Comfortable and Furious

id Cinema: The Genre We Love

Id Cinema: the genre we love without all the ‘narrative structure’ or ‘causal logic’ that just gets in the way of its fans feeling superior to everybody.’

Id Cinema is my term for that treatment of narrative that uses symbol and abstraction to get to the point, which is usually the interior revelation of a character, or an expository device, not unlike cubism, to explain the a) truly screw-uppedness of a character’s mind or situation or b) the disturbing reality beneath an easily over-looked event or setting.

This genre is usually a non-starter for the Richard Bey/Age of Ultron set because they have all the artistic sensitivity of a foot, but for we, the most discerning of nature’s perceivers, we appreciate the nonlinear in a way the trogs, dressed in their fur, eating their meat on the bone as they do, may not [dabs corner of mouth with napkin, snaps haughtily for the waiter].

Snobbery aside, I love Id Cinema. It gives you something to chew, it plays a game with you, trusting you with a very carefully woven knot, a knot woven for the express purpose of being unwoven. Unless it fails to be unweavable, or the makers are assholes and don’t think you rank an explanation, even one you earn for yourself, because you don’t matter anyway.

But ‘rouger them’ is what I say. Sometimes it’s just a bad movie masquerading as a good one—I say not on my watch. Sometimes they lean into the abstract a little too hard, accidentally severing cords of comprehensibility in the process, then I ask why do we have an editing process in the first place if you can’t catch those things, forget you. Sometimes it’s made by asshats, for assholes, usually on the coasts, from bloviated source material, usually despised for good reason. To these I say, get bent.

But when it’s done right it is what cinema’s about, it does things only cinema can do, so when it gets done right it must be acknowledged if not praised

Those good examples are here, but to the five below them I wish violent bowel spasms during their sister’s wedding—still, consider that I don’t hate all those films listed, but at some point, I said ‘blarney to you’ to somebody involved in the production and not because of the costumes.

Id Cinema Done as if Somebody Actually Gave a Goddamn

Donnie Darko

Kid gets a premonition of his death via the spectral image of a six-foot desiccated rabbit. Senor Roadkill informs our hero he has thirty days, just then, the engine of a passenger plane falls on his house, in his bedroom, on his bed, the very bed from which he was summoned by, you know, Harvey—if Harvey walked around after being buried under the porch for six months. What follows is a very trippy dissertation on the nature of time and the reality of fate. He spends the thirty days, which culminates in a Halloween party, listening to the Dead Rabbit who shows up to give him hints, given so he’ll do things that, say, uncover a local pederast or restore order in other ways. 

There’s a mysterious old woman who wrote a book on the nature of time that suggests everything Donnie is going through, she spends her time standing the road, waiting for mail that will never come. It’s a salute to not telling the audience shit until they’re so bursting with questions, when they are eventually revealed, a massive pant-soiling occurs in any group with more than four persons. You want to know what the sound of two hundred people jizzing their jeans sounds like, catch a midnight showing of Donnie Darko.

 I’ll be your guide to the other world, but I have to be back by six, before my shift at Waffle House

Twelve Monkeys

I already have two Terry Gilliam flicks on here but most of his repertoire is good Id Cinema. I chose Twelve Monkeys because it’s another, like Darko, that plays with your head until you think you’re the man being shot in the airport. A time-travel tale about madness and if prophets of doom should be automatically locked in the nuthouse and shot full of Thorazine.

The human race lives underground, in this case under Philadelphia, and scientists send convicted prisoners back in time to discover the source of the disease that wiped out 98.7 percent of the population in 1996. Trouble is the time machine, cobbled together underground from, I guess, PVC and bisquene, don’t work so well, and they keep sending Bruce Willis back and forth, over-shooting their target until eventually he ends up in a trench during WWI. He’s snatched back to 1992, he prophecies of a coming apocalypse, so they shoot him full of happy juice until all he can do is drool and listen to the nonsensical ravings of a radical animal’s rights advocate, who happens to be played by Brad Pitt.

“Yes, I will help you! No, I can’t help you ! Yes!–Well, No! Okay, yes, I’ll hold you up but you have to dribble it.”

We steadily go nuts with Bruce, because by the end you have no clue which reality is real and which is his ‘mental divergence’–because if both are real the consequences are too vast to imagine.

Time Bandits

Another Terry Gilliam time travel caper, but this time introducing God and Satan as opponents trying to retrieve a Time Map stolen by some angelic dwarves (They say they’re like sprites that do God’s bidding growing molds and fungus, until they get the bright idea to steal God’s map and use it to gain great riches. Satan wants it, of course, and pursues the hero, an 11-year-old boy, neglected at home, across the multiverse, and through history as the dwarves steal valuables from Napoleon and Ancient Greece and the Titanic, only to be caught by Satan and made to go through a hellish obstacle course of dangling blocks and eventually a spot on a diabolical game show. How do they save the day? Well, God swoops in, naturally.

