Author Archives: Alex Good

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

*. We’re not in Nebraska anymore, cornhuskers. We’ve moved to Chicago. But while you can take the boy out of the corn patch . . .
*. This is not a movie that gets a lot of love (to put it mildly), but on the whole I prefer it to The Final Sacrifice (which was Children of the Corn II). There are some imaginative practical effects that are actually pretty good, at least until He Who Walks Behind the Rows finally puts in an appearance.
*. Or maybe that’s not He himself but just some garden variety corn demon that He summons at the end. I have to say I find the One Who Walks Behind the Rows to still be a pretty vague concept. Some fans complained that this film made a mess of the series’ “mythology” but I can’t figure out what that mythology consisted of in the first place. Is He the anti-Christ? Why would He have any relation to Christianity at all? In the original (and Stephen King’s story) the children use a Christian Bible, albeit one that leans heavily on the Old Testament. But the Bible here, despite being decorated with a cross, seems more like the Necronomicon. Is He Who Walks etc. supernatural, or uber-natural, being some kind of pagan fertility spirit? I don’t know.
*. The connection to Native American mythology, introduced in the previous film, isn’t mentioned. They still hold on to the idea though that the cult is a sort of youth Green movement, fighting against pesticides and pollution. This may be demonic corn, but at least it will be organic too. But such a message also sends mixed signals. Shouldn’t we appreciate the youthful idealism of this children’s crusade? Don’t we nod our heads a bit when Eli tells them that blindness comes with age and that children represent the purity of the land? I have to say, I’m with the kids on this one.
*. Charlize Theron’s film debut. I didn’t know that when I was watching. She’s one of the followers and gets attacked by killer corn vines in a rather suggestive way. Give the woman credit, she paid her dues.
*. Corn plants, by the way, do not have vines. I kept wondering where they were coming from.
*. As someone who has worked with corn a bit I feel the need to point this out. You don’t use scythes or sickles to harvest corn. They won’t cut the stalks, which are far too tough. You use a scythe to cut grass or grains. You also can’t cut a corn stalk with garden shears. If they really wanted to get rid of that urban corn patch I’m afraid they’d have to pull the plants up by the roots. Which is hard work even when the roots don’t go all the way to hell.
*. The premise here is pretty silly and, as discussed, the mythology (if we must use that word) is all over the map. It does have a kind of kitschy charm to it though, with the evil corn playing a similar role to the troll food in Troll 2. And even though I find the giant demon at the end ridiculous, it’s kind of fun as well. How could it not be when it’s credited to “Screaming Mad George”? Since there’s no way anyone coming to this movie could possibly expect it to be any good I don’t have to tell you to keep your expectations low. If you do you might find it worth your while.

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

*. This is a terrible movie, made nearly a decade after the original Children of the Corn in what was simply a cash grab. It would be the last film in the franchise that would have a theatrical release, and while I was watching it I had a hard time believing it ever made its way into theatres. Pretty much everything about it is bad: poor direction, awful acting, a worthless script. So let’s put all that aside and mention a few things that at least make it amusing. Just remember I’m not saying it’s worth watching, even once.
*. John Franklin and Courtney Gains (Isaac and Malachai in the original) are sorely missed. There’s nobody here who captures our interest, aside perhaps from Ned Romero as the Wise Old Indian Man. But his presence further complicates the nature of the evil deity (He Who Walks Behind the Rows). Is he (or He) a Native American harvest deity? There’s an interesting idea raised that the children are under the influence of some kind of corn mold, but nothing further is done with this. There’s also a suggestion that the children are perhaps eco-warriors, taking their revenge on adults who have polluted the earth. But again, this is only suggested.
*. So is He Who etc., even a physical being? If he isn’t, why do we keep getting shots from his Wolfen-style thermal vision? And if he can control adults too, like the sheriff here, why doesn’t He?
*. There’s an attractive teen lead, so of course he meets up with a sexy girl with a corn-fed body she doesn’t mind putting prominently on display. To the extent that we see her taking a shower in a waterfall while wearing a bikini and shoes and socks! Every truly garbage movie needs a moment or two you can laugh out loud at like that.
*. Apparently the children aren’t as steadfastly puritan as in the earlier movie. Could you imagine Isaac or Malachi killing someone with a remote-controlled toy car?
*. The toy car does give the film one of its signature scenes though, of the old woman in the wheelchair being tossed through the window of the bingo parlour. I also liked the guy getting a corn stalk speared through his throat, the old doctor being needled to death, and Micah’s psychadelic transformation (what was going on there?). Using the combine harvester as a way of doing people in was also a plus. They had some good ideas here. They just couldn’t weave them together into an interesting movie.
*. Apparently it was originally called Deadly Harvest. I wonder why they changed it, as I don’t think they had any intention of stopping at II and making this The Final Sacrifice. This sort of thing was typical of horror franchises at the time though. We were equally assured that Jason wouldn’t be coming back after The Final Chapter and The Final Friday.
*. I’d like to say this one is worth watching just for a laugh, but it isn’t. And the glimmers of potential only make it worse. But worst of all is the fact that there were many more children to come.

