’s changed, or his looks have changed, that is not the same man, it isn’t, existentially, Dale Cooper, so we are getting somewhere

atw 77Switching then back to the Dougie Jones side of things, the next time that the other side breaks in to guide Dougie in his autism is during Ike the Spike’s assassination attempt, when the oracle tree, basically, a brain on a tree, tells him what to do, to break his hands, and he does

atw 78the presence of the oracle of the Red Curtain Chamber seems to give him supernatural strength, to fend him off, such a strange shot

atw 79meanwhile back in Twin Peaks, secretary and owner of the hotel, I otherwise dismiss this whole subplot, hear a whirring around the lamp in the corner, and in the Ambient or maybe even Sentient space. This by itself could simply mean that in so far as some things are rising up and coming back, and the case is coming back to life, that the whirring Sentient forces of the woods have been awakened too, and are beginning to hum

atw 80Back with Mr. C, he arranges the whole escape, Ray comes with him, but when, he now knowing where the coordinates are, they go there, Ray turns on him, and shoots him

atw 81and then Ray witnesses, with wtf astonishment, that Mr C was, in fact, not entirely an unattended mortal, but some sort of tulpa or in-between being with a higher world having a vested interest in him and looked after by a whole tribe of henchmen from that world, the sooty-covered homeless men who now converge like professional mourners on the body (and they are, indeed, linked to death), out of the darkness (so very much, in terms of hypnagogy, or Ray thinking he is dreaming, hag attack or shadow people that one sees in the entoptic zone)

atw 82and as they do, it is almost like that magic surgery by hand alone done occultly in the Philippines where by pressing in on his stomach they can remove from him an evil presence in him

atw 83and it turns out that that presence is the Evil Bob blob that has been motoring him ever since he split off as a bad side of Dale Cooper 25 years ago. So we see, fantastically, the Bob blob rise up like a tumor out of his body, upper left

atw 84Ray is thrilled at having killed him

atw 85but suddenly the series breaks, and, midepisode, we get a nine minute set by the Nine inch Nails, who like a death song at a funeral, announces that by this breakup of Mr C with his Bob bad energy, some sort of break up has occurred in the universe, the dissertation upon which is now the subject of the infamous or famous Episode Eight, where we are now

atw 86to be continued.



Twin Peaks: The Return (2017): a conjecture on its dream structure.

May 19, 2018.

Note: This note makes use of a five-stage hypnagogic dream state model, in addition to Ambient (circling) and Sentient (far orbiting) dream states. It is assumed that the reader has seen the series, therefore no spoilers.

Apart from a review, which ran through the sequences of the series, I did not, last summer, write anything in detail on the dream structure of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return, mainly because I did not “get” where the series was going, or understand much of it. But I certainly knew of the states of mind that it played with, and these are what I want to make a record of now, at this point, to link elements in his telling to traditional tropes in horror or sci fi, and then to from that eventually work out where in the universe, in this series, we are. This, I think, is important, because, it is, in the story, important, that Twin Peaks exists in an alternative state of mind, or universe, it is not just a commentary on social issues in America, it is not a literary thesis with symbolism to be linked by color and theme, it is a series of events, the eventuality of which, their instrumentation, must be worked out, to get to the final meaning of them, and this cannot be done without first figuring out where everything in the universe is coming from, in the Lynchian universe. This problem is even more pressing in this series because Lynch took it to a metaphysical level much more often, apart from the Red Room, in the original series.

The first thing I want to address is that in episode one part of the proceedings takes place in New York. Apparently, there is a building, a kind of warehouse, where a very rich man has built an entirely occult machine, and in addition to having a security guard, he has an employee whose job it is simply to sit there, day after day, waiting to see if anything happens. This is the machine

atwin 1it looks, frontally, like a camera, the guy sitting at it kind of treats it like a TV set, from the side it is clear it is a glass box

atwin 2from the side, as an object, it relates to any number of glass boxes holding elements in contemporary art, I can think back to Damien Hirst’s glass vitrines of 15 years ago, such as in this piece

atwin 3And then even this week, a work by Korakrit Arunanandonchai at the CLEARING in NYC

atwin 4In both cases the glass box means that, well, it is a bit more than a bel jar, it might relate to the fish tank trope, but I think in its nature it reaches back to the use of tanks of this sort in Frankenstein movies, such as  the Revenge of Frankenstein

atwin 6

And then too it is given, for its transparency, the implication of flight, of transmission and reception, not unlike in The Fly,

atwin 7

to represent it as a site of transformation, but, which, in this context, and because black, can go wrong. In this context, then, by form alone, it is a site of communication, a portal. We also see that its machinery is quite Gigeresque, that is, strangely sci fi

atwin 8What this means is that there is some wealthy man in NYC who believes in a theory of the universe that he shares with DL that there is a world out there, that forces want to come from that world into our world to communicate with us, and this is a portal of that world. The fact that he believes that the world on the other side of the portal is got to by sci fi mechanical means, means that he does not believe in it as a supernatural realm, so much as a trans-natural state, somewhere lying outside of nature, but still in nature. The fact that he tries to communicate with it, and bring spirits in, means either that he is evil and wants to bring some evil in, or good and wants the good. It seems like the consensus is it is the evil.

But, now, the odd thing is, it is almost as if there has to be a decompression zone on this side of the transmission, in order for it to bring something through. That is, for Lynch it cannot pop someone into a straight-on site, but can only come into this zone by way of crawlspaces. And this is conveyed, and Lynch does this, magically dimensionalizing his dream spaces, by layering in around them peripheral spaces, the first being the elevator, so it is a grubby, nondescript, warehouse building “somewhere in Manhattan,’ with an elevator that comes up, not unlike in a loft. Then, there is a girl delivering coffee, who somehow is curious to get in to it.

atwin 9when another time, in a mini sideplot, there is no one there anymore, that is, the guard is gone, the bloke looking after the machine searches the bathrooms, and they are empty too. As a place, a bathroom used by only a few people off a very secret location is a Far Place, a sink of dream, at the end of some meander of space, conveying again distinctly the idea that we are at the far end of the real in this. The fact that it has The Shining like florescent bulbs at the sink, that there is no stall, just the toilet, that the tile is worn, that there are no windows, also renders it as an end of the world space. The crummy bathroom is a trope, in horror, and it usually means, terrible things to come in terms of basic bodily functioning.

atwin 19but the girl is curious, and eventually does get into the secret room, to view the mysterious object (Pandora and the box theme). She sits on the couch having her coffee with the bloke, he is nonplussed by the whatever of it, worried a bit that he has violated company policy, and can now lose his job. Her body language is perfect here, that particular way of locking knees together, with feet out, then ankles turned in, kind of means she is perching, that is, though it would seem ladylike that she presses her knees together, this pose means she is ready to spring. That could also be construed as the “holding it” pose a child strikes when she has to pee, so that mixes in too. In other words, she is excited, she has got in, she is seeing what she wanted to see

atwin 11and then very quickly she takes it exactly where we wanted her to, and where he thinks maybe it might go, she stands up and strips, she is turned on by her encounter with this mystery, and now wants to feel that turned-on-ness in a more physical way, literalized in sex, so she strips, back to the camera, spine out

atwin 13and they go at it right away, he is like, no way I am saying no to THAT, so they have sex

atwin 14but the problem is, and this is a very deep trope: when it comes to nature, and things natural, it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. Too much excitation can stir up trouble, and I cannot even name the many, many movies where the horror is unleashed by a couple ill-advisedly having sex in the site of a haunting. It wakes up the ghosts (the basic peasant idea here is that the dead are angry at being dead, and envious of the living, and what is more to be envied of life than sex, so they get especially angry over any living beings who disrespectfully have sex around them, rubbing it in their faces). So, sure enough, not only has both of them turned their back on the machine, but they are having sex, so giving the machine a whiff of their human activity, and this, THIS, like Pandora opening the box, by this young woman opening what we used to call her box, she brings a hologramic demon through

atwin 17it is a nude female (I think), but of a demonic sort. I would hesitate at this point to identify with any character in the movie, but perhaps it might align with Diane, a tulpa, some think it is Judy herself, the personification of soul-stripping evil, I am not sure, we are going to see her one more time, when Andy gets a flashback review of the events of the show in the Ambient Theater, it is a deeply scary thing, barely perceptible in the blackness

atwin 18and, then, it comes out of the box, into the space they are having sex in, and joins in, but does so, not to participate in a threesome, but in the manner of a buzzsaw, it simply spins through them, shredding them, and, if I remember, decapitating them, leaving them ravaged as if by gunshot shells

atwin 20right away, rereading this from the perspective of now, having this past winter looked into the circulations of more outlying spaces in the hypnagogic universe, I have better insight where we are. There is little doubt that Lynch believes in a kind of supernatural world, but I think one that circulates around the material, the offset manifestation if you will of our mass disability in being able to make the most of and keep both time and space. This outer world is therefore something of a dump, if you will, a negative space. In my system, I have the zone near the elan or fire of life, where agency is created and life to the fullest is lived; then I have mapped out some adjunct spaces, and now I also believe that since so many dream images come in on one from afar and then often slices at one, that beyond are the Ambient Zones of orbiting and the Sentient zones of orbiting.

atwin 21figural forms coming in from the Ambient circulating zone I call Ambients, figural forms coming in from the Sentient zones I call Sentients. But, then, there is an added problem. My “system” foregrounds as the place or life and art the elan zone at the core, but as you move off, you can get caught up in the elaborate scaffold of modern bureaucrat-technical life, the life of the vampire squid, as it was nicely called a few years back. Thus, RATIONALIZATION lays its heavy hand over the circulations of life, and tries to manage them

atwin 22

the thing is, rationalization, while good for the managing of traffic and what not, kills life, in the living of life, it can also lead to living a lie, or dissociating, or holding a grudge, all the “who me”? bullshit” that Burkert argues surrounds human actions, to exonerate ourselves from blame, so the rationalization of cultural forms is deeply problematic (another class of art I allowed this past year was, conceding that the confusion caused by rationalization run amok, ie the green slime, is deeply confusing, some artists needed to start working in toward life from where they were by means of “wriggling,” and thus my taste of late for “wriggling” art). In fact, I would argue it neutralizes any force which it catches, and by that turns it into an angry negation, not just a negation but an angry one. There is little question, having shown us NYC

atwin 23that Lynch believes that the man who has set up this trap portal to attract outlying beings into it, to confirm his occult belief, is an apparatchnik of the system, a rationalizer, a false seeker after truth, in fact, a kind of mad scientist, who seeks only to discover the truth to exploit it for his own end or gain in the busy modern rationalizing world. As such, he sets up some traps in the outlying zones of the world space, perhaps the outer part to capture a Sentient, the inner part, more like a camera, in the glass box, to capture an Ambient.

atwin 25the fact that the emission of the Sentient, drawn in, at last, the outer trap, is attracted to get trapped by sex, that it then comes in to the Ambient side of the portal, also attracted by sex, means that it is being pulled there by an envy, that is, it is a malicious, a death force, not a good Sentient spirit but a bad one. This is indicated by the fact that the glass box darkens, that is, fills up with blackness, before it comes out into the space of the room. And, then, I mentioned in a note on the death of Margot Kidder, that the character she played in Black Christmas was torn apart by the spinning of the world, I called this psalliction, and, then, in THIS scenario, which I saw last summer, what the entity does when it comes in on them having sex, out of envy, it spins at them, and buzzsaws them into pieces, that is, it submits them to a spinning psalliction! What this early apparently non sequitur sequence suggests then, and, again, sometimes all Lynch needs to do, for his own understanding, is lay out a scenario in which a metaphysical or transphysical principle is revealed, this sequence highlights the fact that in the Lynch universe it may well be that there are occult or even heavenly supernatural zones lying outside of our world, and the world of our consciousness, but they can only gain entrance into our world by way of the negative means developed to attract them mainly by the exploitational rationalized part of our civilization.

This point is then reinforced by the fact that Mr C is some sort of negative or gone-bad avatar of Dale Cooper, part of whom was left on earth, after the transmission of 25 years ago, for that one Hyde side of him to try to build a life on earth, but earth as the underworld of the world it wants to be in. He too has to try to move through the maze of this world to find a way to the higher world, or to at least forestall that world. We first see him riding out into the country, one of Lynch’s deepest tropes representing the idea, a well known one, that we are headed off into who knows where, where anything is possible

atwin 26and then he comes to a remote cabin and it is housing two whataretheydoingthere? denizens, stuck in their lives, represented by their arm chairs

atwin 28and he is there is pick up Ray and Aria, two functionaries, or subordinates of his, whom he needs for the next job he has in mind

atwin 27the whole setup is very much one of Lynch’s typical all but taxidermy displays of rundown people run down by life, reduced to sitting about, marginal, liminal, on the very edge, it reminds me a bit of the cabin at the end of the Fire Walk with Me movie, but, for that, maybe closer to insight

atwin 28now, a third plotline is opened up, in Buckhorn, South Dakota, a body is found in a bed, except, in the annals of Lynchian odd bodies, it is a doozy

atwin 29formerly, we have already seen a body psallicted to pieces by a Sentient being, we have seen Mr C have to go the edge of this world, where edgy people with distorted bodies live, to pick up two new recruits, and we find not a body but another body that has been torn to pieces, but this time with more exploitational calculation, it is the body of one person, with the head of another, and long decayed, so beyond body, even to the stain on the sheet, grotesque in an extreme way. Since the deathbed scene or discovery of the body in bed theme is often seen by Ambients, I argue that this is the representation of the coming apart of the body of this world by the force of the other world at the Ambient distance

atwin 30

these two early sequences therefore can be viewed as chipping away sequences, announcing to us that otherworldly forces are activating, but that, in this confused, f’ed up world, they can only get to us by way of wriggling their way through the vampire squid of the system we have created to block it all, a lot of which has, by the force of exploitation, gone negative.

At this point Twin Peaks comes into it. The relationship of much of the proceedings in this series, to the town of Twin Peaks, is ancillary and questionable. It is a point that confused people, including me. Why were things not happening in Twin Peaks here, and if they are not that important, why is Twin Peaks here? Well, one, it IS Twin Peaks. Two, it was at Twin Peaks that the crime occurred which resulted in an investigation which opened up the knowledge that some people in that town, by way of the doppelgangering of the whole town (more on this theme later, it is a theme which has deepened in my thinking since), some contact with the other side was made. For that reason, Twin Peaks serves as all but the Area 51 of the whole network of places the series takes place in, because, while all these other outlets have offered some limited mechanical contact with the other side, it is only by the more open Twin Peaks that full contact can be effected. That, at least, is my preliminary guess.

But it is also true that for me Twin Peaks exists entirely in the fire or elan fire of life, and is a place filled with agency, because of that contact (or not), because it is here that INTUITION shows up, and reveals itself as the altered state of consciousness which is the only way to get through to the solution of the mystery. It was this aspect of the series that I referred to most in conversation with others, in past year (when I was able to converse with others, which was less than ten times). In my own thinking, any rationalizations, any climbing the scaffolds of contemporary industro-techinical life, ends one up being nothing but an apparatchnik of the system, an expert exploiter, a manager of the dead zones of bureaucratic disputation (nicely worked out in Haneke’s version of The Castle, for example, the little absurdities of the bureaucratic mind). Art, in particular, but also life, can only take place truly in the fire of life itself, the circulation of the elan, at the center of my system. Or it can struggle to wriggle to it, but, if centripetal, moving toward the center, then at least approaching elan. Elan is marked in my thinking by parentheses, it can get complicated, but if it stays alive in the parenthesis, it remains life, and art.

atwin 31

If, however, it is gripped by the brackets of exploitation, that is death, and not life, and not art Right now, I will say that in this telling of the tale, Twin Peaks is the center of elan, characterized by intuition, and openness to it, though infiltrated by the evils of the world no doubt; while all the other sites of the telling are outlying zones where there are hints at the life, but most of it is lost in rationalization or exploitation, therefore to come in on life in a negative, killing way.

