Video On Demand is not something that needs words to be spoken in its favor. It has plenty of advertising, and it is something good for a few bucks on a boring night. That said, in one day I was able to watch two movies on VOD directed by two highly regarded directors from the past days when movie directors mattered. Turn on your TV, push the right buttons on your remote, and for a cost, you can also watch Brian De Palma’s “Passion” and Paul Schrader’s “The Canyons.”
Regarding Schrader’s “The Canyons” I can’t say much more than what has already been written, except to say it is not as bad as every critic would have to believe. Yes, it’s Lindsey Lohan acting older than she is in a screenplay that is fitting for an older and more corrupted group than she needs to be with. But then that seems to be her real life/TMZ story. If you ever had any pity for Ms. Lohan before this movie, then it will only be extended after watching this one.
While The Canyons did not reference it, but since it was “so LA in the ‘80s” in its style, I almost hoped for the music of David and David as some sort of recompense for viewing such corrupt life in the first place. Unfortunately it was not there. But in this way it’s good that the movie has Lindsey Lohan as a negative example, because otherwise one could fall through the cracks and beg bus fare back.
Perhaps this blasé disappointment in “The Canyons” is typical of Schrader, as seen in his earlier movies with George C. Scott “Hard Core,” let alone Richard Gere’s “American Gigolo.”
In “Passion,” on the other hand, De Palma has taken an ordinary but well-done French thriller, “Crime d’amour” by Alain Corneau, and added his typical doubts about the true meaning of things with a focus on the surface of things. Unlike Linsdey Lohan’s real life as played on TMZ, De Palma shows how the surface may contain in itself the true depth of things.
“Passion” is split in two parts. First there is the “realistic” Mad Women part where female ad executives try to achieve their ambition at the expense of each other. Such calculation is all done in a cold corporate office environment with each window, glassy surface, and video screen reflecting the banal, if ruthless, maneuvers of well educated women. Some women are beautiful and confident (Rachel McAdams), and others are furtive and full of self doubt (Noomie Rapace). Regardless, whether in Berlin, London, or New York it is a world where the usual feminist trope of victimhood is inverted into one of cool, calculating domination against other women. Apparently these women have global influence, even if not in solidarity to the cause of feminism for women as women.
The only man we see in this scenario is weak, and beholden to the ambitious and calculating b****h, well played by Ms. McAdams.
However, this is a De Palma flick, and the second half of the film, with a fine Pino Donaggio soundtrack, upsets any such easy feminist critique of sexism. Twice in the movie we hear rhetoric about how backstabbing is actually good business, and how each individual’s talent works for the best of the team. It turns out that what looks like a b****y catfight is part of the larger dream of selling people consumer products on a global scale at an advertising agency.
Some say that we all like to look, and that we all like to buy.
The “Ass Cam” cellphone ad is only the beginning of the ways in which it seems impossible to speak or act against both the written and unwritten regulations of what is called globalization. Apparently, it will be sold.
One might as well go along with all of this, but then one is in no better situation than Lindsey Lohan was vis a vis the paparazzi.
So then, after all, maybe you ought not spend your money on Video On Demand. But then again maybe this VOD could open some to the greatness of Brian De Palma.
For instance, you could watch the Paul Schrader/Brian De Palma feature “Obsession” (1976).
If there is to be a question of selective nostalgia, then I cannot move beyond actual memories. As much as I would have liked to hang out with Socrates or Jesus, I can only live my own life. I can read about the American founders and the 1950s, but my life is literally post 1968. De Palma movies both stem from my childhood and present questions as I understand them as I became aware of what is important.
So regardless of the big questions of civil rights and liberty and theology in American history, Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out” (1981)—when I sneaked into that movie at age twelve or so—stuck in my mind as something important. I’m shallow that way.