Children of the Corn (1984)

*. Technically, it’s Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. I’m not sure what King thought of it though or how much he was involved. He isn’t interviewed in the documentary on the Anchor Bay DVD release and his name is only mentioned once, indirectly, on the commentary track (with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby, and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains).
*. The story (which was first published in Penthouse) is expanded on quite a bit and has a completely different ending. Burt and Vicky aren’t an attractive young couple just starting out their lives together but are instead on their way to breaking up. They are taking a cross-country road trip to save their marriage but they both seem to know that isn’t going to work. This was probably changed because movies prefer happy people. It’s hard to like characters who don’t even like each other.
*. Movies also prefer happy endings, so the ending of the story, with both Burt and Vicky murdered and the cult going on its merry way, is jettisoned. Again, I don’t know how involved King was with any of this. He apparently did write a script but it was rejected for an adaptation he didn’t approve of. They still really wanted King in the credits though, as by this time his was a name to conjure with.
*. One thing you might turn to the story for is some explanation of how the children have managed to stay hidden away in the town of Gatlin for three years. Presumably they are harvesting all that corn themselves. And turning it into ethanol. Meanwhile, just by changing some road signs the town has vanished so completely that nobody can find it. Not government services or utilities. Not family members wondering whatever happened to in-laws or cousins. It’s just gone.
*. Well, reading the story won’t help clear this matter up. The children there have been in control of the town for twelve years without anyone noticing. As Burt reflects at one point, “What seemed to have happened in Gatlin was impossible.” “How could such a thing be kept secret?” he wonders. “How could it go on?” Answer: He Who Walks Behind the Rows works in mysterious ways. This is one of those things that’s just a given in order for there to be a story.

*. I remember not liking this movie much when it came out. And I’ve always wondered why it was turned into such a long-running franchise when even the original wasn’t a blockbuster. It did take a while for the first sequel to appear (Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice in 1992). Suffice it to say that the studio (which was also driving the Hellraiser franchise into the ground) was taking the low road to a bit of easy money. But that’s another story.
*. Watching it again now, I like it a bit more than I did at the time. It actually gets a fair bit of mileage out of its tiny budget (Kiersch says $1.3 million, $500K of which went to King, so less than $800K, which is nothing). It’s well directed, keeping most of the violence off screen, and it holds our interest. For such a cheap movie most of it looks suprisingly good. Still, I think it would be largely forgotten today if not for the fact that they rolled aces in the casting of Franklin and Gains as the odd couple of teenage psychopathy, Isaac and Malachai. Who can forget these two? Franklin (who was actually 23 at the time) with his Vulcan haircut (courtesy of a commercial he was shooting for a Star Trek video game) and Gaines as the ginger Mick Jagger. Is it any wonder they’re the only members of the cast on the commentary and in the “making of” documentary? They’re the stars.

