domino harvey wrote:
Well, I surely hated this film. I could not give less of a shit about how New York is shot in this film— we’ve all seen countless noirs from this era that tethered this aesthetic to something worthwhile, why praise a movie for doing the bare minimum here?
There’s certainly a key detail to talking about this movie that gets conveniently left out, namely that
Something Wild is what would happen if the troupes from Out 1 put on a performance of the Collector. I assume everyone skirts around the second half of the film because addressing it is more weight than a defense can possibly hold. The film was already pretty bad before Meeker showed up, and then when we think we've suffered the most we can in the film, those last fifteen minutes kick in and oh ho one learns the meaning of going off the rails. There’s a good reason no one ever wanted Terence Stamp to get with Samantha Eggar.
I take it that that comment about NYC being shot in the way it is in this film is referencing my raves for it, so I'll address this review directly.
First off, I understand that nothing is more satisfying for some than firing off rockets of aggravation directly at a film one was driven nuts by.. and firing them off fresh from that viewing-- speaking in declaratives, as though the reviewer of the film is writing for the entirety of the world and is jotting down some quick thoughts that surely represent the feelings of all who have clean common cinematic sense. The film is “bad” “shit” et cetera as though these are formally and officially understood facts across the width of the whole world.
Frankly everything that apparently drives some folks berserk with anger (which is not something I encounter an awful lot) over this film are the things I love about it. The characters--one must be warned--are completely and totally retarded. They do not act like characters in a conventional drama. "The window--open the window and go!" and vreep! out the window they go. If you’re looking for logical flow of script convention, you’re seeking to sip your cinematic coffee in the wrong house... you're getting some bizarre Bedouin tea poured from feet in the air, not Starbucks cap.
This film is about what happens in a big, decaying city when people in emotional distress withdraw, grow completely dislocated, and lose just about all contact with common sense and all the better angels of guidance in the outside world. It’s what happens when this dislocation creeps into almost every aspect of their decision making until the lost soul is barely recognizable versus the image of the sensible, functioning human being that existed before the slide.
"Go out the window and save yourself!"
In a large city, just about every day, you will see a perfectly able bodied 25 year old young man who’s taken the wrong turn in life, and he spends his entire day panhandling in the subway; rather than spending a moment’s time looking for a job, seeking help for a drug problem if he has one—no. Rather, he will sit there day after day after day NOT doing the very thing that would be the most obviously sensible thing to do were one to assume the individual wants to extricate himself from the predicament. Rather, something in his mind is shut almost completely off, and he will befuddle his friends and family who wonder “what the &^%$ has happened to ___? Why does he not take the very clear and obvious path to liberation?”
We see men and women in captive, abusive relationships. People are beaten, abused, stolen from—and the target remains, all semblance of integrity and self-defense drained away and they are degraded, befuddled, belittled, a meekly protesting remnant individual unable to stand up for themselves.
Something Wild is a tale about the kind of dislocation in a big city that’s rarely possible nowadays. We are all interconnected. We walk around with devices that put us instantly in touch with any kind of help, or talk, trouble, vice, any kind of companionship or contact with friends & family at the push of a button. Our lives leave literal trails. In the era running up to the mid 1980’s, people lived in dilapidated quarters of an extremely decayed and squalid NYC, a very different world of rust and decay and shambles of living; life could be lived extremely cheaply among the lice and the bedbugs and the mice and the roaches, there were very few cops, (and they were corrupt), there were few to no social services, vice was everywhere, crime ruled the streets, and the city was filled with strangely dissolute, curious individuals, people with unattended mental illness, people whose minds were permeated by the squalid nature of city tenement life, a kind of urban lost soul that could exist no-place else but in NYC.
The fact that these characters behave in a manner that makes little to no sense and drives the viewer insane with confusion because of the strange lunacy of their (lack of) decision making is what I love so much about it. It’s not an unflawed film—it’s nothing close to a universal film… it’s almost a film made for the intellectual urbanite who sees the unique beauty in certain early portrayals of lost urban souls living out on the rarely witnessed fringes. It may be that only people who’ve encountered this fringe form of urban life can find a film like this so satisfying. For me, the characters in Something Wild feel almost as if they’re the ones who’ve just happened to have passed on through. It could be about thousands of others—paranoid, muttering, making no sense, giving a shit about nobody and nothing like raucous Jean Stapleton. Like Taxi Driver, the city is the main character—even though, by contrast to other city symphonies and noirs, its somewhat understated but for the location shooting here and there..
I don’t doubt that Something Wild is something along the lines of a delicacy. But if you recognize the flavor, it’s ecstacy.