By all means, the video effects are hokey, and I assume they must have been at least a little bit hokey in '82. But it's a good faith effort to make full advantage of a bunch of tools that nobody had really started playing with in this way, to create a warped visual analogue to the intense emotions at play in the monologue. More successful than Savage/Love, and it's really too bad that Shirley Clarke's career as an experimental filmmaker…
For most of its running time, this felt more like a favor that Shirley Clarke was doing for writer Sam Shepard or actor Joe Chaikin, but as it reaches its climax, and the editing starts to explode at the same time that the monologist reaches his highest pitch of desperation, the whole thing suddenly makes perfect sense. Still feels like an exercise for all involved, but keeping in mind that this was 1981, there's some very impressive video editing effects here. Definitely not one of Clarke's major works, but I'm happy I saw it.
So first, I can't imagine how damn stupid you'd have to be to think you could get away with telling this story this way without getting life rights from the survivors, or heavily anonymising the details, or ideally both.
Let's say you've decided not to care about any of that. That still leaves the question of what reason there is to tell this story. What is the viewer supposed to get from this? Is it just to grind our faces…
A fucking disaster, but it's also one of the few movies I've seen in 2019 that feels like it comes from a totally committed place of real creative inspiration, especially for a major studio release. It is a film that has gone all the way in on whatever the hell it's doing, and even when that's nightmare-level horrifying, it's definitely not boring. You never, ever get used to it: at least once every five minutes, something happens to refresh the appalling, exhilarating strangeness of the unclassifiable object sitting in front of you. Definitely my flavor of derangement and messiness.