Issue 71

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14 Issue 71 / 2015 FILM 20 years after refusing to reprise his most famous role, Thompson invests all his money in his own adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Haunted by the spectre of his past success, plagued by Ed Norton's unpredictable method-acting diva and resented by his daughter, Thompson spirals faster and faster out of control. All this whilst trying to ensure his production goes smoothly despite one disastrous rehearsal after another. Riggan Thompson is frenzied. In fact, he is all the 'Fs'. Frenetic, frantic, feverish - fucked. The fervid sound of the drums, like something out of Whiplash, keeps your heart-rate over 160bpm. You would be forgiven for being relaxed at the beginning of Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance). After all, the opening shot is as tranquil as can be: a man in underpants levitating, deep in contemplation about his standing in the world. In the background, a clock is heard ticking. You take a breath. And then don't breathe for the next 100 or so minutes. There is no time. The film was shot to appear as one take. One scene bleeds into the next. There is no respite. The long take ensured the viewer felt as breathless and frenzied as Keaton's washed up protagonist, Riggan Thompson. The technique works excellently in the labyrinthine claustrophobia of the theatre where Thompson is staging his play. Their poor lighting and narrowness hammer home the message that the walls are closing in on the washed-up actor. He's not coping. It is still only the beginning of the year, but Birdman has set the standard this year's films should aspire to. It's unlikely many will reach those lofty heights. Michael Keaton's Riggan Thompson is a washed-up actor trying to resuscitate his career 20 years after turning down reprising his most famous role. Haunted by his past success, plagued by disastrous rehearsals, the walls are closing in. We take another look at Verhoeven's trash masterpiece Showgirls Campy enjoyment of supposedly bad movies reached its apex with Tommy Wiseau's ostensible drama The Room, a film so profoundly incompetent that it subsequently amassed a cult following of fans obsessed with its outrageous ineptitude. The failure of the so called 'Citizen Kane of bad movies' and its wide acceptance poses an interesting question: Why are movie fans so obsessed with trash? Is this simply spectatorship-schadenfreude or is their merit in it? Generally speaking 'So bad, it's good' is a flawed cliche and the movie I've chosen for this piece is in my estimation so good that it's perceived as bad and with that in mind I present Showgirls (1995) whose reputation very much precedes it. This film got its director kicked out of Hollywood, decimated the career of its lead actress, rocks a lowly 19% on Rotten Tomatoes and is a straight up masterpiece. The product of sly Dutch subversive Paul Verhoeven, Showgirls confronts notions of good and bad with a blitzkrieg of debauchery and sensory overload. This proudly satirical beast, an epic chronicling the rise and fall of a Vegas showgirl, has become infamous for embodying trash in movies but what Showgirls actually does is aestheticise it. Though endlessly mocked for its blasphemous dialogue and wildly uneven performances Verhoeven's intentions reveal themselves through the director's formal rigour (Showgirls boasts some of the best Hollywood filmmaking of the 90s) and the latent and sophisticated critique of American capitalism and patriarchy the film represents. The critical tide has shifted for Showgirls in recent years culminating in Toronto essayist Adam Nayman's great book It Doesn't Suck, inspired by french auteurist Jacques Rivette's expressed admiration for the work. Hate it or love it this vicious satire is undoubtedly the think-piece object d'art of its time, inspiring the kind of re-evaluations that keep film culture interesting and vital. So Good, It'S Bad: ShowGIrlS 'BIrdman (or the Unexpected VIrtUe of IGnorance)

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