Made for kids but an absolute treat as an adult, this waltz through the chambered corners of our collective unconscious is Id Cinema par excellence.

The map is powerful, not only will it show me the portals of time, but every convenient Holiday Inn location from Babylon to the Korean War.

Mulholland Drive

I love Lynch and I always have to defend him; he cannot err. He is without spot or blemish and bet my street cred on everything he’s ever done, ever.

That said, I have no clue what the movie is about—or do I. Of course, I do. David Lynch may the greatest practitioner of Id Cinema, he confuses you, but leaves the rope slack enough so you can undo the knot he’s tied … it just takes some thought. And good thinking tells me this story is about a young actress who tries to assassinate her actress-rival even though they once were roommates; and in the alternative reality she tells herself so she doesn’t have to deal with the pain of acknowledging what she’s done.

Lynch never fails to reach in with the visual to pluck out the viewer’s third eye in a kind of cinematic kung-fu move that is rarely replicated. His truth is weird, but his truth is grounded no matter how he gets to it, no matter how many threatening cowboys, mysterious blue keys, and creepy all-powerful dwarf kings he throws at you.

Oookay, here’s the plan, I want you to stare at him for five minutes, no cuts. You stare, the bell rings, you get up, you pop out a boob, you scream ‘King Henry has a new Porsche’ then you order an omelet. They’ll get it, it’s a metaphor.

The Maxx

If you haven’t seen The Maxx, you profane the gods of your fathers and they demand sacrifice for your absolution. Or, you can just watch it, gods appeased.

It was a comic book, then it was turned into ten-minute shorts on MTV in the mid-90s, then these ten-minute shorts were sewn together into a 90-minute Jungian extrapolation inside the mind of a schizophrenic superhero called The Maxx.

The Maxx wears a mask, never takes it off, he’s a bum who lives in a box, wears a blue suit and has fantasies of his social worker as he shuttles back and forth between two existences, in this one he’s what I said, a bum in a box with big feet, but there, in a place he calls ‘Australia’, she is a jungle queen and he is her protector. From whom?

No, it’s not a problem most of the time…no, really, it’s not…there’s ways that I can–because I use a rag on a stick, okay! Jeez!

Why the wicked Mr. Gone, Like Maxx he goes between worlds, he’s after Julie, he wants to do the most despicable things to her, Maxx could protect her in this world or in Australia, but how can he keep her safe in both when he can’t control how or when he travels between them.

This is literal Id Cinema, to such a degree that it is considered a primer in Jungian Psychology. And if you don’t know any Jungian psychology, the clever writing informs you of exactly what he thought is actually going on with all of us. It is the tippy-top of the genre, not merely mind-bending but mind-explaining at the same time: anger the gods no more. Watch The Maxx.

And now for Id Cinema that was half-assed by hipster half-wits:

Jacob’s Ladder:

Guy jumps between two worlds, One where he’s happy with one lady, the other where he is happy with another lady, one of which spontaneously turns into a demon and the other one is pregnant, but through all this he is anchored in a Vietnam-war past wherein he might have made it out okay, might have had severe PTSD, might have been the subject of CIA drug experiments or might be dreaming it all in his last moments in a MASH unit , Huey’s chuck-chucking overhead, before he expires from battle wounds .Simple. Right?

‘Oh, I don’t know which life is mine. Boo-hoo, I may have been the subject of horrible experiments and now I may be permanently demented.’ [snort] Drama queen.

I enjoy this movie and I don’t know why; I am not downgrading it as a film, I am going to express my irritation with its eight open-ended plot-points giving me eight reasons to say,

Fuh-huck You-Hoo.

Ninth Gate

Another one I kinda like and can’t tell you why, it’s Johnny Depp in the ‘dark, dramatic, murderous world’ of...ahem…rare book selling (you know, and all the intrigue that comes with that). A fancy Satanist sends him on a search for several copies of an ancient grimoire, each with different engravings the difference between which are the key to a spell that will bring Satan to Earth. Groovy. What follows is sneaking in here, hiding the book he has over there, getting told he’ll be killed if he doesn’t recover it (he hides the damn thing behind a mini-bar fridge in his hotel room, sheesh!) then he gets shadowed by a blond woman then he disrupts a ritual then he chases the book yonder and then the blond lady turns out to be angel or a demon or something and the whole thing ends with her “cowgirling” him in a field and that was apparently the point.

I didn’t need two hours to discover how much I hated Europe, Europeans, witchcraft (and now) rare book dealers–Go on a swivel, you dickhead—Swiv-Vull!

Pink Floyd: The Wall

Whomever Pink Floyd is, he’s locked himself in an apartment and he hallucinates all manner of cheery things while a mysterious telephone rings. What hallucinations?– like, I dunno, women’s legs with tooth-ed vaginas that mutate into the mouths of condemnatory judges in powdered wigs and such—as you are wont to do in your down-moments, and context-less recollections of being humiliated by his headmaster in class and imagined scenes of his headmaster being henpecked by his wife all to the merry bars of We Don’t Need No Education with children on conveyor belts being dropped into a meat grinder and would somebody answer the goddamn phone already!!

