Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

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Kirkinson
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#26 Post by Kirkinson » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:49 pm

I think there are different kinds of fame at play here. If you could take a poll of every human alive, I could see how more people might technically be aware of Cara Delevingne's existence than anyone else in this cast, but that doesn't necessarily mean she's actually a bigger draw for general audiences to this or any other movie. I mean, if every one of her Instagram followers went to see Valerian in theaters at least once, it would have made $410 million, and that obviously didn't happen.

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Persona
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#27 Post by Persona » Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:04 am

Yeah, I think it is one of those things where there are more people who care about Moss as an actor and would watch this movie for her, whereas when a general audience sees Cara D in it they'd just be like, "Oh, hey, it's Enchantress from Suicide Squad."

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mfunk9786
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#28 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:31 am

Agree to disagree, I suppose. Having attention on a very small polarizing indie from those who might never have those things on their radar seems more valuable to me than alerting those who will already have this on their radar anyway.

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Dead or Deader
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#29 Post by Dead or Deader » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:55 am

Much of her crowd will just shrug this off as if the film was never produced. Plenty of that mainstream crowd just doesn't give a damn about artsy indie films, no matter how mainstream the leading stars are, see Twilight stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart ventures into that realm. My sister was a crazed fan of the series, has no clue about Stewart collaborations with Olivier Assayas, or Pattinson upcoming existential sci-fi film that features Juliette Binoche carring his own sermon. One of my friends who follows her on Instagram and watches mainly superhero flicks will no doubt have the same reaction as my sister to those types of films.

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mfunk9786
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#30 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:58 am

Fair enough. Have wasted too many keystrokes on this already, just trying to explain why someone would cast somebody who isn't a very good actor but is very famous in their very small film.

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domino harvey
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#31 Post by domino harvey » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:59 am

Perry's cast former models before, seems de rigueur for most indies anyways

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domino harvey
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#32 Post by domino harvey » Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:49 pm

Picked up by tiny Gunpowder and Sky for release next year

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mfunk9786
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#33 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:58 am

Shame about that final vignette, huh? Perry had the perfect shot and perfect down-note to end this film on - I was feeling, quite frankly, great about this... and he blew it. It's still pretty good, but it was coasting along as a realistic treatise on the sort of person who cannot take this world straight, a tragic Courtney Love meets Freddie Quell, and then insisted on wrapping a cute and altogether fraudulent bow on it. Ah, well. I can always just shut it off after my ending.

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Mr Sheldrake
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#34 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Tue May 21, 2019 2:05 pm

This turned up on Hoopla streaming a few days ago. I sympathize with the festival walkouts, the first three sections are excruciating, especially the opening with a baby incomprehensibly being tossed back and forth to her lunatic mother, a clear danger, flailing about, in need of a strait-jacket.

Moss seems to be playing severe mental illness so the quiet recovery sections were puzzling, I don't believe we ever see her using drugs but that's the explanation. Her repulsive behavior is rendered to such an extreme that realism is beside the point. I stuck with it to the end (with breaks) curious if there would be a point. If there was one it eluded me.

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Black Hat
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#35 Post by Black Hat » Wed May 29, 2019 1:13 am

mfunk9786 wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:58 am
Shame about that final vignette, huh? Perry had the perfect shot and perfect down-note to end this film on - I was feeling, quite frankly, great about this... and he blew it. It's still pretty good, but it was coasting along as a realistic treatise on the sort of person who cannot take this world straight, a tragic Courtney Love meets Freddie Quell, and then insisted on wrapping a cute and altogether fraudulent bow on it. Ah, well. I can always just shut it off after my ending.
Can you refresh my memory on this?

Provided you have an interest in the subject and themes of the film, this was fantastic. Moss' performance speaks for itself, with a particularly moving song she sings at a certain point that feels as if it's simultaneously in mourning as it is celebratory. In reading an interview it turns out that her background was in music. Agyness Dayne who was brilliant in the marvelous, but forgotten Terence Davies film from a few years ago Sunset Song is also outstanding playing a character who could not be more different. She's the kind of performer you can't take your eyes off of as you can almost see her working through her character's thought process in real team.