Back in Twin Peaks it is the intuition that rules (and pure intuition is magical thinking in the purest sense of the word of following your instincts, for real, actually, like Joseph having a dream and getting up the next morning and telling Mary, we have to leave town, imagine the amount of confidence in intuition one has to have to act on such a thing! most people today have intuitions, no one acts on them!). So, oddly enough, this sense of the importance of intuition is reintroduced here by the Log Lady, the local oracle. She is an old woman now, which would make her prophecies more important, and dying, ditto, so Hawk listens, when she speaks. She tells him, the log is telling me, something his missing, you have to find it, it has to do with Dale Cooper, and, with regard to your role in it, it has to do with your heritage as a Native Americanand

atwin 32Hawk being Hawk, not a typical movie Native American (even in 70s horror most turn out to be essentialist) but one whose mind, however much he works in the mainstream world of the USA, remains alive to the importance of omen-oriented oracle-like utterances, immediately goes to the old files, we have to look through them again, we missed something, he enlists Andy and Lucy, both of whom are subservient to his wisdom, so, on the basis of pure intuition, in a magic way, in a way that any rationalist would consider a waste of time (as Chad does), and a wild goose chase, he goes to work, this will reveal the other place, and where the admiral was, etc., the wheels start turning

atwin 33I have written before (see my piece) about why the Greeks made use of oracles, to unlock their minds from set opinions, and open up to the moment of life again). The Log Lady offers another example. What she does is simple scrying, but with a log. All you really need is a yes-no mechanism, a variegated pattern or pattern-setting force, and then movement of one against the other to cause to rise up nonsensical responses. In a Ouija board, there is yes no, this is guided, it is believed, by the nervous energy of those touching the glass, that is, Ambiently touching the glass, that force then moves the planchette, or glass, to yes or no, then, if the questioning intensifies, there is often an incident where the arrival of the spirit is announced, the glass goes flying. In a scrying bath, which I have studied this past year, a young nude woman rests in the bath, but she puts her ears under the water, blocking out sound. Now the world is reduced to a simple nothing-or-something happening state, she then dunks, and now the surface of the water becomes as if the variegated surface of a tea leaf or the innerds of a flamingo, and she waits until “something” marks it, or disturbs it, whereupon she often sees something, or has an insight based on the suggestion of seeing something. All Log Lady had to do was get a funny feeling, she then looked at or manipulated the log in her arms (a surrogate baby), talking to it, asking it what it wants, it then, somehow, by the suggestion of its surface, or bark, or form, puts an image into her head, which then translates into “an idea”, and there it is, that is the news, she calls up Hawk. This transmission of information from some paranormal state to her is entirely free of the implements and constructs of exploitation in the world, and it is suggested that Twin Peaks is the place where such vibes can be picked up. Thus, in episode one, David Lynch was drawing Ambients in, some legitimately, others not, some good, others not, he has made it known to us that Twin Peaks is ground zero to a network wherein over the past 25 years whatever energy Dale Cooper left behind on this earth has been spread out by means of exploitation into far off zones of depletion, but now, a force is underway, to bring them back in, to activate a transmission that will break up the status quo.

This is very much like my way of thinking, and its apparent contradiction is best expressed by my distinction between magic, that is, pure intuition, acting on truth and wisdom, and magical thinking, which is the rational mind exploiting a shortcut way of thinking to use it in an apparently magical, but only exploitational, way, this is what I am after. I am not interested in romanticizing primitive cultures or ways of thinking, I do not romanticize, no modern human being, accustomed to even a modicum of freedom, would want to live in the restricted world of traditional societies, but I am interested in true agency as it can and will survive, as long as human beings run the show, in the complicated exploitation-rationalization machine which is the system of modern mass multinational international life.

At this point, Lynch drops in two more characters, one paranormal, the other very normal. We get our first glimpse of the Thin Man up in some supernatural theater in the ambient sky. At first, I thought this entirely a red herring, but he filled it in later, a lot. He strikes me as another of Lynch’s many dream guardian or doormen or usher figures, opening us into another place.

atwin 34But for right now I am going to stay with the Log Lady, who has another communication in episode 2, she says that the stars are turning, time to watch carefully, time to stop what one is doing, and pay attention. This is not that different from the “watch the skies” warning at the end of The Thing (1951), one of the granddaddy movies of American sci fi horror, it simply says to pay attention.

atwin 35the fact that she holds her log in her lap, when oracling from it, like a baby, makes of her something of a Madonna, meaning her “female intuition” is up, also, she has two phones on her sidetable, one appears to be more modern than the other, she seems to only use the stationary phone, with the long cord (but a very modern mouthpiece, so this might ‘ve placed here by Hawk, from the office, to expedient communication, kind of his Red Phone in the Oval).

atwin 36for her auguries, and, note too, all this takes place under the tasseled edge of a lamp, the tassels indicating, like a curtain, passing through, the light from the lampshade, intimacy, coming from very deep in her soul

atwin 37but in a miniature, it speaks to some “communication” ie a vibe coming from the wood, representing the woods, through her, through a long squiggle of cord, into the zone of intimate communication, onto Hawk, it is a still life representation of the trajectory of Sentient, Ambient forces flowing into the world, being recorded as the events in the early going on this effort. It is, speaking of the log, interesting that the movie often goes to the entoptic dream state by screening-wiping with a pan over the deep forests of Twin Peaks. It might be saying that it is the deep forests that have kept it clear enough from interference by modern life to continue to be a transmitter of these impulses. Indeed, each time Log Lady communicates, Hawk goes into action, whatever action. This time, it is into the woods

atwin 38one of the favorite tropes of recent found footage movies, the very strong flashlight so common in the 21st century, almost a conjurer itself, is used

atwin 39and he finds a pool (I noted that there was a pool in ep 2, I don’t remember now, this skips ahead to 3)

atwin 40a pool is a place, that is, where things happen, either animals converge on it, for water, or things go down it, because it is water. Seeing it here, it means something (it will show up three more times, I think), if only that one is going somewhere. And, sure enough, the purpose of this particular little search is to equate the entoptic nature of the facture of forest space in the night, a trope so old and deep it hardly needs mentioning, with the curtains of the Away Place, the Red Curtained Chamber where Dale Cooper and others are caught. We now see in a dissolve, the red curtains begin to rise up in the night of the woods

atwin 41and then it transitions, on screen, to the actual curtains, which viewers of the series know well

atwin 42a few things. Introducing us back to this world (though we were briefly there at the beginning), as connected to this world by way of the woods, by curtains, is a long standing trope. A wall of curtains was a very fashionable décor device in the 60s, but in horror, as I have spelled out in Orgy of the She Demons on to The Hand of Death and even a sketch in Creepshow, the pulled wall curtain has so many folds, deriving from the oldest trope of a man standing behind it, because our forms are suggested by the folds, a massive amount of danger coming from without. This can only mean, in this space, that an entirely curtained place is a place turned against the world, and that there is danger on all sides. That they exist on the far side of the woods, means that they are paranormal relative to the openess of the woods, far off in entoptic dream space

atwin 43

that is, Log Lady tells him, he acts, on behalf of the cult of the mystery of the cold case, this brings him out, still in waking life, to the woods. But the woods at night are inherently entoptic, but of a vigilogogic sort, waking, he encounters a pool, perhaps The Black Bog of the Land of Nod subspace of tne entoptic, and ITS PRESENCE, causes this world to waffle or nod in and out with the red curtains, and thus we pass over into a dream world, of an entoptic-based formation, and, I think, it runs out past the adjunct spaces, to float in Ambient space, adjacent to the adjunct spaces of the entopic level of dreaming. And it is there that a vestige of an avatar, or part of the split avatars, or ruin of the something that went wrong in the transmission 25 years ago, of Dale Cooper, 2Dized like a figure in a wax museum

atwin 44this is, basically, then, that part of Dale Cooper having a dream, he is talking with the oracle himself, or whoever the One Armed Man is, but, the fun thing for me is, as part of the furnishing of this “templum” or temple, there is an ersatz copy of the Venus Knidos, in the venus pudica pose (one interpreter addressed the statue’s whiteness, but I think that is not important)

atwin 45this generally means, in horror movies, the opposite of what it might mean in life, it means that we are descending into the world of the dark female, that is, where even females do evil things, and this is where we are. At this point, we see Laura, but as an older woman, now in her forties

atwin 47she then reveals that she is not LP at all, but a being from beyond, a light being, made of light, inhabiting temporarily this body, the removable face since Westworld at least always means that the being is robotic is nature, and is ruled by some force beyond, by her showing him that, she is breaking the spell she, known as just LP, has over him

atwin 48that is, at present, I posit that this Red Curtained Chamber exists in a near-outlying paranormal space, adjacent to the adjunct spaces of an entoptic light stage dream, only got to by that path, possibly by the Land of Nod. This now tells me that, like the figure of maybe Laura Dern that came through the machine in NYC to spin kill the nude lovers, this is another of those Sentients coming in closer from a more outlying zone to then shine through LP to reveal to him this is not what he thought. She then tells him, you can go now, meaning to me that this Red Curtained Chamber is a sort of holding cell, a Lynchian purgatory, a kind of psychiatrist’s office off in space, where this part of him has been held captive for 25 years. In the presence of the Venus, symbol in horror of the dark female, she whispers what I think must be a nympholeptic cryptic message to him, to guide him out, nympholepsy was another sort of magic speech the Greeks believed in that occurred when they either drank from the water of a nymph’s spring or were struck to an altered state by contact with a nymph in the wilds, a state of inactivity and passiveness that Hillman even argues they also construed the trope of the sacred rape as a way to knock the nympholept, the person whose soul was stolen by the nymph, out of it, to get back to living, this appears to be operating here

atwin 49and then, just as the figure in the machine in NYC, so to this avatar Laura Palmer has done her job, so the beings of light pull her back, and like a good Sentient, inhabiting that part of the remove of dream as visualized in movies, she is not only levitated, but she spins and blurs, and the experience is such that it makes her scream, this the kind of scream or trumpeting heard from afar in any haunted woods

atwin 50now, after having apparently been paralyzed, sitting there, for 25 years, Cooper sees something different in the zig zags in front of him. The zig zags would have acted as the static on a late night TV simply to indicate an even more depleted state of entopic business before the eyes, emptying one out. But now he sees “something” and in the desert of not seeing anything to see something is a “sign” so he gets up and follows out what appears to be a desert-scale extension of the zigzag off into the distance

atwin 51but which we find only is the far end of the main sanctum sanctorum of the red curtained enclosure

atwin 52and then he goes around that corner, into another corridor leading around the other side, it is presumed, of the same curtain seen on the left above, now on the left here

atwin 54and then the one-armed man who is leading him, whoever he is, opens up the curtain at the far end on his right, and this leads into….another chamber, a chamber that looks exactly like the other one that Cooper was in all those years, but with a difference, there is a true oracle formation

atwin 55mapping this out, this floating purgatory space, outside the entoptic zone, in a dream space, is outlined as consisting, not unlike the meander of adjunct space, of a farther out space where he was set, then a zigzag through an in-between corridor, then a coming through to a second, identical space, but with the difference that here there is a tree acting as an oracle. By this movement, I posit that it was inferred that Cooper is “on the move” in the sense that he is headed from far to near, he is moving back into the reality he was taken out of 25 years ago. The notion of a sacred speaking tree is by no means odd. At the Dordona oracle, it was the wind in the trees that spoke. At the oracle of the Golden Fleece, meaning many things, it was the fleece, a body part hung there. The ancients also consulted entrails, and having a kind of brain membrane stuck on a tree is not unusual, though it does spark with electricity when it speaks. All this makes me think that when Cooper was originally spun out he was spun out into a farther off waiting room, where he waited, but now he has been shown in to see the oracle, and this is the holy of holies, like at Delphi, nearer to the truth

atwin 56it may well be that this is the place called The Black Lodge. That would mean to me that it is trapped in an exploitation zone, so also deeply conflicted, which means I might have to mark it like this

awin 57

thus, it might mean that in the Lynch universe what I think is pagan imagination even the other world is corrupted and contaminated by the exploitation of the evil real world. But, then, this point is nicely made by then switching out of that subplot, to pick up where the evil dark counterpart avatar of DC on earth is Mr. C. And he is at a motel, which is perfect

atwin 58in movies like Reeker, and others, I have broken down why it is that motels have such a strange life as locales of freeness leading to criminality in this world. This is especailly true of roadside motels, whose space long ago became way too close to the road and its evils for the comfort of most Americans. By the evacuation of the well paying customers to higher end motels, with internal security arrangements, the roadside motel even by the mid 1970s degenerated into what we joked were “texas chainsaw massacre” motels. These featured grubby accomodations, things being way too close to the parking lot, hearing all the ambient noise of possible intruders, and, if someone is following you, leaving you as a sitting duck. I could here insert and link to my treatment of the motel rooms in Halloween 3 (1982), The Night Flier (1990), Natural Born Killers (1994), and many others (I even reviewed a Doug Aitken video about animals invadding motel rooms). So it is choice that we are back in a motel room. But, then, Daria thinks sex is coming, yeah! when, in fact, a deadly interrogation is coming, a nice turn of events to the dark side

atwin 59and when she realizes she is going to be accused, because Mr C realizes that there is a plot to kill him, she squirms away, under two odd motel pictures, two fish

atwin 60It is then, in her death moments, that he asks why they are trying to kill him, It is also revealed that he is fully aware, in this adjunct space of modern life, that he is, somehow, not all entirely a human being, but partly a creature from somewhere else, he knows that “they” want to send him back to the Black Lodge, that is, perhaps since Laura Palmer told the part of Dale Cooper up in the Black Lodge that he can go back, that his counterpart down here or in waking life got the memo that he must go back, but it is his plan to resist

atwin 61once he wrestles Daria into a firm grip, and there is no question anymore that he is going to shoot her not fuck her he reveals what he wants from her, the coordinates, and they have something to do with this sign, which he has on a playing card

atwin 62this is the black sign that later Hawk says, showing it to sherriff, you don’t ever want to know what that is, it is jow dah, or Judy, the black force of the universe, a kind of sentient-spinning black hole that brings evil into the world, and sucks everything into it, that messes with men’s minds, whose rotation through our world might account for the evil of the world (ie it is a far sentient force). It might be that it is Judy who pushed the figure in the NYC machine from that world into this world, and it might be Judy who pushed Laura Palmer to in the waiting room of the Black Lodge, to tell him it is time to re-place himself back into earth. The interesting thing here, as it relates to life, and grounding the lore of this in the life of the Western US, is that this is an ace of clubs, with a death symbol on it. Aces and eights is a bad luck hand meaning instant death to whomever is dealt it, because this was the hand that Wild Bill Cody had in his hands when he was shot in the back in saloon in the 1880s. And here it is recycled as a trope, which is fun. At present, based on what we have learned thus far, I can only conjecture that Judy is located in the Lynch universe at a black hole location got to and circulating far, far out beyond the Black Lodge, and in a much deeper, sludgier, heavier zone of haunting, which you can only get to by going splat down the whoosh, to flop into a nightmare, then to bounce out but horizontally, in the same level zoning, to far off Sentient space. It is, in short, even in sleep, a very difficult sleep dysfunction space to get to, and it is represented as this dark swirling mass outside of the affairs of the world, beyond normal consciousness, as such

