I disagree with those people who have been whining that this has been a bad year for cinema. When contemplating going to a movie, we as New Yorkers have the luxury of choosing from more than just this year's slate of new releases (which I personally think has been fine, but that's a story for a different day). 2007 has presented me with some of the most exciting repertory experiences one could possibly imagine, such as: the Robert Altman retrospective at the IFC Center, Bela Tarr's SATANTANGO at BAM, the Norman Mailer retrospective at the Walter Reade and Anthology Film Archives, the Museum of Moving Image's "Uneasy Riders: American Film in the Nixon Years, 1970-1974" series, the Film Forum's comprehensive "NYC Noir" lineup, and of course the midnight screening of TROLL 2 at the Sunshine. But this past Saturday night, I had an experience to shatter all of those combined and confirm 2007 as one of the all-time greats. (Note to readers: I know I can get embarrassingly hyperbolic on this site, but please excuse me while I break out my can of Harry Knowles’ First Female-Induced Ejaculate for this post. It warrants it.)
The event was called Take Over BAM, and it was a major success. The basic concept was to open up shop after hours and turn the entire Brooklyn Academy of Music into a more youth-oriented multimedia extravaganza. In the opera house, bands played; elsewhere, DJs spun; burlesque performers burlesqued, artists exhibited, etc. But, of course, the main attraction for me was the cinematic portion of the event. Each screen had its own specific agenda. In one was Nicolas Winding Refn’s grimy THE PUSHER TRILOGY. In another was a set of classic music docs (GIMME SHELTER, ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, STOP MAKING SENSE, THE FILTH AND THE FURY). In a third was something titled “When Animals Hug,” featuring a bunch of films in which animals stepped into (or, more aptly, were dragged into) the spotlight. But it was in the last theater where my mind was blown into a trillion pieces, during the “Lindsay Lohan Mid-Career Retrospective.” No, I’m not talking about FREAKY FRIDAY, MEAN GIRLS, or THE PARENT TRAP. I’m talking about this:
I can’t wrap my head around the fact that this movie came out three months ago, for that technically makes it a 2007 release (and that shows just how cruel this world is, how this thing somehow managed to slip through the cracks). That also makes it a shoo-in for my top ten of the year (maybe even top five). But it cannot be denied that the circumstances surrounding the screening made it feel different than a typical new release, so there are a few different factors at work here. Let’s not worry about those for now. Or maybe we should. I’m too dizzy to know how to approach this one. Let me just dive in headfirst and see what happens…
I should probably try to explain myself a little better.
There are times in a movie lover’s life when the many random, scattered forces surrounding a screening coalesce to create a truly perfect experience. Saturday night’s screening of I KNOW WHO KILLED ME was one of those. I’m almost afraid to watch it again, for I know what happened was a magical once-in-a-lifetime event, but as Chris Wells said, the movie is too amazing to not deliver in any situation. Still, I'm convinced that it will never be as good as it was on Saturday night. Even if they start showing it every weekend at midnight, it won’t have the same spirit. Which isn’t to say that they shouldn’t, because they should. Somebody, anybody, please show this movie at midnight! This weekend! Next weekend! Forever! Please!
Last week, I saw Anthony Hopkins’ terrifying (and by ‘terrifying’ I mean ‘inexcusably, horrifically shameful’) SLIPSTREAM. The only compliment I can pay that nuclear bomb of a misfire is that it teaches a very valuable lesson, and that lesson is as follows: There is only one David Lynch, and his brand of dream logic filmmaking is a gift unto him and only him. But something happened last year to discombobulate that statement. That something was INLAND EMPIRE. For my confirmed reaction after having suffered through INLAND EMPIRE twice in one week was strangely similar to my reaction to SLIPSTREAM. Somehow--and this doesn’t seem logical or possible--but somehow even David Lynch isn’t always capable of being David Lynch. It’s that hard. Dream logic cinema, or as I’ve coined it from this point forth, “avant-retarde,” is the riskiest venture out there. And it almost always fails (another semi-recent example is THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, which is laughably entertaining, but ultimately unsuccessful). Yet just when I thought it might be impossible to capture that inexplicable, bizarre spirit, along come two relative nobodies, director Chris Sivertson and screenwriter Jeff Hammond, to show the world how it’s done. I KNOW WHO KILLED ME is the definitive avant-retarde motion picture, one that will be talked about for decades to come.