*. Ah, yes. Once again the city people have left the highway to travel the back roads, and end up getting lost out in the country. Not the wilds, or a forest somewhere, but just the country. A small town. That’s terrifying enough.
*. Kiersch says he thought of it as a B-horror, which it is, but then says his models were Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Day of the Triffids. Hm. Can’t say I see it. And I’m not sure why I’d want to see it. How flattering a comparison is Plan 9?
*. The DVD box declares this to be “The original that started it all.” Well, that’s what originals do. And I like the noncommittal “it.” I take it that this refers to the long string of sequels, which almost nobody saw and few people remember today. King himself didn’t keep track of their number. Blame “it” all on this movie, people!
*. The basic idea is nothing new. The children of the corn are the children of the Village of the Damned. Because ankle-biters are rarely that scary in themselves they have to hunt in packs. It takes a village. Or at least a gang. Hence the Midwich Cuckoos. Or the kids in Devil Times Five, the psycho-spawn in The Brood, the bloodthirsty brats in the Sinister movies, or the whole island of pubescent maenads in Who Can Kill a Child? (remade as Come Out and Play). The premise is, however, an inversion of the usual King starting point, which is terrorized tots. I guess the revived Gage in Pet Sematary is another outlier, but more often in King it’s children who are threatened by adults.
*. I guess Jonathan Elias, who did the score, was listening to The Omen and liked that chanting business. I don’t think it fits. King has a major hate on for organized religion, but I found the evil force here a confusing thing. Why does it adopt so much Christian imagery, ritual, and language? Is there a connection between He Who Walks Behind the Rows and the God of the Old Testament? Why does the gopher demon care if the kids are listening to music or playing games? I didn’t think pagan cults were such puritans.
*. The ending has been much ridiculed. I don’t know. It was a microbudget movie so how surprised can we be that the ending looks cheap? I think they probably did the best they could under the circumstances. I wish it made more sense, but I wouldn’t make fun of the execution.
*. I won’t go so far as to say this is a cult favourite of mine, but watching it again today I appreciate it a lot more and can see why it’s stuck around. As a franchise, however, it went downhill fast and stayed there.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

*. As the title makes pretty clear, this is a mash-up, a label that refers to the mixing together of two (or more) very different, or at least somewhat incongruous, elements. So Jane Austen and zombies.
*. There’s nothing new in this. Movie pitches have been made for years using the same basic principle: a cross between Successful Movie X and Successful Movie Y. And the concept here is pretty clever. Its attractiveness is what made Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 novel of the same name a bestseller.
*. But then once you have the basic idea established disappointment sets in. It’s not that there’s nothing else to the story. In fact, there is too much to the story. Much too much.
*. Instead of exploring the comic of an outbreak of zombies upsetting upper-crust society we find out (through a well-executed credit sequence) that England has been practically overrun by zombies for years. So they’re nothing new. They also aren’t much of a threat since the fabulous Bennet sisters have all been trained as kung-fu warriors and Darcy is one of the greatest zombie-killers in the land. The upshot of all this is that there is little of the comic incongruity promised in the title. Zombies are just a fact of life.
*. Then there are the zombies themselves. These are unlike any other movie zombies I know of. Apparently the zombie plague is a progressive affliction that gets worse the more brains you eat. This somewhat explains the film’s opening line: ” It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” This is, of course, a riff on Austen’s famous opening line, but it’s totally mystifying until the zombie process is explained later. So it just lands with a thud.
*. But there’s a lot more than this going on with the zombies. It seems they’ve got religion and are thus somewhat sympathetic, making the trick Darcy plays on them at the end both counterproductive and cruel. Characters from the novel are introduced but the plot doesn’t know what to do with them. Parson Collins is comic relief, but he ends up just being dropped. Mr. Bingley has nothing to do except to show that women are tougher than men in this world. Mr. Wickham’s motivations baffled me.
*. In fact, most of this movie baffled me. I didn’t even understand the zombie geography, despite the frequent use of maps. London is surrounded by a wall, and then there’s an area called the In-Between that is overrun by zombies, and then there’s a giant moat separating the rest of England from the In-Between? Does that make sense? But the zombies are on the other side of the moat anyway. What’s going on?
*. There’s not much to like. It’s not gory, or funny, or gory-funny. It’s rambling and confused. Whatever charm it has all comes from Austen. BUt while Lily James is adorable as always as Elizabeth Bennet, Sam Riley struck me as miscast as Darcy and they didn’t have any spark together.
*. Given the film’s hook and pedigree it should have at least done well for a week or so. It didn’t, and was a box office bomb. As I’ve indicated though, the problem wasn’t with the basic idea. That was a winner. But it’s amazing just how big a mess they made of it.

Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)

*. The third (and hopefully final) part in what was a well-spaced out trilogy of Johnny English films, following up Johnny English (2003) and Johnny English Reborn (2011).
*. The dates help explain something interesting that I adverted to in my notes on the previous entry. When we first met Johnny he was a sort of Austin Powers clone, sending up the James Bond genre, albeit without all the references to the swinging ’60s. By the time we get to this film, however, a note of generational satire can be introduced. Johnny isn’t some revived refugee from the psychedelic age but a holdout from the analog ’80s. In other words, he’s a man of roughly my own age. It’s scary, but I found I could relate to him.
*. There seems to be a rule of thumb for how long things (including opinions, and people) that were once cool can be forgotten about before being laughed at. I think it usually runs about 25 years. So now (2018) someone who won’t use a cell phone or drive an electric car is a dinosaur and object of ridicule. The retro soundtrack is something that still has a bit of coolness attached to it, but Johnny’s mix-tape is actually a tape and as for Wham! they were always kind of silly anyway.
*. This analog vs. digital theme would work better, however, if we could ever believe that Johnny had been cool in the ’80s, and I can’t. He’s always been a spy nerd and can’t really be identified with the pop culture of that decade. So the satire doesn’t have anywhere to go, running out of gas as quickly as his Aston Martin.
*. As usual the plot is just kind of there to hang gags on. A character named Sebastian Lynch is introduced early and then simply dropped. I lost whatever connection he was supposed to have to the proceedings. The real villain then turns out to be yet another tech billionaire dreaming of a global takeover. When I bothered to think about it, his plot seemed redundant to me. Wouldn’t he become wealthier and more powerful just by letting the various states he’s dealing with do their own thing while he does his? Why bother making himself their visible overlord? He already runs the world so what more does he have to gain?
*. The gags themselves are crudely introduced (on the commentary director David Kerr says they’re announed with a klaxon) and play out in a way that leads to predictable chaos. The results are genial without being all that funny. Peter Bradshaw’s final verdict on it was “Pretty moderate stuff.” My own notes ended with the line “mildly amusing.” Even the generic title signals a sense of fatigue. After three of these movies, all of which I felt about the same toward, I probably shouldn’t have been expecting anything more, or less.

Johnny English Reborn (2011)

