Saturday, December 16, 2006

The 2006 Armond Year in Review: "Hostel" and "The Ringer" [By Way of "Match Point"]

2006 in the year of Our Lord began in wrathful judgment, with Our Man doing what he does best: heaping righteous indignation upon the cinematically wicked. The second issue of the NYP in '06 featured this opening salvo in Armond White's dual review of Hostel and The Ringer:

Watch your back around anyone who likes Woody Allen's Match Point.

Unfortunately, due to the hysterical nature of this comment, we decided not to heed White's advice -- and paid dearly for our naivete. While waiting in line for Match Point we were so sinfully desperate to sneak a glance at something -- anything -- from the film that we ended up staring longingly at the cover of the Jan/Feb issue of Film Comment (you know, the one with Scarlett Johansson sopped head to foot in rain). Arousingly distracted, we were easy pickings for the gang of elderly Jewish women who, in an insane fit of violence inspired by having just lapped up Allen's latest vision of immorality like mangy dogs slurping from a filthy puddle, jumped us, beat us silly, emptied our pockets and took everything that spilled out, leaving us with these chilling words: "The innocent are sometimes slain to make way for grander schemes. You were collateral damage."
We somehow still managed to see the film, with both the crones' and Armond's words echoing in our damaged craniums, any previous Allen fandom now circumspect as we mentally referred back to White's review while seeking out Match Point's images for clues to the complete disrespect for law, order, and the very foundations of Western society it obviously fosters in its susceptible viewers. Needless to say, we were quickly assured of White's rightness. Allen's brand of filmmaking is so insidious and seducing in its bourgeois voluptuousness that if we hadn't experienced the strange realization of Armond's warning we wouldn't have been aware that Allen doesn't critique class envy and materialist soullessness in Match Point -- just as he didn't in Crimes and Misdemeanors -- but that he actually promotes those very deficiencies while deceivingly selling it as a Dosteovskian/Dreiserian tragedy. Armond gets it:

Fascination with Allen’s routine murder scenario -- disguised as Wasp-envy -- proves [those who like Match Point would] willingly kill for the same class advantages.

And that's why we need this man, more than ever. We will no longer think of Match Point and Hostel as existing on opposite ends of the cinematic rainbow due to their far different generic parameters, themes, and aims. For now on we will link, no matter the stretch required to do so, Allen's ethical investigations -- taking place within posh settings, and therefore execrable -- with titillating shocksploitation in order to guilt it by association. And then we will revel in the underappreciated hypocrisies of tepid, unfunny gross-out flicks in order to prove our populist credentials. Oh, and we will come down on you if you get in our way:

Fans of Match Point should confess that they are indifferent to brutality, having sunk to the same level as extreme-horror punks.

Even Allen’s “sophisticated” audience is inured to such basics as emotion, soul, empathy. Hostel features vomit as ejaculate, pus as blood and butchery as fun. As with Allen, it’s just means to an end, a disavowal of humanism for the pleasure of killing. These movies can’t be blamed on Donald Rumsfeld.

But they can be blamed on craven audiences and their base, putrid souls, swarming movie theaters like maggots and doing unto us what we would never do unto them. We should have listened to Armond. We should have watched our backs. Luckily, we're now Armond-baptized -- we've learned our lesson and and have even been saved. At the very least, we'll never go to the Upper West Side again.

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