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The Torch: High trash

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Film is a matter of taste. It is odd at times to witness how elaborately twisted and scrupulously refined we can debate the merits of whatever movie, painstakingly analyzing with much scholarly care – and some narcissism – the pros and cons that leave us with no other choice, apparently, than to arrive at the very judgement we pass.

thetorch.jpgYet when professional rationalization gives way to emotional evaluation, we often hear a much clearer voice; and that one might be much less serious but speaks without calculation.

Who cares whether or not a composition diagonal is a sufficiently vivifying means by itself or requires a tracking shot, if the experience you have with a given picture is just so overwhelmingly hilarious you forget about everything else? We all feel the compelling need to cherish silliness for as much enjoyment as it can yield: that’s its given worth. In a profit driven world spurring us to almost total consumption even while it’s essentially not about any substance but rather, according to Baudrillard’s theory of the matter, about brands – why, there should be a lot of good reason for mocking precisely just such fetishism, shouldn’t there?

If you go tacky, do so in style with flags flying. In such an undertaking, when they say “Watch out, the worst is yet to come!” should have a whole different meaning. For here it is all about reversal and running counter to the norm and the ordinary for the pure heck of it. Needless to say, even the tasteless wants to be handled with care, and grace, as only then will it be well applied. But at least you are freed from any imperative warning against self-indulgence, and that can be very liberating indeed.

Tackiness: yes, it is a queer kind of humour, and frankly, I wouldn’t be able to tell who should be uncomfortable with that. With tackiness I am very ready to make an exception to go on record saying that in this case, story potential is comfortably secondary, but all the fascination you can possibly generate on that ticket has to come from serving a plate full of splendidly humorous mismatching beauty with a good deal of meanness attached. This sounds like a healthy recipe to me – and it has been observed to work funny little wonders on some of our more pedantic contemporaries in particular, so enjoy!

Examples abound, of failures and successes, and the many that fall in between, like Dasepo Sonyo for instance, that flashy-ridiculous Korean over-the-top parody of all styles of romantic to action drama. Closing off 2007 Berlin International Film Festival, it estranged many among the audience with its melodramatic performance of decadence, decay and doom – or whatever it was trying to get at, impossible to tell. Speaking of world’s end: “The Alien Invasion” by local Singaporean director Rich Ho is fabulous for precisely all the cheesiness it shows off, treating you to everything you’re usually best advised to avoid (big mistake!).

And any fan of Miike Takashi’s surely knows how much fun there can be in well-tempered trash like animated blood. If you decide to go for it, do so recklessly and without compromise. This is because when you do, it becomes most important above all else to stay the course and not waver an inch and try to make for sense or superfluous subtlety. That would be surely misplaced. Even if they call your final product all flash and no substance – for as long as the fun is limitless, such comes as a most respectable verdict, don’t you agree?

For all I know, I think it strangely pleasing that we can reaffirm ourselves most heartily whenever ridding our minds of the constraints of reason every once in a while and reset by just being childish and silly. Let yourself be informed by film on some of the inconclusive sides of life holding equally true as BBC reality news bites (and you can quote me on this if you like).

But it doesn’t always have to be the mock and proxy alignment for which you can put tackiness to veritable use in your film; besides, nothing can ever beat Monty Python on this, presumably, and you wouldn’t want to be regarded as just another copycat for sure. There are variations to be played on that theme and they include the honourable, the decadently beautiful just as well. Or you could enrich and further refine your picture’s visual representation by just a mild hint at a loss of form when you expressly (and expertly) feature bad taste in it, as Bertrand Lee did in his wonderful short film “Birthday”, and so fittingly accentuating the storyline.

Satire can wield its unique power in such a way against a wall of ignorance and safely get its point across, for everybody will understand right away what is meant in real terms. I am not speaking about veiling here, but about a suspension of aggravated opposition which is ready to embrace the lovingly absurd as yet another fact of life that isn’t static but intrinsically alterable if met with an open, an unintimidated mind. Thus disrespect, where it is deserved, will be allocated as a constructive power, and, since it is fiction, can provoke and challenge on the terms of laughter, which is a joining force and virtually irresistible; hence its (much feared) strength.

The nonsensical is perfectly legitimate and has the potential to teach us something about ourselves if we let it. It is not only justified, but even outright necessary, a matter of sanity if you will, and therefore indispensable. This is because the best practice of any critique is that which reminds us of how reliably we get things wrong, and that therefore we’d be fools to pride ourselves in our little bits of wisdom.

I ask: Why would you always want to be reasonable? It’s boring. We need a break, a good and eloquent mismatch with reality to speak our minds and give us a jolly catharsis every now and then. So much for the serious fun of sporting some trashiness in our movies.

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