*. As you know from my notes on Johnny English, I wasn’t blown away by that film. One thing I really did like, however, and which I didn’t mention in those notes, was the theme song “Man for All Seasons” sung by Robbie Williams. I was really looking forward to something as good this time out, or at least a reprise, but instead we only get an instrumental piece to go with the credits that was meant to have a “classic Bond feel” (as explained by director Oliver Parker on the commentary).
*. Aside from this disappointment, I actually enjoyed this second outing quite a bit more than the first movie. The story is more Bondish but also more down-to-earth. It seems strange typing that, but the business of John Malkovich plotting to become King of England was too ridiculous for my taste. A mole (or vole) in MI7 plotting to kill the Chinese premier worked better for me. On the commentary track Parker discusses this a bit with screenwriter Hamish McColl and says you could well ask why you’d bother coming up with a plot that made sense in a movie like this, but that he thinks the effort was worth it. I agree.
*. The Bond stuff works pretty well too. I think the weapons lab can probably be retired now as a gag reel, but that chase across the rooftops of Hong Kong is a nice send-up of the parkour in Casino Royale (2006), and the golf scene, which is borrowed from Goldfinger, plays well with the coded dialogue. What I think helps here, in this scene and the film in general, is another point Parker and McColl make in the commentary: Johnny isn’t a total moron or fool here, as he was in the first movie. He has his moments, and not all of them by accident.
*. In all of this — the coherent plot, the closer adherence to the Bond paradigm, the fact that Johnny isn’t just an imbecile — I think there’s a point worth reflecting on. Parody and satire often work better the closer they stick to their target. If they go too far it doesn’t work.
*. It’s a great cast this time too. It’s always good to see Gillian Anderson, and Dominic West is a swell heel. Also Rosamund Pike before Gone Girl and Daniel Kaluuya before Get Out. Interesting to note that Pike’s first film was a Bond movie (Die Another Day), as was Rowan Atkinson’s (Never Say Never Again).
*. Johnny English came out in 2003 and eight years is a long wait for a sequel. What I find interesting is that so much has changed since Johnny went away (in order to find himself in a monastery). Indeed he is considered to be a dinosaur when he comes back. He isn’t Austin Powers, a refugee from the 1960s, but he’s a close analogue. He wasn’t seen as a dinosaur just eight years earlier, but now that technology has taken over (MI7 is in a corporate partnership with Toshiba) he’s a fish out of water.
*. So: a better production all around, and more fun than the first film. Not a knee-slapper, but a nice turn for everyone with a handful of very good bits. For whatever reason send-ups of this material seem to never run out of steam. But I guess as long as they’re still making new Bond movies there’s an audience for new Bond parodies. This wouldn’t be the last we’d see of Mr. English.

Johnny English (2003)

*. Maybe Rowan Atkinson’s brand of humour doesn’t translate well to the big screen. I think he’s a funny guy, but this movie, much like Bean (1997), didn’t make me laugh.
*. Was it just old? Heaven knows they’ve been sending up James Bond since about a week after Dr. No premiered in 1962. So this is awfully familiar ground. It’s about as far from an original premise as you can get.
*. Or maybe it’s too light. In addition to being a tired premise, Johnny English doesn’t have much of an edge. Most of the gags are conventional, playing off Atkinson mistakenly being in the wrong place (the funeral, the hospital) at the wrong time. There’s nothing shocking or clever going on, and indeed most of it is strained and obvious. The chase with the Aston Martin suspended in a sling, for example, or Johnny climbing up to the castle through the poop chute.
*. I suppose I could be accused of being a grump here, but Atkinson himself apparently didn’t think much of the film, calling it “five good jokes and a lot of longueurs.” That’s more good jokes than I counted, but maybe I wasn’t as bored by the longueurs.
*. What might have saved it was a good turn by John Malkovich as the villainous Pascal Sauvage. Sometimes a dramatic actor strikes comic gold when they get to ham it up in a comic role. Think George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove or Jack Palance in City Slickers. But that doesn’t happen here. Despite being fluent in French, Malkovich makes a very unconvincing Frenchman and I didn’t enjoy him at all. And even though you expect a scheme for world domination to be ridiculous, his actually has about three different parts to it, none of which make any sense.
*. Nevertheless it did well enough to spawn a couple of well-spaced out sequels: Johnny English Reborn (2011) and Johnny English Strikes Again (2018). Proof, if any more were needed, that you can’t go to this particular well too often.

I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

*. While The Maltese Falcon is often referred to as the first film noir, this Fox title was made at almost exactly the same time and on the DVD commentary noir historian Eddie Muller makes a case for it being just as important. He describes it as “one of the first films that can legitimately be called film noir” and identifies it as the very first noir produced at Fox.
*. I mention this not to argue the case for it being the first noir, or proto-noir, or something else but only to indicate that it was an early example of what would evolve into a type. Some of the iconic noir elements are already here. There’s the dramatic use of shadow. There’s a pair of his-and-hers police interrogations, one of them under a glaring (not to mention steaming) spotlight. There’s an innocent man on the run from the law.

