The commercial and the not-so-commercial

Antoine Fuqua directs John Malkovich as the Vatican's most powerful exorcist and Naomi Campbell as a dangerous and seductive demon in "The Call", a Pirellifilm, i.e., a high concept commercial for expensive automobile tires. Releases online next Thursday. At the prices Hollywood talent commands, I can't imagine the payback on these Anonymous Content online ad-movies pay back, but I did enjoy their BMW Films so I won't complain. Pirelli concept marketing (if it's deserving of that modifier) is like high-end beer advertising. With their calendars for VIP customers only, and now with their movies, they aim to have the world associate their tires with gorgeous, nude supermodels. I for one, will not question the effectiveness of that tactic.
Then there is Ye Yan, or The Banquet, a loose Chinese adaptation of Hamlet with some martial arts mixed in. When I first heard of the concept, I laughingly suggested Zhang Ziyi as one badass Ophelia. Then the IMDb page went up, and it turns out Zhang Ziyi is in the movie. She plays the Emperess, who I presume to be Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, though that can't be right because Zhang Ziyi still looks like she's 18, albeit someone you're really really thankful is 18. The key word in "loose adaptation" is probably "loose", so a close reading is probably overkill.
Here's a brief Windows Media clip of behind-the-scenes footage, shown at the Berlin Film Fesitval. The quality is such that I suspect it's a bootleg of a bootleg of a bootleg. More info and photos and movie clips are up at this unofficial Banquet movie page. Footage from a recent press conference is here (the page is in Mandarin, but the movie clip links are the four in the box at the top of the page).
Among my dream jobs would be to be Zhang Ziyi's English tutor, while she would reciprocate as my Mandarin teacher; her Chinese is just that good. Occasionally I'd butcher a pronunciation and she'd giggle. Occasionally she'd butcher an English word and I'd chuckle, and then she'd deliver a roundhouse kick to my face.

[Tangent: Listening to both Sarah Silverman and Jon Stewart butcher Zhang Ziyi's name at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Oscars was disheartening. They don't have to get the tones right, but they weren't even in the same province. By the way, I refuse to change the ordering of her name to the Americanized Ziyi Zhang.]
Finally, on this completely random journey through upcoming movies, we come to Drawing Restraint 9, the new film by Matthew Barney with music by his wife Björk. A viewing of the trailer suggests this is the real prize for connoisseurs of the avant-garde.

Drawing Restraint 9 trailer (Quicktime)
Drawing Restraint 9 soundtrack by Bjork
Drawing Restraint 9 official website (still just a Coming Soon sign)
The last movie I saw by Matthew Barney was at Sundance earlier this year. Barney's segment was one of the seven shorts to make up Destricted, an art film about pornography. Art Forum chose it as the best film of 2005, so I had high hopes for a movie that might be both provocative and sexy, especially considering that among the other six directors were Larry Clark, Gaspar Noé, and Sam Taylor Wood.
Well, the movie checked off the box next to provocative. This is where I enter spoiler mode, but it's one time I feel the
Matthew Barney's short, "Hoist," actually one portion of another movie titled De Lama Lmina, features copulation between nature, represented by a naked man, and technology, represented by a massive Caterpillar truck. Why do I say nature? Because the man had a turnip growing out of his a$$ and flowers coming out of his mouth. A high-def camera inserted up into the underbelly of the truck captures the footage of the man pressing his, uh, member up against the truck's lubricated and rotating driveshaft (What is the etymology behind using member to refer to a penis, anyway? Has William Safire already written a column on this?).
This contact between member and driveshaft turns out to please nature man, and things, uh, come to a head, so to speak (apologies in advance for all the childish euphemisms, but I am fearful of what Google's Adsense will pick up on). This is one time I would've been more than happy to lose the added resolution of high-definition video. 15 minutes into Destricted, and already I was covering my eyes and whimpering. The unease of the theater rose as, with every short, the audience realized that these directors aimed to deconstruct pornography, to skewer its mechanical, dehumanizing quality, and to do so without mercy. We had been lured into our seats with candy and lace, only to have a maniacal doctor enter the room and close the doors behind him as he turned on an electrical saw.
Larry Clark's segment, "Impaled," turned out to be the most diverting of the segments. He put out an casting call for a young male to perform in a filmed sex scene with a real porn star, and then he filmed both the casting call interviews and the resulting winner's big fantasy day. Like Dancing with the Stars, but without the stars and without the dancing, or American Idol, with Larry Clark as Simon, Randy, and Paula. The interviews reveal how much these young boys' minds, relationship skills, and ideas on sex have been warped by watching one porno too many.
Sam Taylor Wood's segment, "Death Valley", features a guy strolling alone through the desert of Death Valley, alone. He stops, drops his jeans, and proceeds to have sex with someone he loves, as Woody Allen once put it. For nearly 8 minutes. By the end of the movie, the theater, so restless and uncomfortable you could feel everyone shriveling in their parkas, took to clapping in unison to the guy's own, umm, beat. Please, please, please, the theater urged, just finish your business.
Gaspar Noé's segment, "We f--- alone," is the last one in the movie, and it is like one last thrashing, the cinematic equivalent of that fatality in Mortal Kombat where Sub Zero rips off his opponent's head and pulls out his spine. The entire segment is shot with a lurid red light, but even worse, it's shot with a strobe. It plays for 23 minutes. 23 minutes of strobing red light. 23 of the longest minutes of my life. For nearly all of it, a young man on screen has sex with himself and an inflatable doll. He puts a gun in the dolls mouth, at one point. There was a teddy bear involved at one point, but I don't remember how; I've probably repressed that memory as any trauma patient would. I'm not so sure I wouldn't have been relieved if the strobe had put me into a seizure before the movie's end. At least then I could have saved myself from some of that 23 minutes of torture. When the movie finally ended, I staggered out into the cold night air, feeling as if I had been that inflatable doll in that last segment. Noé, no doubt, would have been pleased, perhaps even gleeful, to see the wrecked audience members walking in circles, drooling in delirium.
Take the darkest, most unsparing after-school special, then put it on the steroid regimen that Barry Bonds was on for about six years, and then arm it with a chainsaw. That's Destricted. The movie is effective, without a doubt, but so is Jack Bauer when he really needs to get info out of a witness, and who wants to be tied up in the chair when Jack brings out the electric nipple clamps? The next morning, when my condo mates came to wake me, I was clawing at my eyes, muttering, "Make it stop, make it stop." Having summoned those images back into my conscious mind, I'm now going to go cleanse my palate by looking at that picture of Zhang Ziyi up above for about half an hour.
I look forward to the recommendations on or IMDb for Destricted:
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