Guts and Grog Tooned Up

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2 Extremes: Eraserhead Actually- From the Diary of Maynard

Eric a.k.a. Guts-and-Grog-mastermind is probably one of the weirdest horror-guys I know. There are times when I don't get to see anything of him for months, and then suddenly he's back alive and kicking and with a terrific blogfest-theme at his hands.
I already participated on his themes "Horror with Training Wheels" (Hocus Pocus) and "Extreme Week" (Irreversible, Feed). This time, it's getting completely bizarre:


This is hilarious, but also damn brilliant. Let me explain: it's a double feature to confuse your senses. Unlike previous themes, this has nothing to do with genre, or even a theme. Basically, Eric wants us to pick two movies that should not be watched together, and eventually watch them together! The possibilities are endless. "A Serbian Film" with "Babe: Pig in the City" as the follow up. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" with "Friend Green Tomatoes", "Glitter" with "Subconscious Cruelty" etc. etc. 

After racking my brain over and over, I finally came up with a double feature that is really, really extreme: surrealistic arthouse body-horror meets romantic christmas-comedy. David Lynch's "Eraserhead" meets Richard Curtis' "Love, Actually". A match made in hell? No, a match made in a bizarre industrial landscape... with tea, christmas decorations and lots of love :-)))))


Original Script Title:

USA, 1977
Director: David Lynch


Haven't seen "Eraserhead" in quite some time. As much as I adore David Lynch, I'm rarely in the mood to watch his movies. I can't just pop "Blue Velvet" in on a rainy Sunday. Or "Elephant Man" on a sunny summer day. No, I prefer my Lynch on a, what I call, Lynchian evening. An evening when the sun just went down, when it's not too hot, not too cold. Could be in Spring, in Summer or in Autumn. I can't watch my Lynch in Winter when it's freezing, and I can't watch my Lynch when it's sweating hot outside. Oh, and since I prefer to have some tea while watching Horror, I also need a big cup of Lady Grey or Earl Grey next to me while watching some Lynch. Oh, and 1-2 candles burning. You see, I'm a very strange kind of Lynchian :-)

Luckily, this year's March (here in Styria) was very Lynchian, so there were plenty of chances to dive into the weird world of "Eraserhead", undoubtedly one of the weirdest films ever made, but also one of the most fascinating ones. Is it Lynch's best film? I don't know. IMO it's at least as near-perfect as "Lost Highway", "Mulholland Drive" and "Inland Empire".

The movie follows Henry Spencer, an unstable guy with a silly haircut, who lives in a small apartment somewhere in a gloomy-looking industrial cityscape and spends the days coping with the fact that his semi-girlfriend gave birth to a creature that looks more like an alien-monstrosity, experiencing visions and nightmares of losing his very own head which later gets manufactured into erasers in an old pencil factory (Erasers, Head - get it??), and watching a heavy-cheeked girl who 'lives' in or behind his radiator and sings about how everything is fine in heaven (see here).

Lynch refuses to explain the movie and suggests that everyone should interpret it for themselves. Easier said than done. There are gazillions of interpretations out there and they all seem to fit, or not fit at all. I think I've seen Eraserhead 5 or 6 times now and I still haven't figured out what's it all about. There's lots of strangely unsettling sexual stuff (carved chicken makes obscene movements), criticism on pressured marriage and unwanted children, fear of fatherhood, (mutant/monster kid), and various post-apocalyptic elements that suggest some kinda downfall of civilization (rundown industrial areas, abhorrent behaviour of several people).

But, like with most Lynch-films, it doesn't matter what it's all about. It's more about seeing filmmaking at its best, experiencing the vision of a director who doesn't play by the rules, a director who seems to live in a completely different dimension, a director whose main goal is to challenge the viewer with bizarre images and freaky characters of otherworldly nature, unsettling and disturbing, as well as fascinating and mesmerizing.

Even after already having seen it a couple of times, "Eraserhead" is still as effective as always. The first 20 minutes are simply grotesque. Seeing slightly anxious main character Henry walking through the gloomy industrial environment, entering his strange apartment which is decorated with sticks in mounds of earth and pictures of an atomic cloud, all set to an intriguing soundscape that consists of industrial sounds, church organs and white noise, basically the mother of all drone / doom music - yes, it's all extremely strange and disconcerting.

