Recent Film Reviews
Old Film Reviews
Navigation

The new album from Al Rose. Available at CD Baby,  iTunes and Amazon.

If you like the cut of our jib over here at The Moving World, please consider kicking a little something our way.

Journal Archive
« Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool: A Sunday afternoon in Lincoln Park | Main | Glen Hansard at Millenium Park »
Thursday
Jul072011

"Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle

[Caveat: the following piece contains spoilers about both movies discussed.]

By some aligning of the stars, “Showgirls” and “Enter the Void” dropped into my mailbox in the same week (I certainly hadn't planned it that way).  Even though the former is an exploitative piece of high camp from 1995 by those shameless commercial hacks, Paul Verhoeven and Joe Esterhaz ("Basic Instinct"), and the other a psychedelic mindblower from 2009 by the Argentine provocateur Gasper Noe ("Irreversible"), the two pictures actually made for an interesting double feature, variations on the theme of "Sex Money Power", as a gaudy sign in "Void" blares.  (Chuck in "drugs" and you've covered it.)

Both films take us into a world of neon, of night, coke, pole-dancing, colorful marquees promising adult fun within.  And they take us behind the scenes to show how all this hedonism is manufactured in their respective worlds: Las Vegas ("Showgirls") and Tokyo ("Void"). 

 

Pretty heady stuff for a sheltered kid from Southeast Ohio. 

I hadn't seen it before, but you probably know that "Showgirls" is about a tough girl, Nomi (Elizabeth Berkely), who comes out to Vegas to follow her "gotta dance!" dream.  She takes to the pole to make ends meet, though her dream is to be a showgirl.  One day she catches a rehearsal of a  hotel show and gets her first glimpse of the star (played by Gina Gershon as a sexy, sneering cokehead).  Immediately Nomi envisions herself taking the older woman's place.  (The movie echoes a classic Hollywood structure: young woman on the make, older star maneuvering to cover her ass.)

Elizabeth Berkley is striking, statuesque; Verhoeven shoots her with that corrupt, alluring sheen for which he's so well known.   Every shot she's in she gives you some kind of visceral jolt.  She moves a bit like a mannequin come to life, like an alien approximating human behavior.   "Strong" isn't the word: she's fierce.  (I reckon Lady Gaga's seen this picture more than once.)  She radiates power, holding her own in a world of dangers (men, drugs).   

 

"Showgirls" is a joke, of course: a ludicrous pulp melodrama.  None of its people act in any recognizably human way.  Although remarkably witless and incompent, as a joke--a fantasy--it's funny enough.  However, then it veers into exploitation movie territory.   The scene where a star of the Vegas stage and his bodyguards rape Nomi's friend, and the ridiculous revenge-fantasy scene where Nomi goes to his hotel and kicks his ass?   These are played for entertainment, and are thus so corrupt that you really have to laugh. (In that I suppose in a weird way the movie is an honest mirror held up to a facet of American culture).   

Is the movie in on the joke?  (Certainly the actors are.)  I have a sinking suspicion that Verhoeven and Esterhaz actually think they've made something that takes a hard look into the abyss, but actually it's got the depth of a puddle. 

"Enter the Void" is something else.  Now I love provocateurs, but before this film I wouldn't have classed Noe with the finest of them--there's a twisted humanism in the best of them, like Von Trier and Haneke, as well as a kind of intellectual distance (and wit) that I wasn't getting from Noe. The best of them are never exploitive, exactly, the way I thought Noe's "I Stand Alone" was.  "Irreversible" was an improvement: honestly disturbing and full of interesting ideas. 

"Void", however, is an extraordinary film, a sensory experience that showed me things I've never seen in a movie before.  It aims for that sort of spiritual, transcendent experience that, if you're like me, you're always looking for; I suppose on one level I'm always turning to movies looking for just such an experience.    

At least in its opening sequences, it's the rare film shot in the first-person, that perceives its world as we do ours: our own individual consciousness carried around on our shoulders.  It's about a young American kid, a bit of a seeker, who  relocated to Tokyo and was finally able to  afford to bring  his sister over (Paz de la Huerta: yowsa!!).  They've had a "blood brother/sister" closeness ever since their parents were killed in a car accident (unforgettably, viscerally rendered).  To make money she takes to the pole, while he  peddles drugs.  He's as much an enthusiast as a seller, really.  (There's a beautiful sequence at the beginning visualizing a trip.)

One night the police raid a club while he's carrying; he rushes to the stall to flush the drugs.  In a frantic bid to dispel the cops, he stupidly yells out that he has a gun.  A point on his chest  erupts once and he realizes he's been shot through the stall door.  Sinking, he feels his life ebb out of him on the floor of the squalid stall. 

His soul, his consciousness then leaves his body and begins to flit about Tokyo, stuck in this world until it can find its way to a higher plane of existence.  Finally the camera is as free as I've always dreamed it could be.  Hovering, flying, floating, giving us a window  on to visions flitting across his mind's eye, dreams, flashing memories of his life.  (The point of view now is from just behind his silhouetted head).

The film contains some astonishingly beautiful visuals.  The brother and sister enter a shop that she remarks "looks like heaven":  

At one point the kid examines a glowing model of Tokyo made by an artist friend: 

 

The sequences that take off into the inner and outer universes pick up the baton thrown down by the likes of "2001"  and "Dreamscape" and take us if anything even further:

  

And it's not all sensory overload: there are long stretches when it's very,  very quiet.  Noe's had the courage to make the film  just as overlong as he wants it to be, to convey the tediousness, the frustration of this soul flitting around our world looking for a way out.