Was this on purpose? Could someone really have their cake and eat it too, delivering one of the most impossibly perfect so-bad-it’s-incredible movies that I have ever seen? Is that really possible? It doesn’t even matter, to be honest. That said, if it was intentional I would be in greater awe than I was while watching the opening shot of SILENT LIGHT, or the entirety of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, or the long one-takes in CHILDREN OF MEN. I firmly believe that I KNOW WHO KILLED ME is a rare gift to the world on par with those recent achievements. This thing is a train-wreck so miraculous that I woke up thinking I’d dreamed it up in my own brilliant subconscious and that it hadn’t really happened. To confirm that it wasn’t just a dream, I visited the film’s official website to watch the trailer and some clips. After having done so, I am happy to report back that, no, it wasn’t a dream.
Of course, the fact that this movie plays like a batshit insane movie-of-the-week about Lindsay Lohan’s unending spiral into oblivion further cements its genius. But that isn’t even what makes I KNOW WHO KILLED ME such an eye-popping achievement. Take away that impossible to ignore parallel and the thing still shines like a rare, precious gem in an endless field of possum turds. Here are only a few of the highlights:
A random owl close-up dissolving into a close-up of Lindsay Lohan’s slutty face, battery operated feet, a mysterious Latin stranger on a bus saying what should have been the film’s official tagline: Sometimes people get cut, electric blue flowers, surprisingly thoughtful and artistic (albeit obvious) Antonioni/Hitchcock references, hilariously generic cops, Julia Ormond like a Stepford Wife on a medicine cabinet of pills (what happened to her career???), Lindsay Lohan sitting in a wheelchair with a nub for hand (I want to make a t-shirt of that image with the accompanying text: “Lindsay Nohand”), grotesque special effects, preposterous dialogue (“Your only twin sister is you!” or “You go right ahead and you kick yourself to the other side of this problem!”), inappropriate stripping footage (not because it was graphic, but because they picked some of the most unflattering angles imaginable; seriously, Lindsay would have been better off letting them get a straight up beaver shot instead of that unsettling crawl up the back of her thighs), a killer straight out of Blue Man Group, Joel McNeely’s satirically brilliant score (again, all good/bad intentions aside), and that’s only a fraction of the madness. It really was unrelenting.
Experiencing the insanity with good buddies Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson would have been sufficient, but to find myself sitting beside Aaron Katz and Chris Wells made it even more amazing. To paraphrase Wells, you could tell that everyone was waiting for it to slow down and derail (or perhaps I should say ‘re-rail’), but it never did. It just kept steamrolling, barreling, stampeding forward, one outlandish situation after another, one ridiculous moment after the next.
As I said, it wasn’t just the movie itself that made the night so legendary. It was the atmosphere and environment. At one point in the third act, right before the you-have-got-to-be-fucking-KIDDING-ME climax, the projector shut down, yet this only added to the tension and enhanced the audience’s glee and enthusiasm. When the film finally ended and the credits began to roll, I did what any good American would do: I stood up and gave the most enthusiastic standing ovation I could possibly muster. Lest you think I was drunk (which I was), I would like it to be known that many others joined me in my vertical fervor.
It’s somehow fitting that this was the exact same theater where a few months ago I experienced another of my all-time great movie-going experiences, surviving Bela Tarr’s staggering seven-and-a-half hour SATANTANGO in one sitting. However, if I had to pick which event of the two was the more perfect, amazing, and momentous, my objective verdict would have to be…
Miss Lohan: 1, Mister Tarr: 0.
(I KNOW WHO KILLED ME is coming out on DVD on November 27th. Buy it, Netflix it, do whatever you have to do, though I recommend watching it with a small group of likeminded friends to make the experience even more special.)