Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ammoing up

The Killer Inside Me isn’t a misogynist picture. Winterbottom takes great care to show his own attitude toward the brutal suffering of both of these characters. And it’s easy to accept that he’s made the violence graphic so we’ll grasp the full moral weight of it — this isn’t jazzily cut cartoon brutality presented for kicks.

But that doesn’t mean that in addressing that violence, Winterbottom has made the right choices, artistically or emotionally. (Those who are extremely sensitive to spoilers and who haven’t already read Thompson’s book might want to stop reading here.)
In an online interview with The Wall Street Journal this past April, around the time his film was presented at the Tribeca Film Festival, Winterbottom expressed dismay when the interviewer mentioned that the women in The Killer Inside Me enjoyed having rough sex. “That’s interesting, you think that they enjoyed the violence?” Winterbottom said. “The story is being told from [Lou’s] point of view so it’s his version of what happened. In his head at least, there’s no doubt that these women love him.” Yet the movie clearly shows us both women enjoying, and sharing in, Lou’s sexual proclivities. Are we to believe what a filmmaker tells us with his camera, or how he explains himself in an interview? And if a story is told from one character’s point of view, does that mean a filmmaker has abdicated his role in shaping the material? Who’s in charge here, the character or the director?

[. . .]

I’m not looking for a “tasteful” treatment of violent material — if I were, I wouldn’t feel the admiration I do for Thompson’s novel. But I’d argue that extending the violence, as Winterbottom does, is actually anti-Thompson in its lack of economy. Thompson describes Joyce’s murder in five brief paragraphs, several of them only one sentence long but each one hitting with the weight of a lead-crystal candlestick. “I backed her against the wall, slugging, and it was like pounding a pumpkin. Hard, then everything giving away at once,” Thompson writes in two tersely horrific sentences. Thompson takes 21 words to get to the heart of a vivid, sickening idea. Winterbottom takes a good five minutes, and that’s 280 seconds too many. (Stephanie Zacharek, “Characters deserve better in violent ‘Killer Inside Me,’” Movieline, 17 June 2010)

This may not be a misogynistic; it need not be misogynistic; but it is certainly seeming lately that the way for liberal, self-protecting men to express in-some-way-need-to-be-expressed, apparently near furious anger at women, is to enact brutal "revenge" with high-purpose cover. Right now it may be the liberal men can get away with saying that "anyone who might find the violence in this movie gratifying or arousing is already virtually beyond the bounds of professional help" (Andrew O'Hehir), but if as I suspect we see more Watchmen/ Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/ Killer Inside of Me follow-up, at some point we've got to suspect that high-concept / purpose has become the last hold-out for expressing deeply felt gripes against terribly wounding female treatment. One suspects it already in their ammoing up.

Link: Characters deserve better in violent “Killer Inside Me” (Movieline)

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