rev., Jan 13, 2020.
In this regard, picking up on blue, I argue that the Blue Boy theme, petitioning for his own exoneration, comes through by a blue color-shift that runs through the whole movie, and repeatedly seems to relate to the issue of his guilt or innocence. The blue color-shift also seems to host his rehearsal of his crimes, and the string of terrible things that happened to him, in such a number, 14, that, really, it seems completely unbelievable, and implausible, that all that could happen to one person.
So, just to go through them, the blue-shift starts with the fact that for the whole first half of the movie he lives, really, in the blue of an old tv screen
and may I say that it is almost as if his fantasy is fighting back, against him, because no sooner does he begin his story, than a passing car wipes it out.
then we see him on the stair, it is always dusk, end of a long day, another one
he climbs into his mother’s bed, in the blue zone, which is an old trope, to watch more tv, here too with the reinforcement of the virgin mother’s maphorion enwrapping him (the blue zone as a trope, from people in their houses watching tv in the dark, is an old trope, suggesting not paying attention to real problems, immediately picked up on as somewhat haunting when this viewing habit began to infest American homes in the 50s and 60s).
on tv, it is his late night show, also a trope (see Five Easy Pieces), here Murrray comes out of a curtain that is as if a peacock coat of colors, but the center is the blue curtain, he is Arthur’s ideal projection of himself, his eidol, with a intercessional opening, a gateway out
in the accidental gun firing incident in the living room, this is also played along with the tv
then, he has his fantasy of the neighbor asking him a question, the hallway is also blue
he gets the firing phone call at a booth again in the blue dust, this the third strike against him
then he preps to go onstage, it is in the blue, his bombing is the fifth strike (the fourth being the losing of the funding for his social service)
six, then he reads his mother’s delusional letter to Wayne, which is the sixth strike, it is in the tv blue
the seventh thing that goes wrong with him is the visit to wayne manor; the eighth is when his mother gets sick, the hospital is all the same turquoise tone of blue
while his mother is in a hospital bed he assumes a position watching the tv opposite here where he hears his hero make a laughingstock of him, this is the ninth strike
though there are some positive affirmations from the mob violence, in a scenario a lot like travis bickle a generation ago, but it ends up with him in I think another fantasy of a tell off, when Wayne punches him, that’s ten strikes, in a row.
then, in a very, very important shot, though it would seem to insist upon the reality of the first image, to make a dissolve to the second make sense, but he poses, bereft, angry, after the punch, and dismissal
and this cuts to an exact overlay shot to his kitchen, where it is all blue light, as before
then he does something very odd, opposite his mother’s apron, which formally looks like a guitar, he opens up the fridge, and I have written several times of the trope of Events Happening at the Open Fridge, it is a haunting place, in a haunted house, see Cthulhu Mansion, he looks in, as if looking for something to eat at a late hour. But, he is looking for more than food
he begins to reach in, with exertion, and it would be fair enough to wonder, what takes all that effort, foodwise?
but he is emptying out all the shelves, he is disabling the refrigerator, but the fact he can do it so quickly, without much food tossing, indicates how barren it is.
then he crawls in, to comfort himself, or kill himself, it is hard to say (as a trope, sometimes vampires were hidden in large freezers; kids in movies have also been known to have got trapped in such refrigerators, and suffocate; but this is a still functioning refrigerator, meaning that it is cold, and he is going in without a shirt on, and one wonders (apart from this being another typical way in which younger people often self-dramatize their depression) what is he doing?
even more so, in a shot that very much reminds me of the vacant through-shot at the beginning of Midsommar (2019), when dani is crying over her family’s annihilation, and the camera goes out the window into the dark winter night
it lingers there, as if to see if he is coming out, he is not
to explain this, we jump forward, past his getting the call about appearing on the Murray show, a good thing happening to him which in fact is going to backfire, because of his mixed feelings about Murray, we jump ahead to the hospital, where he steals his mother’s old files, and sees the truth of his life, she was delusional, an unfit mother, an abuser, who let him be abused by her boyfriends, the whole nightmare, always, of course, saying “he was always such a happy boy.” But in the bottom of the file, which he has to steal, then run down two incredibly long halls, then a stairwell, where he looks, another trope spot, the spiral staircase down, in the bottom of her file he sees clips, she made the paper, HE made the paper
he lived in a “house of terror” (it is feasible, given the blue boy theme, that he, having watched a lot of movies, is manufacturing this memory, and in his mind has manufactured this “proof” that she was to blame for everything, it does seem pat, comic book—is this movie a comic book deconstruction after all?)