atwin 63

and, I believe it has those two antenna forms, not only to speak to what part of the brain it attacks, but because that is possibly what you see of it as by POV after the splat at the bottom of the whoosh you approach it, moving out into far space, you see the black form of it, the black hole, but, then, as a suggestion of its spinnings and circulations, you see on top of that doorway, two marks, two antenna-forms, if not antennas, and this sign leads you out there

atwin 64

though no doubt I indulge in some figuring out of my graphics, this would not be the first time that some cosmic evil force was envisioned as a sort of antenna’s grasshopperlike form, re Quartermass and the Pit (1967)

atwin 55and back in the mirror image of the black lodge in this world, in Mr C world, the motel, he then comes round onto Daria, again, not to fuck her, but to smother her with a pillow, then shoot her through the pillow, and in this shot he kind looks like that black mark from behind, and his transitional state symbolized by the fish, which could also speak to fishtank living, ie 2D, or fish in a barrel

atwin 57and, now, THIS “headless” body is a mirror image counterpart, him breaking the path that is trying to enmesh him down here, with the body in the bed in Buckhorn, which WAS the admiral, somehow placed under the head of the principal’s lover (this is also as an image an entire negation of what one expects of the motel room bed)

atwin 58 1but, then, he surprises us again. Not only does Mr. C have a consciousness which includes partial knowledge of where he came from, and what he is, and what “they” want him to do, ie to turn himself back in to the Black Lodge, then, he also aware enough of the friction he causes in his gang life that he knew a murder plot was brewing against him, but also he has retained not only his knowledge of the dark web FBI instruments of investigation, but his FBI Cooper ID, so he is a very strange hybrid, caught between worlds. The reason he wants to go to this prison is that Ray got caught there, he wants and needs to bust him out for them to find the coordinates, but then this is also, coincidentally, or not, where the principal found the Admiral’s body, and where that body is, which means it is also where the officials will converge.

atwin 65But now, a nexus is formed, as it were, between the motel room, and the Black Lodge (if that is what the Red Curtained Chamber is; I will call it the Red Curtained Chamber, because the only actual Black Lodge I saw in this whole mythology was at the end of Fire Walk with Me). While Mr C is getting a bj from his associate in the next room over, his avatar trapped up in the Red Curtained Chamber is lost, something is wrong, so he wanders

atwin 66he comes back, he sees Laura’s father, who tells him to find Laura, fine, but he is wandering

atwin 67and it is suggested that we are in a different part of the place, as there is a different statue at the end of this very same looking corridor

atwin 68and then he looks out of one opening of the curtain, at the end of that particular adjunct hall, and he sees a highway, pictured by the camera, in the Dakotas

atwin 69this suggests, with rather straightforward not so special effects, that this floating Red Curtained Place exists like a stage or theater over the whole of the world, and you can see out of it as out of a crystal ball to whatever part of the visual world below is of concern to you, so, it is a scrying place, not unlike Ardeth Bey’s pool, or the crystal ball of any soothsayer (though in its mazelikeness it lacks any internal momentum from cella to opisthodomic spaces, that is, from front to holy of holies, it is not, then, a temple, in devotion to a cult figure, it is an intercessional space),

atwin 70

but he is confused as to why he is seeing this, nor does it seem to occur to him that he can step through it and go down in there, it must be merely a picture in a mirror, which he is blocked from, so he has to go back to find the oracle tree,

atwin 71

for it to tell him what’s what

atwin 72then it says something, about nonexistence which shakes the floor, a first, showing him that he has not been on solid ground

atwin 73and he blurs again through space, this time the red curtain dissolving into space, not the forest, but another entopic zone outside consciousness

atwin 74space

atwin 75which reveals to us that Lynch visualizes all the Ambient and Sentient space outside normal consciousness as a kind of outer space, through which one travels from one zone to another, but, in this case (more to come in episode 3), he reconnects with a further inner zone, in the outerspace of NYC, that is, he is as it were squeezed through the space of the NYC machine, seeming almost to crash land

atwin 78and it the second being to come through that lenslike opening

atwin 79floating into space

atwin 80but, apparently, I forget this detail, no one was looking, the couple, or this was earlier, was off looking for the missing security guard

atwin 81so, he not being received, it is as if the entire machine retracts back in clicks of black to pull him back out into a farther outer space (this, I admit, pure conjecture)

atwin 82

and then some more zigs and zags at the end of part 2 of part 2. A buy-in point here, of the way in which the series pulled me in, and I watched on specific channel purchase on Amazon each week all summer eagerly waiting each episode, replaying it the day before the next episode was showing, I did not, until the finale, binge it, then only in review, but viewed it old school, to let it sink in, and one of the things that deeply touched me was Lynch’s taste for ambient techno music and this group whose Shadow all but became a theme song of a summer in which I began to become aware that my own mind was beginning to operate more “like a picture without a frame,” just as the words say of a dumped boyfriend, and it is interesting that this is the point at which that ambient observation is made, because this is the point of the series where it decided to go off onto its first of several entirely paranormal-supernatural adventures

atwin 84and when we get to episode 3, we further explore the downward entering travels of the lost avatar of Dale Cooper, leaving him zooming down the whoosh of the universe

atwn 76and I am going to locate these further spins inside the locale of the black circle on this graph, in sentient zones lying outside, far outside, the lattice, whoosh and deep REM dream states

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaato be continued (three further parts written).


Phenomena (1985) and Dario Argento’s use of ambient and sentient dream space.

Rev., Jun 10, 2018.

In recent analysis, my model for studying the nature of the visualizations of horror or dreams in horror movies has expanded from the hypnagogic, to include two other states lying horizontal and vertical to those states, the Ambient and the Sentient. The hypnagogic involves those activities that take place “inside the head” of the person, that is, the central cognitive spiral at the center of thinking, and then its adjunct places.

phe 1

but, then, it occurred to me, there was a trope shot of people surrounding a victim at the level of the lattice, and that encircling imagery seemed to be the nearest convergence of a whole series of wider circlings, which constitute a whole host of Ambient sources for visualizing horrors coming from farther off upon the self

phe 2and, then, finally, if there are wider circlings, there are also, beyond even that, wider invasive forces, usually on the scale of natural forces, that also come in upon the self, and these (perhaps inspired by my reading of how rumor took over a Roman camp in the Aeneid), these are Sentients, as the idea that the forces of nature have and will come at you, and attack you, that idea can only be premised on the occult idea that the world is an entirely Sentient place

phe 3

now, the thing about this particular way of expansive study of modes of visualization of dreams or altered states of consciousness in movies, is that it also gives me a tool to at last get to the heart of why Italian giallo-based horror seems so, as I have put it over the years, pulled apart. The simple declarative answer is that Bava and Argento set the tone for everyone else, and everyone else copied them. But, then, those directors too, and I think in the past I have faulted Argento for being just a formalist for this, they also stretched the envelope of the scope of haunting forces, and, for that, entered into the Ambient, even on beyond that to the Sentient zone to explain the origin and composition of haunting forms. In fact, Argento’s Phenomena (1985) might be one of the most sentient-based, pulled-apart horror movies ever made, sometimes that makes it hard to follow, but, overall, it reveals a startling vision of a world in whole made Sentient by horror. In this note, I address the Sentient quality of Phenomena (1985).

There is an opening prologue crime, showing that the problem that exists at the school where Jennifer Connelly is going to attend already is ongoing, when a girl runs for safety, but, oddly, into danger. That is, she is in her hypnagogic sort of sleepwalking terror space, with phone cords, in spiral form, and pictures, in oval form, evincing vertiginous impulses, approaching a spinning climax

phe 4but then she runs off, and, weirdly, runs into a very scenic cave site, which speaks of “the Translyvania of Switzerland,” as they call that part of the country, but also is perhaps a quote from Herzog’s Nosferatu, as indicating, by its whoosh of water, an entry into a dark place

phe 5but, then, it is precisely when she gets to the end of the tunnels, to the overlook over the waterfall, that the knife of the killer takes on a life of its own, this, then, also a hypnagogic force

phe 6and by crashing her head through glass, and causing all the glass to spray around her, pushes her through the outer limit of the hypnagogic, but at the edge of the Ambient, as ambient glass circles around her to communicate death

phe 7and then the movie shows her body being washed away, spending rather a lot of time on that, indicating that by this her body has been bust out of the hypnagogic, into the ambient and even the sentient spaces of the world, but those alive forces treat her body as just a thing

phe 8

then, the movie breaks, to the police investigation, but in a manner almost equal to the best of the wind in the trees movies, the Mexican movie, Even the Wind Was Afraid, this movie blows the wind to indicate that it is a bad wind, and it is on the occasion of remarking of the wind that it is twice mentioned that the movie takes place in “the Transylvania of Switzerland”. The wind blowing is, no question, a sentient force (if you think it blows for a reason).

phe 10Jennifer, then, looking incredibly self-assured at 15, confident, even grown up, checks into the school. The first thing I notice is there are a lot of very large pictures in the rooms, here

phe 11and here, back facing the door

phe 12and again

phe 13and again

phe 14and another one in the outer hall

phe 15and then again with the head mistress

phe 16and then it profiles her escape

phe 17all of these harken back to earlier Italian gothic movies, and generally represent a defenseless openness to the outside, as if the place cannot protect itself from the outside. Usually, a landscape painting means danger is coming from the outside, but when they are picture-window big they mean that the outside and the inside have merged, the inside is open to the outside, and what this means for Jennifer is that the hypnagogic realm of the school is, right away, too limited for her, and she, by her talents, opens it up to let in ambient and sentient powers. The pictures then as it were are placed at the outer border of the adjunct spaces of the hypnagogic, to tell us that the movie will be constantly opening up to other places beyond the school, that is, this is not a movie limited to the school. Indeed, the ambient moments in the school seem ill-informed and a bit hysterical. There is one scene, later on, when the head mistress, Jennifer in bed, rather ridiculously calls her demonic, because she seems to have a power over nature.

phe 18well, she would say that, because, for her, human power is limited to the conscious, and maybe the hypnagogic, but not to any ambient powers with regard to nature. To have a power that can communicate with nature, as, for example, Jennifer does, with her symbiotic relationship with insects, means that she is a witch. In fear, the headmistress loses all her professional composure, and backtracks her mind to peasant days, any woman who controls nature must be a witch, so we have to expel her and, worse, commit her to an asylum. And she, of course, makes this panicstricken speech in front of a painting, evoking her standing between Jennifer and nature, and trying to close off the openness of the place to nature

phe 19then, there is an even more interesting, but awkward scene, as if Argento was less interested in it, but when the girls hear that she has a power, they circle around her, to bully her, this is the classic Ambient shot, meaning that a whole social world is collapsing in on her, to torture her

phe 20but, then, Jennifer pushes them back, by, in fact, performing a bit of witchcraft, which silences them

phe 21she calls in the flies, and they come against the windows in a way way worse than even in the Amityville Horror

phe 22that is, she escapes and trumps an Ambient attack, by commanding a Sentient force of nature, and bringing that in against it, to stop the attack. It is a good scene. (But, of course, it is also this that causes the head mistress to freak as Beezelbub in the bible is the demonic Lord of the Flies, and if she has power over the flies, that means she is the devil).

This whole business with the insects in this movie is both the thing that makes it interesting and what causes some problems. It starts with a curious role played by Donald Pleasence, he is an expert in insects, but, specifically, what insects in what sequence come to a dead human body, meaning that if you count the phase of infestation the body you find is in, and identify the insects, you can count back and tell when the body was murdered. All of this, this way of investigating, the deeply forensic, and then motivated by the movement of insects and larvae or maggots, this takes the movie out of the hypnagogic into the Ambient realm, as these forces would not normally be noted by the hypnagogic mind, and then encircle and decompose the self in an attacking manner more consistent with the Ambient (my personal exposure to this world was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, when I was given a chance to visit the beetle room, where beetles were cleaning the final material from a skull)

phe 23so, right away, the movie lurches us out of the normal precincts of the hypnagogic, into the further afield realm of the Ambient. This gives things a different tone. A note. In previous remarks, I identify the Raggedy Ann doll trope in American movies as indicative of the Dead Eyes of the World, that is, it is a device to give a murder witnessed a non-witnessing dead eye look to tell you the awful truth that the world does not care about you. In American movies, it is mostly at that level, that things stay, as we most definitely do not want to hear about that, and, in general, in middle class popular culture, we are committed to the idea that the world does care, and no one dies for no reason. But, in Italian movies, it is worse than that. It occurred to me, watching A Blade in the Dark (1983), that, yes, the killings were brutal in a much more depersonalizing way

phe 24But what was really upsetting was seeing the killer drag the body around, and the director even make a scene of this

phe 25and, it occurred to me, in American movies, the body, even if killed, remains in hypnagogic space, to scare, but, in Italian movies, after death, it is pulled out into Ambient space, space which in American movies is only inhabited by the Dead Eyes of the World doll trope, but, here, the Dead Eyes of the World doll trope is played by, replacing it, a real dead, murdered body, meaning that, chillingly, not only does the world not care, but the killer does not care, and, worse, the person who was in that body just a moment ago, also, is gone, and does not care, it is a pretty grim view of things, and evocative of the deep morbidity of giallo movies. So, by pulling the movie out of the comfort zone, if you will, of the hypnagogic, and re-placing it in the Ambient Zone, with communication to the Sentient, Argento has indeed resituated the horror in a very strange, very abstract, very grotesque place, and it makes a certain amount of sense as in Suspiria (1977) it was the attack of the maggots coming from a rotten carcass of delivered meat stored in the attic that caused a moment of full-on revulsion as the maggots got into everyone’s hair and the like, so here he builds as if in a sequel on that motif to make it the site of the modus operandi of the story, and, in fact, two major scenes in Jennifer’s exploration of the mystery. Therefore, with this, I can make the surprising claim that, though it involves the hypnagogic, Phenomena is mostly an Ambient movie in full, with Sentient incursions

phe 28this pulled-apartness is no more evident than in two or three remarkable sleepwalking incidents in the movie. These scenes are so prolixly labyrinthine, pulling the cord of the search out to the farthest extent possible, that one, if one was simply arguing from the fixed point of view of the frame of the hypnagogic, might say this is a baroque or mannerist movie. But, in the logic of displacement to the Ambient, these scenes are revealed as just explorations of the horror potentials of those zones. In the first one, she is sleeping,

phe 29but the wind acts on her sleeping mind, to pull her out, she dreams she is exploring, I think I got this right, a haunted house, as per Argento, remote, entirely empty

phe 30and, then, as if fed by the TV, left on by her roommate

phe 31she is agitated enough, to “wake up,” or rather sleepwalk

phe 32inside her head, she is seeing long corrdiors, these are whoosh formations, dropping her down into REM state

phe 34a corridor, these are nicely done

phe 35but, in her REM state, she is “awake,” she gets dressed, and walks. The large picture here then represents the edge of hypnagogic space, entering into Ambient space, by way of REM sleep state

