I never saw this coming: today has been all about shoes and curtains. I think I may be malfunctioning.
Ordinarily I’m good at what you might call bloke shopping. This means that when I go out for a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread I will return with a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread, but I may also have a bag of Cola Cubes, a Scalextric set and a couple of Steven Seagal movies on DVD. That’s the blokey way. Hey guys, are you with me, huh? Huh? Eh? Guys? It’s the hunter-gatherer in us.
The shoes and curtains were a shock to the system though, way outside my comfort zone, and as soon as I got back to the flat I had to stride manfully over to my alphabetically arranged shelves and just hold my copy of Where Eagles Dare until my testosterone count was back up. Then I took my copy of Serpico to one side and told it not to worry, Sex And The City will emphatically NOT be moving in as its next door neighbour.
The curtains are for my bedroom. I’ve been sleeping there pretty much nightly for eleven and a half years, but for some reason the streetlight outside has just started to bug me. Maybe the council have turned it up. The curtains are splendid anyway according to the curtain shop lady, heavy, thick and lined. (The curtains not the lady.) They couldn’t be more opaque if they were the cladding round a nuclear reactor. In fact the possibility exists that I may have taken it too far and rendered my bedroom frighteningly dark.
Unless there are mind-boggling unforeseen developments in the next two hours I will be going to bed alone tonight. I may just wake up with the screaming ab-dabs.
Shoe shopping! It’s not as crap as it used to be! That’s how they should advertise shoe shops. It’s brilliant. All you have to know is how big your feet were when they stopped changing size and what sort of shoes you like. I’m 42 (which is 8 in English money) and I like Converse All Star basketball shoes and Caterpillar boots. The end. The shop I frequent is called Schuh, which is also brilliant as it is evidently foreign for Shoe. It couldn’t be simpler.
My memory of shoe shopping when I was a kid is that it was the kind of ordeal they used to use to sort out witches from non-witches in mediaeval times. The shoe shops even had an instrument like a mini car-crusher that you had to put your naked, childish foot in. The explanation was that it measured your foot exactly. My suspicion is that it crushed your malleable young bones into the shape of the shoe they wanted to sell you. Always the clumpy one. Never the cool one with the animal footprints on the sole and the compass in the heel.
One movie today, and second time around Antichrist is still an incredibly upsetting hour and three quarters. It was one of the best films I saw at the cinema last year, and I’m encouraged to see that it has lost none of its power on Blu-ray. The scene of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character’s self-mutilation, which single-handedly (as it were) gained the film its notoriety, is still one of the most physically distressing things I’ve yet seen in a film with a BBFC certificate. But, as with the shower stabbing in Psycho, the shark attacks in Jaws and the exploding head in Scanners, repetition and familiarity lessen the shock and it starts to look more like the cleverly edited effect that it is.
For all the trumpeting of the film’s violence, there really isn’t that much of it, certainly there is sicker and more protracted mortification of the flesh in Mel Gibson’s despicable The Passion Of The Christ. Antichrist’s power and menace don’t come from its overt depictions of the physical. They come instead from the film’s grim consistency of vision, and its unshiftable embracing of the centrality to human experience of pain, grief and despair.
I’ve never rated von Trier before particularly because of his involvement with Dogme 95, a pompous doctrine of cinema that eschewed contrivances like acting and lighting in some misguided pursuit of authenticity. Jean-Luc Godard once said “Cinema is truth twenty-four times per second” and whilst I agree with the frame rate I disagree with the central assertion. I think cinema, even documentary cinema, is made-up stuff, artifice, subjectivity and point-of-view. (Shame-facedly I have to admit that that’s kind of why I like it.) To its benefit Antichrist bears none of the choppy, handheld Dogme trademarks. It is a complex formal construction whose pieces fit together with micrometer precision like the blocks in an Inca temple.
Antichrist may not be anything more substantial than von Trier’s articulation of the depression he was suffering from at the time he wrote it, but it feels to me that there are large, dark issues swimming around just underneath the surface. The man and the woman (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s characters are nameless) are the only people in the movie, all other figures are kept in the background with their faces digitally de-focused. They are both staying in an isolated place called Eden, returning to nature after the death of their child, a death they failed to prevent because they were distracted by sex whilst it happened. There is all manner of revulsion on display (self-loathing, hatred of God or men or women, disgust at nature) and there are no boundaries, I suspect, to the interpretations you can bring to Antichrist.
Knock yourself out. That’s what it’s there for.
Lastly, it’s marvellous to see an arthouse movie that is culturally in thrall to works like The Evil Dead and The Toolbox Murders. I don’t think I’m going to get tired of this film any day soon, but it’s not something I’d want to go to bed on.
I think I just have time for Monsters vs. Aliens before checking out my new blackout curtains.
Ah, my curtains… I had to ruche them before hanging them you know. I don’t think I’ve ever ruched anything before in my life. It was good though. I’d do it again.