then we see him, imagining himself into the past, over the shoulder of a lawyer who is talking to her about her crimes, she a young woman, so, moviewise, this is a fantasy, he has inserted himself into a scene in the past
his eyes fix
again opening up to the reading that all of this is just alibi form fantasy to exonerate him
then we see him back in the stairwell in the present, crying, screaming, laughing, all all at once, we see the top of his inside mouth, it is the palate shot, a trope, signifying he will die (only a persona will)
but then formally we go further down into the picture zone deeper in the file, and there we see, as if formally bouncing off the view of his teeth, screaming, the slats of a crib, then, even worse, and the very ur-device of his horror, the fact that he was tied by his mother to a working radiator, that no doubt burned him, as it was just an old fashioned metal one with its slatted exterior frontage
it is the truth shot at the bottom of his personal horror story, the echo form of the blue ukulele, but, then, the opposite form
of a method he had obviously devised in this battered childhood to counter the burning or heat of being tied up to the radiator, which would be to crawl into the refrigerator, for comfort of the cold, and to hide, and it is in this refrigerator that he was made over into the blue boy
this shot, way in the files, is his blue boy picture
it almost reminds me of pictures of the crying boy mythos in England, which I looked into during screening time with Velvet buzzsaw last year (possible real world ground for the Blue Boy mythos)
it is then, NOW, that in shock at his day, revealing the truth of his horrible life, that he then stumbles home then gets into his neighbor’s apartment, and we see the blue ukulele, which I think, for this reason, because of how it shows up, and where it shows up, to reveal that his relationship with her is a delusion, and that his life is a delusion, with a strong Pied Piper ethos in his fantasy to be a performer, as a way to escape it, we see the blue boy ukulele
then the static tv screen but white out as if beyond him seeking refuge in the refrigerator, now he seeks the refuge here.
back in his place, it all goes blue, he just laughs
12 is when he murders his mother, with a blue light reflection glare painting his face
this all happens in an entirely blue hospital, all in that same blue (weird too how this tonally corresponds to the use of HoJo blue in The Irishman), so he now stands, free, in the light, out of the blue, free of his mother and care for her
but, again, a possibly sly montage by Phillips, notice the curtains, it remains a stage; this shot of him then trying to take power from the sun switches instantly to a blur on the tv screen, this time on tape rewind so distorted with an emphasis on the blue, he is watching how a typical star makes an entrance.
I will also note in passing, a blue bag nearby
abstract, it enters into him
he is now dressed, as if by an epiphany instrumented by the household gods, into his model, which he now imitates strictly.
this is where blue boy emerges, again, most lit, as if leaving his old self behind, as he walks off the impromptu blue boy stage.
but note again, the sunlight, as at the hospital, has turned blue boy into a golden boy
and as we see him for the last time in his household prison, with blue pillows, shortly after a scene in which a pillow played the part of a murder weapon, the pillows are blue
even as he finishes his make-up, it is in his mother’s boudoir mirror, the bedspread is blue, under the lamp, the tv is turned off, he sits in the sun
but, then, another truth shot, reflecting back, by way of the refrigerator-to-radiator reaction, this time seeing his mother as a young woman with her cheap red dyed hair,
he looks at a picture of her as a young woman, always a provocative thing for a man to look at, a picture of one’s mom when she was young and sexy, it is possible, I claim it at present, pending, that he went green with the hair not only because his hair was green at the job he got fired from, as indicated by the effigy of the clown mask from work which he has hung on that mirror, but with blind spot eyes, he went green, to as if opposite, to BE his mother, erase his mother in his new being of himself without-her-influence-on-him, which is, of course, impossible.