As great as the performances were the real cinematic achievement here was the outstanding camera movements paralleling Moss happens to be at emotionally. I can understand why this would be off putting to the some, but it is precisely the point.

My only quibble and it's a small one, is the band is much closer to The Runaways in aesthetic than any of the Riot Grrrl 90s bands.

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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#36 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed May 29, 2019 10:42 am

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I thought the film would have been most effective ending with Moss staring off in the distance in her backyard, prior to the reunion show stuff. Yes, it would have been a more bitter pill, but I was genuinely moved by much of the stuff with the daughter in that scene, and with Moss' very real uncertainty about being able to maintain her sobriety. So having it wrap up in a somewhat neat little bow felt like a cop out, and made the movie feel overlong. It's still a very good film, I just think it could have been a great one.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#37 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:39 pm

This was an outstanding accomplishment by everyone involved; the acting, music, camerawork and especially sound design syncing together to create an orchestral movement of moody atmosphere. While I’ve at least enjoyed every Perry film to some degree (haven’t seen Impolex), they’ve progressively dropped in quality since his magnificent The Color Wheel, and this breaks that curse as a confident presentation of the amalgamation of his talents, and while I may prefer the earlier film, a case could be made for this being his best yet.

I don’t see this as a film about an ‘addict’ but Moss’s addiction is only a symptom of her condition, attempting to control herself and others against the grain of the reality of these expectations and time. Perry has never been interested in simplifying his characters, frequently focusing on narcissism and solipsism as protective psychologies of his protagonists, who exhibit these characteristics as defaults due to ego-provocation. Many people dislike the characters in his films and that’s fair, considering how off-putting they are on the surface. However, underneath Perry appears very aware (even self-reflexive perhaps) of the way people who exhibit narcissistic tendencies (i.e. condescending, pompous, arrogant, projecting, destructive) are acting as a defense mechanism to guard the fragility of their self-worth.

Sometimes his films execute this thesis more effectively than others, but Her Smell, with all the technical elements aiding the thematic journey help create the emotional tone Perry has been working toward with less successful efforts for years. Moss’s acting hits new levels of extreme here and what some may see as hammy, I see as the ultimate exemplification of what it feels like to be a human being struggling with mental health issues (and not necessarily a specialized case despite the intense depiction of symptoms on screen, but one that could be extended to most people) while simultaneously participating in a world that’s operating on a different level. Regardless of whether one views it as realistic or as a theatrical projection of inner emotional turmoil (I would argue it works as both), this is a mature film and stretches beyond character study to broader study of the effects of defaulting to selfishness and the hostages we all take when we succumb to this process, while refraining from judgment and instead of pigeonholing into just ‘addiction’ or ‘mental health’ widening the scope to a meditation on the disruption of harmony ever present in one’s interaction with their environment over time.
mfunk9786 wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 10:42 am
SpoilerShow
I thought the film would have been most effective ending with Moss staring off in the distance in her backyard, prior to the reunion show stuff. Yes, it would have been a more bitter pill, but I was genuinely moved by much of the stuff with the daughter in that scene, and with Moss' very real uncertainty about being able to maintain her sobriety. So having it wrap up in a somewhat neat little bow felt like a cop out, and made the movie feel overlong. It's still a very good film, I just think it could have been a great one.
SpoilerShow
The last act works exactly because the fourth one exists to slow us down and meditate on the destruction caused by Moss’s behavior. We feel this pain as her perspective widens to match ours, after witnessing the tunnel-vision she sees the world through first-hand in the first three segments, claustrophobically and uncomfortably close to her as bystanders to the pain she is causing as she tries to take control of her environment (the song she sings about all she wants is control is very on-the-nose, but felt realistic to how one would grasp for reason, especially one in recovery as plenty of 12-step fellowships focus on this concept).

While I agree that part of me wanted the film to end on the same note you did (the fourth part was also arguably the best segment, all the more effective in its juxtaposition with the chaos in the preceding segments), continuing the journey beyond this point works with the film’s focus on the passage of time and how a source of Moss’s increasingly self-focused behavior was an attempt to control not only herself (specifically her mental health through substances) and others (obstructing reminders of her perceived failures through volatile behavior) but ‘time’ itself.

