Saturday, October 20, 2007

Teen Film Noir?

A few years ago, before they had their lovely daughter, Ammon and Heather and I sat down for a meal. Actually, I know exactly when this way: the fall of 2000. We all had a few drinks and somehow Heather developed (or perhaps it was already well developed) her theory of teen film noir. It was fascinating dinner conversation, really. I have a perverse fondness for talking about film and particularly about idiosyncratic interpretations thereof. This one certainly falls into that category.

The rudiments, even the outlines for this theory escape me. I only recall how much it made me laugh and how Tom Cruise's early film "Risky Business" (1983) was the paradigm. And I am hardpressed to think what could have drawn her to this theory, other than the images of Cruise wearing sunglasses and a detective-style fedora. But if you've seen actual film noir, it's clear enough that these impressions are inadequate to develop a theory. I have always identified film noir with detective stories, usually murders, and very contrasty black and white films. I like to take things pretty literally.

For me, the quintessential film noir is Charles Laughton's "Night of the Hunter" (1955), which is so goddamned black that Nick Cave must have loved every minute of it. And Robert Mitchum, the unsung hophead of the '50s, plays the evil preacher expresses this opaque strength, insuperable amorality, and that voice which stops you where you stand. The latter has been in a few others prototypical film noirs, such as "Out of the Past" (1947) and "Angel Face" (1952). I suggest the former before the latter.

Beyond this diversion, I write now because it seems to me that such a teen film noir has been created--and an exemplary one at that. "Brick" (2005), starring the dubitable Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I saw this about a year ago, but noticed it showing this afternoon. The story revolves around a brick, but is full of the quick, understated dialogue and the clever yet ill-fated narrator that makes a film like this good. At first the dialogue almost seems contrived. But then you don't know why everyone else doesn't talk this way. I mean, it's about the dramas of high school kids, but with a center of gravity, unlike "Clueless" (1995) which finds it too late. And it dispenses with the convenient fiction of how real life still remains at a distance, but without submitting "reality" to plainness. Although I have doubts that J. G-L. will ever amount to anything else, here he excels.

By way of conclusion, kudos Heather. Your imagination has found its way into reality (albeit not via Tom Cruise, Rebecca deMornay and don't forget Joe Pantoliano).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Perversion versus Neurosis

As far as I understand, the opposition stands as follows (comes out of Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, which I have recently had the pleasure of "professoring," pace Leigh):

Perversion means that the sexual instinct has found "sexual" ways to express itself, which have not been affected by the resistances of guilt, shame, disgust or morality. Perverts adopt sexual objects or sexual aims outside the group of those included within the conventional determinations. Although they have expressed themselves "sexually," they are pathological insofar as they deviate from conventional morality. I.e. homosexuals are happy in their sex lives, but forced to live under unjust conditions.

Neurosis describes the state of the sexual instinct in which it has not found "sexual" ways to discharge itself, but, due most frequently to a transgression of a social more, instead created a symptom which discharges the accumulated, blocked sexual tension. The neurotic has internalized the resistances (listed above) which shape 'normal' sexual life, but essentially has increased their power to a pathological leve.

The pervert does what the neurotic wants to do. The pervert is punished by society, the neurotic is punished by himself. The rest of us, the 'normal' ones, we have a little bit of both the pervert and the neurotic in us.

I have doubts about what consitutes sexual ways of discharging sexual tension. Especially when we're talking about symptoms. It seems like those symptoms should be "sexual." I mean, essentially they are in their psychic meaning, yet they seem to have no physiological correlate?