Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You Just Missed It At The Spectacle: Carlos Suara's Honeycomb

This series concerns films shown in independent theater in New York (and possibly Philly). The website for The Spectacle can be found here.

Terror Involontaire

The disintegration of a couple in beautiful bourgeois home, the mode of European art cinema. One has to wonder if government subsidized filmmaking always comes with a historically preserved or recently repossessed mansion. What else are you going to do with it but use it to skewer to the bourgeoisie, to build from sexual confusion, failure, and vice the bedrock of the rest of society and the rest of the world? Like hubris in Greek myth, its a germ that produced as many great stories as there are great authors even though they all begin in the same place, take the same path, and arrive at the same end - from Rules of The Game, to Yo-Yo, to Beauty and The Beast, to Last Year In Marienbad, to L'Age D'Or - the bourgeois home is an artistic machine, a hurdy gurdy you either know how to play or wind up caught in its gears.

In Honeycomb Carlos Saura steps into that old arena, made as much for the battles of fairy tales as militant socialism, to bring the affects of the bourgeois past to bear on the present, not to indict past sins but the progression of those sins, of the sanitization of middle class decay represented in modernist design, brought about with the logic of market efficiencies.

The modernist home, the machine made for living, is our first antagonist. It's set against a basement full of family heirlooms. Between the too are caught a sexless bourgeois couple, our third and fourth antagonists respectively. We're not on anyone's side, the drama is one of bad mixtures, of zoo walls that have crumbled, of overfed lions to wander lazily into the ibex inclosure next door to sniff around awhile.

The husband (Per Oscarson) is an automaton stripped of sexuality. In understated but elliptical montage we set him up as the natural enemy of antique furniture. He runs a car factory and the filigrees of the headboards, desks, chairs, tables in his basement clash with the design of shots showing the mass production of car doors.

The wife (Geraldine Chaplin) is bored and childless. She's a sleep walker, and every night she goes down into the basement which is overstuffed with family heirlooms. She begins to regress as she interacts with furniture that stand for different memories and thus different versions of her past self. Just as Proust began to uncover lost memories after tasting a confection from his childhood as an adult, Chaplin's madness is a basement full of objects that impose memories otherwise lost to conscious recall. The husband is drawn into this world. Strange sex acts soon follow.

Montage and cinematography are handled quietly, but it hides many tricks here worth stealing, like the slight changes in exposure and color temperature on Chaplin's face between shots. Montage often makes unmotivated leaps through time and space that we disregard as it does it does it's slight-of-hand work underneath our noses.

The film is very good. The movement of these ideas has at it's foundation two characters you want to watch. It's an adroit drama of human emotional failures that, at the same time, doesn't loose sight of its aim to indict a whole class and the world they've created for the rest of us .

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