Next week at the moviehaus... : LUSENET : Aeon Flux : One Thread

Hey, has anyone else been lucky enough to catch the previews for 'The Cell' at one of the few times they've actually aired them on TV? It looks incredibly, incredibly beautiful - tons of highly surrealistic fantasy sequences, and a deep look into the mind of a disturbed and psychotic killer. On the other hand, it looks like those incredibly beautiful bits might be smothered with a standard "Capture-the-bad-guy-and-force-him-to-tell-us-where-the-last-victim-is" kind of plot. Either way, I'll gladly pony up my $7.50 to see this baby. Plus, of course, who could miss Jennifer Lopez in read leather bondage gear? Mmm...

-- Charles Martin (, August 10, 2000


Heh. I first saw a rare commercial trailer for this film about two months ago, and it drew my attention like a magnet. I had no idea what I was seeing, yet the images alone made me ignore everything else around me for 30 seconds. I've been following it ever since, but unfortunately, with some investigation, I've come to form the same expectations. But, who knows. If anything, you're right, the visuals are breathtaking. I'm the type that could appreciate a purely visual film, without obvious script, just to soak it all in. But I suspect that this is because there are underlying symbols in these images that my mind is attracted to. The whole thing reminded me of a beautiful painting, and I only hope that, to continue the analogy, the curator won't excessively interrupt my appreciation of it.

-- Matthew Rebholz (, August 10, 2000.

It's been said that "The Matrix" might be a good prediction of live- action "Aeon Flux", well, I think that this film might do an even better job, considering the more colorful and exotic designs that seem to be involved.

-- Matthew Rebholz (, August 10, 2000.

Well, I just saw this movie. Be warned, this post talks about it in detail, so if you want to be surprised...

I really, really liked it overall, yet I had really hoped for something more. I was disappointed that probably most of the movie took place in the external world, I would rather have explored the mental state a little more. On that note, some of the scenes within the psyche were stunning and breathtaking, particularly that scene in which she first encounters the "king", with the purple fabric behind him, the minimalist, booming music in the background, the sense of impending something... it was all really frightening and impelling and beautiful. I loved the concept of making physical different aspects of the mind. If I do become a filmmaker, that concept is one that I truly wish to pursue in depth, the realization of emotions and ideas in physical form. Even before I knew about this movie, I had been writing a story that involved the exploration of a person's mind in the dreamstate by splintering one character into many. I love stuff like this, and the movie had enough of it to keep me interested. Still, it left me inspired to create something exploring it further. This film also reminds me a lot of the music video to Madonna's "Bedtime Story" - if you liked this movie, you should see that video. Not as dramatic, or explored as in-depth, but very much along the same lines.

Unfortunately, the film had what I saw to be a bit too much of a typical plot, not excessively or annoyingly so, but enough to make me notice and lament it. Fortunately, I only remember being bothered by excessive explanation once or maybe twice ("These must be his victims", all the matrix-esque explanation of how the machines work, etc.) but I suppose it was to be expected. The little bit of "final showdown" almost scared me, but it recovered slightly enough not to. I was kind of hoping that the scenes inside their minds would be more mysterious, like a David Lynch dream sequence. Luckily some of the scenes were, like the dismembering of the horse, and the scene with the three doll-like women whispering oddities that only edged comprehension.

Charles, did you notice how cool the design of the scientific complex was? I don't know about you but I really liked it. The designs within the mind were somehow, mostly less appealing to me, but the costumes were great. Other things I liked: the humanizing of the killer, how we came to sympathize with him, the "twizzler suits", the whole concept of being suspended, which permeated the film. I liked it, and I want to see it again. One major complaint, though - the movie doesn't even dare to break the 2-hour mark.

Oh, on a side note, I really want to find that animated film that Lopez's character was watching at home, I've seen still frames of it before but never in action, but I know I've heard of it. It was really surreal and it got my attention. So, what did anyone else think of this movie?

-- Matthew Rebholz (, August 18, 2000.

I guess this post should have a big fat SPOILER ALERT too.

Well, I saw this sucker last night, and, looking back on our pre-viewing speculations, I would say we were sadly correct and, if anything, understating the case a little bit. I agree that the fantasy sequences were undeniably beautiful, but that festering pile of real-world crapulence they were shoved into - whew. Horrible script, terrible acting, and way, way, way too much exposition. Over-explaining things seems to be the cardinal sin of movies these days. Looking back at my original post, I think I actually called the breaks pretty well. Those beautiful surreal sequences are smothered by a mundane plot ripped directly from Silence of the Lambs.

