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Lili Taylor (#110 of 2)

Robert Altman’s Short Cuts on Criterion

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Robert Altman’s Short Cuts on Criterion
Robert Altman’s Short Cuts on Criterion

For nearly a decade, I’ve felt a certain allegiance to Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, and I’d never seen a single frame of it. It was always known as a “big sister” to the sprawling ensemble films that I became obsessed with in the late 90s; if I loved movies like Magnolia so much, then there’s no doubt that Altman’s opus must’ve been exceptional. I took this allegiance so far as to chide anyone who would praise any new “tapestry film” with interlocking stories because, if they knew anything, they’d know that Short Cuts did it first.

Now, finally, I’ve met the “big sister.”

As Altman has put it, Short Cuts is not necessarily a group of stories, but rather a group of occurrences. It lifts the roofs off houses and peeks in on the conversations. And it’s not what the characters are doing that’s important, it’s the fact that they are doing it (and why and how). The film is not concerned with plot, but with people; the rest will take care of itself. It’s a risky approach, and even Altman himself isn’t always successful with the method—The Company took a similar tack with a smaller cast and more plot, and it didn’t work as well as it should have. But it works in Short Cuts.

Blog-a-Thon: Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction

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Blog-a-Thon: Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction
Blog-a-Thon: Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction

I’ve been an Abel Ferrara junkie ever since a friend showed me Ms. 45 at NYU, so the idea of contributing to the Ferrara Blog-a-Thon felt like a duty to one of our greatest unsung directors, but as I told Girish and Aaron Hillis before a press screening of Quinceañera at this year’s New Directors/New Films series, “I don’t do cliques.” Ferrara might approve—fans of his films are familiar with his thou-shalt-not-conform ethos—but then I got an annoying email from Quinceañera co-director Wash Westmoreland that worked to change my mind. Westmoreland objected to my review of his film on the grounds that I was insulting him and his directing partner when I wrote that they were inserting themselves into their movie by way of the story’s lascivious white gay couple. I told Westmoreland: “Lili Taylor is Abel Ferrara’s proxy in The Addiction, doesn’t mean I think Ferrara has tits or likes to suck blood.”

Having used one of Ferrara’s films as mace, something had clicked: the Ferrara film as a weapon of choice. Together, the man’s films suggest a set of steak knives—sharp and serrated, they leave behind wounds that are not easily healed or forgotten. I’ve tried them all with the exception of Mary and Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy, and while it isn’t my favorite one to handle (the heady and dissonant Snake Eyes, the elegiac The Funeral, and the bonkers Ms. 45 are tops), The Addiction provides the cleanest cut. It is somewhat of an anomaly for the Bronx-born director, sheathed as it is in a black-and-white, expressionistic cloak, but it’s thrown at you with the same moral, guttersnipe effrontery as Bad Lieutenant and Fear City. Ferrara has always been cool like dat and The Addiction is a very diggable piece of horror sautéed in a beatnik sauce of Lower East Side philosophizing at once spunky and chill.