The Taser's Edge

What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (dir. Woody Allen)

What’s not to love about Woody Allen?  Aside from the fact that some people just can’t stand him as a person, his art, or his personal life, nothing.  I did a count this week, and I’ve seen 28 Woody Allen films (29 counting Antz).  And this weekend, I caught his directorial debut, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, which streams on Netflix.

The closest comparison to Tiger Lily might be an extreme version of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Take a crappy movie, and then not only supply fake lines to ridiculous characters for humor’s sake (as MST3K did), but create an entire fake plot.

Woody Allen-level gold (whether or not you like that kind of gold) to follow at :48 and 1:45.  Don’t worry: despite Allen’s press, Tiger Lily doesn’t actually contain any raping or pillaging.  It does, however, contain a hip new soundtrack by The Lovin’ Spoonful, the beginning of which you can catch in the final seconds of this clip:

The movie might be a better symbol of a film career which at its best has been devoted to ambitious ideas and creating risk-taking art than a good film in itself.  Allen would likely hate the comparison, but the pattern of his artistic biography isn’t that far from Miles Davis.’  Their common M.O.: Explore and master an area with a few works, totally self-reinvent, explore and master a new area with a few works, totally self-reinvent, repeat a few times making sure to alienate old audiences and gain new ones all the time, have at least one really self-involved period where your art suffers for a while and your audience suffers with it, have at least one artistic comeback in which you prove that you’re still an undeniable genius, and generally just keep creating and sharing your art like crazy until you die.

Tiger Lily clearly took a ton of skill, and it mostly succeeds.  Success in this case, however, is making a totally incoherent Japanese spy movie into a mostly coherent American comedy with vaudeville and slapstick influences.  I for one think we can use more mostly coherent American comedies with vaudeville and slapstick influences today (think I Heart Huckabees as well as the films of major movie stars whom the Coen brothers get their hands on–Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, and the greatest screwball actor of his generation, George Clooney).

A word of caution, however: one other classic film tradition that Allen retains in Tiger Lily is some serious racial insensitivity in the form of crazy faux-Japanese character names that sound ‘funny’ to American ears.  Is it all in fun?  Does it matter if it’s ‘all in fun’?  You can decide.

Sunday Night Wrap Up Forward Style

Earlier this afternoon, I sat down to watch Paris, Je T’Aime.  Such auteurs as Gerard Depardieu, the Coen brothers, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle (long-time cinematographer for Wong Kar-Wai), Alexander Payne, Gus Van Sant, Steve Buscemi, Natalie Portman, Willem Dafoe, Juliette Binoche, Bob Hoskins, Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhall, and Elijah Wood (as a vampire, of course) join in a series of very lightly connected short films.  Holly wants me to have a favorite (as normal for her) short, but I don’t (as normal for me).  But Juliette Binoche may be the most attractive 44-year-old I know, something deeper than her looks.  And as for Steve Buscemi, well…he doesn’t really look this bad, but he really does look this bad. I hope that link didn’t cost him starring in my amazing screenplay.  For some reason, I suddenly feel like I’m writing for Us Weekly.

Tomorrow Holly goes back to work with students (having been at school without students on Friday), and she’s not yet looking forward to it.

As for my past Friday, I began reading what will surely be my last choose-to-read book for a while here (as the semester is upon us): Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis.  I think I randomly picked it up at a Durham Downtown Library book sale.  Buried it in a brown paper bag for 7 dollars or so.  When I pick a new book to read, for some reason I always start at the As on my alphabetized (for fiction, at least) bookshelf.  I think I know a bit too much about this book, namely that it is eventually about the Holocaust (sorry that you too now know too much).  I wouldn’t know that yet if I hadn’t read the critical blurbs all over the paperback.

An incredible storytelling maneuver (one which I assume will inform my future viewing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) in which the narrator is living inside a character as that character’s life is played in reverse.  Eating, sex, and bathroom use are of course interesting, as is dialogue, which is translated out of backwards gibberish (most of the time), but is not fixed for correct conversational order:

“I promise.”
“You promise?”
“Never,” she said.
“You wouldn’t?”
“But I’d never tell.” (p. 36)

The character goes to see a movie, a romantic comedy in which the characters are very close at the beginning, have a bunch of misunderstandings, and then end up parting ways as if they don’t know each other by the end.  Pimps become the nice fellows who heal prostitutes (who pay men after having sex with them) with knives and fists.

I thought an excerpt would be helpful for seeing how backward things become, with ER doctors (like the character in which the narrator lives) becoming monsters.  (Presumably the Holocaust will soon be God’s gift of life to humanity.)  From p. 76:

“You want to know what I do?  All right.  Some guy comes in with a bandage around his head.  We don’t mess about.  We’ll soon have that off.  He’s got a hole in his head.  So what do we do?  We stick a nail in it.  Get the nail–a good rusty one–from the trash or wherever.  And lead him out to the Waiting Room where he’s allowed to linger and holler for a while before we ferry him back into the night.”

Reminds me of Anthony Burgess, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Joseph Heller, and the like.  And amazingly easy to follow for how experimental it may seem that it could be from my description.

On a more personal note, this Tuesday is my first real-life job interview (projected above, you can see that I already know the power-hold for pens during interviews, as well as how to match my tie and pocket neckerchief), for a CPE residency at UNC Hospital.  I need to gather my thoughts together on this one.  Pray for me if you’re the praying type.