The Mountain (Rick Alverson, 2019)

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Brian C
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:58 am
Location: Chicago, IL

The Mountain (Rick Alverson, 2019)

#1 Post by Brian C » Tue Oct 01, 2019 12:09 am

This is the first film I've seen of Alverson's, and it's a strange film, in some ways that are interesting and some ways that are less so.

Right off the bat, it seems like a self-conscious attempt at cult-film status, with the casting of a who's-who of cinematic oddballs. Jeff Goldblum, Udo Kier, and Denis Levant make appearances ... Crispin Glover wasn't available, or what? Kier is completely superfluous.

It's a film that, very oddly, is a polemic against ... lobotomies, of all things. It's a baffling experience to watch a film released in 2018 that feels the need to go so far out of its way to tell us that lobotomies were bad, and I felt like Ringo Starr in Popstar, baffled that Connor4Real had made a song advocating for legalizing gay marriage after it had already been legalized. Is there a single person alive who would defend the practice of lobotomy today? It seems like opposition to lobotomy is less controversial than even opposition to slavery.

Anyway, that aside, the film plays like an experiment in making the viewer feel lobotomized. It's filmed in a slightly washed-out haze and edited in a fashion that makes it hard to concentrate very fully: conversations are ended abruptly and then forgotten, music and ambient sounds suddenly grab your attention and then fade away, and things in general just sorta move slow. It's not at all dream-like, but rather disorienting; yet without being completely alienating, as if you're there but not completely plugged in to what's going on, susceptible to distraction without being able to summon the energy to get worked up about it.

On an experimental formal level, I admire it somewhat, but I still find myself wondering to what end. It's certainly not satisfying to me on a narrative level, and I still can't shake the feeling that the whole thing is in service of telling me something that I (along with literally everyone else) already know.

dda1996a
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am

Re: The Films of 2018

#2 Post by dda1996a » Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:06 am

Based only on my viewing of his Entertainment, and knowing his sensibility, I kind of have to doubt thats his only message. Sadly this isn't playing any festivals here so I'll have to wait a while to find out myself

kubelkind
Joined: Sun Apr 03, 2011 4:42 pm

Re: The Films of 2018

#3 Post by kubelkind » Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:44 am

There is indeed a lot more going on in The Mountain than an anti-lobotomy polemic. I'm wondering if Brian C only watched the first half hour or so.
SpoilerShow
By the time the story starts, lobotomies are already going out of medical fashion, being replaced by the allegedly more "humane" chemical alternative. Which is why the Goldblum character is now practising privately (and, significantly, in African-American wards). The 60s are nearly upon us and what would later be called "new age" cults (the Denis Lavant character) are emerging as America's latest delusion of human perfectibility (maybe represented by the titular mountain, and its contrast with the tacky painting of the mountain that both Kier and Lavant have on their walls). Whereas Goldblum is calm and collected, the Lavant character is a veritable volcano. But he still seeks a lobotomy for his daughter. There is a continuum.
There's a lot more besides. What are we to make of the recurring image of the hermaphrodite, or the sealed room with no doors windows or exits? Or what seem to be visual quotes from "Shock Corridor"...I need to see it again, basically!
I think Alverson's previous films could be accused of hawking one-note "messages" ("comedians are sad people!").But this one struck me as several notches above. A complex film that could end up being one of my favourites of the year.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Mountain (Rick Alverson, 2019)

#4 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:52 pm


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Brian C
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:58 am
Location: Chicago, IL

Re: The Films of 2018

#5 Post by Brian C » Sat Oct 05, 2019 1:44 am

kubelkind wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:44 am
SpoilerShow
There's a lot more besides. What are we to make of the recurring image of the hermaphrodite, or the sealed room with no doors windows or exits?
Yes, what indeed?

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