Sunday, May 20, 2012
What's so Funny?
So, Chris watched FUNNY GAMES for the first time yesterday. I watched most of it with him. It's only the second time I've seen it and the first in several years. I completely get Brandon and Ed Gonzalez's dismissals of its haughty attitude and holier-than-thou finger wagging. The more you know about Haneke, the more the film takes on this frustrating air of superior detachment.
Yet, why did I still find it to be so much fun?
I think I was right when I earlier described how the film escaped Haneke's clutches. I am now certain that the film isn't the preachy message on violence that he intended, but the most deadpan joke ever made on the representation of violence in a film and our relationship to it. It comes across much more as an Odd Future type "I'm going to see how much I can offend you to the point that you crack a smile and give up your self-seriousness" than the Euro-art-house intellectual chastising us for being so insensitive and inhuman. For that, the film is genius. It's so much better than Haneke ever intended it to be. I suspect he'd be pissed off at my reading of it, but that's what happens when you make art: it takes on a life of its own. FUNNY GAMES lives and breathes to stifle you at every corner, but not in a snobby way. It just wants to upset you. It introduces red herrings only to take them away from you, it mocks you for sympathizing with the victims, it stares at you and wants to include you in its cruelty, but at the same time pushes you away and silently mocks you for even thinking there's anything cruel about it.
FUNNY GAMES is all one, big joke and here's the set-up: have two killers who are constantly telling you what they are doing is fake and rigged and their victims who are constantly trying to reinforce to you that what is happening to them is not fake and they are being completely tortured. This is incredibly provocative because its telling you not to care about what you are seeing and then doing everything it can to make you care. The killers might as well be saying "what are you getting upset about? You see this actress here. She's not really in pain. These are fake tears." But this only makes the actress seem MORE in pain and more tortured because she never flinches. It's a really brutal joke, but it's an ingenious one. It forces you to think about your relationship to the film, to representation itself, to your feelings, to your ideas, morals, beliefs, etc. Ultimately, I think it just wants to knock all of this down and get you to smile because you no longer care. It's not nihilistic; it's anti-serious. By the end of the film, it just wants to give you a moment of complete self-loss and abandonment. By the time Paul casually dumps the mother overboard you should no longer care because you know its fake and meaningless. If you still do care, the final shot of Paul staring you down is the ultimate "why the fuck are you still mad?" moment.
The problem with Haneke is that he was being entirely serious with his intention for the film.
But, it's actually so much funnier and trashier than he could have anticipated. So, I have to disagree with Ed Gonzalez when he says that the Haneke's finger never points back at himself . I think those two killers are in such complete command of the film that they killed Haneke right out of it. This movie is so much more punk than Haneke ever realized. And its the more awesome for it. He completely lost control of this picture. In the end it isn't his voice that rings out, its Paul's.
Anyway, that's my final say on the film for now. I completely accept Brandon and Ed Gonzalez's take on the film because it's hard to overlook Haneke. But this demon baby is so much bigger and better than him.
In other news, I think what John said about formula is what I wanted to say but for some reason couldn't reach. Some formula is better than others and some of it just appeals more to me. I don't like the formula for HOSTEL, but I do like the Brechtian formula for FUNNY GAMES. Just personal preference.
I'll watch DAMSELS at some point. I'm just not going to pay to see it. The same thing has dawned on me with THE AVENGERS. My cheapness trumps my curiosity.
THE WIRE is partly a police procedural, and a damn good one at that. But, like Brandon mentioned, it is also partly a drug procedural, and a damn good one at that. I have nothing else to add. haha.
I guess I don't care enough about FOLLOWING to even really get into it with you, John. I think you make a great point about it not really having the soul of noir but just its surface formula. Absolutely. It's very neo-noir, not so much noir. I only brought up the film's adherence to noir formula to challenge your idea that the film is purely Chris Nolan's attempt to be superhumanly clever and original. Saying the film is "all manipulating formula without the heart of the formula" is a much better criticism than saying it's just Nolan up to his usual "clever" tricks again.
It seems that Ben and Chris and I are all in agreement on SHAME. I can't imagine anyone in our group really getting behind it. It sucks.