The new Jarmusch movie apparently details the fate of two vampire lovers who hole up and reminisce over their love of dead white intellectuals, escaping the zombie horde of lower class pop culture, and does so with reverence to their biases. The Hunger has a more interesting take on vampires and intellectual/cultural phenomena, mainly in that hip youth culture and high art are twin poles of leeching self-perpetuation for rich white one percenters. At first I was dismayed by the shoving of Bauhaus and Iggy Pop’s The Idiot aside for De Beers ad classical music montages, but instead of vying for youth culture relevance while hiding conservative moral ideologies (i.e. Less Than Zero) this makes pointed use of class signifiers like Schubert and high art collections as a means of retreating to the old guard in the face of a daunting, youth-bred future. Though criticized for its perfume commercial faux-elegance, Tony Scott’s attempt to break away from commercials suggests a subversion of his preceding aesthetic tropes is taking place. The classical music every now and then breaks into discordant if still ambient noise, the fluttering curtains and pigeons are disrupted by blood letting. Aging Bowie’s supposedly immortal masculine figure withers in the face of a dawning lesbian mutualism, but not without the hierarchical power dynamic that allows Denueve’s vampirism to perpetuate itself being seriously challenged in the process. The logic of how vampirism works is chopped and screwed to the point of incoherence but the blaring subtexts remain compelling regardless.
THIS IS 40
At a late point in the film, Albert Brooks’ jewy character hits up his son’s whitebread father-in-law for money, reversing the Jewish lender stereotype for a beggar instead. He then plays the anti-semitism card when rebuffed, which Robert Smigel opines never really goes out of use. The film that precedes this moment, though, suggests it has a long time ago, as the slippery slope of Jewish ascendancy into WASP culture (via years of de-ethnicizing ourselves into wealthy christian acceptance, despite Philip Roth’s best efforts, via Woody Allen’s self-hating Euro-worship, and even Apatow’s own sensitive bro-culture bromides) is more apparent here than ever. There’s even a running gag, though never explicitly stated, that Brooks’ three new children are basically Aryan princes. While one can accuse Apatow of endlessly mining rich white people for emotional material is offensive in this economy and in general (This isn’t 40 for everyone), it’s a milieu he finds subtle nuances in thanks to familiarity which is interesting in a documentary sense, even if settling into its pat traditionalism beneath the vulgarity resolution. There’s even a copping to it when Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are called out by Melissa McCarthy for being a “bullshit Washington Mutual commercial couple” who can use their education and class background to manipulate their way out of accountability in a Parent-Teacher conference. Apatow’s usual rockist tendencies abound but are also intermittently criticized such as when Rudd’s classic rock “good music” doofus-ery is seen as out of touch with women both young and old to the point of destroying his family both socially and financially (though Nicki MInaj deserves a better defense, her universal pop acceptance is achieved here anyways). For some reason I was expecting the Megan Fox character’s escort reveal to result in slut-shaming but there was actually a nice bit of sexual affirmation and feminine solidarity that went with it. That racist Indian doctor scene is straight up unexcusable, though.
Miguel Pinero’s prison workshopped play remains one of the best explorations of fluctuating power dynamics behind bars and how the correctional aspect doesn’t come from above, and remains shaky from below. Still ahead of even 2013 in that it doesn’t require a sympathetic, unthreatening white lead in order to make the problems of the prison universe palatable for middle class audiences, in fact it flips that dynamic on its head by making the white focal character a privileged white child rapist that only rallies everyone’s disgust, with a reassessment of everyone’s moral codes coming at his expense instead of due to any charitable intent on his part. The ramshackle lack of narrative arc, with rapping between prisoners, vibrant musical interludes from Freddy Fender and Curtis Mayfield, and high stakes squabbles is a fitting snapshot of post-60’s identity dispersal, with radicals, dopefiends and stray thugs making deals based around ever-changing lines of prisoner demarcation as opposed to any civil rights based ideological aspiration. Pinero’s insider perspective is also necessary for balancing a line between stressing the ultimate dehumanization of the prison system while also not mollifying prisoner culture via overly sympathetic archetypes (dealing with rape, murder, snitching, etc. without succumbing to a manichean binary), forcing engagement with the political dimension to be unconditional, which a lack of uplifting resolution and general sense of limited agency ensures.