Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Agency, Spy Agencies And An Artist’s Head

I don’t have the new stop-motion video ready yet. I’m trying to work out a reasonable arrangement for the music to the song. I think I’ll have the video tomorrow. But I’m going slowly, trying to get things right.

But an extra day or two lets me deal with more stuff on this topic, espionage, but espionage from a weird, idiosyncratic angle.

Last week in On A Loch Ness Kind Of Wind I talked about the really good Malachi Martin novel “Windswept House.” I think that novel is very interesting. I can’t really think of another novel that deals with religion and espionage in quite the same way, the same tone, as that novel. I’ve read other novels that try to deal with both religion and espionage. Some are more about religion and some are more about espionage, but I’ve never read anything that strikes quite the same tone as “Windswept House.” I liked it a lot and I think of it often.

I want to single out another story that deals with espionage in an odd way, by combining espionage and bizarre psychology in a horror story kind of way. The result strikes me as something almost like magic. And the weird thing is two other works—a novel and another film—deal with almost exactly the same elements but both seem to me to be totally inconsequential.

But the film I’m going to talk about has one particular scene that I think about very frequently.

First of all, here’s a quick bit of background.

Back in the 70s, when Stephen King was having great success with his novel “Carrie” about a young girl with telekinetic powers, other writers tried to cash in on the public interested. A guy named John Farris wrote a book called “The Fury” about a young girl with telekinetic powers who gets involved with a shadowy spy agency. I didn’t like the book. Brian De Palma had success with his film version of “Carrie” so he did a film version of “The Fury” and I didn’t like that very much. Both versions of “The Fury” are generally well-respected, but I don’t often hear anyone, even movie buffs or horror buffs, talking about them.

However —

A couple of years after Brian De Palma did his film version of “The Fury,” a young Canadian filmmaker named David Cronenberg made a low-budget horror film with many of the same elements—troubled people with telekinetic powers, a shadowy spy agency, and even a big special effects scene of a head exploding. While Farris’s book and De Palma’s film aren’t much talked about by people I know, Cronenberg’s film, “Scanners,” has become very famous among horror film buffs. People I know talk about “Scanners” with some frequency (so to speak).

And although many horror buffs remember “Scanners” mainly for the incredible scene of Louis Del Grande’s head exploding, I’ve always remembered a scene that comes just a little later.

The hero of the movie, a man named “Vale,” tracks down a troubled artist named “Pierce,” and the hero tries to get the artist to help him find the movie’s villain.

The hero meets the artist in the artist’s studio, inside a barn next to a farmhouse far out in the country. They talk surrounded by the artist’s large plaster creations, and they even enter and sit inside a giant plaster head while they have a conversation about voices inside their own heads:

VALE: “The voices. In my head. They’re driving me crazy. How do you stop them? Your voices?”

PIERCE: “My art. My art keeps me sane. My art. Sane.”

VALE: “I don’t have anything like this. That’s why I have to find Darryl Revok.”

PIERCE: “You, my friend, are a liar. Get out.”

VALE: “Look, I’m not leaving here until you tell me where I can find Darryl Revok.”

PIERCE: “No? All right. Well, then, I’ll get out.”

It’s hard for me to describe the deep effect this scene had on me.

When I was young, well, younger, I just always accepted that any confrontation had to be dealt with head-on, so to speak, in one way or another. Humor. Or persuasion. Misdirection. Victory or defeat. Whatever. Something. I just always assumed—for some reason—that a person had to react and engage and grapple with confrontations.

So when the extraordinary artist in this scene reacts to the blunt confrontation by saying, “All right. Well, then, I’ll get out” it was a moment for me like a philosophy student getting hit on the head with a bamboo stick and getting jolted out of his accepted thought patterns.

To this day—more than thirty years later!—I still think of this scene when I find myself in a tricky situation. I always feel, now, that there is this option of just shrugging off the trickiness of whatever confrontation I feel, and just getting out myself.

“Well, then, I’ll get out.”

It’s a good feeling. It’s a kind of freedom—a freedom of thought and of emotion. A feeling of agency.

So thinking about espionage, spy agencies and all that kind of stuff, it is important to me to mention the 1981 David Cronenberg film, “Scanners.” It was about espionage, but in a very idiosyncratic way.

And it certainly seems to me to be a very good thing.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Synthetic Outer Space And Liminal Entities

Whatever Pretend Means

RIP Marilyn Chambers (4/22/52 – 4/12/09)

Ephemera And Antiphony

“(I even remember that in
David Cronenberg’s great 1981 film
‘Scanners,’ the drug that creates
scanners is called Ephemerol.
It’s ephemera trivia. [!])”

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