the picture, this time in the shade
then he takes care of the red part in his thirteenth horror event, leading to his complete breakup, when he kills the guy who gave him the gun
then, THEN, which shows you how shallowly people read movies, when they are read simply as eidolic exercises to offer you role models for giving memeing to your life, but he has his coming out dance, after thirteen horrible things happening to him in the string of a week, a very complicated, entirely, in fact, implausible series of events, earlier him saying all I have is negative thoughts, the progress of the movie showing that in his life all he has is negative events, so this is his victory coming out. The thirteen collapses of self, resulting, then, in digging down in to truthtelling, then the repair of self away from the kid who was burnt by the radiator he was chained to (notice the fire escapes lining the triumphant stairway, he is dancing on the edge of the universe on fire), then, that not being enough, after all his delusions, an inherited disease, end, he BECOMES his mother, by killing her, and replacing her, as Joker (so a Psycho (1960) plot too, but a bit less gothic).
back in October, when I was working on the sequencing of the approach of a Conjure figure, I argued that, as it comes in on you, it might well reverse itself. This would announce the arrival of the Conjure Figure, who now comes in on you. What to name this phase, when everything turns? This is what I came up with (this from my entry on Victor Willing’s MS paintings).
But, then, it turns out, in Zosimos’s visions, he called a little attacking homunculi an ANTHROPARION. And that is what I will call this conjure figure demon, little, but obviously there, attacking. Zosimos particularly speaks of a priest who turned into the opposite of himself, so there is an enantiodromic quality, and I referred to this too recently with regard to the Joker stairs,
and the pictures.
but, relating to the Exorcist would be perfect too, he has exorcised his old demon, by taking a new demon into him
an opposite of oneself, likely also relating to Girard’s notion of the substitute victim being the monster double.
Thus, it is strongly suggested by the trope of the steps itself, that coming down as if another person or demon is part of the enantiodromic aspect of the long stairs as a trope in movies, going back some ways (my guess, American in Paris).
It continues, then, the blue gate opens to Murray, but, now, the new demon, he continues his posturing, going through it
then in the middle of his comedy, he goes steely, almost evil gay guy stereotype evil (sorry to point this out, but true), his eyebrow and bags under his eyes, in anger and scary face conveyed by, his evil eye conveyed by a framing of…..blue! to shoot Murray, to then enter into his career as Joker.
But, now, one more trick. In a youtube video I watched, it claimed that you could read the movie in whole as a long retelling of his life story to a new social worker in his hospital stay, that would explain the overloaded blame everyone-else plot, but then that would also make this sign off signal of the old days the crescendo sequence, from the refrigerator, to the tricephalic boudoir, to the stairs, this then becomes how he is, his old self as checked out, is off the air, a new self is a “native” or a “primitive,” the indian chief who used to close down tv in the 60s
how could one construe this, as this war bonetted chief, as symbol of the Joker, the new Arthur, composite of former fragments of selves?
first, we have seen him split into three beings, this started at the boudoir mirror, in a trope shot of such age I hardly need tell it, it is all but a cliché, if it were not for the fact that no one ever consciously reads it, but he splits into three, (the repeated underscoring his rib cage from behind might also indicate a desire to sprout wings, to be a new evil self, in this case, going down, a Cerberus figure.
then he is crowned, or war bonneted, as if by the sun god he worshipped at the hospital, to be forged into a new being, the fire escapes, in this entry, going down shot, into the valley of death, as it were, signifies his trial by fire having in fact forged him into a new evil being.
all his movements as if choreographed by the fire escapes.
also a well known trope of escape from one’s circumstances, in movies
then in triumph, he assumes a position of adoration to the new god, the sun of Joker, Apollo Far Shooter (this is getting quite midsommary), with smoke signals, so formally too, it is as if he assumes cryptically the mantel of the bonneted chief, the demon of the sign off, Chief Sign Off (I call this trope, and it is a trope pre-1980; but for that reason shows up in The Amityville Horror (2005) remake too) to become a night life self.
