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1.30.2008

HERE BE DRAGONS

Cloverfield
Directed by Matt Reaves

Written by Drew Godard

Produced by J. J. Abrams











Radioactive cautionary nothing. Godzilla - - - and really that entire lovable and endlessly regurgitating man-in-suit phenomenon - - - struck me as a symptom of some annihilation and renewal trauma, a culture crawling from the wreckage and ritually purging its hand-me-down collective memory of destruction at the mercy of an atomic behemoth. Godzilla was da bomb, so to speak. But that came much later, of course. More Eiji Tsuburaya voguing on Ray Harryhausen, Godzilla always had/has me at rampageporn.

Post-911 New York tussles with its own Hiroshima shadows. Relocate Godzilla and reframe the rampageporn in the default platform of the September 11 attacks - - -amateur video - - -and you’re tapping into these sticky new crannies of unease. Even stickier for the most of us who got all that catastrophe as bad news feed is this immersive, irrational quicksand of panic and turmoil and vertigo that's a cinematic mini-syntax upon itself,signifiers of a postmodern context reality. But it's not for everyone, this video verite. It's the motion sickness that gets to people, mostly. And it's a bit tricky to parse as cinema. As metatext, sure. But any horror fed through it gets no more viscous plotwise and characterwise than a campfire ghost story. Not that plot and character are the point. Rather, they're anything but. And much as the monster footage here is taped over the estranged lovers roaming their undestroyed city in happier times and in doing so, wrings some poignant frisson out of a rather blunt metaphor, it's a little off.

Cthulhu's a no-show here - - -gigantic penis with legs leaking homicidal crabs is more like it revealed in a dorky money shot that J.J. should've ditched,too. Like he ditched the reported multiple handycam POVs which is for the good of all, by dint of its found format. What the lone POV does is restrict the field of vision, amping an illusion of randomness, makes it ickier- - - here's a generation in all their collective narcissism, recording and uploading every twitch, every wank, every facet. All this compulsive shooting in the thick of bugfuck is just so them. Hazard a guess what goes through their heads as they run and shoot and run and shoot and it’s likely they’re thinking more about how bitchin' the footage would look on YouTube than their chances of making it out of the city whole. Yuppie dorks,yeah.

Cloverfield
works as one trick pony - - -skeletal and shallow as God intended. And closer to Michael Snow’s Wavelength than The Host for the way it targets a different substrata of emotional responses more to do with sensory discomfort , with the taxonomy of textures, with weird thingies you can't quite make out. The stress gains empathy and we lose the passivity that often comes with going to the movies. Blair Witch hooked me on spatial displacement , my fear of thickets, my deep love for campfire ghost stories. Cloverfield stokes my apocalyptic neuroses and Fortean hard-ons into hysteric simmer. The geek in me always found more creep and arcana in blurry photographs of cryptids but much as doozies of the sort abound here- - -a massive dimly-lit is-that-a-tail flitting between buildings, a skyscraper leaning against another like a heartbroken lover resting its weary head, a horse-drawn carriage missing its coachman wandering city streets missing its people - - - this kaiju meltdown had me at rampageporn.

2 comments:

Noel Vera said...

There's a school of thought what says Honda's Gojira is a superior meditation on the bomb than Kurosawa's more elaborate Record of a Living Being. Could this be the better 9/11 film than, uh, Moore's doc (it's not better than Romero's, I think)?

dodo dayao said...

Haven't seen Diary if that's the Romero you're talking about,Noel but I would probably agree about Gojira - - -haven't seen the Kurosawa movie,though - - - and I sort of agree about this being the better 911 movie than Moore's,much as I enjoyed it. Pop movies of this sort - - -well-made ones at least - - -tend to reach parts other more elaborate and more,shall we say, serious movies can't reach. Goes back all the way to those 50s B movies, I think - - Them, Day the Earth Stood Still, Body Snatchers.