Only Loved at Night: Short movie reviews + one book

Only Loved at Night: Short movie reviews + one book January 17, 2018

Scarface: Slinky, sleazy Paul Muni. I guess it’s ok to totally glamorize murder if you slap on a few beginning titles and then make it end with the guy pathetic. Believe me, we won’t forget what he was like when he was cool. Loved Muni and also his character’s sad relationship with his sister.

The Roaring Twenties: This is the noir gangster film I hadn’t heard of, and honestly, I liked it a lot better than Scarface (although I also did like Scarface). It’s an epic tale starting in the trenches of WWI, where cynic (of course) Humphrey Bogart meets normal dude (except for how he’s James Cagney) James Cagney. Cagney’s character gets just relentlessly hammered by life BUT THEN he gets his own back by rising to the top of a criminal empire BUT THEN his fall is as great as his rise. The women here are great, especially Gladys George as speakeasy empress Panama Smith. There are interlocking love triangles, where you’ll root for the bad good guy to end up with the good bad girl. There’s a terrific moralizing victory-through-humiliation finale. I enjoyed every frame of this.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The first two-thirds of this are gorgeous and incredibly tense. Every element serves the mood–golden dying light, loud sounds or silence, dusty deranged set dressing. Then there’s about ten minutes of wall-to-wall screaming, and then the film swerves (for me) too far into monster-movie territory. Too far out of human evil and into something else. But yeah, I’d never seen this before and it’s breathtaking. Possibly the only ’70s horror film I genuinely like.

Creep 2: I loved Creep, right up until its cliched final few minutes. I loved that somebody made a horror film about a man’s desperate need for friendship. It’s genuinely scary and Mark Duplass is terrific. With Creep 2 I respect the intent but got much less from the execution. Creep 2 does two things: It switches the boundaryless, oozy, devouring relationship from same-sex to opposite-sex, and it emphasizes the exhibitionism of the voyeur.

That sounds like it should be great! And I don’t know, maybe other people will get more from this than I did. To me it seemed like we know too much too early, and although I dug Desiree Akhavan’s weird affectless venality, the entire final sequence seemed like a decision not to say anything. I felt like punches were pulled here.

Sarah Schulman, After Delores aka the reason I had to talk myself out of titling this post “Butch in the Streets, Femme Fatale in the Sheets.” Ahhhh, remember the ’90s, when lesbian culture was all about how you hurt and hate the ones you love? This noir tale is willfully edgy and too much so, willfully crass in its sexuality and only occasionally for good reason, and I still loved a lot of it. I love Schulman’s disjointed confessional prose.

This is a book about rejection, and about the high price of housing. People who have nowhere left to live. The key scene might be the one where a homeless woman asks the unnamed narrator if she can come and live at her place, and our heroine looks her in the eye and says, point blank, “No.” There are a couple other great “No”s in the book too, no where it doesn’t even make sense, no as a fundamental response to the whole situation of life and not to some specific desperation.

“It’s funny having Charlotte’s key. It’s like an older person.”

“How old is she?”

“Thirty-eight. My father’s forty. Why do older people always have keys?”

“Because older people have apartments. They’re not moving around staying different places. They know where they live.”

All the obnoxious parts of the ’90s are here, all the snottiness and condescending street smarts and glamorized violent fantasy. In my day we fantasized about hurting the ones we love. You whippersnappers have all these moral fantasies about Nazi-punching, which is much creepier because they deserve it. Great humiliation scenes here–making her take her shirt off in the bar, which I remembered, but also yanking up the sleeve to look for track marks. The central “mystery” is basically pointless but I don’t have the desire to care.Not recommended, because come on, but if you happen to be also a Gen X nostalgic lesbian with an extremely high tolerance for performatively violent personal relationships, you will probably love this a lot.

I was smiling away, feeling that warm spot on my chest where Delores had put her hand.

Her eyes have been in flames all night


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