phe 36and, indeed, having brought us to this state by way of a lighted whooshing corridor, and then a picture, Argento makes it clear that this is a state that is composed of a shuttle of visualities from the picture, as, here, she literally walks into the world of the picture, the picture opens up on the screen, and becomes the outside (like later in Stendhal Syndrome (1995), I suspect this picture was also altered to maybe almost make it move, to give it the deepest possible sense of immersion (a sense conveyed to me in art only by a swimming mermaid painting by Bochlin, and then a wave wading picture by Repin)

phe 37and then more of the lightshow corridors, with a constant, if not strobe effect, reminding us we are in her sleepwalking episode

phe 39and, then, in this state, with a more traditional iris shot, we spiral down the stairs

phe 40and the whole of them, for us, because we are on the outside looking in, but therefore need more rational images explaining where she is

phe 42that is, she has pretty traditionally, moved from being in bed, sleeping and dreaming, to a sleepwalking state, which is a dysfunction that drops her down through adjunct space, and through the entoptic zone represented by the pictures, and then the lattice-whoosh composite space (remember, I do not hold modernist directors to noncompressed or uncompound notions of dream), in the white space, and the stairs, both, then, as her sleepwalking moves down through the REM zone horizontally out to the Ambient zone outside of the hypnagogic adjunct space, she enters that space, the sleepwalk, and I would also note that while in entoptic hypnagogy the Spotlight, as I call it, a type of light dream, is a small device of a bright spot derived from a blue spot over one’s half-dreaming, the Full Moon is here proposed to be the deeper sight of that sign  as she moves into this REM dream state, high overhead is the mark of her point of departure, herself, in the form of the full moon

phe 44

and the full moon

phe 45and then she begins to walk very far in her state, horizontally, perilously

phe 50and she has premonitions or reviews of things that will or have happened, she comes by a house

phe 51and sees, in the whited out REM state, a murder

phe 52and then she goes out into the woods, all agitated by the wind

phe 53she goes into town, and there is a swell scene where she is almost hit by cars

phe 54but she sees the town in her dream, all whited out, I really love these floodlit shots of the oldness of these old towns (they make me think of whatever panic attack must have motivated Anthony Bourdain this week to, in one of these towns, Kayserberg, up in France, end his life (RIP))

phe 55and this, my favorite shot in the movie

phe 56and then there is inevitably an adventure, but she jumps out, away from the boys who want to take advantage of her

phe 57so she ends up in another fall, down a forested hill, deeper and deeper in

phe 58and then the movie tosses us a curveball, way out at the edge of the Ambient, she is seen, but seen by an insect, and an insect eye, in multiple iris form, very strange, this is now Sentient force

phe 60all of this is rationalized as part of her dream, but then she shows up at Pleasence’s place, and gets the explanation

phe 61All of this, then, takes her, by way of the magic of sleepwalking, because she is driven, it is implied, by an intuitive force in dream, out from the comfort of the hypnagogic, into the REM state then through that out into a wide open Ambient version of the world, and there, at the end of it, she even encounters the far edge of that zone, to see into the Sentient, and it is out there, at that place, that Pleasence’s house stands, to lead her through to the wider areas of the movie

phe 62

for, no mistake about it, she does go there, in terms of moving out through the Ambient to the Sentient, because she is, in fact, literally, sentient, that is, Pleasence finds out that she is psychic in that insects like her and communicate with her, and she can sense their need to tell her things, so she can be lead to places by the insect. Even better, it seems that if she is sentient with regard to the following of flies, she can even be sentient with regard to the Sarcophagus maggot, the flesh eater, the main maggot that feeds on dead bodies, and, in her sleepwalking state, she can by walking down in and through and out from the REM hypnagogic state, enter into the Ambient zone, and then beyond, to the Sentient, where the insects begin to communicate with her. And that, that phenomenal premise, is exactly what happens in her next sleepwalking episode. This time she leaves the house in slightly less clothing (and Argento always edging on addressing the sexuality of a 15-year-old is a bit creepy throughout)

phe 63then THIS is where the movie takes it to the next level, she moves fully out into the Sentient zone, because here is where a firefly now leads her, in her dream, a classic intuitive movement not unlike something out of a David Lynch movie

phe 64and this takes her to an empty house, where she finds a glove

phe 65and on the glove are maggots, indicating that the glove had something to do with a murder

phe 66and, then, even more remarkably, the maggot, or the firefly who lead her there, SHOWS HER the murder, in multiple fly eye iris

phe 67and then when she reports it all to Pleasence, we revert to that classic zone of the horror movie, the under-the-microscpic mad scientist vision, in this case, confirming that this is from the body

phe 68

and the microscope

phe 69In her second walk, she goes much further, and we learn a new thing, she can follow the insects, as graphed out here, her second sleepwalk takes her quickly through the Ambient out through the fly-eye iris into the far wilderness of the Sentient zone, where she has powers, at least when she sleepwalks, and all that is brought back and dissolves back to that favorite place of horror, and a subgenre I love, the microscope view of a menace, in this case the unsettling study of maggots, inherently disgusting to all humans, no doubt

phe 70

but, then, while I previoulsy mentioned that her being attacked by all the girls in the school was an ambient moment, in the context of the hypnagogy of the school, in sequence, it comes right after this episode, and when she tells the head mistress what happened, she is castigated for lying, and for being a witch. SO, when, bullied, she pauses and says, “I love you all!” this the abreactive pause, then she brings in the flies

phe 71but, then, Argento turns up the volume, by suggesting exactly what the head mistress fears, that she does, in fact, have a power to summon the flies, to protect her, or do things for her, and that is by bringing a swarm of flies in, to attack the school

phe 72and, then, the movie steps back into waking life, to as it were “exploit” her powers, Pleasence explains that this fly in a box will go crazy when it gets close to a place where other of its kind are lodged, that is, maggots, and so if it is true that you can read the minds of flies and they tell you things, take it, in daylight, awake, and when the fly in the box goes crazy, which you alone can sense, get out, and follow it like a geiger counter until it stops being crazy, because it has come to the site of a murder. And so in one of the movie’s most deliriously weird sequences, happening all in waking life, but of a highly extenuated Sentient nature, she takes the box on the bus

phe 73and here it is, her little meter

phe 74and goes for a long ride in the countryside, amazingly so

phe 75and, then, it does, in fact, go crazy, so she gets out, and it takes her to a house (note that she is all in white to appear disembodied in hypnagogic and ambient zones, dematerialized, made into a kind of ghost)

phe 76and she searches a room in a trope I call the Far Place, but this is, in Sentient space, a really far Far place

phe 77then there are some maps or something, she is interrupted by the caretaker, thinking it the killer, she freaks, but that is a dead end

phe 78but, then, as she leaves, Argento lets us know, by an extreme close-up of the fly

phe 79the fly was right, as below that floor, there was a hand, covered in maggots

aaaaFinally, Jennifer has had enough, she will not return to the school, so the assistant mistress takes her home, after a whole runaround to get a ticket at the airport, so, again, this time again waking, she is walking into a strange place

aaaaaathis is a straight up hypnagogic place, but with all the mirrors covered (this does raise the suspicion that the lady is a vampire, but it is not that)

phe 82it is a creepy place, there is a false scare of a large doll, whom Jennifer momentarily thinks is the woman’s son

phe 83then there is as close to a shower scene as a director would be able to get with a fifteen year old, she is told by the mistress to take some pills, to sleep, she is apprehensive, but does, but, then, in the bathroom, notices that there are maggots all over the place

phe 84then she refuses to take the pill, it makes her sick, so she throws it up, now she knows the woman has ill will toward her, and while the woman is out abducting the snooping police officer, she tries, not unlike a scene quite far removed from its point of origin in Suspiria, she struggles with a whole scene at a transom trying to get to a phone there

phe 85then she finds out, after more twists and turns, that the house is filled with maggots, because the woman has created a place below, in the basement, which is full of maggots, a kind of pool where she throws the dead bodies that her son, a homunculus monster, kills, and in this one, I feel for young Connelly, she has to swim and strive to survive in a sea of maggots

phe 86and then, trying to wrap things up, she runs again, only to then have to use her Sentient powers to call down the flies to kill the little monster who attacks her again

phe 87but this then knocks her into the lake, and there is a fire on the lake, which she tries to get out of it (Argento trying, but failing, not to peek up her dress)

phe 88and, then, when she emerges, the implication of the Eye of Isis (ie thigh gap lit through) being that she emerges from this struggle a grown up, successful, her uncle comes for her, but then is, and I think this is over the top, beheaded by the mother, who is also doing killing on her son’s behalf

phe 89and then, as another eventuality that I think strains credibility, Pleasence’s monkey comes back into it to kill the woman before she kills Jennifer, and that’s that, all of this later happening as if a traditional horror movie in the hypnagogic zone, but with incursive twists provided by the fact that we have set up sentient powers at her disposal, that is, the animals.

phe 90For me, the ending is a bit of a letdown. Having, in the course of the movie, lead us into the far frontiers of the visualization of Sentient terrors, while it is true she made use of her Sentient power to, once, be saved, and the monkey perhaps picked up on her sympathy with the animal kingdom to come to her defense, the movie did in fact pull back in entirely to the hypnagogic realm, and left the Ambient and Sentient zones which it had so intriguingly explored, at bay, at loose ends, and did not, in fact, instrumentalize them in a progressively climactic way in the finale, as ought to have happened. Nonetheless, Phenomena is a very interesting document, in showing us why Argento’s movies are so pulled apart and apparently abstract and arty, in fact, they are that because he chose to explore a farther out realm of the dreamy, both the Ambient and the Sentient zones of the visualizations in human perception of where horrors come from.



Veit Laurent Kurz, Aspects of Arriving, Weiss Falk, Basel, May, 2018: a few thoughts.

Rev., May 12, 2018.

FUSION byline. FUSION byline considers unconnected affinities between art world and culture at large cultural forms. This is an informal part two of a previous note on Kurz. All art pics from WF care of CAD.

Disclaimer: I did not see this exhibition in person, this is a POV review of it as it relates to my current interests only and not reflective of the artist’s intentions.

My interest in the work of Veit Laurent Kurz is known, especially his overseeing a group of exhibitions over the past two years which I have analyzed as offering an out to the current dilemma of contemporary art. But, now, in Basel, in time for the fair, comes a one person show, where he has to show if he has learned anything from his collaborative work and its insights, and, the answer would appear to be, yes. This is a very good idea, and, I think, the first exhibition in which he has entirely internalized the ideas of the group installations into his own work, and then taken them further. As you know, to start, I have always liked his drawings of a world to be run by vampires, it is a counter world, that somehow took root in a crawlspace apart from the real, he has a few here, to ground things, or connect them to the sequel, to at the very least declare that this one-person show is the first to be conceived as a spinoff of the group shows

aaavlk 1

but the interesting thing is, in this work,

aaavlk 2

he seems to depict his world, but, then, in it, something has gone wrong, it seems that blood, perhaps kept in pipes to supply the vampire population (to continue the fiction) has spilled, or is overflowing, something bad is happening, that is, this is his counterworld, but now it is negating. Here is a better example

aaavlk 3

this shows some sort of arrangement of forms, reminiscent of a park, but maybe an industrial one, where what setup might’ve been used to transport blood, now is spilling out blood, and the whole thing is taking over. Two things here. One, the idea of an alien presence in a factory sort of place outside of town, threatening town life and its pieties, is the very oldest of sci fi ideas that I have taken in, from the movie Quatermass 2, when I was a kid, in that movie, the blob being fed was in the dome

aaavlk 4

And then it was fed by the human prisoners being fed into the pipes, as feed for it, the horror

aaavlk 5Then, too this theme was taken up in Soylent Green, so, it is well known trope, a system is set up, in some counter world, and then it begins to go bad. But this also has a spatial dimension. In the first Q movie, there was a strange trajectory. The alien form is taken into the system, but then escapes, mainly by getting power from incorporating into it, plant forms nearby, that is, he “consumes” the windowsill cactus, so his arm becomes more cactuslike. Then it hides out in outoftheway marginal or liminal spaces at the edge of the known world,

aaavlk 6not unlike Ringo parading in AHDN (1964)

aaavlk 7

But then it passes through the neighborhoods adjacent to those less desirable places, it is noticed, and feared. A drunk woman, usually ignored, reports seeing a green meanie slime up the side of a building, this time, the cops pay attention (great touch!). But a nice “vision” of the outlying horrors of modern urban London

aaavlk 8

Then too it can pass through other attractions that have been set up in less than opportune spacec in the culture, like zoos, and thus kill all the animals

aaavlk 9

But, then, only after all that, come back in to the center, to attack, right here in Westminster Cathedral

aaavlk 10

So, by having his silos as part of the world of his drawings overflow with blood VLK is not only positing a negative out of controlness, but he is moving the mind of the viewer observing his counter world from inside domestic or village space as conveyed in the squatting nature of the group shows, out to more outlying spaces, where things can run wilder, where bodies are buried or dumped, where evil happens. So, this is a counter world, negated, then, itself, countering.

This, by itself, is a strong move, and a step up in terms of his “vision” of the outofcontrolness of the world. And that is the second point, and, which, surprisingly, makes VLK’s art more in line with my thinking in the past year. He has let his world drain away into the “green slime.” I have written about the green slime in the movie of that name, but, then, it became, for me, a kind of symbol of the utter irrational nature of charge-countercharge which as entirely ungrounded public debate in a poison partisan era from arguable or meaningful points, to turn it all into a pingpong mush of traded barbs. Any time the prez deflects the truth and then somehow wraps it up by double down and contradiction and then response to that and etc etc so that finally one does not know what is up or down….that is the green slime. But so is any overmoralistic response in outrage to that, or getting into a state of outrage based on something merely said the green slime. We had a lot of green slime this past week, when Giuliani got involved in helping DT but only seemed to emit green slime from his mouth. And then since his misdirections seemed to work in murkying up the waters of the entire debate that was more green slime. Then green slime is the verbiage that trolls emit, it is the only kind of utterance they can emit. Takedown heros are entirely supported by green slime motives.  In all cases, it would seem, the trolls conTROLL the conversation.

