Archive for December 7th, 2011

Copyright © 2011 by James Clark

    There is a motif, in the Coens’ A Serious Man (2009), which greatly helps clear the way toward engaging the sensualist factors of Teshigahara’s enigmatic and important film, Woman in the Dunes. A physics professor has a family that rears up and bites him very hard. But there is one family member, namely, his adolescent daughter, Sarah, whose disturbance of the peace reaches us in a particularly pronounced way. Due to her younger brother’s stealing, in order to buy drugs, her money (obtained by stealing from her generally inattentive father), she proceeds to assail him on many occasions—amidst other complaints—ripping into a narrative flow not really about her. Invariably, she bursts through a doorway, gets into his face and discharges streams of insults and threats on the order of salty longshoremen, not suburban Minnesota schoolgirls. “You owe me twenty bucks, you little fucker! You fucking shit! Brat-Fucker!” is for her just a warm-up for kicks and haymakers and blood-curdling shrieks we soon find to derive from her cagily homicidal mother. Along the way we discover that this extreme heatedness stems from her quite murderous resolve to obtain funding for a nose job. Combined with those startling outbursts, that business with rhinoplasty casts light upon a register of sensibility being pursued by that puzzling movie. We’re carried into the Absurdist territory of Eugene Ionesco’s play, Rhinoceros (with its characteristic inclusion of a less than stellar academic, the Logician). Absurdist theatre being a latter-day instalment of the avant-garde agitation known as Dada, and Dadaism being an important precursor of Surrealism (with its project of evoking the “more real” in the form of the more sensual), we can take a bead upon the Coens’ (only) apparent descent (in A Serious Man) into breathtakingly cutting anti-Semitism, along lines of Surrealist filmmaking, particularly that of Louis Bunuel and a film of his so closely allied to Sarah et al, namely, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). (more…)

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