The next 12 minutes - the most outrageous dinner scene since "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" - are slightly amusing and somewhat entertaining, but then the monster child 'arrives' and it all goes downhill. The child's constant moaning and crying, Henry putting a weird worm into a little cupboard, the child getting sick and covered with smallpox-like sores, the Lady In The Radiator stepping on mutated worms that fall from the sky, Henry pulling mutated worms out of his wife, the above-mentioned dream sequence with the head and the pencil factory, and the shocking finale with the child's body splitting up and its enormous head hovering through the apartment - dazing, agitating, disturbing. Believe me when I say that "Eraserhead" never fails to turn me into a complete wreck.

The black-and-white photography is simply stunning, and the camera work of Frederick Elmes ("Wild at Heart", "Night on Earth") is simply flawless. The effects may look a bit dated now, but they're still able to frighten the shit out of you. The grotesque production design is amazing, the editing is top-notch and as I already mentioned above, the music - created by Lynch and sound designer Alan Splet ("Mosquito Coast", "Deat Poet's Society") - is mindblowing. I've never heard anything like it. Not even SUNN O))) could ever come up with something so impressive.

Also, weirdly fabulous acting by Jack Nance as Henry, the awkward guy with the super-crazy stand-up hair, Charlotte Stewart as his weird wife, Jeanne Bates and Allen Joseph as her even weirder parents, Laurel Near as the Radiator-Lady, and the beautiful Judith Roberts (best known as Mary Shaw in "Dead Silence") as the 'beautiful girl across the hall'.

Overall, "Eraserhead" is a disturbing, intriguing and mesmerizing masterpiece, and undoubtedly one of the most unique films ever made. Now, even after seeing it for the 5th or 6th time, it's still able to frighten and unsettle me. I wasn't a total wreck this time, but I was... well, a bit unsettled. I switched the lights on, made me a glorious cup of English Breakfast tea, turned the lights down,
lit the candles, and...

Wiki ~ Imdb


German Title:
TatsÀchlich... Liebe

UK / USA / France, 2003
Director: Richard Curtis


...and watched one of the most brutal british Horror films of all time: "Love Actually", a Christmas-themed scare-fest, made to shock the viewer to its core.
It's packed with eerie sea monsters...

...and other weird creatures.

People getting brutally attacked by sea monsters...

People attacking each other...

People breaking down in utter desperation...

and there are also lots of graphic sex scenes.

Of course, everything I just said is bollocks. "Love Actually" is actually one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, made by the same people who made other amazing romance comedies like "Notting Hill", "4 Weddings and a Funeral" or the two "Bridget Jones" adaptations. You may be surprised about what I just wrote, but as I already mentioned in the interview with Karina from "Mundane Rambling", I'm a huge fan of British rom-coms, especially when Hugh Grant's starring in it. I love his clumsy and silly acting behavior, and I also love how much more realistic these movies are, compared to most US rom-coms that came out over the last 30 years, or so.

It was really weird to see "Love Actually" right after "Eraserhead", mainly because I felt strangely gloomy and I wasn't quite in the mood for light-hearted entertainment. However, 15-20 minutes into the movie, my mood changed and this movie that I've already seen many, many times before... well, it chased the gloominess and its demons away, and it once again embraced me with its charming loveliness and its powerful emotionality.

It might be a bit too long (135 minutes) but that doesn't matter much. It's an absolutely marvellous, gorgeous-looking and fabulously entertaining film, stunningly written and directed by Richard Curtis, grandmaster of UK rom-coms, and packed with awesome actors playing super-super-likable characters, like:

Hugh Grant as English Prime Minister ("
Who do you have to screw around here to get a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit?"),
Martine McCutcheon as Natalie, member of the Prime Minister's household staff ("I did have an awful premonition that I was gonna fuck up on the first day. Oh, piss it!"),
Bill Nighy as rock'n'roll legend Billy Mack ("Hey kids. Here is an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!").

Gregor "Baldy Man" Fisher as Billy's manager Joe ("10 minutes at Elton John's, and you're as gay as a maypole!"),
Keira Knightley as newly married Juliet ("All I want is just one shot of me in a wedding dress that isn't bright turquoise."),
Andrew Lincoln as Mark who's secretly in love with Juliet ("They're not funny. They're art!").

