A little detour here; related to what I saw/am seeing, IRL – translation: In Real Life (with capitals), which is this post-modernist, ironic, VFiles-esque term I only just discovered and so I will use it with reckless abandon. Also I realise this is very much like the Monocle 24 podcasts, especially the Review or the Curator, I used to listen to a lot and only now am starting getting back into.
I watched this film after having it sitting in my Films folder for too long, though I’m happy I left it for a little lonely night to absorb the power of Ms. Abramović’s œuvre and feel the importance of performance art. It was an easy yet demanding watch because the documentary was so dense; with information, theories, facts, and most of all emotion. The second half was devoted almost all to the emotion and connection created through and by her presence in the MoMA, which I found to be the best way of conveying ‘avant-garde’ performance art to anyone who isn’t familiar with the work within its brittle boundaries. I could sense the collective awe and connection in the exhibition hall, as all the muscles in the visitors’ faces told their stories of pain, love, mostly overwhelmed by someone staring straight into their eyes. I guess it is rare, since Internet, to focus so long and so pointedly on one person for an extended period of time – a point I gathered from the act; though looking directly into someone’s eyes has always opened the emotion. She makes herself vulnerable, with the participant instantly converging into her cocoon and being engulfed by it but with their own interpretations and thoughts. It seems like she is doing nothing, exaggerated by the sparse space, but in that she is doing something radical.
On Tavi’s final post, she mentioned a quote from this film; ‘Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.’ This resonated with me and also what I interpreted as the film’s synopsis of sorts. Beauty.
It is, but not in the way anyone would expect. Said quote was said by Ricky Fitts, the most eccentric yet thankfully relatable, stable character with the most saddening parents alive, in opposite ways. Most put on a perfect exterior but their personalities are anything but. The other characters go through different states of self discovery, all though the supposed beauty in their life, their marriages, friendships and casual acquaintances. I included that particular quote with the picture, one, because he says it, but more importantly, as it represents the demeanors of everyone in the film who all break out of their comfort zones with varying degrees of success and also the self-denial they impose to facilitate these actions. There are other extremely quotable lines in the film; Alan Ball won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for American Beauty, and many gif-able sequences. I really like this film despite its overabundance of melancholy, as it is hard to categorise and very intellectually stimulating. Needs multiple viewings, in my opinion.
And they say the youth of today are over-sexualised. Well…, while this is partly true, they’ve got another thing coming if they watch this film, which created as much controversy in 1995 as anything like this would now. All the quintessential elements of 90’s ‘cool’ (duh, it was made in the 90’s), skateboarders, NYC, weed, house parties, and great music but truthfully presented. But it’s not only about that, and it is more (I use this word vaguely as most of the characters seemed to have equal screen time) about the disgusting way the main character goes about his amoral business, but enlightening in seeing both, male and female, portrayals of youth and sexuality. Everything feels astoundingly real, mainly because of the grainy, casual footage reminiscent of a camcorder and the conversational tone of speech, though it did feel like the actors were cast/made to look young and innocent as possible which can be attributed to a few explanations. I don’t think it is exploitative because the actors knew what the film entailed before participating in the project, plus I must say, Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson pulled incredible début performances. The professional pairing of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine could easily be described as subcultures & sex (in any order), but this reduces the film’s artistic merit as it is as much a critique as an exposé of the wanton abandon of inhibitions. Those in the film think sex is just sex, from the beginning of the it and to the end of it. They’re just kids*.
Interesting discussion is also on the Reviews section of IMDb
*My naïvety and age was seemingly waived in this reflection…