Total Oblivion

"A fast-paced, suspenseful dystopian picaresque, part Huck Finn and part bizarro-world Swiss Family Robinson..."



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Skinny Dipping

Long-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and finalist for the Crawford Award. Title short story listed for the 2000 O. Henry award.

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Goblin Mercantile Exchange

Futures, Options, and Swaps (the weblog of Alan DeNiro)

The Possibility of a Demon

Saw demonlover the other day (and spoilers ahead!!!!!!), and though a few parts of it already seem dated after just a couple of years, I really loved the movie: its clinical textures and oscillating performances. Lost in Translation without the romanticism and a triangle of languages (French, English, Japanese) vying for attention. In Demonlover, fluency is power. Elise (ChloĂ« Sevigny), who we at first take to be an embattled, fairly median-level (and French) assistant, reveals herself to be as American as apple pie and ruthlessness. For the first part of the movie she is willing to hide this. And even people who don’t seem to be hiding their ruthlessness, like Herve (Charles Berling), have more to hide. Yet at the same time, nothing is revealed in revelation. The veneer of the film felt right out of the one Michel Houellebecq novel that I’ve read, The Elementary Particles, in which the people are essentially machines of flesh. It’s a horrifying vision, but it’s also at the heart of what makes contemporary globalism “work.”

There is, however, a subtle shift in the movie that is…I don’t know, inelegant might be the wrong word. The shift is from the virtual avatars of the animation porn to the actual “avatars” of the Hellfire Club, including Diane at the end. The Hellfire Club is very old-skool in its way-in that one has a certain charge towards one’s captives-feeding and clothing them (at least minimally), and hiding their existence from whatever authorities might stumble upon them. And what happens when Diane completely breaks down? Is she killed/set free? All in all, very messy for a multinational corporation! It’s much more…expedient to have a company’s torture victims residing inside a server.

And, thinking about it, maybe that’s where demonlover’s critique of technophilia hits home the hardest-showing this inelegance, showing how-as bad as things seem now-there is plenty more terra incognita for the business world to conquer.

They’ve only just gotten started.

And so that leaves the viewer with the uncomfortable proposition of complicity, in how we buy things and what we watch. Which isn’t to say that we should do away with transnational locii where we can put part of our identities-rather, that the Internet has its own virtual superfund sites and virtual Bhopals -of course it does.

But these don’t have the absence of toxicity. And as Diane is transfigured from alpha-actor to controlled subject, we realize just how little control she had all along. And whatever control she did have, she paid for it, in all senses of the phrase.

(PS. some good macro views of the movie here.)

Mon, July 24 2006 » Movies/TV

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