*. And yet for all the film’s psychological creepiness, it’s missing something of the noir edge. Muller mentions a couple of ways this is expressed. In the first place there are the many abrupt gear shifts from thriller (the murder mystery) to romantic comedy (young lovers on the lam). To this I would add the way Victor Mature plays the character of Frankie Christopher/Botticelli. It’s almost as though Frankie doesn’t take the jeopardy he’s in seriously, even when his life is on the line.
*. The other factor that lightens the noir edge is the score. Or the lack of an original score and the use of Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow” throughout. Yes, “Over the Rainbow.” And I do mean throughout. Muller laughs at how many times it gets played. Is it inappropriate? I think so. The thing is, you can’t hear that song today (and probably couldn’t in 1941) and not think of The Wizard of Oz (1939), so it turns into a distraction as well as not really being suited to the action.
*. I also wonder how they got the rights to it. The Wizard of Oz was an MGM release and this is a Fox movie. I’m assuming they paid for it, but that just makes me wonder all the more why they wanted it.
*. I’m not a fan of Victor Mature, and even in a movie like this I think he falls short. As so often in noir, it’s the heavy who holds our interest. Unfortunately, while the imposing Laird Cregar starts off strong, by the end of the picture I almost feel that he’s become bored with the role. I enjoyed his almost sadistic pleasure in hunting Frankie though, and the way his “300 pounds of sexual perversion” (Muller) looms over America’s pin-up queen Betty Grable.

*. There are a couple of special touches. I like how the musical number is presented as a test shoot of the murdered woman being watched by several of the suspects. That was a neat idea. Also interesting was Cregar’s shrine to the victim. Is this the first such shrine in a movie? They would become almost standard in later stalker stories. Cornell’s worship of Vicky has reminded some critics of Lydecker’s obsession with Laura, and I suppose it may in fact have been an influence on that story most immediately.
*. I also liked the shot where the camera seems to pass through the florist’s window, taking us inside so we can hear the dialogue. For some reason Muller objects to it. I’m not sure why. When Welles’s camera passed through the skylight in Citizen Kane (a movie released only a month earlier) it was a showstopper.
*. The source novel by Steve Fisher had the same title. The movie, however, was originally released as Hot Spot, which I believe refers to the electric chair (a punishment Frankie is threatened with). After some fighting with the studio I Wake Up Screaming was restored. I’m not sure I agree with the decision. While catchy, I don’t see where it has anything to do with the movie. I haven’t read the book and I’m not sure where it comes from or what it refers to. I can’t even make a guess as to who might be waking up screaming.
*. It’s an interesting movie in a lot of ways. The leads were all just becoming stars. A new genre was coming into being. Cregar’s Cornell is a memorable villain with an obsession that would go on to have a long life (though Cregar himself would not). Elisha Cook Jr., hapless as always, is good for a laugh in his big scene. Victor Mature tossing his cigarette onto the deck at the public pool is one of those vintage moments that stick in your head, as was his line that nobody in their right mind goes to a library at 9 o’clock in the morning. Not true!

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

*. Damn. I was really getting into this. Then it tailed off. Not that the ending was terrible, but it just didn’t live up to all the promise of the set-up. It still ends up being a good little picture though.
*. I love the setting of the basement morgue, and the father-son mortician team. A limited set and a limited cast (we only leave the basement a couple of times, and only meet a handful of other characters, not counting Jane). It’s like an underground Lifeboat, a constrained premise engineered for its potential to produce taut suspense.
*. I also love the way the gradual unwrapping and digging into Jane Doe plays out like a detective story, taking a whole tradition of forensic cop shows going back to Quincy in an interesting new direction.
*. And finally I really like the cast. Emile Hirsch fits naturally into his part, projecting awkwardness, but does this movie work without Brian Cox? Not half as well. It really needs someone like him to pull off the Father Karras routine at the end, and throughout the rest of the film he lends a weight that steers the proceedings away from being just another teen horror flick.

