DVD REVIEWS: I’M NOT THERE, TEETH

06.09.08 9 years ago 61 Comments

Sometimes people ask my opinion about stuff.  I like that.  Saves me the trouble of trying to get their attention through shouting and stick-pokery.

Teeth – DVD in stores May ’08
I didn’t really know what to make of this when it was in theaters – is it a horror movie? A comedy? A satire?  All of the above?  I’m happy to report that I watched the whole DVD and still have basically the same questions.

One thing I can say with certainty – it’s predictable.  Really, really predictable.  There are only so many ways you can go with a vagina dentata movie, and Teeth chooses the most obvious one.  It’s a metaphor for her sexuality, get it??  She’s ignorant of it at first, then aware but ashamed.  But once she conquers her shame, she uses it to her advantage!  Just like you can!  Girl power!

No quibbles with the message, just that the way it’s delivered is really obvious.  If you’ve seen a foreign movie from the 70s or a Madonna video, the structure’s annoyingly familiar.

Jess Weixler does a great job in the lead role – playing a girl who not only has teeth in her vagina, but seems to be a magnet for every rapist in a 50 mile radius.  Seriously, every male character in this movie tries to rape her at least once.  Teeth hits on all cylinders during the rape scenes – they’re graphic, gruesome, and hilarious in all the right ways.  The problem is, there aren’t enough of them to sustain the movie and everything in between is either flat or confusingly outlandish.

I suspect writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein (son of the famous pop artist Roy) thought he was making a provocative statement.  I’m not biting. Do you see what I did there?

Grade: C

I’m Not There (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition) – released May ’08.
Two seconds of the trailer were enough to know I wanted no part of this.  But when every critic, including and especially Owen Glieberman, someone whom I’ve met and whose opinion I respect, creamed their shorts over it, I thought I’d give it a shot.

About five minutes in, when the titles end with “Based on the music and many lives of Bob Dylan”, I was already cupping my hand around an invisible cylinder and air jacking off.  If the idea of “a rumination on the life of Bob Dylan, where six characters embody a different aspect of the musician’s life and work,” appeals to you, you’ll probably enjoy this.  If it sounds pretentious and contrived and makes you a little nauseous like it does me, you won’t. I promise.

The reverence with which Todd Haynes deals with some of Bob Dylan’s worst nonsensical beatnik gibberish is just impossible for me to handle.  “And the cats across the roof mad in love scream into drainpipes, and it is I who am. Ready; ready to listen, never tired, never sad, never guilty,” says Christian Bale as “Jack Rollins”.  Oh yeah, did I mention all of the incarnations of Bob Dylan have different names?  That’s also annoying.  Anyway, if amorous cats screaming into drainpipes is full of meaning and beauty for you*, you’re gonna love this.  To me it’s an annoying, esoteric ramble like the rest of the movie.

My personal feeling is that words are instruments for expressing meaning.  When you fill them full of ambiguity and amorphousness, you’re sort of missing the point.  It’s like framing a hammer and sticking it on the wall.  Yeah, you’re creative and unconventional, but I’d rather you’d built me something.  This entire movie is an ode to hammer framing.  I got through 40 minutes of it and only through sheer will.

As much as I hated it, I have to admit that it looks beautiful.  Hollywood has a bad habit of unartfully shoving the camera right in the actors’ faces like the television news these days.  They could learn a lot from Todd Haynes and his cinematographer Edward Lachman.  When it comes to composing every frame like a photograph, their nostalgia works for them.

The rest of the time it doesn’t.

Grade: Withdrawal/Incomplete

*If you’re someone like, say, “Fire Lullaby”, the girl on MySpace from whose headline I pulled that quote.

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