31 March 2014

Your Skin Makes Me Cry



In many ways, I often feel that Louis Armstrong and I don't exactly see eye to eye... For the last few years I've been living through some sort of existential depression where everything just seems hollow and pointless and more of a drama than it's fucking-well-worth. People make issues out of the smallest of things which is a shame because in the end, nothing really matters, so why not just shut the hell up and enjoy shit whilst you can? At some point the sun is going to expand and eat us all up like the great hungry bastard that it is and let’s face it, who can blame it! Our fiery death will essentially just be a galactic mercy killing so I'm not too worried...  Although that's obviously even presuming humanity gets that far without nuking itself out of existence or dropping down from some pissy little virus that started life up a mutant pigs arse. Whether you help a little old lady to cross the road or instead wander naked into a school and treat the kiddies to an eye full of cock, it ultimately makes no real difference so fuck it, let’s go nuts! Do you know why we, as a species, do the things that we do? Do you know why we drink, gamble, trade life for goods, worship gods, listen to shit-pop, commit suicide or worse yet, watch a Michael Bay film? We do it because society is a crap pot of misery and it's beaten us to the point where our mind has been murdered by mundanity. Provoking apathy is humanity’s way of holding chloroform up to the individuals face before throwing them unconscious to the ground and arse-fucking them into the grave. Life is short and then we're forgotten... And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!

So that's my view of everything, but what exactly is it that director Terry Gilliam thinks, I wonder? Set somewhere in the future, The Zero Theorem is his latest film and stars Christoph Waltz as Qohen Leth- a jittery bald fuck who sits alone in a wrecked church whilst waiting for a phone call that will give purpose to his life. Hmm... actually that's pretty much the entire plot to be honest so I guess explaining any more would literally just be for the sake of padding out this paragraph... oh.. erm.. So, as well as waiting for this call, Waltz also works for a shady corporation who have tasked him with solving a mathematical problem that will prove that all life has no purpose, which is something he is somehow struggling to do. I don't know what the mathematical way of saying “it just fucking is” is, but Waltz seems to be having trouble finding it. Fair play to him though, he does have a lot on his mind. When not sinking into his own existential depressions, waiting for his phone call or working, he is pestered by a few persistent members of humanity. His mate from work, the boss’s son and a tart-with-a-heart all bother him for some degree of human connection which, in this technological utopia, is something that, like your average mopey teenager, he really can't be fucked with. 

This whole party is going on Facebook!
Although Gilliam denies it to be intentional, The Zero Theorem can easily be seen as being the third part of a thematic trilogy beginning with both Brazil and Twelve Monkeys. The bullshit nature of red tape, big business, middle-management, Orwellian control, insanity, fantasy, dreams and the blinding power of the media are issues that are more than explored in each film. In fact, with his bald head, unhinged grasp of reality and rejection of a good job in favour of obsessing over a fantasy, Leth almost appears as though he's the result of a drunken night between Twelve Monkey's Cole and Brazil's Sam Lowry. However whereas those two films dealt with society as it was back in the 80's and 90's, this latest one is Gilliam's response to the world around us now. This film is set in the future although it's easily not that far from today with its depiction of isolation through connectivity. The more that we weld technology to the palm of our hand, the more distanced we seem to become from both reality and each other. As the film goes on Leth seems to get particularly addicted to an online porn type website however any hint of this becoming a reality is rejected instantly... Hmm.. I actually have a mate like that who I hope is reading this now. If you are, I'm sorry it's been so long and I hope we catch up soon! Anyway, as Leth walks down the road he is bombarded by adverts whilst those around him remain ignorant to the world and transfixed on whatever device has replaced their consciousness. Like a concert full of people pointing their iPhones at the band on stage before tweeting it to seven billion people who couldn't give a shit, this is a society that can no longer just live in the moment. To quote the genius of Gilliam himself, “if I were a Native American I’d worry. Every time you take a picture, a little bit of your soul is removed, and we’re soulless people now, having taken so many selfies for so long."

