Posts Tagged ‘nihilism’

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I indulge some guilty pleasures, stuff from Showtime and HBO, as many do.  It’s usually more engrossing than the network TV universe, with naked people and bad behaviors.  I’ve gone in for the L-Word, The Tudors, Weeds and recently gave a shot to Californication, starring David Duchovny and Natascha McElhone.

This hyper-real often silly show spouts dialogue that is so over the top and accelerated that no one really talks that way.  Stuffed with sarcasm, allusions, metaphors and anger, the show combines the ridiculous with a deeply flawed and dramatic main character arc.   People like watching others self-destruct, and David Duchovny makes a sport of it.

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I had to keep watching because Hank Moody’s family struck a relevant chord with my own experiences.  Not the steady stream of sex and alcohol, unfortunately, but the female members of his on-screen family unit.  Moody’s situation is one of an exceptional and often estranged middle-aged father trying to keep his family together as their teenaged daughter matures and drifts away.  His relationship with his wife Karen is epically strained, and no woman in her right mind would ever return to Moody.

That’s one of the weaknesses of the show.  Karen is pulled around like a puppet, constantly.  She lacks the agency needed for this to be taken seriously.  They try to put Karen in the driver’s seat, but it’s always a response to Moody’s crass infidelities.  Duchovny’s voodoo hold over womankind is taken to laughable extremes.  He’s a philanderer, an arrogant loudmouth and a drunk.  His excesses push farther than viewers might expect.

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I think Californication is a bell-wether of our nihilistic, self-absorbed age.  As in Wolf of Wall Street it’s our culture, and it’s real enough.  We are the new Romans drowning mindlessly in our excess and depravity.  There isn’t much to redeem these characters.  Human, yes.  Heroes?  Not on your life.

 

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Despised by critics, Anne Rice’s tale of vampire mainstreaming has its flaws.  It also works significantly better than its first installment, Interview With the Vampire, where Brad Pitt was horribly miscast.  Even Tom Cruise felt wrong at a gut level, although both of them can act.  It just wasn’t going to work from inception.  The best part of the Interview film was the amazing Kirsten Dunst, who stole the show at 12 years old.

The Rice universe is so un-Hollywood.  It doesn’t jibe with red carpets and hype.  There’s a subtlety and complexity that is on the page, and perhaps film isn’t the right place to try and recreate it.  The two mediums are just so different, and the characters can seem a bit of a letdown when cast with actors.  Much of the magic doesn’t translate at all.  At least in Queen everyone involved looked dead on appropriate.

Queen of the Damned is more of a filmable story than some of her other books.  Tension ramps up toward the end, but there was a cold distancing from the characters that plagued the movie.  Empathy for the characters was in short supply.  None are particularly likable, although Akasha, the Egyptian Queen, is stunning to look at and brought a powerful presence that was unexpected.  She gives the film hope, once awakened, which is actually rather ironic.

I don’t think I’m totally off base seeing Lestat as a harbinger of a new age of nihilism.  Lestat is a product of the imperial age, while Akasha is the ancient absolutist.  But Lestat bridges the ages, uniquely touching the ancient lust for ultimate power, and yet he has adapted to modern mass market consumerism and our sense of individualism.

With society lost in this age of confusion, the death of the old way and struggling to forge a new response to global awareness and raw, arbitrary exercise of power, Lestat becomes a symbol for our time.  He’s a rock star, mass murderer, rabid individualist who would give the finger to the entire vampire race.  He doesn’t care about the consequences.  Suicidal?  Or inspired to progress?  The same questions can be asked of our society.  We’d give the finger to future generations and to the ecosystems of the earth for the glory of our own whimsical chaos.

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The big question in vampire tales is always how they relate to the still living, seeing them as worthless food or retaining human compassion.  Here Lestat is a bit muddled, wishy-washy over the course of the story.  Lestat is disillusioned with vampirism, the old ways, and yet flirts with Godlike power as he has throughout the books.  Here, the point is not so clear, and the story’s ending seems truncated and perhaps a bit unsatisfying.

The critics had a shit tossing fest at the film, but what are the alternatives?  It’s damned hard to make a vampire film that works on every level, which does something new and yet doesn’t go off the rails.  Case in point, Twilight, an abysmal juvenile take on vampires, at least the first film.  I avoided the others.  Even Coppola royally fucked up the granddaddy of them all – Dracula: terrible casting, terrible creative license with the source material, one of the biggest mistakes in all of recorded vampire history.

What Queen of the Damned did was stick to the spirit of the original, the coldness, the animalism, the nihilistic desperation of it all.  This was quite a bit closer to Rice than Interview.  Not a great movie, but definitely better than most vampire films.