Steven Shaviro is the DeRoy Professor of English at Wayne State University in the US and the author of many wonderful books like DOOM PATROLS and CONNECTED. His new book POST CINEMATIC AFFECT, is about the intersection of supermodern life and the new cinema. I asked him to write to you about his strangest and/or most interesting film experiences of the last year.
This is not a definitive top ten list; there are too many recent films that I still haven’t seen (including Red, based on Warren’s graphic novel). But the films that especially impressed me over the past year include the following:
* Splice (Vincenzo Natali). A box office flop, but to my mind the best SF/biohorror film since early Cronenberg. Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody are genius bioengineers who create an intelligent transhuman entity as their “child,” and then don’t know how to treat her. Disturbing less for the body special effects than for the emotional claustrophobia. What’s the use of creating something new, if we still act in all the old, stupid ways?
* Scott Pilgrim Vs the World (Edgar Wright). Another box office flop that I thought was pure genius. A movie entirely styled in the manner of indy comics and 1980s videogames. A film so dynamic, and so attuned to our current multimediated world, that it even made Michael Cera seem empathetic. This is the future of movies; nearly everything else seems drearily 20th-century in comparison.
* Life and Death of a Porno Gang (Mladen Djordjevic). This Serbian film has not yet been released in the US or the UK, though it played at several horror festivals, and has been in circulation on the Internet. A troupe of performers goes around the countryside on a hippie bus, offering audiences “the first porno cabaret in the Balkans.” But they are drawn instead into a creepy underworld of violence and exploitation. Eros turns out to be no match for Thanatos, at least in today’s world of gangster capitalism. A film that pushes into new extremes of graphic sex and violence (although in this respect it is outmatched by its companion piece, Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film, which goes to extremes that would make even the crassest exploitation filmmakers blush).
* Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé). An amazing psychedelic downer of a movie. The main character is killed in the first few minutes, and spends the rest of this 2 1/2-hour-long film in the afterlife, forced to relive his sordid memories and forgotten dreams, and to see what happens to his loved ones in his absence. It’s all cheap drugs, furtive sex, and failed hustles; and yet it also gives you a transcendental rush. It’s actually a remake of Kubrick’s 2001 for the twenty-first century, when we have forgotten about outer space and become fascinated instead with inner space.
* Adopted (Pauly Shore). Yes, the whiny and obnoxious MTV comedian of the early 1990s is back, having reinvented himself as an independent filmmaker. In this pseudo-documentary, Pauly (playing himself) goes to South Africa to adopt an orphan, figuring that what’s good for Madonna and for Angelina Jolie has to be good for him as well. The result is awesomely cringe-inducing; Pauly embodies everything that’s despicable about the condescending, racist, rich Westerner who goes to a poorer part of the world convinced that he is God’s gift to the “natives.” It’s hard to tell when Pauly is deliberately being satirical, and when he doesn’t quite realize what he’s doing; but this confusion is what gives the film its undeniable edge.