Thursday, 19 July 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Pink Narcissus

I’ve often quipped that with his Hit Me With Your Best series Nathaniel (The Film Experience) forces me to watch certain films, some of them which might have evaded. Of course, I’m not actually under duress but Nathaniel does point the way to films I might never have watched, or even heard of. Case in point, the subject of this week’s entry the 1971 avant-garde, arthouse, gay erotic film Pink Narcissus which I’ve actually never heard of.

So, to be forthright, I’m very ignorant of the avant-garde movement which presents something of a quandary because Pink Narcissus does indeed live up to its avant-garde conceits and possibly reveals my own density about the genre and possibly my own hang-ups about films which stridently eschew any specific focus on narrative. Although I can’t say I dislike Pink Narcissus, I just don’t quite think I “get it” which is much worse.

But, this is best shot, so one with the shots. The photos are necessarily racy – but head below the jump, this is erotica….

The reason I bring up my (sometimes stifling) dependency on narrative, is that even in choosing my “best” shots I tend to fall back on not what they look like, but what they mean….but with a shot like this
It had to mean something, right? Of the shots I toyed with using for my BEST this was probably the most beautiful. Even with my bizarre dislike for the colour green, the image is exquisite although I immediately begin ruminating on the purpose of that crawling caterpillar on the edge of the shot.

The film is not abstruse, though, and it’s easy enough to realise that the film is a series of dream sequences from the mind of a young, gay, male. There’s a sequence halfway through the film where he’s lying naked on the grass, and I’m not sure if it’s “real” or “imagined” and there’s this particular shot.
It’s one of the only moments of “penetration” in the film, which reminded me, immediately, of that opening scene in Sleeping Beauty last year when Emily Browning has that tube down her throat. Finger sucking is something of an aphrodisiac, but the imagine is less titillating and more disturbing and I’m not sure that Pink Narcissus aims to rob sex of its beauty and mystique as much as Sleeping Beauty (other shots suggest otherwise) but the platonic nature of the shot intrigues and disturbs.

Eventually, I settled on a shot from early on…our protagonist is observing himself in the mirror….
…and then this shot comes, and the wheels in my head start turning. The film is essentially just dialogue, this forcing me to attach meaning to what I see and this shot intrigues.
What does he see when he look in the mirror? And why does his hand cover not his real mouth, but the reflection of it? The image of a hand over the mouth portends to significant issues of silence and repression and my brain is moving, probably, beyond what’s in the actual frame. But considering the somewhat bizarre dream sequences to come, it’s understandable why our “protagonist” might look in the mirror and see a reflection of his “true” self (dreams and all) and want to silence them.

Does this effectively represent the thrust of the entire movie? As I said, I’m feeling a bit dense when it comes to “understanding” and Pink Narcissus, but I do like the shot.

Head over to Nathaniel here and read the others, and I’m sure more lucid, best shot pieces.



thanks for doing this. I knew this one would be hard for people to write about. It was hard for me to write about but i have watched so few avante-garde movies and i try to vary it up with this series.

love your point about the hand over the reflective mouth instead of his own. it is really interesting.

good work :) next week i will FORCE you again ;)

Jose Solís said...

My dear boy, where you see lots of symbolism on the self and such, I saw someone copying Cocteau, not that that is a bad thing of course, but despite that sequence's beauty I kept wishing the director would just try to find his own voice, no pun intended.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

nathaniel i'm just being lazy complaining. i just don't like feeling ignorant watching a movie and this one does test me. :/ that's a good thing in the long-run.

jose you know how older foreign language films are my blindspot, so i the allusions or copies didn't stand out for me. i'll learn, i promise :)

Paolo said...

Have you seen Kenneth Anger's movies? I've only seen Fireworks but it's good and is a better example of queer avant garde or avant garde in general. It's more erotic and welcoming, unlike this movie and I agree that it robs the sexuality within the characters' bodies.