Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Atrocity Exhibition (2001)

I had heard of the film version of JG Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition several years ago but, despite being produced and made in New York, the film is only available from Europe as an import. Perplexed and very curious I put the film on my list of films to get when it was cheap enough. A couple of weeks ago I found a cheap version from an Amazon e-seller and I jumped on it.

Having seen the film, I now completely understand why the film doesn’t have a US release, it’s disturbing. Part of the disturbing nature comes from the inclusion of documentary footage of car crashes, medical procedures, Hiroshima victims and sex. Part of the disturbing nature is the result of the disjointed structure of the film. The combination of the two makes for heady mix that’s best described as midnight movie meets art film.

The conceit of the film is that it’s the footage left behind by a Dr Travis. Travis was a psychologist who enlisted his patients and friends on a film project that was supposed to act as a form of therapy. Who the therapy was ultimately for is unclear, but it’s a look into the mind of a disturbed individual. The film with in a film deals with coming to try and understand the notion of World War 3 with side trips into physical reconstruction, car crashes (Ballard wrote Crash), perversion, art and a few other things.

Sitting in the dark after a long hot Fourth of July I was unprepared for what I saw. The film spins out like a film made by David Cronenberg back when he was churning out horror films about the new flesh. Actually the thought I had was this was the film that Cronenberg might have made in place of Crash had he not had to go through Hollywood.

I don’t know what to say…The film troubled me because it started to get me thinking in odd directions about reality…

For me the film is best during the first half when the film seems less structured and there is a wonderful sense that anything can and will happen. The tensing up of your gut during the first half that comes as you brace for the next body blow is lessened in the second as the punches come less frequently.

I need to start a film series simply to show this and films like it.

I should point out that if you can get the import DVD the disc has two commentary tracks , one by the director and one by JG Ballard, which I’m told is more a discussion of the nature of reality rather than a straight forward commentary.I can’t wait to dive back in.

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