Sometimes the kid's soul seems to be able to enter the body of a man while he's in the act of sex; we then get a very intimate view of the  woman's head and shoulders.   The movie finds something sacred, some ancient ritual, some human connection even admist the impersonal sex in the Love Hotel.  As he floats he sees a glowing emanating at all points where bodies connect.  

I've certainly never seen a shot of sexual intercourse taken from inside the vagina before.  Having shown us the end of life,  Noe now shows us the origin of it: wriggling sperm attempting to penetrate a human egg.  “Enter the Void” is as much about life as it is about death.  There's a recurrent image of a baby nursing at its mother’s breast.  It dares to peer into the void,  the abyss, and find something beautiful there, something more than pain. 

Both "Showgirls" and "Void" depiect a demimonde comprised of men who are only interested in other human beings to the extent they can make money off of them.  (As a hysterical Paz cries out over and over in "Void" after her brother is killed, even as she takes comfort in the arms of one of these men, “Evil people, you're all evil people!”).  Both movies purport to be about human souls trying to navigate an inhuman world, but only "Void" is truly about a soul trying to find a home.  Fake right down to its Hollywood ending, "Showgirls"  contains not an ounce of soul (which is not to say it's not a laugh).

Only "Void" detaches "sex" from the "money" and "power" equation and connects it to the life force of the universe.

 

 

 

 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (44)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    Great Web-site, Preserve the excellent job. Thanks.
  • Response
    Response: Check This Out
    Good Website, Preserve the excellent work. Thank you so much.
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    the moving world - journal - "enter the void" and "showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    How do I get my Wordpress blog posts to get views in the days after I first post them?
  • Response
    I want to start my own website. Are there any places I can do this for free with minimum advertising on them? Or all free places have heaps of advertising?.
  • Response
    Response: yacon reviews
    Presumably the magazine doesn't do deals with each source that it reproduces, so how does copyright law allow them to re-print editorial content that they don't own without paying royalties?. . Also, can this law be applied internationally?.
  • Response
    I should add that I'm not that technical, so a solution that is easy to use would be more appropriate of the two. . . The website will work in a similar way to gumtree's classified ads. If this is possible would I also be able to add a charging mechanism ...
  • Response
    I just downloaded Mozilla firefox, how do i make it so my opening page is bebo? I know its possible i just can't remember how. I mean so that when you open firefox its not google its bebo, if yous get what i mean?.
  • Response
    How can my blog be popular and read by many people?
  • Response
    Response: waterfront condo
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    Response: venus factor legit
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    I use firefox and some nights at 12:00 exactly or 12:30 exactly, firefox stops working and does not load a page. The internet connection is perfectly fine though because it says excellent. I am connected to a home router and the signal strength is always excellent. I do not know why ...
  • Response
    Response: high risk pool
    I am new to blog subscriptions and I am looking for an easy reader that is nice and organized that lets me view my blogs from my homepage or has a little scrollbox that is always up on the side of the computer screen. I started to use bloglines but it ...
  • Response
    Response: buy life insurance
    I just figured out that my computer has this kind of trojan. I was running pretty much all of the Anti-virus things my computer has. The main one says there is nothing there and my Windows defender says I have two trojans so I'm not sure what to do. I'm thinking ...
  • Response
    Response: insurance coverage
    I need complete and detailed requirements, policies and procedures, anyone help me please? = ).
  • Response
    Response: family plan
    I've found it a little difficult to find computer parts without having to buy whole computers and tearing them apart myself. . I want to start my own business using the computer parts, but where can I get the computer parts (the small parts)? I have tried my local recycle center ...
  • Response
    get the top insurance available
  • Response
    Response: seovolución
    What information technologies could we use to make it easier to keep track of when new blog posts were made a?
  • Response
    Do adsense people mind if I publish articles whcih are not copyrighted?
  • Response
    Response: seovolución
    I am a business man dealing in direct marketing. I need to start a blog for my business purposes. For this I hope I do not have to have an exclusive web site. Kindly advise about books where the fundamentals are explained..
  • Response
    Response: quotes online
    I know that there are countless plug-ins designed to make the comments do-follow, but I'm looking for something that will make the links in the blog-posts themselves do-follow. Please include a link or detailed instructions on how to do this. Thanks!. Do you have any examples of themes that you know ...
  • Response
    What are the core or basic lessons taught Writing classes? One of the first things I learned about was Freytags Pyramid. I was told that isn't an across the board learning device. So what is? I'm really curious. In poetry I was taught, 'if it means too many things to too ...
  • Response
    The top quality video seo around
  • Response
    If my background image was labeled for commercial reuse can I claim copyright on all other content?
  • Response
    How do I import Firefox bookmarks and other settings from one user account to another?
  • Response
    Response: Advanced Search
    I've been thinking of moving from Joomla to Wordpress because it's much easier to use and much more convenient. But the problem is I have many posts, and I don't know what to do... since I'm not a programmer or anything.. . How can I migrate from Joomla to Wordpress?.
  • Response
    So I learned how to add a Facebook comment box to my Blogger site (with the help of a code from Facebook social plugins site), but the problem is, the same comments appear for each of my posts. It's like a feature targeted as a comment box for the entire site, ...
  • Response
    I want to start a blog that deals with moral issues. I want people to be able to see it, and also be easy to use and post..
  • Response
    Response: free itunes codes
    I've found it a little difficult to find computer parts without having to buy whole computers and tearing them apart myself. . I want to start my own business using the computer parts, but where can I get the computer parts (the small parts)? I have tried my local recycle center ...
  • Response
    Response: Cherie Litz
    I found a great...
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    Response: time intercourse
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    Response: insurance etf
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    The Moving World - Journal - "Enter the Void" and "Showgirls" double feature: the abyss and the puddle
  • Response
    Response: контакт
    вконтакте

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>