Moss’s relationship with time is in many ways the catalyst for her existential deterioration, and by showing a chapter with life speeding up and existing beyond the scene where Moss is safe in her home surrounded by only a few close people, Moss- and by extension we- are not given that serenity. What you see as a more bitter pill to swallow vs. neat little bow at the end I see in the reverse. Either way we are left with a story that will continue on the course of time, well beyond the credits, but the way this ends serves as a more confrontational reminder that Moss cannot escape the triggers (substances, people, reminders of mortality, failures, and perceived inadequacy) that unleash the ennui of her soul. By inviting the people on stage and facing the crowd, she demonstrates a momentary act of willingness to engage with this environment: her personal hell that beats her down and elicits pain, and yet the only available and necessary space to feel supported and loved.

However, everything in the final chapter before the performance indicates that this will be a tumultuous battle just as it was before, and while there is some hope, this is far from a tidy resolution, for Moss and Perry don’t provide any reason to trust this dynamic between Moss and her environment beyond this moment in time. Moss’s final line in the film to the plea for an encore (a request of more of her, more interaction with the world) is “No, that’s all I’ve got.” If the film had ended on the fourth segment it would be a more calming representation of this feeling and possibly embrace the attitude that this surrender to a tranquil existence is possible. But by forcing the narrative to take one more plunge into the reality of what she must face, no such possibility is felt, and regardless of Moss’s statement time won’t stop for her even if that’s all she’s got, or all she wants to give. Time will not ask, will not request, it is not controllable or answerable to, and it will not allow her to surrender.
Last edited by therewillbeblus on Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#38 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:52 pm

Greil Marcus's brief review:

"Who knew that Gloria Swanson, who in 1966 appeared on an Avalon Ballroom poster for a Big Brother & the Holding Company show—the 1924 Edward Steichen portrait, her eyes burning through a veil—would turn up half a century later as the face of riot grrrl? Sixty-nine years after Swanson shot William Holden in Sunset Boulevard, Elisabeth Moss’s Becky Something is Norma Desmond from first to last."

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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#39 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 25, 2019 5:59 pm

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I will add that I do think there is hope in the ending in spite of my above comments, highlighted by the action that gives the film its title- when Moss smells her daughter’s hair. Even though I don’t think her involvement in the world is left in any way secure in the long-term as some may see it from the ending, she is willing to be an active participant and see others beyond herself, sober to the others in her periphery, an awareness that begins in chapter four. This is prevalent throughout the final chapter as she refuses to engage in substance use and talks about her daughter as a response to these invitations, culminating in embracing and soaking in the essence of her daughter through smell, a sense that offers a brief moment of mindfulness and serenity. A more hopeful reading of the film would be that she now possesses the ability to work through her issues and be present for others. I think it can be, and is, both this and the darker reading of this moment as a pause in the long arduous road of life, as I trust that Perry isn’t naive to see it as all one or the other. The happy ending is that Moss has evidence and experience with glimpses of forfeiting her fear-based behaviors, but nobody lives the rest of their lifetime on a pink cloud and despite the challenges ahead at least Moss has the strength, desire, and willingness to expand her periphery and go beyond focusing her attention on another to loving another possibly more than herself. Her ability to smell her daughter’s hair is the happy ending (the title “Her Smell” unexpectedly revealing the daughter as the subject is all the more powerful a shift after witnessing the self-focused behavior throughout this film), and as content a moment as any of us can hope for from our own lives.


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knives
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#41 Post by knives » Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:04 pm

TWBB sums up most of my feelings about the film better than I could, but I'd like to take on one of the assumptions that seems to underlie all of the comments of the film: that it is an endurance test or uncomfortable. Maybe my training has me react differently to this kind of behavior, but I thought the camera was too anthropological for the film to function in that way. This perhaps makes the ending work better for me since this always felt like a Greek tragedy wherein we see the great figure like a phoenix self immolate in order to be reborn. Maybe this doesn't make the film fun in a traditional way, but it caused me to have fun along the lines of a Bruce McDonald feature. The Shaman character makes this the most clear to me.