As for the good parts - those little surreal vignettes inside the killer's head all play out magnificently, with few exceptions. (The intestine-winding thing, for example - not too gross for me, but the costuming of the king just forced me to giggle.) My very favorite moment is when Lopez finds herself inside that tiny glass box - only by pushing the 'top' of the box open does she discover it's actually the bottom. Other good stuff - the horse cutting - beautiful. I actually read about this in a computer rendering magazine months before the movie came out. And yes, an actual horse gave up its life to sliced into tiny sections which the computer animators could work with. (a la the 'Visible Man' project) And Matt, I love the three nymphs the detective meets - though they're obviously mother-figures in a classical Freudian sense. Each of them whispers a different opinion of the killer, her son. With the real-world sequences, the one thing I liked was the subtle references to the dream-worlds. Like the killer's desert hide-out echoing the desert in the little boy's coma vision. Also, the presence of water all around the research complex - it seens whenever Lopez is talking about the killer there's a pond in the background. Speaking of the complex - the architecture was nice, in a generic Modernist kind of way. One bit I did love, though, was the statue in the pond outside the conference room (a renaissance nude) - I'm pretty sure this setup is copied exactly from Mies's Barcelona Pavilion.

The director (Singh?) is a music-video vet, and so he could even be the guy behind the 'Bedtime Stories' video. (which I love, btw.) While other music video directors have made great crossovers into cinema (David Fincher) The Cell, I think, is pretty much a career sinker. What I could picture clearly, walking out of the theater, was the director, the D.P., and the special effects crew responsible for the fantasy sequences beating the holy tar out of the writers and studio execs who shoehorned their wonderful scenes into this cheap Silence of the Lambs meets Seven story.

My final call: A few lovely scenes trapped in a horrible movie - really, a prime example of all that's wrong with hollywood today. Just enough intellectual stimulation to activate your brain, surrounded by a flood of mind-numbing crap that puts it back to sleep again. I'll watch it again - once it's on DVD. That way I can just skip all the real-world parts. In fact, I'm pretty sure the movie would play beautifully if you deleted every real-world sequence after Lopez enters the killer's mind for the first time.

-- Charles Martin (, August 20, 2000.

Actually, "Bedtime Story" was directed by Mark Romanek, a really great director (although I have no idea how he'd fare with a more narrative film; as far as I know he's only done music videos). He also did "Scream" by Michael Jackson, also good, and many other big names like Fiona Apple and Macy Gray, etc. I'm such a freak for this guy's work that I went so far as to buy an entire Madonna video compilation just for that video. Plus, the song was written by Bjork, so I love it all the more for that. Tarsem Singh has done an REM video and some others. I haven't really followed his work much.

Oh, and as for that animated film Lopez was watching in the movie, it was "Fantastic Planet".

-- Matthew Rebholz (, August 21, 2000.

All I kept thinking during this movie was how does Vincent D'Onofrio's character, a psychotic, part-time truck driver living in a hovel,come to possess a subconscious that's so well informed by the rarefied tastes of Artforum and the London art scene? Wouldn't it be dandy to have nightmares art-directed by Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst, Pierre et Gilles, the Brothers Quay, H.R. Giger, just to name a few? Takes swiping ("sampling", "quoting", "homage"...yeah, whatever) to a new level of shamelessness. Glamorously designed and photographed sadism.= exploitive and gratuitous in the purest sense.

-- Peter Chung (, September 22, 2000.

After reading this I must say you have a point, Peter... I suppose the public-at-large probably wouldn't have noticed the ample referrences, which I suppose betrays the creators' intended audience, and accordingly, their lack of ambition to reach for a more intellectual crowd. I must admit I didn't notice the referrences on first viewing, but it makes perfect sense in retrospect. Also, wouldn't the structures of the mind, although based on the audio- visual language of our daily lives, take on a more abstract and unrecognizable form? Something with no art referrences at all, something more personal? Surely each man's mind is has its own, unique interior designer, so to speak. Each person constructs their own model of reality, identical in purpose but individual in how it came about and in the specifics of its machinery (I hope that came out making sense...). And beyond this, I think each line and form and color would be more than just a decorative device, as it was in this film, but rather each containing a purpose and a meaning (and yet, isn't there space in the brain for meaningless nonsense? And how can one know the difference?) I have so much to say about this because I've slowly been writing a story about this sort of thing lately, it's a concept that's been eating at my brain for months now. "The Cell" had a lot of potential to do the sort of thing I would have hoped for, but didn't quite pull it off right. Still, for me it worked as some good escapism, and helped to refuel my fire, just like every other somehow unsatisfying movie does. I appreciate the movie in that sense, at least.

