Pugs_Neutral(1)Well you did it Stonewall, you managed to publicly coerce me into watching something you recommended.

For those who haven’t read it, Stonewall threw down the gauntlet last week and challenged me to watch An Act of Faith and Jimmy’s End from Show Pieces, a short film series by Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins.

alan_moore
Wild Man Alan Moore
mitch
Cool Dude Mitch Jenkins

So here’s Pugs take on Show Pieces. First I’ll talk about An Act of Faith

To prepare for the cerebral snooze fest that I was being shamed into watching I made an extra strong eggnog and rum cocktail (being the holiday season and all). Turns out that I didn’t need that cocktail for An Act of Faith, it ended up being well worth a watch.

This films strongest quality is its patience. It’s extremely confident in where its going, and it doesn’t need to rush. The patience and deliberate pacing are an excellent mirror for the sexual ritual that Faith is conducting.

the fascinating part of the film is the plodding, quotidian way Faith goes about her business. ~ Stonewall: Dec. 7, 2016

So yeah, that’s basically what Stonewall said. So nothing new there.

Props to Mitch, this is a beautiful shot
Props to Mitch, this is a beautiful shot

I can hear you all now, “So that’s it Pugs? Wow great review. Hey, I can do great reviews too. I’ll just take Roger Eberts review of Citizen Kane and say ‘I Totally Agree, Samesies’ and become a great movie critic.”

But wait there’s more. Next up is Jimmy’s End, and I do not agree with Stonewall on this one. I really needed my eggnog cocktail for this one. More like three.

The magic of Jimmy’s End is that it is one of the least subtle films ever made and, believe it or not, I’m complimenting it.  This film masquerades as an art project, but it can’t go for two minutes without hitting you over the head with exactly what is happening. ~ Stonewall: Dec. 7, 2016

I agree with Stonewall on one aspect: this truly is one of the least subtle films ever made. However, is it masquerading as an art project? Is it purposefully subverting the film school tropes we’ve come to dread? I don’t think so. I’ve sat through my fair share of film school exhibitions for friends and family. I admit I see some of these trends in Jimmy’s End, but Stonewall, I think you’re seeing what you want to see.

There’s no indication in my mind that Mitch and Alan are poking fun at film school try-hards. I commend them for making an experimental film that’s extremely purposeful and clear spoken. However, just because most experimental film is  muddled crap doesn’t mean that by making something that isn’t muddled crap Alan and Mitch are saying anything about the state of experimental film.

Even watching the directors commentary I didn’t get the impression that this was the case. From what I can tell the idea for Jimmy’s End was born from a photo shoot, and then developed from there. Maybe there was a particularly snobby film student as an assistant at the shoot that sparked the ire of Alan Moore?

Mr. Clown is not amused at being the butt of the joke
Mr. Clown is not amused at being the butt of the joke

So what are we left with if the film is not, in fact, making a statement towards experimental film? Jimmy’s End is an unrelenting look at the inability of a man to accept his fate. James lives where he is ‘most comfortable’ (an approximate quote from James Mitchum, a character from the film) and refuses to accept his fate until the very end.

Which is great, and the ending finally brings James into the fold as Alan Moore delivers an interesting speech. But is the ending “an exclamation mark that sends shivers down the spine and elevates the piece as a whole…. beautifully, succinctly, and quite sadly sums up not just the life of James, but the human experience as a whole.” Not really. It just seems like more of the experimental themes seen throughout the piece. Pretty straightforward. That’s fine. Just not life changing.

Hugs and Kisses and Unicorns and Rainbows for Stonewall. I’ll be thinking on my gauntlet challenge for you 🙂

 

strike-a-poseAs noted by Cioran in Anathemas and Admirations, a man can forgive any crime against him, but if you question his discernment you’re making an enemy for life.  With such high stakes, I hope you’ll indulge me in a response to your response.

There’s no indication in my mind that Mitch and Alan are poking fun at film school try-hards.

I’d like to point out how low stakes this one is.  We both agree that Jimmy’s End is a film about a man who is coming to terms with his fate and there’s some disagreement over the end.  But even if I were to find that Jenkins’ visuals were not a nod to other experimental projects, that is still not touching the core of what Jimmy’s End is.

However, I would argue that there is an indication that something is amiss, and that clue is An Act of Faith.

Consider Michael Bay.  Upon viewing the excessively stupid visual assault that is Transformers, you would be right to assume that Bay is not a director that has much to say.  But what if he said that he was coming out with a series of interrelated films and the first one was Citizen Kane?  In his debut film, he shocks people by showing what movies could be with a masterfully crafted character study.  He then proudly releases his second film, Transformers.  Now, you could dismiss it as a big dumb movie, but given what came before it, do you not think it’s rational to assume that there is something else going on there?

Given how subdued An Act of Faith was, I would contend the less grounded opinion is that Jenkins lost all subtlety when making Jimmy’s End.  I’d turn the question around and ask what indication do you have to believe this?

But whatEVs, I’ll not belabor the point.  Like I said, there’s just not much at stake.

So what are we left with if the film is not, in fact, making a statement towards experimental film? Jimmy’s End is an unrelenting look at the inability of a man to accept his fate. James lives where he is ‘most comfortable’ (an approximate quote from James Mitchum, a character from the film) and refuses to accept his fate until the very end.

Yep.

But is the ending “an exclamation mark that sends shivers down the spine and elevates the piece as a whole…. beautifully, succinctly, and quite sadly sums up not just the life of James, but the human experience as a whole.” Not really. It just seems like more of the experimental themes seen throughout the piece. Pretty straightforward.

There are two things going on here, and the first I’ll probably not be able to convince you of, though I will fight the good fight.

The Subjective: This is a beautifully written speech, from the allusion to death as “the long expected great surprise”, to the imagery of the empty chair, to the evocation of the light, the light, the light.  The only dud line was “flung to the mortal swim”, which really only stands out since it has the misfortune of being preceded and proceeded by its sexier brothers and sisters.  At least he didn’t say “mortal coil”, am I right fellas?

But like I said, not much I can do to convince you here.  It didn’t resonate with you.  That’s too bad.

The Objective:  What I think you’re actually missing is who is delivering the speech.  That would be Metterton, God, the Great I Am.  I would remind you that this speech is dripping with mortality.  This begs to come from a Hamlet and it has the tone of a Jennifer Rockwell, who in Night Train judged life and found it wanting.

It’s an insult for a god to stand among mortals and sum up mortality on their behalf.  Add to this that not only is he holding court on a subject he knows nothing about, but he was both the creator of life and he is the one holding it in contempt.  I know of no good analogy here.  The closest I can come to would be a plantation owner gathering together the slaves every night to tell them how sad a life it is, being a slave.  Except at least the slave owner didn’t create them.  At least a slave owner could make the claim that he, too, is just a cog in the machine, playing his part.  The creator of the universe can make no such claim.

And here you really can’t say I’m reading into this.  This is precisely Metterton’s character as fleshed out in A Professional Relationship, where Matchbright (the Satan figure) comes across as the far more sympathetic character as he pleads with his creator, who, like a child playing with an insect, pitilessly makes it clear that everything is as he commands it to be and it will continue until he says it’s finished.  Eloquent though he may be, “because I say so” is really the only thing Metterton ever offers in terms of the whys of the universe, so this speech on the human condition, because it comes from him, is particularly salient.  He admits the pitiable condition of humans and yet shows no pity as he gives a sermon to us on something we know well, but he will never himself understand.

Take it or leave it.  I’m just here to offer pearls.  Whether or not you choose to be swine is beyond my control.

 

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