Nurse (2013)

Nurse (2013) movie poster

director Doug Aarniokoski
viewed: 12/13/2014

“Hello, Nurse!” said I when first I saw the posters of Pas de la Huerta in fetishistic nursing gear, or alternatively nude and covered in blood.

Or some such thing.

I caught Pas de la Huerta in Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control (2009) (where she was cast as “Nude”) and also in Gaspar Noé’s mesmerizing Enter the Void (2009) and thought to myself that I had found another actress on which to focus my appreciations.  Only Ms. de la Huerta went onto television’s Boardwalk Empire and didn’t end up making a whole lot of movies since then.

So, Nurse looked like exactly the kind of thing I’d wanted to see: de la Huerta in a starring role, in a horror comedy of sorts, running around nekkid a lot.

Nurse is the story of Abby (de la Huerta) a nurse by day, serial killer by all times, whose focus is entirely on cheating men.  Really she is a sort of reverse misogynist.  And thusly also an anti-hero, I suppose.  She falls for a new co-worker named Danni (Katrina Brown) but after drugging her and taking advantage of her (including taking tons of blackmail photos), she is spurned and the plot has thickened into a more complex revenge.

The movie is not very good.  Which is not really surprising.  Abby is really a pretty nasty piece of work and though I think she’s meant to be somewhat sympathetic, she’s also really not sympathetic at all, but completely ruthless and evil.  Which I think falls on the writing and directing really.

It also features one of my personal pet peeves, digitized blood-letting.  I like a gory film but I like my fluids non-digital.  Digitized blood looks cheaper than it probably is to produce.

And as for Paz herself.  It’s hard to know how good/bad of an actress she is.  She’s certainly got a lot more screentime and dialogue in this film than the other two I mentioned, but her character is sort of inscrutable.  Sometimes funny, sometimes relatable, often just mean and cruel.

So, Nurse was a bit of a wash for me.  I’ve read they’re planning a sequel.

Enter the Void

Enter the Void (2009) movie poster

(2009) director Gaspar Noé
viewed: 02/01/11

Mind-altering drugs?  How about a mind-altering film?

Gaspar Noé’s psychedelic fever dream of a film, Enter the Void, is a harrowing 2 and a half hour death trip.  Shot entirely from the first person perspective (the camera’s view is through the eyes of a young American drug dealer) in Tokyo.  If the effect wasn’t disorienting enough, he takes drugs, trips out, and then gets shot to death.  When he dies, his spirit, the camera view, becomes a drifting omniscience, following his friend and his younger sister in the wake of his demise.

It’s really unlike anything I’ve seen.  Noé claims inspiration from a viewing Robert Montgomery’s 1947 film noir The Lady in the Lake, which Noé watched while tripping on acid.  The Lady in the Lake also employed this unusual first person camera approach.  I guess the LSD did the rest.

Enter the Void is something far more experiential than gimmicky.  It’s epic in its breadth, flitting back through the young man’s childhood and his relationship with his sister, the beautiful Paz de la Huerta.   Orphaned at a young age, he feels that he is her protector, but he’s a drug-taking drug dealer and she works as a stripper in the luminous neon Tokyo.  And then there is that weird incestuousness angle.

The film is amazing, really.  It’s a visual masterpiece, and the strange interior perspective, the disembodied semi-consciousness, the helplessness in death of detachment from the world, it’s a dark and often disturbing flight.  As much as the film takes inspiration from The Lady in the Lake, it also channels a spiritual psychedelia akin to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and I’ll bet my bottom dollar that this film finds its place among the cult films of the world, with college students and bong hits and lots of other additives enhancing an experience, perhaps steps further on from Noé’s with Montgomery’s noir film.

I regret not having seen this one on the big screen, but as intense as it was, I don’t know if I’m too keen to sit through it again.  It was an endurance test of sorts, as beautifully rendered and amazingly hallucinogenic as it was, it’s not really a pleasure trip.  But it’s a really wild, amazing film.  Heavy, trippy, epic.

The Limits of Control

The Limits of Control (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Jim Jarmusch
viewed: 01/07/09

How much sense does a film have to make?  Certainly, there is some fine line between pretension and art, perhaps lying entirely in the eye of the beholder.  And how does one know when a film is being remote and profound or sort of intentionally ambiguous and only pretending to make a statement?

When Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, The Limits of Control, came out last year, it was not met with positive reviews.  So, I am guessing that the slow pace and the bare bones of a narrative, played out against repeating statements about the meaning of life, queries of taste, allusions to art, and a cast of multinational actors didn’t manage to mesh for many people into anything either sensible or tolerable.  And going in, I considered this film to be a potential disappointment.

I’ve always liked Jarmusch, since his early times, Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Down by Law (1986), and Mystery Train (1989) and his film Dead Man (1995) is a personal favorite.  But what about this film?

Shot by cinematographer Christopher Doyle (probably the best in the business since his work with Wong Kar-Wai and beyond), the film follows African actor Isaach De Bankolé, a nattily-clad, Tai Chi-practicing courrier, as he lands in Madrid and is given a series of cryptic tasks, all signified by the hand-off of matchboxes, containing coded messages that he reads and then swallows with his two caffe espressos.  He is met by a broad spectrum of actors including John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Gael García Bernal, and Youki Kudoh who after asking him whether he speaks Spanish or not (he does not), pontificate on a variety of arts, ideas, and philosophies.  His journeys take him from Madrid to Sevilla to Almeria, a progression away from modernity and the urban to an older, smaller village, rural world.  And in the end, there’s Bill Murray and a further cryptic ending.

But you know?  I liked it.  Through the beginning, I was intrigued by the European-ness of the film, something perhaps like a film from The Continent from the 1980’s, something sort of post-New Wave or something.  And Doyle’s cinematography, using the unusual architechtural locations to frame shots within highly Modernist design, through the straighter, more traditional lines, and on, set the tone and the pace of this slow, quiet film.

And seeing Paz de la Huerta, nude, ambiguous, and nude…did I say nude?

Well, it’s not like it all made sense to me per se, but I liked it.  The passing landscapes out the windows of the train, from windmill farms to orchards to hills and sun, it’s almost as though the whole is something more than the parts.  And while there is certainly pretentions and intentional mystery that I don’t know if it all worked, I found myself in the odd minority of really liking the film.   And it’s not that I think that I’m right and all the others are wrong, but rather quite simply…I liked it.

I often note that time is the true judge, not just of film and art, but history, everything.  And I won’t project whether this film or even Jarmusch himself will stand the tests of time in that sense.  But I liked it.  And that is that.