In both ways, VLK’s movement from straight on depiction of life in vampire land, to documenting some problems which are developing in it, is a good move, it resonates, strongly, on the moment. But, then, another good step, VLK decided that he had to move from drawing to color, and so he has in a few terrific Windows works, giving us a full panorama of the catastrophe in vampire land (with a lot of green slime! Also a bog like terrain which speaks to the Black Bog light hypnagogy state)

aaavlk 11

in these larger works, we see the edge of town

aaavlk 13

but then are lead off into a meandering maze land of deeply polluted green water moving through a parched landscape

aaavlk 14this one, Windows 1 even shows one of the fachwerk houses, speaking to the haunted village aspect of the town, the fact that it has, in fact, stripped back art to a pure apotropaic charm state, we are now let to open the window, and see out the window, and see what they are afraid of, and it is ecological disaster coming in on them

aaavlk 15

some of the new paintings (but really large colored drawings) show us that the town is being made over by the pollution, accomodating a new reality (somehow this all reminds me of Antonioni’s Red Desert

aaavlk 16

another good one, Windows 4

aaavlk 17

and my favorite, because entirely overflowing, Windows 3

aaavlk 18

so, this is all positive, it shows a movement of vision from the counter, to a consideration of the counter going negative, thus showing us something negative in its world. But, then, there is a third point. VLK decided to present all these as views out of a window. In a video he explains that they all resulted from him sitting in a small apartment and imagining the world without as if through the window of a large sheet of paper. That is, he has turned away from the world, to envision the world, classic countering behavior. No doubt too, he turned his left shoulder away from the world, and in this found a magic crawlspace in which to create art. I am not entirely convinced by the way that he found to represent the windows, but, the idea of the painting being a window into a nonreality, a dream reality, to reimagine reality, is an important point, and had to be made about his work. It acts here as a kind of lattice form to declare to us, what you are seeing, you are seeing, but it is through the eyes of the character who made these. He is not claiming more than that, but that at least. But, then, there is another aspect. In a few cases, he created a window ledge, and put things on it, including flowers

aaavlk 19

and a kind of soda, with flowers in it too, perhaps a comment on the idiocy of thinking drinking a certain type of healthy looking soft drink contributes to the betterment of the ecology of the world (the gap between domestic solution and worldscale problem), but the general idea certainly being that from a safe vantage point in one’s house one is looking out upon a catastrophe what one can hardly imagine, it is a nightmare, but we are still ok. This is a theme that Tarkowsky worked with,

aaavlk 20derived, possibly, from the whole idea of the “parochial holocaust” developed in British horror in the late 50s, but it also, oddly, relates to the dream windows of the Wizard of Oz,

aaavlk 21

again, reinforcing for us that we are looking at a vision of the world rendered as a counter world by an artist who has turned his back on the world, to see it more clearly.

This reinforces the countering, then, is all that I will say.

But, then, there is ANOTHER twist. And that is that. Just as he did with the fachwerk structures in the group shows, having set up his counterspace, VLK must swing it round by reverse engineering to make that counter space real. So, having made the frontier images of ecological disaster in his vampire world, that is, negate the countering, he then reverses that back into the town, to imagine, what will, in fact, the town look like, after it adjusts (also a strong sci fi theme, in fact, one of the most cogent). These, in fact, are my favorite pieces in a show I already up to this point like a lot, but this

aaavlk 22

is the best piece in the show, showing, as it were, a redesigned vampire world in which the pollution has now been incorporated by reverse engineering into a new colorful reality where all the pavements are red, perhaps even paved in blood, where the lagoon is green, and moonlit, to make it all seem romantic, there is a lot here to absorb, the trees with red leaves, the pipes, the vampire face front of a building in the rear,

aaavlk 23

then, in another twist, what would the ‘art’ be like if, in this haunted village, where ‘art’ is dead and there is only visualizations of devotions, intercessions, votives and fears, where all is reduced to primitive ritual, and primitive feeling, what would the art on the motel in this world look like, VLK has an idea for that too

aaavlk 24

and these can almost be seen as dengerate genre paintings, or legend pictures, with very rudimentary agentic purpose, in a green slime world run amok where crime scene photos turn into motel room paintings (I don’t know what the particular whimsy critique involving the particular soda is in VLK, but I think it must be, as noted, a symbol of useless domestic-level protest, in a world where the battle is already lost; that is, the COCA COLA critique, but it’s way worse than that)

aaavlk 25

and then, having set up his world, by countering, and negating, and reversing, inside the window of the drawings, all of these steps taking us further in from his group installations, he decides, since he is VLK, he can’t show any of this outside the context of an installation that situates them properly in the universe, and so swings back round through the material to pop it out by actual reverse engineering, and ostension, as trolls have stepped out of online life into reality in the past six months, into the real space of the gallery, this appearance, this epiphany, another step, is the final step, almost.

aaavlk 27

I am not convinced in Home Where There is No Home VLK needed to self represent himself again as the viewer, the one whose POV is the guiding Mercurial force here, it might be that the Windows concept did enough of that, and this is reundant, but, maybe not, in my thinking there are all sorts of scarecrow, psychopomp, and trophy figures, abstractions of man which represents dream moments and thresholds, but maybe this is an apparatchnik ghost, VLK represented as the disembodied zombie who lives like the last man on earth or any of those situations in sci fi to make sense of the world (that is, my interest in dream guide figures all involve agentic personages encountered at thresholds in the passage, but the scaffold of rationalization of the system also creates scarecrow figures, objectified human beings, and maybe this represents that). But, at present, I will not address this mannikin aspect of this show. But the real point here is that the odd loop forms in the drawings have now come out into life as sculptural forms. In the drawings they seem to derive from blood dripping, stylized examples of a natural form, a dripping. Then, in a few other drawings, as things countered again to try to imagine how vampire world would respond by making itself over and adjusting to the new normal the form seemed to mestatasize into a playground, or paritition form, part of living in the town. They seem here in the gallery to act almost in form like Haring sculpture, but functionally as desk-backs or cubicle partitions, to separate space, to create islands of interest, from which the POV of the artist can be contacted. Here, drawing table, inside the countered world of the drawings

aaavlk 28

then a large partition, leading you in

aaavlk 29and back in the gallery another kiosk form, with the form, and another table in a space age Forbidden Planet form, and then some business with insight or research into the horror got, like in a horror movie, from drawings, from the internet, or even from an old video

aaavlk 30and then there is a third one, a more marginal, wall-oriented one, almost like an information kiosk in a doctor’s office, very strange, then, too the painting skied over it, to signal that art really has, in this space, been pushed to the side, just like in a doctor’s office

aaavlk 31(I cannot help but notice that in the above shot the Windows painting is skied as if to situate it where the basement window of the world is, relative to the location, not unlike in The Blob, and thousands of other movies)the small details of which I cannot at present, or ever, since I will not see this in life, work out, but, again, these kiosks is where the drawings are done, they say in form, in situation vis a vis the drawings, and in setting in the gallery

aaavlk 32then it even keeps going back into the office (this is, now triggering on my recent visit to AMI Imaging in Lincoln, where you wander hallways to various imaging rooms, and I sat outside a room with RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS on the door, a Van Gogh across the way

aaavlk 34and, of course, once you are drifting through a counter world, or rather, a counter world negated, then countered again, THEN reversed by ostension back into “reality” this switch of color and format, to the vertical, can, indeed, make of this painting, the “Van Gogh of my world of painting” (But the reason the kiosk is near by is that he had to create the “office” space in the intallational island-moment, perhaps I will call this a “trap,” in order for one to bounce off that and see the picture set next to it, for it, to be read correctly as a “Van Gogh” that is palliative painting

aaavlk 38

I mean, I can link this up to my musing on Van Gogh’s blue Daffodils last week in a medical context

aaavlk 37

A word about painting in office spaces. In a doctor’s office, or, really, beyond that, in the ever-widening labyrinth of medical care, an imaging clinic, the main business is imaging, and of a diagnostic story. Though, of course, diagnosis can lead to alleviation of suffering, and therefore has agency, diagnosis itself does not, it is modern rationalization, though a necessary one. But, then, it is odd that in the context of imaging made use of to diagnose disorders, the visual art on the walls is entirely depleted to ersatz state, and that Van Gogh shows up. This is art depleted down to simply existing, even lower than TV allowing one to pass the time, to just rest the eyes on, art as respite from the stress of the activities of the center all around one.

aaavlk 40but the thing is, when the art is depleted in such a way, one does not, really, take this in as a Van Gogh, one can, but I did not, since I was not getting what I wanted, which was to be done with this, I impatiently began to “see things” in the Irises that I had not before, this partly linked to my recent analysis of painting in American in Paris, I saw Van Gogh’s self portrait in the white plant on the upper left, then said that he was peeping on a couple, bottom, left of center, making love in the reeds, and, then, he was caught out by a bunch of ladies of the town, the blue irises, upper right, all making faces, with their bonnets, and that was the new meaning of the painting. That is, a projection of my thinking about metoo or whatever, and having nothing to do with the art, a projection onto the art, because the art was made depleted by being reproduced and shown in this way. And then, it got worse.

And it got worse because there were OTHER Van Goghs situated in the corridor, for all the busy orderlies or apparatchniks to pass by

aaavlk 41

meaning that this was not one spot where an attempt to create a sense of calm was made, but part of an ongoing spatial campaign down an entire corridor to calm things down, through vacuous visuals. But, then, things got even worse, because in this center, the maze concept of hosptial space was attenuated to new degrees of obtuseness. Not only were there endless turns of hallways, but art was placed at every turn, to make believe that you were getting somewhere

aaavlk 33

but, for the most part, you weren’t really, as I had not seen before, this center had tiers of waiting areas, as if by degree, there was the first waiting area I was taken too, which was freezing, and torturing by way of a terrible homebuying show on the mandatory TV, almost drove me crazy

aaavlk 36

but then someone comes to get you there, and they lead you down another corridor, to another waiting area, where you wait there, for the next person to come get you. And, the thing is, though in actual fact you are being lead into the system, so there is a slight intercessional vibe, as guides take you in, the whole arrangement of the tv and art distractions, and the design of the space was meant to make it all seem modular, that is, as if you were stuck on an escalator going the wrong way, you get up from one place to go to another, and it is exactly like the other, and so on one level you have not moved at all. This palliative erasure of time and space is, of course, one of the mainstays of deep bureaucratic space, and, I think, it is the kind of thing that VLK is more likely to analyze than other artists (for example, I have in other posts mentioned the progression of some installations from a place-here to a Far Place where a work of art of some greater import in terms of meaning or cult was placed, I think it more likely that while there is a vibe of that here, VLK is really more in tune to the fact that, somehow, in the modern world, that agency cannot be got back, so he works with it inside the spiderweb of rationalization, meaning that it flips over from being an agency-restoration critique of the white cube to a motel painting critique of the meaning of art (though, again, in office situations, paintings lack, for the most part, the meaning they have in horror movies). Thus, at the end of the line, I do not think one arrives at, in VLK’s work, a Far Place, where this painting has cult meaning, I think one arrives somewhere in the maze, but in a state of not being clear where, and this work presents itself as the “Van Gogh,” relative to other works in the exhibition, to your situation, but of uncertain import, does one at last discover art in the labyrinth, or just go down the drain of depletion with it?

aaavlk 39

Who knows, perhaps VLK’s seemingly extra space-fill toss in ideas, this one of snails, speaks to the time element spent in such entropic spaces, but, really, the spaces of the bureaucracy of life

aaavlk 38 1

This is what the press release talks about, it is not about art, it is about people, and feeling, and what we feel in this world of ours

aaavlk 45

and etc

aaavlk 46

and then on the previous exhibitions, note comments on cardboard, which drew me to VLK

aaavlk 47

for all of this, and it looks so much like a “normal” exhibition of contemporary art, you would not think that when you enter into this exhibition you not only enter into VLK’s world of drawings, his counter world, but skip past the reverse world he developed for other artists to squat in with those cardboard exhibitions, but, then, you are witnessing 1) his counter world negate, things getting worse, going down thr drain, but, then, you are thinking, what if we have to get used to this? what will the new normal look like? 2) that is here too, and the best work in the show, and, then, you are in that world, and, imagine, 3) what might paintings in the motels in that world look like, and he gives you a few of those, as if in passing, and then you 4) come OUT of the drawings, thrice removed from reality, back OUT into the reallity of the gallery to partake of his life in his aparment in the gallery to imagine his posture in life, and art’s purpose in life, as not much different that a prospective patient sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, waiting, and looking at an ersatz Van Gogh (this a variation of motel room painting). While it might be a bit off in some of this, I do not think I have misread the general contours of the map of VLK’s afterworld, the world after, that we always dwell upon, his apocalyptic world, the world after the vampires have taken over, and then in that we try to make a go of it (no doubt to also, like every other society, fail). For all of this, this, so far, for bringing in countering, then reversing it, for THEN upping his game to fullscale color, for THEN pushing the countering a second time, THEN for being able to keep track of his twists of mind to actually, successfullly figure out how to THEN ostense into reality by reverse engineering his countered counter-negated drawings, for the green slime, for all that, this is my favorite show of the year on our failing planet earth.


My comments on “imaging center” art on my FB page, plus my post on VLK on my FB page. March, 2018.

The Devonsville Terror (1983) and the negative space of a shower scene.


Rev., May 31, 2018.

Note: this note makes use of a taxonomy of types of apotropaia derived from Talismans and Trojan Horses (1992), Dennis Faraone.

Following up on a previous note expressing interest in the simple one-two devices made use of by 40s movies like Fear in the Night, and then Dark Mirror (1946), The Devonsville Terror (1983) comes back to suggest itself as following in the footsteps of those movies. What this means is that the movie is caught in a particular state, and this could be called 2D space, but in this case it is curse space. Curse space is the space which a place is trapped in because of a curse. Because Devonsville was where they burned witches, and, as typical, the witches cursed them

aaaadev `1the town is caught in that curse, which consists of its very narrow views about women, especially young women, coming in from outside, teaching new fangled ideas. As a result of this curse, I think I can state with a fair degree of accuracy that Devonsville is a town caught in a state of  what I call “twinfire”, which means, if any woman coming into town looks like one of the witches they burned, then that means she is the witch they burned come back to life, and we will have to take care of her the same way. Thus, I can use the same graph as before, we are in an adjunct glass onion (second level hypnagogy) state, in which haunting is done by way of kaleidoforms not so much whooshing as just zooming down at one. One can get best to this point by first examining the very odd point that the movie does not really have a shower sequence, or rather, has offset or negative shower sequences. In the large picture, the movie also takes place entirely within hypnagogic space, and does not overly involve the Ambients or the Sentients that might spin in from farther out in the mind

aaaadev 2

Early on, when one of the town fathers, who had just murdered his wife, goes into the bathroom, he senses a presence in the shower curtain. He murdered the wife at the hour of TV static, that is, under the control of an entoptic state of sleepwalking or hypnagogy

aaaadev 3then he looks at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, either to ask what have I done? or just tell himself, you’ve done it, now, you’ll be ok

aaaadev 5and he looks at the shower curtain. Now, normally, this screen wipe is an entoptic device to reduce the showering body behind it to just an object of one’s incoming passion or menace, to make it easier to kill her

aaaadev 6and so, this is an alibi formation, as the folds, before the darkness a few feet behind, in many movies, create the idea that someone is behind there, perhaps naked. But, instead, in this case, there is no shower sequence, there is only a witch face come zooming up at him out of the folds and the entoptic field

aaaadev 7and then the movie makes clear that the device of a face coming out of a shower curtain is like an acheiropoetic (not made by human hands) style imprint of a face on fabric, in the same form and arrangement of materials, as the wife’s face suffocated by a pillow, so, it is a “neat” or “tight” movie, making near comparisons

aaaadev 8but, when, way later on, almost at the end of the movie, we do have a shower spray turned on, and, luckily, it is Suzanna Love’s, the main character

aaaadev 9but, then, just as she is about to undress to shower, she hears a noise outside the glass bricks

aaaadev 10she has previously been shown undressed, getting ready for bed. In an earlier scene, she is topless, putting on a sleep shirt for bed, she is getting dressed, however, for bed

aaaadev 11perhaps, post shower, and it seems she needs some lip balm too

aaaadev 12then she goes in

aaaadev 13and encounters under the blanket, another common trope, a snake in the bed

aaaadev 14but this time, back before she takes the shower in the later scene, she, rather oddly, right hand on the left, left hand on the right, turns OFF the shower, ending all hope that the movie would have a shower sequence with which to show her vulnerability

aaaadev 15so, the question is, two shower sequences, but entirely pulled back from, and gone into negative space. What gives? What gives is what is shown very quickly after. One of my favorite things about Haxan (1922) is how it rationalizes modern appliance life after ancient rite and claims that today’s shower bath for neurotic women

