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Book Review

Ontology of the Accident

A mini book review of Catherine Malabou’s Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Plasticity (2012 translated by Carolyn Shread)

French philosophy has such a certain… je ne sais quoi about it. Sometimes I find the deconstruction-flavored denigrating tone to be a very pleasant literary experience, with specters of cigarette smoke and café-au-lait swirling in my mind. While at other moments the self-referential language games are merely annoying. The cascade of nihilistic hot-takes can really sear my nostrels as lyrical metaphors get stretched to a bitingly acidic thinness.

Catherine Malabou is a real remedy for expectations of the latter! In this short collection of essays she bridges an academic gap between Neuroscience and Ontology via a surprisingly fun tour of writings by Spinoza, Deleuze, Proust, and Kafka. Malabou is expanding and elaborating her already rich speculations on Plasticity. It is a brave and honest exploration of the inverse to the commonly celebrated aspects of neuroplasticity; the violent moral shadow of Plasticity. Destructive Platicity.

I especially enjoyed Malabou’s connecting some subtle points on Freud’s incomplete views about ageing mind with Marguerite Duras stylistic use of “asyndeton”, a literary device in which conjunctions are deliberately omitted from a series of related clauses to the effect of eliminating the sense of causal flow in a sentence. These kinds of poetic high-wire acts are best savored between long-stares out of a rainy-day windows.

Depending on one’s patience for intransitive language (the cornerstone of post-structuralist French philosophy?) this little book is well worth a read for its real bounty of interesting, meaningful, and challenging insights. The English translation by Carolyn Shread is a delight.

Categories
Film Film Review

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

Unhinged, swashbuckling, zany cinematography keeps this very long movie feeling loose and unpredictable to the end. After 25 years of disaster and setback, Terry Gilliam’s quixotic project took on an epic depth of meta-layering. 
Adam Driver delivers a warm and funny version of an unlikable character (or caricatured stand-in for the director himself). At its best moments it captures the magic of Fellini’s Mastroianni in 81/2; complete with larger than life set pieces. Jonathan Pryce is so fun to watch, and really hooks you with his anachronistic psychotic chivalry. 
Despite pacing issues in the third act, the movie makes up for it with a generous overflow of ideas. This sprawling slapstick comedy is a profound meditation on the price of art.

Categories
Book Review

Low

A mini comics review of Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s “Low” 2014-2020.

Just, Wow.

I understand some reviewer’s reticence about the third and fourth volume. In a future where the sun’s expansion has forced humanity’s survivors into underwater domes for survival, Stel’s unbreakable optimism is an immediate hook for the reader. As the cruelty of this future world reduces hope more and more, issue by issue, it can test the reader’s willingness to keep reading. But, true believers, the fifth (and final) volume totally delivers on the themes set up in those first few issues.

The art and writing are beautiful. I was put off at first glance by the loose style and wild fish-eye perspectives. But, as I read on I was quickly converted as these aesthetic nuances pare so elegantly with the storytelling. The loose lines read as wet and slippery, and the wide-angle shots telegraph the feel of living an entire life nested in helmets and underwater globes.

The massive world-building is a visual treat, and in the long-run the emotional story-arcs satisfy with a deeply human message.

Categories
Film Film Review

A Cure for Wellness (2016)

I understand the mediocre reviews of this film, but I really love it. Its an excellent remix of Gothic Horror tropes, beautifully shot, deliciously twisted. Barefoot waif on a castle wall? Check. Spooky remote sanatorium? Check. Wacky twists? Incest? Perverse eel-science? Check, check, check!
Categories
Film Film Review

Walker (1987)

I was obsessed with Repo Man in High School and had been looking for a copy of this one for ages. And I was not disappointed! This movie is so strange and wonderful. The anachronisms (Coke bottles, the infamous helicopter finale) add a cutting critical edge to the movie – as it folds in the (at time of filming) contemporary Contra War in Nicaragua. The Alex Cox style punk ethos is bent into this quirky, quasi-historical, metaphorical, totally-mesmerizing, character study of colonial psychosis. The truth of an 1850s anti-hero with a White Savior Complex is hauntingly distilled in Ed Harris’s pitch perfect performance. Satire at its most poetic!