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Daily Reads: The Reflective Horror of ‘It Follows,’ The Insane Ending of Adam Sandler’s New Movie, and More

Daily Reads: The Reflective Horror of 'It Follows,' The Insane Ending of Adam Sandler's New Movie, and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news
stories and critical pieces to you.

1. The Reflective Horror of “It Follows.” The new horror film “It Follows” deals with the history of slasher movies and other horror films about dead teenagers to tell a story about the vulnerability of youth. Angelo Muredda of Movie Mezzanine writes:

What’s clear, at least, is that [director David Robert Mitchell is] interested in opening up a space between the exploitative demands of the genre, which routinely invites us to take pleasure in the graphic mutilation of young people, and a more reflective account of what it means to be in one those endangered bodies. Hugh’s violent turn, it bears mentioning, immediately follows the closest thing to an outtake from Mitchell’s first film, Jay’s dreamy postcoital monologue about how, as a child, she wanted nothing more than to project herself elsewhere into the future — somewhere north, maybe. The irony that Jay should nostalgically yearn for that freedom to pilot her life while occupying the backseat of her date’s car is surely not lost on Mitchell, who at different points lets his camera adopt the unnerving gaze of the neighborhood boys who creep on Jay’s poolside swims, as well as that of her kind but overeager platonic friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist), who looks at her with sad territorial eyes that suggest he’d be all too honored to take her curse upon himself. These substitutions of the usual slasher film’s stalker-cam for the perspectives of more homegrown and more explicitly gendered threats aren’t empty ironic posturing on Mitchell’s part, but of a piece with his larger project of using the genre to elucidate his characters’ everyday experiences. Read more.

2. Sexual Fantasy on Film. Why does “The Duke of Burgundy” work as an exploration of an S&M relationship while “Fifty Shades of Grey” doesn’t? BBC’s Lucy Scholes writes that it’s because the former actually tries to look into the structure and meaning of sexual fantasies.

We soon realize that what we’ve only been shown half the story, and the fantasy life of the two central characters is a staged scenario within the larger staging of Strickland’s film. It’s what happens behind the scenes, as it were, that’s more interesting. When Cynthia, in a moment of pure rebellion, dons her pyjamas, rejecting her elegant but constricting corsetry in favour of something ‘comfortable’, she doesn’t just destroy Evelyn’s fantasy, she breaches the entire aesthetic of the film. Not only is the lovers’ relationship clearly on thin ice, but the entire picture hovers on the edge of oblivion. For Strickland to show successfully the cracks that are appearing in the relationship, the costume change is essential, but nevertheless, it’s a brave move, especially for a director for whom aesthetic is everything. Read more.

3. The Maysles and “Gimme Shelter.” The Maysles caught a dark moment in rock history on film with “Gimme Shelter,” about the disastrous Rolling Stones concert at Altamont. Nathan Rabin writes:

Obviously the film benefits from the clear hindsight history provides. But the Maysles make it clear that the festival was riddled with bad vibes, miscalculation, and a combustible mix of elements, many not at all devoted to peace and love, that made violence if not inevitable, then at least likely. Even The Grateful Dead, no strangers to the Hell’s Angels themselves, gauge the temperature of the crowd and take a helicopter out before performing. Read more.

4. Russian on “The Americans.” What are the rules of speaking Russian on “The Americans?” Vulture’s Sean T. Collins speaks with creator Joe Weisberg and co-showrunner Joel Fields:

The golden rule of language on the show: realism.
JF: The rule is that whatever language they’d be speaking in reality is what they speak.

JW: That’s right. If they’re two Russian speakers, they speak Russian. If there’s a Russian speaker with someone who doesn’t speak Russian, they have to speak English.

JF: For example, in the Soviet Union, there have been several seasons in English this year because [political prisoner] Evi is from Belgium and barely speaks Russian. They put her in [disgraced KGB agent] Nina’s cell knowing that Nina speaks English. Or — you probably haven’t seen this part of the show yet — we have a story line coming up where a couple of Russian speakers will be among other Russian speakers but want privacy. They both happen to know English, so they speak English then. Read more.

5. “The Color Purple” and Self-Love. Victoria Bond of The New Republic writes about Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of “The Color Purple” as a touchstone of black female self-love:

For black women especially, loving means placing the needs of others above our own. In respectability politics, it means that you comport yourself in a way that compromises the self and therefore doesn’t humiliate the group. In “The Color Purple,” this all gets inverted. Self-love must first be achieved to properly love others. Self-acceptance leads to substantial community standing. Love and sexual satisfaction flow from self-esteem. And as a concept, sexual fluidity privileges female desire while neutering compulsory heterosexuality. Celie and Shug don’t end up together in either the novel or the movie, and that’s not the point of the story. The choice of self makes meaningful, satisfying sexual relationships possible in the first place. Read more.

6. The Craziness of “The Cobbler.” Every plot point from “The Cobbler” makes it sound like a gag rejected from “Funny People” for being too absurd. Alison Willmore of BuzzFeed looks at its insane ending.

There’s something awesomely wild-eyed about its final gearshift — even for a movie that dabbles in magical realism, it feels crazy, the ultimately tonal dissonance in a story full of them. It may have seemed like we were watching a fable about how Max learns to accept and appreciate his inherited lot in life, in all its humbleness and lack of glamour, with all his mixed feelings about taking over for the parent who abandoned him and his mother; but no…Read more.

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