Cruella ★★★½

Wow Disney really made a film about the utopian-toxic, abject mothers and split-subjects. I'll start by saying that yes, this does have something of a "rebellious spirit" but I think at this point, anything made by Disney is too tainted by the brush of focus groups and algorithmic analysis to be truly "rebellious". It's fairly depressing to realise that capitalism can thrive off anti-capitalist media.

But that being said, I liked the toxicity of this film. It does not turn Cruella into Cindarella: she remains a puppy-killing narcissist. It embraces the self-actualisation narratives which Disney is so fond of, but the self which is being actualised is masochistic, vain, evil. And who better to cast than Emma Stone: her ever-so-slight unlikeability is well utilised in this tWiStEd role; truly a female "Joker". Her gaunt, pale and malnourished body is a source of abject horror, coming into (sexual?) tension with Emma Thompson's robust, full figure.

There is a wonderful intrusion of the organic and the gothic in this film as well: moths, rats, a Chihuahua with an eyepatch, the eating of rubbish, bruises, cuts etc. All these intrusions blur the boundary between self and other. It is a cruel world and Cruella embraces it. Not even the mother-daughter relationship is sacred in this His Girl Friday-esque tete-a-tete: the women turn each other on with their fashion designs, embroiling each other further and further into dark pleasures of abjection.

Unfortunately, for me at least, the film is edited at an unnatural pace that took me at out of the film: I couldn't find my way into it as it unfolded one step ahead of my own gait, not to mention the endless needle drops that lost their weight and simply became soundtrack (in fact some of the best parts are original score). But it is full of fantastic concepts, designs and moments: just think of the part where Thompson draws blood from Stone's arm and says "Get me something in this colour," Stone smiling in masochistic happiness once her newfound idol has turned her gaze.

Cruella is clearly the result of many talented minds that have worked around this topic of abject women (Emma Stone, the writer of The Favourite, the director of I, Tonya etc) and the visual, historical and conceptual design of the film has been clearly well thought out. There's just something about it that doesn't work at the level of form, movement and temporality: I assume this is due to demands of a "Disney" film.

But I guess finally we have a film from said billion-dollar corporation (albeit a prequel) that disturbs, affronts and revels in the underside of human consciousness. It's somewhat bewildering that this can be incorporated so seamlessly into late-capitalism with Cruella 2 already underway.

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