Monday, October 26, 2015


Year 7, Day 299 - 10/26/15 - Movie #2,184

BEFORE: Here's another film I've had on the list for quite some time, and I can never really find the right place to watch it, because it links to almost nothing else.  And is it really a Halloween film?  I'm not sure.  But since I can engineer a link from "The Exorcist" - Max von Sydow was also in "Dune" with Jack Nance (last seen in "Wild at Heart") - that makes this as good a place as any.

THE PLOT:  Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.

AFTER: Ugh, another film that I just don't know what to do with.  As I pointed out yesterday, it's on that list of "1,001 Movies to See Before You Die" (OK, I watched it, can I die now?) and Wikipedia says it's usually regarded as a surrealist masterpiece, and it's even on the National Film Registry as a work of art that needs to be preserved, because of its cultural significance.

But none of that helps me enjoy it, in the end.  Or understand it, because it is truly bizarre.  Am I supposed to take what happens in the film at face value, no matter how odd, or disgusting, or non-sensical it all is?  How am I supposed to tell the difference between a surreal masterpiece and a film that just represents a failed narrative?  I have a feeling that some people make the second and then try to pass it off as the first.

Don't get me wrong, I like David Lynch, I think.  Take "Dune" off the table and I think that "Blue Velvet" was a good film, and nobody appreciated "Twin Peaks" more than I did.  And there were some really hard-to-understand parts of "Twin Peaks" (both the TV show and the movie) like a lady that gets messages from logs, a midget in a mystical room talking backwards, and a kid in a hotel room with his cupped hands full of creamed corn.  Taken individually, they seem absurdist, but they come together to form a creepy and bizarre American town.

But "Eraserhead" - geez, what am I supposed to do with this plot?  A man is told by his girlfriend's parents that she's given birth, and the "child" is probably his, even though they haven't been dating all that long.  And the "child" has no limbs, it looks more like an insect or a baby farm animal without its skin - or perhaps a puppet version of that.  And it cries all the time, it seems to be sick - screw that, it doesn't even seem to be human, so WTF is it? 

Furthermore, I didn't know what constitutes the reality of the film and what's supposed to be a dream - which seems like another narrative cop-out.  Part of the film seems to take place inside the main character's head, as he imagines a woman singing on a tiny stage inside his radiator, and he imagines his wife giving birth to more spermatazoa-like creatures during the night, and him throwing them against the wall to kill them.  

And this is all watched over by the "man inside the planet" - some deity who lives in the sky in a similar industrial setting, but he pulls on levers, presumably controlling people's fates?  I don't know, this was all so unclear, and if I find that I have to rush to Wikipedia right after watching a film just to determined what I just saw happen and what it all means, then I generally regard that film as a failure.  Sorry, I know that horror movies aren't my thing, but a abstract surrealist dreamscape is REALLY not my thing. 

Also starring Charlotte Stewart (last seen in "Slums of Beverly Hills"), Allen Joseph (last seen in "Marathon Man"), Jeanne Bates, Judith Roberts (last seen in "Stardust Memories"), Laurel Near, Jack Fisk, Hal Landon Jr. (last seen in "The Artist").

RATING: 2 out of 10 man-made chickens

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