aaaadev 16is the equivalent of burning witches in the old days, a montage

aaaadev 17back to the witch

aaaadev 18Well, this movie, perhaps influenced by that film, does the same thing. When they at last decide to kill the three new women who have come to town bringing the trouble of their sexuality with them, they use modern means, for old tortures. So, pulling one witch by the hands behind the wheels of a truck, to kill her that way, as she spins on the ground

aaaadev 20is the equivalent of rolling a witch on a firewheel down a hill 300 years before (the other kill, by pigs, stays the same)

aaaadev 21this means that the shower is the visual equivalent of another old device of witch killing, and that is burning, and this is stated by, shortly after the shower turn off, the headlight glaring into our eyes

aaaadev 22that then representing the gaze that rapes her, then burns her, first, I think, the rape

aaaadev 23and then the burn

aaaadev 24though the movie lets her keep her night slip on

aaaadev 26but still we get a screenwipe breast close-up, to tell us that something is about to happen. But what is that something? First, let me summarize, this formulation of contrast between a modern day shower being cancelled out, and sent to negative space, by a witch burning, in the same position and relative to the opposite marterial, fire from water, as a shower, is why there is no shower here. What this means is that the sexual attraction of the woman is not circumscribed by her private life and her home and her bathroom, even, but that her whole being the minute she crossed the town line and came to town, is the problem, the problem is that she is there, period, the minute she came into town, she was a problem. And that is the issue. Thus, the shower sequence is here, but it is cast as a witch burning sequence in the public realm, to communicate to the whole county and town. But, then, how this is specifically done is the thing. Again, here is the screen wipe at the last burning which tells us something is about to break from one zone of reality to another, her breasts, though faintly covered in slip lace

aaaadev 27but the thing is, just her presence in town is enough to cause all the men in need of women to not only fantasize on her, but almost have hallucinogenic moments of imagining her nude in front of them. The really odd thing here is that she appears to the grocer in a kind of window, at least behind a pane of glass, giving us, as viewers, what we would normally get from a shower sequence, except that here, since he is the one shocked to see it, she is not vulnerable, but powerful, menacing, her presence and sexuality weighs heavy on his mind

aaaadev 28it seems to be the back of a closet door, it is a full on nude scene, her entire torso, as one might see in a shower sequence

aaaadev 29this so turns him on that he later attempts to exploit the fact that he was able as grocer to get some herbal tea for her to try to date her, in his very strange living room, log cabin style, with a flag in the corner, which I have written about before

aaaadev 30and, of course, flag and winter landscape protecting her in her refusal to be interested, as one might expect

aaaadev 31but then he (or another man) has another erotic nightmare about her, and, again, she appears, but in light, her hair either colored or on fire, and she is sweating

aaaadev 32and then in this nightmare he meets her out by the bog

aaaadev 34and she glares at him pitilessly, with disgust

aaaadev 35as he goes down in, as if it were quicksand

aaaadev 36and the nightmare aspect of this that brings the dreamspace very very close into him, almost suffocating, in his sleep, is her glare, we get the close-up of her eyes

aaaadev 37and her lips

aaaadev 38and what’s under her tartan skirt

aaaadev 39now, somehow, the nightmare contagion in town gets to her too

aaaadev 40she dreams that she is tied up at a witch burning

aaaadev 41and though it is odd that she sleeps in her pearls, she sits up covered in sweat, the pearls likely there to reinforce figuratively her cold fear sweat

aaaadev 42this is a very odd dream, however, let me pause to consider what it means. She is strung up to a particular tree. In only a few movies, one Spanish one with Paul Naschy, where there is a witch hanging tree, have I heard much about witching trees, that is, trees with strange shapes like spooky sticks which came to seem to the local people to be good places, for all the warding off that their branchings did, to hang witches, but in a way to ward off her power to curse one or fight back. This is a strange trophy, with three branchings, then it has a stump behind, and then she is spread out her arms most of all on two of the branches, and then she stands on the built-in kindling piles of roots

aaaadev 43but now the most curious thing is, each of the branchings has a demonic mask mounted on it one behind her, and one to the left of her

aaaadev 44that ram’s head on the branch is very odd, indeed

aaaadev 45and that one to the left of her is given a close-up

aaaadev 47and two other masks are given play too, perhaps also affixed to the tree, or worn by particular participants in the rite, not to let devil power get to them

aaaadev 48and another one that almost feels like an Iroquois false face between the trees

aaaadev 49very close to its prototype (so an example of cultural borrowing; and it is, I think, impossible to tell, in these her dream elaborations of a witch burning, if, one, she is just improv-ing in the dream, or, two, this is an atavistic vision back to how it was authentically in the real past, where her avatar lived)

aaaadev 50The Romans and Greeks would make a trophy, sometimes of a tree, or carry a trunk in a parade, to mark the spot where a turning point in battle was made, and it was won. They did this by mounting enemy armor on the tree or trunk, and carrying that as an effigy of their defeated presence, always after this under the control, and then as an offering to the gods. I would argue that this is similar. The strange hecatean tree was chosen as a place where the devil is known to come into this realm, so it is a kind of doorway (like in Maciste movies) to his realm, why not offer sacrifice to him right at his front door? Then, as mentioned, the branches had to be festooned with masks to both mark his presence, and the goats head behind her looks a lot like the appearance of the devil in The Devil Rides Out, again, to reinforce this as his spot. But then the other ones would, I think, serve, to push back that evil energy for it not to get on them, to ensure that she is trapped in it, and wont turn the tables on them. So it is an interesting property, and as a dream device it signals that this nightmare has in fact spun down from the lattice (third stage hypnagogy), the tree, to represent the whoosh (fourth stage) in her twisting body, and it lubricated in its drop to nightmare by her sweat, for her to then snap out of it when the fire touches, she wakes up. So, here, too, just as the shower sequence has been erased or displaced by the more public show of a witch’s vulnerability by her burning, so her dreams have been invaded by a nightmare and her bed made over into a kind of burning place too.

If I were to demarcate the apotropaic complexity of this site, it would focus on the fact that at the center of it was a witch burning, which in its nature intends to banish and utterly destroy the witch, by fire, it is an apompic (banishing) ritual, but it takes place in the crux as it were of lesser or more refinedly parsed types of apotropaiea. In general form, I think it is likely that in that town the three branched dead tree was invested with the power of a hecateaion, which usually stood inside the vestibule of the house, but often at crossroads too, to ward off general evil coming into the town from outside. Since she came to the town from outside, it would make perfect sense in terms of apotropaic magic, that she is burned there. But, then, why is the goat’s head mounted on the main stump, like a titulus over all? It strikes me that since Satan is the presider over her, they also have to invite Satan to witness it, in order for him, in his opposite role, to take the banished thing back. As a result, the goat’s head is like a head of a god placed in an oven, it brings the pest, but it also banishes the pest, and in that turnstile way or janusfaced way, it protects the operation of the site. Thus, the goat’s/ram’s head as a very good example of an epistatic (presiding) apotropaic artistic placement, to contain within the limits of this burning all the evil that is emit from it (it might even swallow up her curse and take it down to hell with him, harmless to man). In addition, I would say that the witch burners also worried about splashback from the burning, so the devil’s face is a straight on blephobic scary face, to keep any other evil spirits who might want to interfere off, but, then, the last face on the left, since so closely allied in form to the tree, I argue that this is a geitonic-baskanian (a neighborhood protector) array designed, specifically, to protect those participating in the event. And, note, strangely, there is a woman off to the side, sitting, as if at a picnic, but perhaps she is the one chosen to light the fire, to burn the witch, therefore, the third mask is meant to protect her. It is also true that there is a man on a horse nearby, meaning that the threat of further torture by way of quartering, or of brutal disposal is shown to the witch the tamp down her tendency to utter curses, I would equate the horse with a herm to mark the boundary of good town land, and this evil place, the go-between that crosses the line between the wagons-circled of the in group of the town, and the outside space

aaaadev 51I also note that she stands on the roots of the tree, and that they are prominent. These undoubtedly serve as baityls (sacred stone) consecrated with a power to drive her to hell, by way of this entrance, with a touch then of intercessional propylaic (before the doorway) function, by touch of her feet, view of her intimate parts, and the touch of fire (perhaps the men being jealous of the tree for sexual contact with her), being the kindling as it were of her immolation. So, it is a very complicated social site. I map it out as an apopompic event in the center, but which had to take place on a hecateaion crossroads protector given intense meaning by also warding off the entrance to hell in its roots, but for that its roots being a baityl with a propylaic punch, to in the firing of it open it up and send her down. Then for all that supernatural business not to splash back and infect the burners with a curse or whatnot, the hecateaion was circled by epistatic power, blephobic power and baskanian-geitonic power, to scare off from moving out into the congregation any contaminating demons that might have been, in the invocation of the devil, called up. Thus, it is a very complex site, with a central apopompic purpose, which nonetheless required, by my count (top of the my head) seven additional gradations of apotropaic form to make sure nothing evil splashed back in the doing of it on the community (here I read it just straight on, not as a projection of her fears in her dreams, which might change the directionals)

aaaadev 52

All this array of torture and protection then circles back by way of mention of the purpose of the herm above, and then the fact that the burning was the last of several tortures, to strongly suggest that the tree was ultimately chosen because it served the physical purpose of a pillory, that is, a place of torture, which then turns into a burning place. Amazingly, in the Japanese movie, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972) the lead figure is tied up to precisely the same three-pronged tree scorp 1She is then tortured on this pillory, in front of all the other inmates, by three guards, who don bear costumes to come and then group rape her, to humiliate and crush her scorp 2and, then, in a circle around, all the others watch, pouring blame on her for accepting this humiliation, so the ultimate answer to why the complexity of the burning site above is that it is, in the New England tradition, a witch burning site true, but mostly it is a pillory for public torture

scorp 3But, then, the really interesting thing, back in Devonsville, is that, she took something up with her out of her dream. After she woke up, back in bed, she was still in a state of sleep drunkenness, and she saw a kaleidoform but in hecaetean triple form, before her eyes, a kind of migraine dysmetropsia, which maybe made her think she might be sick.

aaaadev 53for that reason, her weird night continues as she actually is so frightened by the dream that she gets up out of her bed, gets dressed, and goes sees the doctor. Donald Pleasence’s doctor is one of the most interesting and most paralyzed figures in this movie. He has a very strange office, and he seems to only sit at his desk, waiting for people to come by. He also has a large deer trophy in his office, which means he is an objectifier, possibly an exploiter, and he has behind him, an open window, which people as at a drive in window have become accustomed to looking through to check if he is in. But when she does it, it is a reminder that THIS TOO is a dream place, as she appears in that window as she appeared to the grocer in the closet door mirror, but here as the face at the window trope, haunting him, and this scene too is to be a displaced shower scene

aaaadev 54and the evident weirdness of her behavior here is once again portrayed by the ersatzness of the American flag, just as with her awkward date with the grocer

aaaadev 55then, even weirder, he is still there, late at night, and agrees to examine her. A word. For the briefest of moments, in the previous shot, I spied lower left in the shot, a statue, either on the floor, and therefore fairly large scale, or on his desk, a bronze, but it would appear to be a seated girl, or possibly subscribing to the trope of the Crouching Venus. What this means is, she is going to encounter her dark side, and, in fact, find out that she is not unknown to those parts, but is one of the witches reincarnate, from 300 years ago

aaaadev 56in any case, he will examine her, takes her pulse, listens to her heart, and for that, she must take off her top, but not her bra, still, there is an undeniable sexual charge, since she just came from posing in his window in the exact same hallucinatory way that she did when topless in the grocer’s closet door. So we are consistent formally in keeping visions of her nudity within very narrow confines.

aaaadev 57then the funny thing, in the horror movie sense, is that he is clearly turned on by her, so, I mean, his office is like his house, it is one of those in-between offices of suspicious character as one sees in the sequel to the movie Jungle Woman in the 40s, and which by the 80s gave people the creeps, where the line between professional care and intimacy can too easily be crossed, because it is his ballywick. But, then, he also has a picture of Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence above his examination table (with no paper laid down on it, by the way). But, the picture is in the shade of Venetian blinds, meaning that it is rendered shady. What this means is that he is trying, hard, to be an American, this picture abides by the trope I have identified in other 80s movies, the I Am an American trope, and that would be true, but, he is a Warley, deeply American, but he has turned, because of a curse on HIS family, of having a worm-eating disease, against the tradition of it, and wants to turn against, so he is conflicted

aaaadev 58and then, rather remarkably, well, we did see this earlier, his professionalism is limited, or conflicted, as right past his examination light, he has a kind of strobe light, which strobes directly into the camera, as a screen wipe, for him to, completely unethically, without the patient knowing it, hypnotize them, so that they might experience their former lives, 300 years ago

aaaadev 59and the movie goes beyond the screen wipe earlier, to really cast us in

aaaadev 60then she has a vision, but, then, coming out of it, is kind of shocked that the doc has in his collection of witchcraft objects, right there in his office!, a knife like the one she saw wielded in her nightmare of witchburning

aaaadev 62and then this weird night adventure, and her visit, and then her shower being interrupted, it all stirs up the night of the killing, and her getting it too. And we are back to her getting ready to take a shower, but then being interrupted one more time. So, in fact, her shower interrupted turns out to be its opposite, strung up as if to a shower head but to a stake, to be the opposite of showered, burned. But, then, she has powers, perhaps previously conveyed by her ability to appear to others, it is unclear, but her eyes now emit power, bolts of lightning

aaaadev 63and she zaps the men away, one

aaaadev 64two

aaaadev 65this, then. is why I like The Devonsville Terror (1983), not because it is entirely scary, it is more creepy and traditionally weird in the sense of a gothic tale than that, but it is tightly instrumentalized inside the hypnagogic range of imagery that it has staked out for itself, without, except for the lighting blasts, venturing outside the hypnagogic to the ambient and sentient spinnings of terror coming in on a town. This creates a premise for the town’s narrowness, and a kind of Beglaubungsapparat (plausibility enhancing device) to explain how by living in very limited 2D curse space they would come to feel so threatened by the arrival of three modern young women in their town that they would or even could go over quickly to thinking them reincarnations of the witches of old, calling for a revival of the old ways, and kill two and try to kill the third. And this is clued in mostly by the fact that though there is no shower sequence in this movie it is the default or negative space removals from a shower sequence that create a narrow instrumental framework for the hauntings, all of it focused on Suzanna Love’s imposingly beautiful presence, which kinda drives the whole town crazy. For all of this, I think the Devonsville Terror is a very nicely done little horror movie, in the early 80s.

The Porcelain of Seagull Island in The Deadly Bees (1966).


rev., May 29 2013

Posted May 24, 2018, to mark the fifth anniversary of rmarts blog.