it is also true that the new social worker, also a black woman, as, no doubt, and in experience, most are, she has very strange eyes, looking at him, but doubting him, amused, or sad about him, I can’t make out the look, she is a very sympathetic looking person, but is she disbelieving his bullshit, is that why she is killed? because she is killed, and while African American and Native American audiences might be insulted by such a cooptation of their being, this is after all the normal way with evil white persons in psycho movies seeking exoneration for their sins (though he is Irish Catholic?), they not only blame their mothers for their horrible lives, they then have to find some scapegoats, and that always has to be, according to Girard, someone they perceive to be socially weaker than themselves, to that the “scapegoat mechanism” can click in, difference itself always being the exploiting factor, ergo, minorities, strangely, cryptically, the movie slipped her in at the end, to further make of him a kind of Legion demon with many selves now soddered by the sun into a new evil being of vengeance (some men just want to see the world burn, the Heath Ledger version said, where, we have shown here how this sign off from real life Vulcan was forged).
So, it is not simply, if this larger reading of the whole movie as a fantasy exoneration telling of his life to a social worker who is not buying it, and will be killed for her skepticism, her four eyes, two piercing, two reflecting the white of the table, in a clinical atmosphere, it is not simply that in this telling he did not kill Wayne and wife, he was out of it, in a crash, in another fantasy scenario.
it is that the whole thing is an alibi formation, a lie, typical of the psycho. But this also means that, with all this, he is the ultimate Blue Boy, IN HIS MINd, like in Black Christmas (1974), there is a psychokiller loose in the world, just like Keir dullea, he has an issue with a person involved in the defense against the psychokiller, thus implicating himself as the killer to the cops; then that person, but in this case, it is himself, kills him, to solve her problem with him, and the police believe it, he is the Wrongful Scapegoat, well, Joker sees himself as the scapegoat, but he also sees himself as the Wrongful Scapegoat, that is, he sees himself, regardless of whether or not the world does, as being not guilty, as everybody else is to blame for him turning out this way, as, in fact, the Blue Boy (the rationalist mind is stuck, in so many cases of shooters in recent times, unable to discern a “motive,” but the motive is in the activation of the “scapegoat mechanism,” at some point, he gets so out there, he bottoms out, fills up with blackness, and will take other with him in suicide, only, in this case, a comic book case, he went the other way, to develop a powerful new, entirely evil persona).
For all of this, then, it is quite surprising. The art directors sought ways to convey the idea that this movie is happening in old times, so they likely knew of the trope, then put Blue boy and Pinkie front and center of the psychosis of the family situation Arthur was caught in, to then work it out on its regular trope level, but then in the blue shift of deeper energies, then as a nexus which contributes to delusion as well, to provide a pathway to his Joker persona shift. It is surprisingly well done (and my guess is that a movie like this gets nominated for Best Picture precisely because it triggers from cinematic moments that are hard to explain, mixed or conflicted emotions that stir one up).
One final note.
In the middle of watching the movie, I came across this show by Win McCarthy.
turns out it was all about an evil clown. I asked Gen if she remembered when we saw the Big Apple Circus down south in Prospect Park one night, she vaguely did. But the far shot is of Grandma, a clown, a featured act, but later found to be a pedophile.
I remember him, the news is weird
when my daughter asked about why clowns are so scary, I gave her a bit of migration theory, I wrote on message, “passive-aggressive provocation to laughter which even in my childhood began to feel like bullying, like mean tickling, been scary now for over 50 years. Good summary. That is, the sense of humor of pre1960 was coarser, simpler, rougher, likely due to coarsening as a result of two world wars, it had this evil laugh element. Joker was born as a creation in that era, the beginning of flipping the clown to a negative thing, because it just began to feel, when sensibilities softened after 1970, mean, then scary, and thus we get to King’s It, which I also want to watch. In any case, this year, child abuse has emerged as the secret behind The Shining, I suspect it in The Exorcist, then there is the catholic church, there is the Qanon theory that there is a whole ring of child abusing sex traffickers lead by Clinton, so then the crowd in this movie all but replaces the guy fawkes face of ambient out of control anarchic populist force, and suggests equally a kind of Qanon or Clown conspiracy theory, as to the basic ills of American culture. It makes me wonder.