In my humble opinion, the world is of course a purposeless place however as mentioned, another theme of The Zero Theorem is the search for the meaning of life. Leth is waiting for his phone call to explain it all whilst his boss simply wants to prove that everything adds up to zero. Scattered around the streets are posters for various fictional religions with angry nuns prowling the pavements like an army of pissed off and prudish penguins. Videos trying desperately to convince people that buying a particular product will result in some degree of happiness line every square inch of the outside of every building as though civilisation has itself been replaced by a nagging digital prick. The point is that everybody here is simply having their meaning dictated to them. Not only that but in each case, they're wasting what little life they do have by obsessing over it. In fact, Gilliam himself elaborated on this in the same interview I stole his last quote from, “Life has no meaning. It just is. It's atoms and molecules, which double and triple. That’s it. You give meaning to life in what you choose to do and believe in.” Presumably therefore the message of this film really is to not chase after meaning at the expense of simply living. Through an obsession with connecting through technology and chasing after rubbish dreams, people really are running obliviously through their own bullshit existence. The movie may have used a cover of Radiohead's Creep as its theme but it could just as easily have gone for Imagine by every-body’s favourite bullet-magnet and ex-Beatle, John Lennon,You may say I'm a dreamer... but I'm not the only one”.

So, yeah... I obviously thought this film was great and simply became another slab of celluloid evidence to validate my love of Terry Gilliam. If movies were edible then Gilliam's would very definitely be the lobster and caviar to Michael Bay's gruel pie with a side order of anorexic cat shit. A Gilliam film however can never be anything other than what it is and this is of course no exception. Twisted visuals, deranged characters and a warped sense of humour identify this as yet another obvious sliver of genius from his clearly mental mind. However a random thing that this did remind me of was David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis. Both films see a long championed auteur return to their favourite themes, feature a solitary character preferring isolation and disconnection to the world around and both essentially take place in the one room. Both as well attracted fairly mixed reviews with some people saying that they hadn't quite hit the heights of their previous work with others just boning off the fact that we're lucky enough to still have them making movies. Clearly I belong to that later camp although that's not to say I think this is as good as Brazil. The Zero Theorem is more ram-shackled than his previous work with the plot being like a trampy whore’s pubes in comparison to Brazil's elegant dame’s lady fluff. Despite that previous remark as well, there's a vein of smutty humour here that perhaps doesn't work quite as well as some of the satire. It's not like this has become Carry On Cyber-Tits or anything like that but just that perhaps the random boob shots just aren't as funny as we know Gilliam can be. Although it's still funny and you get to see some boobs so who’s really complaining?

Just out for a breath of fresh air...
However Gilliam, not up to his absolute highest of standards, still results in a film that towers over almost everything else that gets spunked onto a screen. The film has more insightful things to say in one paused frame than most people manage in a lifetime of blabbing which is impressive considering how much some people refuse to just shut the fuck up. Christoph Waltz is also really great in the lead role here too and really proves that he has the talent to match those two Oscars that he won for playing the exact same character in two of Tarantino's epic indulgences. I mean obviously all of the cast are brilliant to be honest, it's just that Waltz probably deserves special mention because he's in every fucking scene. Anyway, by now I guess you'll have either seen the film or probably already made your mind up about whether you should, so I'll wrap all this up. They say that the best films reflect back at you an aspect of yourself or society that you can relate to the most and this is definitely a good example of that. As I said at the start, provoking apathy is the date-rape drug of the individual however if there's one release then I'm sure it must be art. Art helps us cope with our issues which, on this lonely rock we call home, we definitely have plenty of. People ignore each other in favour of showing kindness. They tweet when they should talk. They hate when they should embrace. Everyday people die with their shitty un-ambitious dreams left completely unfulfilled and within the week it's as though they never existed. This film reflects all of that and for two brief hours Gilliam gives comfort to the miserable fucks like me who are convinced that life is a cunt... and I think to myself what a wonderful world!

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