The movie, The Deadly Bees (1966), has a quite thorough arrangement of white porcelain figures scattered throughout the rooms of the farm houses and pubs of Seagull Island. It has some of the best porcelain in all of British Horror, and, it would seem, makes use of porcelain to communicate tacit unspoken meaning about the character and mis en scene. These are some examples of the good porcelain. In every main set of the movie, there are good examples of porcelain. In Michael Ripper’s pub, lovely deer bookend guardians on the mantel;

bees 1in the beekeepers main parlor,

bees 2where the farmer-landlord’s wife sits unhappily, an extravagant figure;

bees 3in the agent’s office, with also a rare horror movie sighting of Beatle memorabilia (behind the porcelain lamp)

bees 4in Suzanna Leigh’s bedroom, as we see sequentially, a virgin mary,

bees 7but, then, also a faithful dog

bees 8when the police look into it

bees 5and in Findlay’s lair,

bees 6a changing exhibit of porcelain. What does it all mean? In the pub, the porcelain on the mantel is apotropaic, indicating, as much as Ripper’s wary eye, that the pub has seen a lot in its years and is always on the lookout for more. In this space, the porcelain are miniaturized guardian figures. In the parlor of the beekeeper, however, the porcelain speaks of the wife’s view that the husband has become a stone figure, her ill will, her boredom, has made him that. He represents the something gone wrong in their relationship, and he is shown quite often, coming in and out of the space. In Leigh’s bedroom the Virgin Mary porcelain only bespeaks its meaning when Leigh is lifted half naked into bed by her rescuer after having almost been stung to death by the deadly bees. She is there for intercession, for best wishes. The dog next to her adds the element of guardianship to it. There is no cult figure in the house. In Finlay’s house, however, the porcelain plays a somewhat different role. A very odd thing about his room. Leigh thinks it is lovely. But he has a very odd set up that gives him away right away, though the movie successfully misdirects us away from it: he has inserted his apiary into the window of his rooms, so that the bees cover one wall, separated only by a pane of glass. When he first shows this set up to Leigh the porcelain on the bureau below the window is a shepherdess, but when he shows her what it is really all about at the end the figure is different, it is male, and a shepherd. Probably just a continuity error, but perhaps indicating a certain falseness about his set up, that it is premediated and covering something up. These porcelain, along with the butterflies and deaths head moth, are specimens, collected, they are relics of discovery, they indicate that he is a scientist, and more likely than not the mad scientist. Just by reading the porcelain then one can tell what is going on, if one wishes to read it. In each case, the porcelain bespeaks the character of the person who owns or will live in the room shown. Finally, the fact that in every case on Seagull Island all characters have secrets, have a cold and unfeeling exterior, then hide their emotions, and do not communicate well with others, it all indicates that they are constructed porcelain figures. The figures in this case say something about their condition as human beings. After having set up the scene with these porcelain linchpins in each setting, I expected in each case the porcelain to be broken or made use of in some way to act to resolve the problem. But in fact only one piece of porcelain was broken in the movie (unlike in Hitchcock’s original, when a whole row of hanging teacups are sawed off by the bird flock). It was also somewhat disappointing that no porcelain was injured in the sense of being used in the plot, in some way. The fact that they were not indicates to me that perhaps the director did not know the language of the kingdom porcelain anymore and simply put it all in there because that is what he was taught to do, but then he made little use of them. This means that in the end while extravagant the porcelain in The Deadly Bees is conventional, and not instrumental; or, rather, it has some instrumentality, in speaking of characters, but was not instrumentalized in a creative way in the mechanics of the plot.

If Hitchcock had his birds razor of teacups, and destroy all the china, it would seem natural that a swarm of bees in a house ought to have caused the character under attack to fling their arms about in a way that knocked over all the porcelain. But this is where the Englishness of the movie and the transience of the medium of film in the B movie comes into play. Some modern cinema, in the studio style, was rooted in the unconscious of literature and books. There is an attachment to books here too, with, in fact, the bookshelf and books becoming a major instrument of the plot. That is, Finlay’s ruse is to go by the other place to get a copy of Simmons beekeeper book, but then Leigh sees that he has it right there on his shelf and he is lying. So, it plays a part: it is authority, but also reveals the true situation in terms of who is the mad beekeeper. But then there is also a second unconscoiius for modern film, the theater, and its conventions of set direction. One suspects that porcelain property originally developed on the stage for various reasons. It exists in film, then, as a carried over convention, with, perhaps, little clear sense by any film directors as to what its purpose is. It is just there, because it has to be there. As a result, it lies in the unconscious of the film, and, for that reason, communicates the unconscious of the character. Thus, when we come to the final confrontation, Finlay identifies himself as a British gentleman scholar to the end by confessing to his aggression with a cup of tea in hand.

bees 10The fact that his serving tea serves to try to keep the misdirection going and dissemble his aggression makes his picking up a teacup with hot tea in it a possible aggressive act, but, in an understated, almost unconscious way, British style. But he is embodied and epitomized in his politeness by that tea cup. It is not just that tea time makes everything right, in Britain, but that tea cups do indeed tell us whats what witt the characters in British movies. All the British need do is read the micro body language movements of his service, to tell what kind of man he is. All of this tacit body language is British, and most likely unconscious even to British audiences. Finlay has then planned a very tidily instrumented death for her. The bees are right there, in the wall, a slide of glass away. He has the formula, he was douse her with it, open the window, voila, she is dead. But she turns the tables on him by getting hold of the solution and splashing it on him: and so his bees attack him, and, in doing so, they do take apart the tidy room that he has created for himself.

bees 11Again, the movie has a very tidy instrumentation. The bees are kept in an apiary; But he has made a killer bee variant. They can be controlled by the tape recorded sound of the death’s head moth, which he has, and which hypnotizes them into stillness. But then the ammoniac smell of death attracts the bees, and they attack anything covered with it. He puts on the tape recording of the death’s head moth whir, but then she gets the smell of death on him, and that causes him to back off and knock his pictures crooked, one of the death’s head itself, the other of a picture of flowers, as if art made for the viewing pleasure of the bees. All of this way touched off by one toss of a mantelpiece porcelain, which set off the chain reaction in which the solution gets on the wrong person, but the right person for the movie.

The movie’s instrumentation is expanded upon based on his theory of the smell of fear, which attracts animals. It’s a very intimate thing for a horror movie to be based on, smell. More so, that the smell is transmitted by clothing, hands and onto skin. The contagious element of this causes a few deaths by mistake, both the dog and his wife get killed by mistake because of rub off of the smell from a rag in a bucket. But then Finlay plants the smell directly onto Leigh’s clothing, and when she strips for bed and hangs the dirty jacket on her bedpost, that is what attracts the bees. Then when Katy Wild takes the jacket out to the laundry that brings the bees through the woods after her, in a verbatim recreation of a typical Hammer vampire attack in the woods, though this time with bees (a vampire variant, then).

bees 12The most brutal attack scene in the movie involves the wife of the beekeeper getting stung to death. But the most important attack in the movie is directed of course at Leigh. It is always the outsider that brings in trouble, and, Hitchcock suggested, always the unattached hysterical woman who stirs up nature and sets it awry. The move does have a variant of the conventional shower scene. But it is not a shower scene. This is because Leigh had to have at least some residual rub off of the smell of fear still on her skin, her hands and maybe her upper chest where the sweater covered her. So, it is a brushing teeth scene, but she is in her bra.

bees 13But, when she hears the bees, the fact that she is in her underwear, gathers from the scene the sense of vulnerability that penetrates to the viewer, in any case

bees 14And then the bees fill the room

bees 15The fact that she is in her bra makes her fright a good opportunity not only to see all of her facial grimaces but to see her body, in particularly her chest, react too, and when she tries to push a towel under the door and set it on fire every push of her arm muscle causes her breasts to quiver

bees 16It is also during these attacks, that the movie fails most grieviously, perhaps fatally. The bees swarm in the foreground, the scene is in the background: it is done by superimposing one film or using rear projection. Then, spliced in with that, are a few shots where a real bee was set on a real towel, or in hair, on, one or two, on Leigh herself (earlier, with the death of the wife, interspersal went for a lot of extreme close ups of bees stinging human skin, almost as if from a medical film). And, then, in between, general unpeopled shot of bees swarming through the room. The problem with these three separations, if you will, is that they remain too far apart throughout, they never come together, and never therefore coalesce into a convincing filmic event that makes you think it is actually happening to them. The special effect therefore looks very unspecial, and fails to convincingly render the horror of a bee attack. In fact, Leigh only really succumbs at the end to the smoke, at which point she is rescued. Then, as if to recoup, or in a second thought, she immediately, in her recovery bed, has a dream sequence replay of not just her experience but the whole sequence of events. Surely the instrumentation of such a dream would be that she figures out whats what through it, but it only serves for her to re-experience it and when she wakes up, the bees gone, but she still is in shock and thinks they might be there, she responds to the room itself. And in this moment, we peel back a layer of veneer to see what we should think of the room, as she glances at a landscape painting.

These are pretty good agencies, but the sequence wraps up with the apparent villain putting her to bed, the sacrificial lamb of an island dispute between two beekeepers, the primary agent of the movie, with her body and clothing, the main agent connected to her, followed by books (not to mention a car, the dog) leaving porcelain to play a supporting role here. Porcelain in this arrangement then comes to represent the everything staying the same that country folk like, the repressed incommunicative unhappy lot they live in, day in day out, not to be disturbed by outsiders. At last, then, in these country locales, porcelain is apotropaic, but, warning, stay out, don’t bring your problems to us, leave things as they are, it’s the English way.

bees 17Which is actually epitomized by a contrast between the same shot as above, which traumatized Leigh sees, looking out into her room

bees 19and then the room again, as is, but without her, and without the bees, because they are not there anymore, though the landscape painting then free to represent place, but always threatened by things coming at it from over the horizon

bees 18in Leigh sitting traumatized on her bed, seeing the bees even when they are gone, in fact, the inadequacy of the special effect might have been better utilized, to advance beyond simply doing some Tippi Hedrun hand gestures and neck jerks of re-experiencing, if she had developed a sense that bees were still there in her purkinjee imagery, and she saw bees for a while, but she doesn’t. In any case, this exposes the wallpaper as too busy, exposes the odd pillar and the door to the bathroom as a bit threatening, because odd, making her feel vulnerable, and there she is, vulnerable, there, her raised exposed armpit suggesting the danger of that corner, and then the innocuous landscape painting is exposed as, what I theorize it is, bringing outside in, and outside fears in, an introjection, in the room, of her fear of the country, and so it attracted the bees, by one reading, and still might harbor them. It’s a good reading of the secret meaning of these apparently benign features.

One last comment about the main room property of the movie, Finlay’s apiary insert

bees 20It, at least, is not simply a structuralist reference to some other aspect of the film (as the two way picture mirror in Cabin in the Woods is, introduced, then plays no role whatsoever in the movie, it only serves to fill us in than some higher than average level of meta distance is in control in the movie). At least, this odd eccentricity of rural Brit life turns out to be the primary instrument of the movie, and its malfunction in the end results in the concluding crisis: that is, he opens it up, the bees hypnotized by the death’s head, but, then, she tosses the monkeywrench porcelain, the tape goes bad, the smell is spilled, he is attacked, all gone wrong. So, it has a high degree of instrumentation, it’s not just passing scenery.


Black Christmas (1974) Revisited: Margot Kidder’s Barb torn apart by the world in a time of transition.


Rev., May 15, 2018.

Dedicated to Margot Kidder, d. May 13, 2018. Disclaimer: readings of the tea leaves of inferences in the text as they speak to me in a particular viewing are not “views” that are necessarily those that I hold regarding current social issues.

As an observance of her death, I watched Black Christmas (1974) again with attention to the role that Margot Kidder played in it, Barb, the sharp-tongued, heavy-drinking, entirely-messed up, but fun, and very much of the moment sorority girl, who comes to a bad end. It is a small, but fierce performance, and in many ways the movie is not imaginable without it, indeed it won her some awards. But, then, the question is, why? why does her performance capture the nature of the movie better than anything else in it? The main issue is that Black Christmas, like several other movies of the time that I remain intrigued by, is a kind of shambles, and filmed in that shambling, unclear style, full of loose ends, that a lot of 70s directors were toying with at the time (The Exorcist was one of these, but also Midnight Cowboy, The Omen, several others, it was the style of the time, it was gritty, realistic, but upsetting, so many loose ends, such an obtuse way of making a movie). I have not yet been able to put my finger on what exactly accounts for the special character of these movies, except by way of talking about the invasive-contagious associational chain created at the start of The Exorcist, but by focusing on Kidder’s Barb in Black Christmas that might get me there.

The movie starts out with a house invasion, with the killer of the 13-year-old in the park coming to roost in the attic of the sorority house. Then we see life inside, and it is spun about by Barb, coming down the stairs, with a drink in her hand (also note the honeycomb Christmas decoration, an all-directional apotropaieon, which, for that, screams look out)

amar 1while she stirs the pot

amar 2the killer invades the house

amar 3and it will stay like this, it is almost as if she is the “reason” or at least the symbol for the reason why the killer is there, which is that is he a first entry in the counterrevolution in horror against the sexual revolution, a victim-psycho of the sexual revolution who now wants his revenge at all the slutty girls in the world (there is little question that underneath the unhinged liberalism of the 70s, that is, detached from progressive actual politics, there was a riptide current activated). So it is important to note that while the killer is already, in media res, psycho, she is already, at the very start of the movie, pouring heavy, and drinking a lot

amar 4and while her dog collar indicates a perhaps sadistic edge, her open blouse is revealing of a woman comfortable with her sexuality, even flaunting it all over, and then, of course, a cigarette to make of her a moll, a wild girl who is indulging in everything (Kidder died of throat cancer thus I fear this pose took ten years off her life in real life)

amar 5she is even tending the bar, opposed to the bookshelves

amar 6and in a synchrony that is quite strange her drinking is paralleled to the psychokiller finding a place to squat up in the attic, and it features several shots of the rocking horse, why would that be up there? being rocked back and forth

amar 7I mean, it is a trope, instrumentalized

amar 8a lot

amar 9the last time I had to deal with the rocking horse was in dealing with the true haunting of Biddesden house, where it might be that a legend of the old duke riding his horse up and down the main stairs was perhaps the basis for rocking horses showing up as the toy du jour in all the upper floor bedroom nurseries. It may be that the rocking horse also signifies the nursery, as spelled out in English lore of the upper class, that is, the special out-of-touch world of the upper class nursery-educated, with their secret languages and way of talking. It is also true that the “rocking horse people” are mentioned in Strawberry Fields, and they may be taken to be people who have become accustomed to living in fantasy, stiffly, plasticly, going through the paces of corporate or middle class or upper class life, but detached. The horse aspect might also bespeak a wild animal element to this too. So, having seen this settling, we get Barb on the phone, calling upstairs, no problem, because she is also a loud mouth, and has no problem screaming

amar 10and it is almost as if the movie is timed to make the point that by calling up, she situated the killer at his point of remove, and so he took up his place, vis a vis her, or all the girls, all “whores” represented by her sluttish ways (again, this psycho POV)

amar 11then she goes back to talking, she is talking to her mother, and when she says, mother you are a real gold plated whore, but also that she has a ski place in the country, we learn that she IS a rich girl, but has been entirely neglected by her family, so has a deep hurt in her, for that

amar 13when she calls her mother a whore, she is seen POV by the killer, the first in-house sighting by him of anyone of the girls, all of whom are characterized thereafter as whores

amar 14and, of course, Kidder’s performance is so special because she manages to slip in between her moments of public bravura moments of private pain and fragility, as when, after the call, she is quickly devising a face-saving proposal, so her sisters don’t know what a messed up person she is

amar 15When, then, they get the first obscene phone call, in the movie, though it is suggested this has been going on for a while, Barb takes an interest in it, and is curious about its twisted sexuality

amar 16at one point even admits to being rather impressed that he has upped his game to talk of licking pussies, big pink pussies

amar 17and, then, another gem moment for Kidder, whatever this means, is she turned on by this? is her sexually liberated sex drive got so unhinged that some talk of oral sex by an obscene phone call turns her on?

