Friday, October 05, 2007

Black Snake Moan: debasement to meaning

Yesterday I saw the film Black Snake Moan, which I was embarrassed to rent (according to the trailer and the cover the entire theme is: black man chains up white nympo woman), I enjoyed way too much and I was envious that I hadn’t written it. Obviously the writer and actors got screwed by the marketing department who decided that it should be advertised as an exploitation film with the catch phrase “Everything is HOTTER down south.” The actual film is about damaged people, sexual abuse and how to find something to hold on to when your mind itself is tearing you apart. And yes, I got to see Christina Ricci in a chain and undies. Not only that, it was the chain that she chose from many other chains for herself and refused to have a “fake” double chain during shooting. But then Christina Ricci has a drive for playing damaged and marginalized people. (Yeah!)

The writer really puts the material out there on the honestly unpleasant edge. It is clear that while Rae (Ricci) has been sexually abused and has a overwhelming desire toward debasing herself into oblivion, it is also clear that she wants a strong male father figure who protects and sets boundaries for her. She finds this person in Laz (Samuel Jackson) who, once she has tried to prove he is like every other male (that he wants sex with her too) several times without success, she actually gets more intimate with him. She curls up around him, she lets him bath her, she reverts to some child-like state of fantasy in protective daddy-land while at the same time, dancing in a blues club she allows herself full range of her sexuality in dancing, all the time throwing glances to Laz that this is ‘all right’. She allows herself to be sexual without having sex because she has a center upon which to hold. Of course, this is all dangerously unpleasant viewing, real squirm or laugh or in some way distance-it-from-me kind of stuff. Because older men left by their wives are not supposed to channel their own pain into trying to cure someone else’s, particularly in a “don’t give a damn” way that can easily misinterpreted (as having a white love slave). And full adult females aren’t supposed to be happier because someone is telling them, “Don’t act that way. Don’t treat yourself that way.” They aren’t supposed to relive a fantasy childhood with some older stranger; particularly in Mississippi, particularly when one it is a white woman and a black man. But of course, these are the very things that do drive people in real life. The desires for debasement and protector in an abused female are as strong as a male trying to make meaning out of a stable life gone to shit by focusing on almost anyone but themselves.

So yeah, I really wanted to write that script. It was very out there. And seems to have been either loved or hated (with the hated usually going directly after the writer/directors with statements about their deviance, shallowness or other personal defects).

In case this is news to anyone; writers, directors, actors and pretty much everyone else put on a pedestal are just as screwed up human beings as you are. While America demands perfect people to hold up, all they can be given are perfect LOOKING people, ala actors. This is why I like the visual honesty and diversity of UK acting. Can you look at Robbie Coltrane or Helen Mirren and not think, “Yeah, I bet they got a bunch of hang ups.”

As for me, I woke up this morning in a fantasy that I was performing “the butterfly.” ‘The butterfly’ is an elaborate series of cuts and stabs that go down the torso; a sort of self-harm artwork. I haven’t don’t it yet, but waking up aching for it means a) I am feeling a severe loss of control and b) I really need to come up with a plan for the winter. A few people might think that coming up with specific self harm designs is a little…peculiar. Well, I feel that if I am going to fantasize about cutting, I might as well be artistic. I mean “cut, cut, cut!” gets a little boring, ne? If you want to know another of my designs that I actually brought to fruition, it is in the book Zed. And no, I don’t do commissions.

Ha ha. I bet you are really wondering whether to trust that movie review now.


Casdok said...


Elizabeth McClung said...

Casdok, you just won my cryptic comment award for the month - I wish I knew what the "Yes!" was in reference to.....but I don't. Still, kept me interested.

kathz said...

is this cryptic comments time? I think I'll go with


That saved some time and thought and means I might reach the shop I need before it closes. My current new form of (accidental) artistic expression seems to be accidentally setting fire to kitchen equipment. I don't recommend it - the smell of burnt plastic one day was succeeded by burnt soup the next.

very best wishes however and apologies for brief, incoherent comment.

Ms. Pet said...

Sounds like a good movie. I'll have to rent it sometime.

KateJ said...

It does sound like a good movie, despite the awful cover, especially the "hotter down south" bit. Intrigued by your comments, I checked out the reviews, the cast and all that, and it really did sound good. I'll look out for it.

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

The film sounds terrific. Christina Ricci is a terrific actress, and the film sounds as though it tackles some serious and genuine issues.

The Goldfish said...

If the temptation increases any, can I suggest bright red body paint (or just ordinary paint or ink, although it may take more washing off) as an alternative to a blade? Put it in the fridge beforehand so its ice cold. Similar effect, not nearly so lasting.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Joe and I saw Black Snake Moan in Virginia on a weekend between gigs. We go to a lot of movies and chose this cause we'd seen everything else. We expected less and got more - how often does that really happen in life. I agree with you it's a writers movie that bursts with plot and subtext. I loved the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Ok I saw this movie over the weekend..expecting less (like most of you and got more then I expected.) Unfortunately I completely relate to this movie. Obviously I have never been chained up by a black dude, but nonetheless I related. Which scares me because I think it has brought up unburied things that I have been choking down the last few years..and actually I feel like I need to go back to therapy. Because of what I went through when I was a child...and again when I was a teenager (yikes) I thought my actions dealing with that were unusual...but now I know they weren't. Thankfully I married a wonderful man..who doesn't know exactly what happened to me...But thankfully I am with someone that is very respectful and I did enjoy this movie..but now I need to find a good therapist..haha