*. When watching a tight little film like this you have to pay attention to all the little details and things in the script that happen early on because you know they’re coming back. Those convex mirrors (not as effectively used as in the elevator scene in Dressed to Kill, but OK), the bell on the toe of the corpse, the elevator, the girlfriend who says she’s coming back.
*. What happens to the girlfriend is surprising because it happens, not for how it happens. There’s a strand of contemporary horror (it comes out of horror fiction starting a while back) that plays around a lot with characters’ altered mental states. I have to say this doesn’t appeal to me at all. It seems a cop out and not terribly interesting when we discover that what someone is seeing isn’t really happening or isn’t really there. And if Jane Doe has this kind of power why does she even bother with anything else? She can just do the whole thing as a hallucination and then let her victims kill themselves.
*. I wonder what was going on with the subtitles on the DVD. As I’ve mentioned several times here, I like to watch movies with subtitles on because I have a hard time making out all the dialogue. For this one though there were a lot of places where the subtitles didn’t have any connection at all to what was being said. Somebody screwed up.
*. As I began by saying, it tails off from a promising start. I was expecting some twists or at least something really clever going on, but it turns out to be a pretty simple story, with all the usual scary situations people find themselves getting into in such movies. Director André Øvredal seems to know what he’s doing, but I didn’t see anything beyond competence with the material. It’s also pretty downbeat, but again that’s not surprising. Not surprising, but I was hoping for something more than that.

Pussy (2016)

*. What’s sauce for the gander is good for the goose. Or something like that. I have to switch the old saw around because a gander is a male goose, and the point of Renata Gasiorowska’s short film Pussy is that female sexuality operates in much the same way as that of the male.
*. Take the old expression that the penis (or cock, or dick) has a mind of its own. Well, here the protagonist’s vulva literally does its own thing as its owner suffers one too many interruptions in getting herself off.
*. Or take another stand-by that has the penis personified as a little man (sometimes one-eyed, sometimes wearing a helmet). In Pussy the pussy is a little . . . well, if not a little man in a boat, or even a man, then at least something. Maybe a giant, snarling vagina dentata. Maybe a cuddly little plush toy.
*. So hats, and pants, off to a bit of self-love. But this is a movie, so does self-love ever mean being alone? I’ve said before (see my notes on Mr. Adam Bitt at Convent and Night Trips) that porn isn’t about sex but about watching. So note here how we begin with a voyeur in an apartment across the street spying on the protagonist as she’s soaking in a tub. And how in the next scenario she gets ready to rub one out while sitting spread-legged before a mirror. She needs an audience.
*. The final stage in this process is that splintering of identity I’ve already talked about, as her pussy takes off and just does its own thing, looking to find its pleasures wherever it can. It’s a cute way of representing masturbation as part narcissism and part dissociation.
*. So much for intepretation and paraphrase. The execution? It’s nothing special. The plain line drawings, mostly using just a two-colour (red and blue) marker, are perhaps deliberately crude. The only thing I found disconcerting was the protagonist’s piggy, Dennis the Menace-style nose. Was that meant to be unattractive?
*. One thing the plain, primitive sketchiness of the drawing of the animation does is set up the orgasmic bliss of colour and loss of line at the end. Shades of the psychedelic money shots of Behind the Green Door, though without that jetting, directional quality. Instead the visuals have more of a lab-slide and sex-ed film feel to them, expressionistic renderings of combustible internal processes.
*. Is it all an ode to joy? I’m just a bit hesitant. The disembodied pussy is disconcerting, like something out of Gogol perhaps. And while there’s no harm in self-love, the proceedings here have the air not just of a quest but of a solipsistic nightmare. The big O is nice, but there’s also something grotesque going on here. She’s both going it alone and coming apart.