This isn't to say watching a person's mind slip won't be an endurance test for some, but for me the film functions in a different way. It probably helps that this comes at the end of a few months going over everything except Impolex that he ever worked on, even if only as an actor, giving a fuller sense of his proclivities then his directorial CV would suggest. What sets him apart from Philip Roth, who he clearly loves dearly, is (in his own terms) a nostalgia that assumes healing is possible. The fourth act shows the process of healing, but the fifth is its completion as well as a test. ARP's worst film carries that name, Nostalgia, and it works a bit like this in reverse highlighting how the good of the past is the promise for the future. That's also what I think is the meaning behind the interludes between acts. If all we saw was the main narrative in ARP's terms the fourth act, let alone the fifth, would be incoherent. He has to literally in some way show a positive memory in order to promise a good future.

It doesn't hurt that there seems to be five years between the third and fourth acts which is plenty of time for therapy (I don't buy the addiction spiel either) to help her out.

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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#42 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Dec 03, 2019 7:29 pm

Good points knives, I'm pretty familiar with this population (and this kind of behavior) so it's not exactly an endurance test or assaultive in content, but I think the film's methodology can be, and is, both uncomfortable and anthropological - the former as a necessary piece cut from the cloth of the latter. The camera forces us to linger on Moss to take in the totality of her behavior, and we can treat it with fear and discomfort as well as compassion and interest sometimes at once. The anthropological side allows us to see her as a whole person, warts and all, and this absolutely contributes to your Greek tragedy/Phillip Roth analogies, of which I agree (though I do think Perry has grown to see 'healing' as a continuous process, much like the mindset of recovery, based on impermanence of emotional health but one with hope to be more stable than not with practice and application of strategies to enhance skills and develop one's mindset), but discomfort can and does often come with that territory. That doesn't make this anthropological (and I'd argue, though some detest the use of the term, humanist) process any less sound. Rather it's generally uncomfortable for many to see a whole person, especially in cinema, where we inevitably see reflections of ourselves in selfish and socially inappropriate (among other repellent) actions taken in close quarters, the camera refusing to break from that anthropologically committed stance. I suppose I'm trying to say that the film doesn't serve to unsettle the audience but that this is one way to access the material and work towards the healing process right there with Moss.

I also think this relationship between viewer and subject can work as kind of an alternate path to our PM conversation on Flowers of St. Francis where the audience can view Ginepro as the subject through the eyes of the giant and feel strange, judgmental, admiring, etc. towards him and thus feel uncomfortable or interested within ourselves as a result; or the audience can become Ginepro and embody his grace, thus accepting and becoming all of those feelings together as all part of the collective whole and also none of them as one at peace with themselves. We can treat Moss similarly, as onlookers or identifiers at various points, though when and how we reach that position is part of the journey and will likely impact one's personal relationship with the film, even if healing is the ultimate result, but I'd say even the interpretation of that final act will be far more subjectively influenced than most films.

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knives
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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#43 Post by knives » Tue Dec 03, 2019 7:58 pm

I really like that comparison, but I'd put a third figure of the camera in there. It's natural to either empathize with the lead character or with those she is in contact with, but perhaps where I was coming from was empathizing with the camera which can give a wider insight than any character can encompass. That creates a sort of awe. In recalling the film this set up reminds me of Dryer's Joan. That can often be a facile comparison for any film where a strong woman undergoes a process, but here I think it's an important comparison for the difference. Perry presents a messy source for empathy leaving a wider eye for the audience converse to Dreyer's more absolutist take. (I wonder if throwing out Imamura will be too much at this point) This I think goes to your point about Perry's evolution of healing as a process that I must add is one by which everyone must be found innocent.

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Re: Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

#44 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:11 pm

Exactly, I think empathizing with the camera, or becoming one with that perspective, assists in finding that harmony to reveal the truist (literal definition and different from "most true," though that equally applies) composite of Moss' character. That is what I often mean by humanist filmmaking, which treats a person with equitable dignity and worth, reducing them to a state of innocence in the eyes of a higher power (perhaps the omniscient camera here) and thus free from judgment, which when done really well serves as a mirror and causes the judger to see their judgments as reflections of themselves and further frees the subject to said state of innocence, divorced from imposed and now meaningless ideas, thoughts, feelings, and labels.

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