Colin Firth as semi-talented writer Jamie ("Scary? Yes, sometimes scary. And, er, sometimes not. Mainly scary how bad the writing is."),
LĂșcia Moniz as Jamie's housekeeper ("I don't want to drown saving some shit my grandmother could have written."),
Emma Thompson as lovely wife Karen ("Which doll shall we give Daisy's little friend Emily? The one that looks like a transvestite, or the one that looks like a dominatrix?").

Alan Rickman as Karen's husband Harry ("Find a venue, over-order on the drinks, bulk-buy the guacamole and advise the girls to avoid Kevin if they want their breasts unfondled."),
Heike Makatsch as Harry's lover ("It's an art gallery, full of dark corners, for doing... dark deeds."),
Rowan "Bean" Atkinson as salesman Rufus ("Ready in the flashiest of flashes." / "Prontissimo.").

Laura Linney as office worker Sarah ("It's official. Worst DJ in the world."),
Rodrigo Santoro as Sarah's love interest ("Life is full of interruptions and complications."),
Liam Neeson as freshly widowed Daniel ("He might be injecting heroin into his eyeballs for all I know.").

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Daniel's stepson Sam ("Let's go get the shit kicked out of us by love."),
Kris Marshall as sex addict Colin ("I am Colin. God of sex. I'm just on the wrong continent.")
Abdul Salis as Colin's best friend ("Colin, you're a lonely, ugly arsehole. Accept it.").

Martin Freeman as sex film body double John ("You know the type. He's married to his job. Either that, or he's gay as a picnic basket.")
Joanna Page as John's body double partner Judy a.k.a Just Judy ("Naughty!").
and many, many more.

Did "Eraserhead" had any effect on my viewing of "Love Actually"? Definitely. As I mentioned above, I already seen it a couple of times but it never made me cry before - until now! Lynch destroyed my oh-so-tough maleness (o rly?) and turned me into a sobbing wreck - two times!! I know that Karina will ask if I don't tell, so I better tell it right now: I cried during the word-card-confession (To me, you are perfect.), and I cried during the scene where Emma Thompson confronts Alan Rickman over the necklace he bought for his secret lover ("Oh god. I am so in the wrong. The classic fool." - "Yes, but you've also made a fool out of me.
You've made the life I lead foolish, too.")

Damn, I'm such a pussy :)

Wiki ~ Imdb

Final thoughts: this was an extremely weird experience. Originally, I wanted to do "Martyrs" and "Stand By Me". Then I changed to "Eraserhead" and "About A Boy", before I finally decided to do "Eraserhead" and "Love Actually".

I'm not sure if I'll ever do something like this again, unless I'm invited to a sequel to this blogfest :-) Still, I don't regret doing it. Haven't seen "Eraserhead" in quite some time, and it was interesting to break out in tears during a film I never expected to make me cry. Thanks Eric

P.S. Bear in mind: Rodrigo Santoro, the guy who plays the endearing love interest of Laura Linney in "Love Actually"... he's the same guy who plays Xerxes in the "300" flicks!!

Bonus! Bonus!
I invited my good old pal Cindy Prascik as mental support, so that me, whiny old fuck, isn't completely alone in here ;-D Let's hear what she thinks about "Love Actually":

My good pal Maynard has asked me to say a few words about the "Love Actually" half of his unlikely double feature. As I sat down to write, I realized I really only need one word: charming.

Me? I'm an action fan. I like superheroes, monsters, and big explosions. If you told me "The Expendables" was the only movie I could watch for the rest of my life, I'd be okay with that. As you might imagine, I avoid romantic comedies like the plague, but "Love Actually" is different.

"Love Actually" is blessed with what is surely one of the finest ensembles ever. Most of the characters are loosely connected with each other, and all are in various stages of various types of platonic and romantic love. The stories are layered, far beyond your average boy-meets-girl, contrived-scenario-tears-them-apart, love-saves-the-day drivel.

If there's one thing the Brits do especially well, it's inject a bit of cynicism without any underlying meanness or misery. In "Love Actually", not everyone gets THE happy ending, but there's nothing pitiful about the ones who don't. In real life, the fairy tale ending isn't all that matters.
"Love Actually" is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always honest portrayal of relationships in the real world. It's love, actually.

Make sure to check out Maynard's page Horror Movie Diary here.


Karina said...

You know your (surprise) love of Richard Curtis films is one of the reasons why you are one of my favourites!!

K :-)

Maynard Morrissey said...

Haha thank you Karina. The world would be boring without Brit-rom-coms and silly Hugh Grant ;-)