And, as you commented, I did recognize the odd way it made violence feel so seductive and beautiful, and not just common violence that we can see anywhere, but things deeper, like true suffering. The movie put a sort of sick, almost invisible feeling in the back of my head... makes me wonder if that was the intent. When I first saw the movie, I didn't really mind the lingering, multiple scenes of the victim in the tank. After reading a few reviews that attacked this aspect, then seeing it again, it really felt excessive and unnecessary. Then there was the horse thing, which, although it may have some obscure significance for that mind (of which we can only imagine), it's really just an excuse to dissect a horse in a slick, CG manner. This movie really was an exercise in sadism, only delivered in a pretty picture to the viewer. Again, was this the intent? And then I think, well, why do this? Why sneak pain disguised as pleasure into the viewers' minds, ultimately doing them some harm, perhaps? (And, could this be one source of our society's increasingly violent state? Subvertive media such as this?) I'd much rather explore the more intellectual aspects of the mind; the way in which it's depicted should only serve to convey those aspects, either in a blatant manner or one more mysterious, but still decipherable. Anyway... thanks for listening to my rant.

-- Matthew Rebholz (, September 22, 2000.

Matthew, there's no mystery as to the intent of the image of the horse being sliced. This is a blatant rip on a notorious art installation from 1996 by Brit bad boy Damien Hirst (except that Hirst sliced cows-- also pigs and sheep, come to think of it). Go here to see for yourself:

For more on Hirst, see:

In the context of the movie, the horse vivisection scene has absolutely nothing to do with the characters or the story; it was nothing more than Tarsem "doing" Hirst on a Hollywood budget.

The review that had the most fun playing "Name that Swipe" with the film was from the Village Voice (scroll to the bottom of the page):

-- Peter Chung (, September 22, 2000.

Thanks for the links, Peter, I appreciate it. God, what a knock-off, you're absolutely right. My opinion of Tarsem Singh is steadily dropping... coincidentally, I've noticed that a lot of music video directors tend to do that sort of thing, making referrences to certain artists or artistic movements. I suppose the lack of a narrative drives them to find something else to fill the frames, as they desperately try to avoid just showing the band... not that that's a good excuse.

After reading about Damien Hirst, I rather admire him, not to mention agree with a lot of his ideas on art. He's right in saying that the media ruins peoples' appreciation of a thing, especially with art. I also like his ideas on the potential for the extraordinary being found in the everyday; One of the things I want to do as an artist is use objects, systems, media, whatever, to convey things they weren't originally intended to (for example, one of the scenes from a story I'm working on tries to bring human expression to the freeway, revealing personality through the non- anthropomorphic form of an automobile. I have a problem with so much anime, going "the easy way" and just putting characters in human- shaped giant robots; why bother?). The fact that he works in multiple media makes me like him all the more; I'd like to accomplish the same sort of thing in my career, while focusing on film. There's something I really like about fixture pieces like his...

-- Matthew Rebholz (, September 23, 2000.

It's been a long time since I've read the Village Voice, that WAS fun.

-- Barb e. (, September 23, 2000.

"how does Vincent D'Onofrio's character, a psychotic, part-time truck driver living in a hovel, come to possess a subconscious that's so well informed by the rarefied tastes of Artforum and the London art scene?"

Er... the collective unconscious?

-- Paul (, September 24, 2000.

I once saw a stand up comic who wanted you to imagine Stephen King having a nightmare, he posed as Stephen King sleeping, with his eyes shut, and shrugging his shoulders, and saying, "Ha! That's not so scary" "Mmmph, that's lame...", "Kid's stuff...", it was pretty funny.

-- Barb e. (, September 24, 2000.

Artforum is a part of the collective unconscious? What about Better Homes and Gardens? ;)

-- Matthew Rebholz (, September 25, 2000.

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