amar 19she even has a smoke, listening in

amar 20and then returns fire and reassumes her role as the golem or guide in these matters, the front person, of the group, in dealing with the evils of the world, the experienced girl, and she taunts him, and almost at one point turns it into phone sex, and the other girls are horrified, thinking that maybe she is encouraging him, or putting a target on her back (which she is)

amar 21and then when Martin says that she is playing with fire, because a townie was raped last week, she says, you can’t rape a townie, meaning that townies are too tough to get raped, that is, it was part of it, for them, but also, she says, this is a sorority house not a convent, that is, we talk about sex, sex is good, sex is almost the point of all this, so, no need to worry

amar 22then when Carol, the first victim retreats, not being able to take it, Barb shoots at her, I know a professional virgin when I see one, and the others tssk along, though no doubt all sexually experienced by this point

amar 1 1and then the movie moves on. Later, at a house on campus (I am unsure of the timeline), where the sorority is staging a kid’s Christmas party, she reveals her even worse sense of the inappropriate by, in front of all the kids, at a public event, deciding to continue her binge, drinking bottle-heavy

amar 25she even SERVES ALCOHOL to one of the kids, while the father of the missing girl, Carol, is talking about his missing child on the phone (for this she might be arrested today).

amar 26then at the police station, when the Carol case begins to actually develop into something, she is back at “the man”, at playing at hijinks by relaying the sorority number to the dumb desk sergeant, this an old trope, it is FE exchange, that is Fellatio 2450, etc (note that when the girls first gather around the obscene phone call, the side of a calendar one sees only spell out, on screen, FE FE FE FE FE, for February)

amar 27and, then, that evening, the drinking still continuing, she is at dinner, or after dinner, sitting on a couch, paging through no less than a Penthouse magazine, while the father worries

amar 28it is a Penthouse, with a centerfold of a female nude, which she was scribbling on, and the question would be why is it in the house, if not to satisfy, in the logic of the picture, a same-sex vibe in her character (could she be miserable because closeted?)

amar 29then she gives her talk about turtles having sex for three days without stopping, unlike men, who take about three minutes, another jab, and after that, she is shown to bed, for she, they all now realize, has had way too much to drink

amar 30but not without a total reaction that she has internalized a bunch of inferences that, because of her taunting of Carol, she drove her away, to her room, and by upsetting her, and not letting rest in the group, she caused her death, and she is like, why don’t you say what you are thinking? you think I had something to do with this, I caused this, it’s my fault

amar 31one more time, some time later, we see her again, as we find out that she has yet another weakness, she has asthma, and should not have been drinking for another very good reason, it triggers episodes, but she did, and here she is, attending to by Hussey

amar 32but for this, she comes directly into the POV radar of the killer

amar 33then Hussey tucks her in, but not really, as she is pretty exposed, indicating her weakness, perhaps she left her chest exposed to help her breathe

amar 34and she goes, because drunk, right back to sleep

amar 35but while it was previously suggested that her first introduction and her rambling attack on all things by way of being drunk and wild, echoed the ingress of the psychokiller into the sorority house, making of him an all but homunculus form of her, them the two sides of the same coin, the failure of the sexual revolution, here, there is now a direct misdirection involving her to allow her to die unattended by the protection she was promised by others. As the killer steps aside, to hide, passing a picture of sorority girls past

amar 36Hussey is drawn downstairs into seasonal ritual by the appearance at their doorstep of the Christmas carolers

amar 37she then has to snap out of it, from the emergency mode, and having all these troubles in the house, to play the hostess, in a pro forma way, for the kids, for the season, and stand at the door and as part of the ritual listen to the kids sing out their song, next to the red star

amar 38and yet it is almost as if the red lit wreath star is this movie’s version of a shower sequence, as it is to the obligations of the season acts as the device that causes her, behind her back, to NOT PAY ATTENTION to what she should be paying attention to, and in that backstab blindspot behind her, behind the formal niceties of the season, the red lit star is contrasted directly and immediately with its eclipse form, the parodic black mass version of Christmas cheer placed by Barb on her dorm room door, the black Christmas wreath, ornamented with little bottles of alcohol

amar 39and made darker still (ie, black), by the killer’s shadow in POV falling on it

amar 40and then he enters the room, we see him in silhouette, but figured out by the glass unicorn in Barb’s surprisingly delicate collection of glass figures, the arty nature of which I have commented on in another note. But, at this point, I want to point out the unicorn nature of the nexus itself. That is, this is a clash of two injured people, a psycho and a drunkard, both are easily breakable, he is animalistic, she is glass, the horn perhaps represents his knife, his weapon, his ill intent, but the “unicorness” of it represents, in keeping with my previous analysis of the movie’s use of the trope of the Dead Eyes of the World, the absolute wrong-place at the wrong time stupid nonsensicalness of them coming in contact with each other, to this bad end. In this capacity, a unicorn represents an act of violence of shocking unnecessariness, a freak accident, as they say, but, here, a freak killing, with no point, except that it happens. And Clark is saying that this happens, this reduction to glass, in the wake of pro forma keeping of things like the holidays, and behind or in the eclipse of a wreathe reversed by alcohol into a black mass negation, which ten breeds other darkness. But, it is important to note, Clark is not saying that this killing has any agency, this is a clusterfuck incident in the big wide rationalized modern world, and not a ritual killing done in some contra or psycho world divorced from it, this is just the fuckedupness of the god of carnage of the world, expressing itself. I previously noted that Barb’s barbs are all expressive of pure spite and messing with the system and “the man” and have no serious point or in any way other than just being acting out of her hurt and pain and giving it to others. That is, I think Barb operates relative to the world of the 70s, much in the same way as the bikers in California biker movies in the 60s acted out irrationally and absurdly against “the man” and “the system” and in that sense I see their actions as but reactive responses in pure spite or hate to the current oppressiveness of mass modern life (see my piece on what the Swastika most definitely does NOT mean in a 60s biker movie, ie it is NOT a regression to neonazism). What to call this? I graph out her situation like this

amar 41

that is, while it is tempting to say that she is living in a glass onion, to see the world through it, and feel impulses from the wider world’s Sentients and Ambients through it, I do not think that is what is going on here. She has let herself, perhaps by drink, maybe by sex, be dissociated entirely into the far scaffolds of rationalization that afflicts modern life, where symbolic and utterly stupid secondary issues clog up the brain and carry things away in endless rationalization. And, then, out there, caught in a clusterfuck maelstrom, wider Sentient forces come in against her, and, because she is defenseless, having given in to all the world’s pressures, and let the world tear her apart, the Sentients whirl in in a manner of cutting, and tear her to pieces, leaving behind a raggedy ann doll ruination. I ran across a quite good word last night, in Gibbon. He talks of a sixth century Byzantine treasurer, Alexander, who reduced the size, but not the figure, of Byzantine coinage, so that the same size denomination was worth less, for that he was called PSALLICTION, the scissors. I believe I will call “psalliction” the process by which far off Sentients of a menacing sort tear to pieces persons who have allowed themselves to get caught up in the riptide of rationalization on the scaffolds of meaningless resentment and unhappiness in modern life (its symbol, then, a paper honeycomb decoration). And there is little question to me that Barb in Black Christmas (1974) is portrayed, for all her pulledapartness, as a girl who has been psallicted or subjected to horrible psalliction by the turn of the times from the 60s to the 70s, where a kind of hook of contrary red and green flows not unlike in a tornado circulation made those few years quite difficult to navigate. So, this is the particular locale of a particular tearing-apart mechanism of the world, and Barb in her bed is in that sour spot, ready for the kill

amar 42

and I noted before how odd it was, such a vivacious, aggressive woman, a sitting duck, dead asleep because of her drinking

amar 43even even uses the unicorn horn as the murder weapon, again, I will call a “unicorn” a basically freak killing, with no sense, or the victim thereof, a person who simply did not have to die, and, perhaps, I have talked about another of this type in The Undertaker, The Black Swan, here a kill that makes no sense, except as to convey the idea that these times are totally fucked up, Barb the Unicorn getting it then

amar 1 2and the minute before death shot, also a trope

amar 45some interaction with her visuals in her room, again reinforcing the “she asked for it” vibe

amar 46then, that’s that, there is a sense of the scene, she does reach up, to fight back, but she is helpless, it is over quickly

amar 47and the movie ends the rather sharp contrast between Christmas Caroling and Christmas Harrowing by pulling back to the black Christmas wreath, festooned thematically with a whisper of blaming at what made of her not only a sitting duck, but a unicorn death.

amar 48now, there are a few odd complexities that I did not pick up in an earlier screening, for one thing, now that Barb is dead, psychokiller can spend some time in her room, so the next call, I think, comes from her room, the empty bed that of her roommate, and by the phone, though I do not know how calls could be made from inside the house, nor does the movie try to explain this oldest of urban legends, and we see by the phone a poster for the McHenry sisters

amar 49then, I think, Andrea Martin must be her roommate, because she comes right in, to see if she is ok, and she gets it too, easily, from behind the door, so he stayed put

amar 50and I would certainly like to know what these posters are, but cannot make them out *though it has both a Che Guevara and a spreadeagle vibe)

amar 53then, later, when Hussey is told, leave the house, she nonetheless, being a good girl, has to go up and check for Barb and Martin, and so she comes back into the black Christmas wreath eclipse too

amar 54and it is at this point that she sees his Christmas wreath, Martin and Kidder wrapped up as if in a parody of triabic consummation, and is terrified

amar 55and since he is STILL on the other side of the door, we get a view of his eye, the cycloptic POV of the killer, from behind the door, looking, now, at her

amar 56two things here, or three. One, first of all, I would wish to know what the posters in Barb’s rooms were, because if by one’s being swept away by contact with elements of popular culture one is completely unfamiliar with that one is put into a state of unhingedness that can lead, in fact, to psalliction. I recollect being regularly exposed, on a the film schedule at my college, a whole series of early 70s current movies, if not blockbusters, then at least in theaters, such as Joe, Straw Dogs, Scarecrow, Panic in Needle Park, Deep Throat (yep), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Monte Walsh (terrible), and on and on, in which one was yanked out of one’s comfort zone to be asked to confront aspects of life one did not even know about, and sometimes this was quite upsetting (I can document this movie going as I have a record). The capacity of the 20 year old to absorb all this is limited, and thus can lead to simply feeling the scratching effect of psalliction. If we knew what she was watching, we might have a better sense of how close to the edge she was, in just reacting angrily to a world, nothing of which was working for her at the time (a feeling common in the early at-sea, unhinged 70s) (the most extreme example of which would be the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, by the unreal fantasy regime of the Symbionese liberation army, but which resulted in realworld confusion for her, and a severe case of disassociative disorder)

Second, I have noted that the killer was introduced as if in a duet counterpointing Barb’s first great spin of this-worldly bravura and posturing through the house. Then, Barb was killed when Hussey had to be watching her, but was distracted by the pro forma obligations of Christmas (the nondiegetic irony of this might’ve amused Kidder, whose career was said to be launched when Brian di Palma left a giftwrapped copy of a script for Sisters under her 1971 Malibu Christmas tree). Finally, Hussey, breaking the cop’s rule, and the cop failing to get her out of the house, first realizes with shock that it is all real and she is in trouble by seeing Barb murdered in her bed, now Christmas wreathed with Andrea Martin. Thus, at this door, at the nexus of this black wreath, symbolic of the fuckedupness of the times, she is now sent running. But, she cannot get out of the house, so she retreats to the basement, so the opposite of the attic. And this is where a very odd scene occurs, and one which places the movie entirely into the rationalized zone of the world’s fuckedupness, far from actual horror. She has previously realized that in so far as Peter (Keir Dullea) was with her, coming down the stairs, but in a false positive way to us, that is, made for a moment to be the killer, when the third obscene phone call was made, he could not possibly be the killer, she is relieved. But, at the same time, she is very upset with him, and they have been fighting, even on the phone, fed into the cops’ suspicions, by the fact that she has told him she is pregnant, she wants to get rid of the baby, he is adamantly opposed. So, there is an inference in his shadow on the basement window that maybe she confuses the two. But, once he gets in, not only is he solicitous in his calling her name, but, seeing her, smiles, what are you doing back here? but, then, the movie breaks, and when the cops break back into the house they find her unconscious in the basement, with Peter lying dead on top of her, and so they assume, yep, got him, Peter was the killer, take her up to recoup, to leave her there for the final crawl away

amar 1 3I mentioned in a previous note a certain medieval cast to this bedside vigil. Then amazement that the police did not search the rest of the house, or even the attic. But they did not because they thought they had their man, Peter, killed by her defending herself from the psycho killer, the killer of one girl in the park, then three or four girls in the house. But THEY ARE WRONG, that is, the movie, this movie, in a way that is not all common, gets itself wrapped up entirely in the red herring, and glories in the red herring, and it concludes inconclusively by the police thinking the red herring is the solution. And Hussey it turns out, to get her way, to be free as a woman from the burdens of children, Hussey committed murder of a person she knew full well was Peter, not the psycho, she killed him, and will get away with. So, here again, THIS, in the whole mis en scene of the movie is itself a PSALLICTION.

I have not mentioned the obscene phone calls. They are odd. They are also the basis for the urban legend that the calls were coming from inside the house. But, the weirdest thing about them, is that they were beyond irrational, they addressed no one, they just gave voice, like the opposite of oracles, to the madness of the outside world, of life now, of the times we live in, and in the use of the many voices, the splicing is almost as interesting in the annals of strange recordings in 70s movies as the backwards ramblings of the devil in The Exorcist, or the like. I do not have the patience to work out the details of the rantings, or where the clips all cut together, into chaotic but frightening nonsequiturs of rage, punctuated by obscenity, come from, but they bespeak the times, and the chaos of the movie’s mis en scene, and, moreover, they are the ultimate expression of a way of expressing onself that even Barb has taken up, all just things said, crazy comments, one liners, all over the place,

you’re a real gold plated whore mother you know that?….. you can’t rape a townie…..this is sorority house not a convent……I know a professional virgin when I see one…..rare species of turtle that screws for three days without stopping, not three minutes, like most men.

Meaning that the obscene phone call, and the phone, strangely enough, for this is quite antique, first expressed, in the group call, by the holes in the receiver

amar 58then after all the hijinks about phone numbers, and then all the cops and robbers about the way in which calls are traced, and then the full phone, unanswered, in its cradle, as the symbol of the filter by which the voice of the angry Sentients come into this world

amar 59and again, the urban legend, he is in the house with you

amar 60all of this speaks to the fact that the obscene phone calls were the very central instrumentation of the movie, then reflected in the character of Barb, and that the irrational, multivocal, schizo, multiple personality insanity of the clipped sequences of the phone were also reflected in her all-over crazy retorting, and that then all of this represents aurally the ingress of Sentients into this world in a way that by the depleting process of PSALLICTION in rationalized scaffold places can tear people to pieces. For all this, in addition to all the issues raised in a previous note on Black Christmas (1974), Black Christmas is, as one of those ramshackle 70s movies that tried to capture the roughshod nature of the transitions of the times, a quite good movie, and one in which the all but unknown Margot Kidder kind of stole the show, in her brief performance of a young woman very much of the moment, Barb.