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of other things/ like masturbation and income tax/ amyl nitrate and cock rings/And Vaginas with legs that grouse a lot/ while hammers are goose-stepping/ Kaloo-Kalay, you know what they say/ This is why the English drink!

Id Cinema has comprehensive limits. And The Wall passed it. Oftentimes, though, there’s a joke embedded, for instance the most famous line changes its meaning into a truly Freudian expectoration if you add a single letter to a single word “You have to eat your meat! You can’t have any pudding unless you eat your meat!” (now add a ‘b’ in front of ‘eat’). -uck. -ou. -ink. -oyd. (Darkside of the Moon was killer, though, so, you know, pinch the salt).

Naked Lunch

It’s sorta like Casablanca if Casablanca was an indecipherable collage of casual homosexuality, talking typewriters and conspiring insects. This is the one on the list where I say this to everyone involved, and express my disappointment that one of those people is Peter Weller. Written first as a novel by gay-advocate and drug addict William S. Burroughs, it was a cruel attempt to rob me of my love for cinema by wasting my time and giving me nothing worthwhile to ponder when it was over.

My distaste for the novel began when a gay guy in my dorm printed out a lengthy description of male-on-male sex and taped it to his door, this is also the beginning of my antipathy for activist homosexuals in general, and their caustic need to gross-out the squares with the very thing for which they plead acceptance. “Look at how gross I am! I laugh at your wincing! I mock your revulsion at my warped libido, your pain satisfies me!…Now, please let me in the military.”

Still, I figured the movie would chuck this, and it did, some of it—my real complaint comes from the other nonsense that didn’t even raise itself to the level of a mind-blow, it was the sexually toned-down equivalent of that gay guy’s dorm room door: an inexplicable, uncalled-for taunt to the reasonable from a disturbed narcissist needful of being acknowledged as villain because he sure-as-hell wasn’t being called a hero. And they made this. Assholes for assholes, folks.

Talking typewriter: “A steam-powered dildo for all your creepy collaborators in this self-indulgent gay meth-fantasy created in the diseased mind of a pedophile who moved to Sri Lanka because of its, apparently, unending supply of male children. Fuck you!”

Fun Fact: He also went to high school at Los Alamos.

Lost Highway

This aimless, meandering pile cost more than 200 times your whole house [maniacal giggling] think about that for a second.

I have defended this man until my gums bled, but Lost Highway made me slap the table and raise my hands in surrender ‘I’m out’, because that movie not only sucked, that movie sucked because David Lynch decided any strand of coherence was totally unnecessary. I hate this movie because I love David Lynch, because I felt superior liking his work when everyone else made that stupid face when they tried to explain it, because I believed…

I had faith!– that he operated on a level of abstraction that may have been higher than normal but made him the defining creator of modern Id Cinema and simultaneously the final argument as to whether such an approach to material was artistically valid—and then he makes this pile of shit! which is the best argument against Id Cinema that I could ever find. The boy hurt my street cred with one swoop of his unarticulated, symbolically-subjective pen. I’ll never forgive him.

David. Just go. Go away…

(When’s your next one coming out?)





7 responses to “id Cinema: The Genre We Love”

  1. Goat Avatar

    No EraserHead? Chicken.

    1. Bart Cobb Avatar
      Bart Cobb

      It was five hits/ five misses–not a comprehensive breakdown. Plus, Eraserhead always kinda made me nauseous…which, honestly, is good, but still I wanted to talk about Mulholland drive.

  2. Cú Chulainn (Mad Dog John Welsh) Avatar

    Forbidden Id Reviews Present:

    Planet of the Self-indulgent! “A sail upon a snot-green sea. A new color for our Irish poets.”

    (Quiet please. I am analyzing.)

    “Monsters from the Id, monsters from the Id!”

    “The fool, the meddling idiot. As though his ape’s brain could contain the secrets of Id cinema”

    “Anywhere on the website this is a nightmare”

    “Guilty! Guilty! My evil self is at that keyboard, and I have no power to stop it!”

    “The weight of this sad time we must obey;
    Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”

    “Sirrah, I’ll teach thee speech.”

    “A plague upon your epileptic visage!
    Smile you my speeches as I were a fool?
    Knave, an I had you upon Sarum plain,
    I’d drive ye cackling home to Camelot.”

    “Why dost thou call him “knave”? What’s his offense?”

    “His countenance likes me not.”

  3.  Avatar

    I almost think I know, sorta, what you are hinting at suggesting at saying:

    Man, Dick Cheney’s still living rent-free in your head.

    1. Goat Avatar

      O.K., Bart

  4. Kelly Lambert Avatar
    Kelly Lambert

    Wow, this blogger is seriously impressive!

    1. Bart Cobb Avatar
      Bart Cobb

      Mahhhhm! You’re embarassing me in front of the guys–Jeez-Louise!

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