Okay, here we are at day three. (see the first two parts here and here) If there was such a thing as a theme to all this, this is the day where I grouped together all of the most depressing and/or disturbing things.
Clockwork Orange – Singin’ in the Rain (youtube)
Singin’ in the Rain isn’t the only movie to feature the song. There’s also this one, my favorite Kubrick movie and a damn fine film. This is the adaptation of the novel, of course, but I feel like the movie takes this in a savage direction by not blinking during truly terrible things. In fact, part of the appeal of the movie is that it never blinks, even when the film itself is about how people are all too willing to blink in the face of the monster in all of us, until we come to a point where we don’t have to any more.
It’s hard to articulate without seeing it, but this film is very much about the evil of man. And how that evil expresses itself. And this scene, where Alex and his goons invade a house, rape a woman and attack a man while singing Singin’ in the Rain, has become one of the iconic scenes in film on its own. Because it doesn’t pull back. Because it’s brutal and cruel and without any redeeming features. It’s hard to watch, and in being so, impossible to look away from.
The Thing – The Defibrillator Mishap (youtube)
The Thing is one of those movies I wished I had seen growing up. I adore horror films, gore films, monsters films, anything like that. And when I finally got around to watching this movie last year, it STILL made me lose my shit, and I’m one jaded mofo when it comes to this sort of stuff. The Thing is the best creature movie I’ve ever seen, with jaw-dropping effects that still haven’t been topped, even after two decades.
In this scene, one of the men at the remote Antarctic research station’s heart’s stopped. Little does everyone know that he’s been infected by the thing that they pulled out of the ice and brought in. The thing being some sort of being or infection that can take any shape and assume any form or function.
They don’t know, that is, until all hell breaks loose. All gory, awesome, monster hell. Just … watch it. The joy is in the effects, in the pitch-perfect reactions and framing. The pinacle of awesome practical effects.
Requiem for a Dream – The World’s Worst Montage
Requiem for a Dream is not a happy film. In fact, it’s a terrible, soul-crushing look at people and addictions and drugs. Without being preachy, it follows the logical conclusion of obsession to its disgusting, bleak conclusion. And that’s in the final montage of the movie, right at the end. Where the threads of the characters all fray off into dead ends as nobody wins. From the main character who’s infected arm from drugs gets amputated, to the mother addicted to pills to lose weight undergoes a nightmare vision of shock treatment, to the girlfriend who completely debases herself by publicly having sex with another woman, surrounded by leering businessmen, in order to score.
It’s a symphony of human suffering, with a rousing score that pounds into you with its incredible tempo. After the entirety of the movie, which just keeps going down and down, the finale explodes in pain and such a thorough examination of the futility of the characters actions that it reaches down and tarnishes your own soul for looking at it. It’s beautiful in how ugly it is, moving only in how quickly it tears away the happy facade of life and shows just how far and how quickly any person can fall.
Not for the weak of spirit, but … an amazing scene.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance – The Payoff
This Korean film is about a young girl who was coerced into confessing for the murder of a small child by the real killer. She’s found guilty and ends up going to jail, where she begins her transformation from a naive, weak-willed girl to a vengeful, remourseless woman. By the time she’s let out, she sets in place the machine of her retribution, finding the man who set her up and killed the child.
That is, until she discovers that he’s killed more than that child. He’s killed dozens. And with her nagging sense of having gone too far in her quest for vengeance, she decides to make one gracious gesture, a show of support and pity for the wronged.
Which is why she calls in all the parents who’s children have been killed, and shows them the killer, tied up on a chair. Which is why she passes out weapons and raincoats and lets the parents draw straws on who will get to go first.
The results are messy, and there’s nothing here to condone. It is people reacting to their pain by lashing out. A monster getting his with no sense of satisfaction. And the blank stares of the parents as they wait their turn, making small talk over the sounds of screams from the other room, just underlines that. It’s grisly, but it’s touching in its utter practicality. If put in the same situation, you would imagine that any parents would likely do the same.
Grave of the Fireflies – Fruit Drops
This is one of the best anti-war movies ever made. And don’t just take my opinion on it, Rogert Ebert agrees with me, and we don’t agree on ANYTHING. This is the story of a young boy and his even younger sister, orphaned during World War II. It’s a heartbreaking film, about the cost of war among the civilian populace.
The children end up bouncing from house to house, until they end up living in a cave, with the elder brother going and doing odd jobs to buy food. One of the few indulgences that his sister has is a small tin filled with fruit drops, a hard candy that she enjoys. But finally the candy dwindles, and they end up filling it with water to make sugar water that she can drink. But eventually, even that goes away.
Towards the end, when both of them are starving, forgotten and alone, she’s delerious with hunger and puts rocks in the can, rattling it in memory of the candy she used to have. And charting that path, from happy children to two dying, starving kids in a cave just miles from a city in Japan, is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen.
You can buy those fruit drops at any Japanese import store. They still make them. They’re online! And they’re quite good. But every time I get them, when I eat them, I remember that movie, and it’s all a little bittersweet. Because that small tin of candy was the last happy memory of a girl who suffered for nothing she did, but only for the actions of her country.