Archive for September, 2010

Sion Sono is the greatest filmmaker alive

Posted in Sermons on September 13, 2010 by nicholasnordlinger

Pardon the superlative but sometimes a call must be made. All opinions of the Church must be considered subjective, and I would love to read counterarguments proposing other contemporary contenders, but this cleric maintains that Sono is the finest auteur of our time. I’ll go into a deeper analysis of his films in later articles, but I’d like to just briefly run through the repertoire of his work I am familiar with and why I love it so damn much.

Part 1: how are you connected to yourself?

Soon after The Ring made a splash in 2002, all us horror fans started grabbing for any J-Horror we could get our hands on (as did Hollywood producers.) After working my way through Ringu, Ju-On, Kairo, Audition, and Ichi the Killer, I came across the fantastically dark and enigmatic Jisatsu Sakkuru (translated alternately as Suicide Club and Suicide Circle. My friend suggested the translation Suicide Ring to satisfy both meanings.) As the movie opens you are immediately baptized into the strikingly grim and complex mind of Sono. Baptized, that is, in the blood of 54 schoolgirls as they hold hands and jump into the path of an oncoming subway. This image unsettles me particularly as I myself grew up in a town notorious for train suicides. From there the movie just gets stranger, the suicides increase in number with no obvious connection between them other than red & white dots on a website, and a roll of stapled human flesh found at many of the death scenes.  The police theorize that there may be a suicide club, but phone calls from strange children insist that there is no such club, following with the question “how are you connected to yourself?” This question is at the root of the suicides. If you are connected to your family, for example, then when you die you will still be connected to them. But will you still be connected to yourself? After enduring one of the darkest, creepiest bloodbaths ever to make it to Western shores, Sono leaves us hanging with a catchy tune from the fictional young J-pop sensation Desart (who are probably pretty well connected to themselves.) Western cinephiles hit the message boards hard demanding an explanation to the ambiguity of the movie’s ending and were briefly sated by promises of a sequel. However it took forever for the sequel to be released outside of Japan and there was no way of getting any of the other stuff Sono was releasing in the meantime (e.g. Into a Dream, HAZARD, Strange Circus.) When Noriko’s Dinner Table finally did make it’s way to my Netflix Instant Queue I gave it a glance and thought “oh yeah, the sequel to that hella confusing suicide J-Horror that I was into seven years ago. Maybe I’ll give it a watch.” When I finally took the time to sit down and submit myself to it (like any good oblivionite) I was blown away. Who’s ever heard of the sequel to a 90 minute horror being a 160  minute drama. And whoever heard of it being something completely different than it’s predecessor, being something brilliant and unique, as well as not strictly functioning as a sequel (taking place before, during, and after the events of the first film.) Previously mentioned Western Cinephiles may have been disappointed by the fact that there was no big reveal, no complex explanation as to the seemingly meaningless suicides of the first film but what Noriko’s Dinner Table did do was expand greatly upon the post-structural themes that Jisatsu Sakkuru had hinted at. Whereas Suicide Ring focused principally on changing the way we think about death, Noriko’s Dinner Table focused more on changing the way we think about family and identity. Noriko and Yuka, two of our protagonists, change who they are several times throughout the film until their identities have ceased to be concrete and they function as nothing more than anonymous, ever-changing human beings. There is both a freedom and a bondage in this strict rejection of our social concepts of self. With the help of their strange guide, who goes by the alias Ueno Station 54 (in reference to her locker of fake memories) they get one step closer to being “connected to themselves,” in a way their parent’s misunderstanding generation never can be. In the end we are left with an affirmation of identity in identitylessness, and can only hope that Noriko is truly, without the aid of death, connected to herself.

I hope no one sees these movies and is motivated to commit suicide (don’t put that on Sono) but rather that one leaves them with a newly sparked inquisitiveness, reevaluating the meaning inherent in one’s connections to friends, family, and, most of all, to oneself.

If you were to die the identity of yourself that you’ve built in everyone else’s minds would persist, but what about the identity of yourself that lives in your own mind? If you died would you still be connected to yourself?

In Sono’s dark world it is the children who lead us towards oblivion with their grim curiosity.

Part 2: born on the execution stand

Listen to this while reading Part 2:

Sion Sono cordially invites you to have your head chopped off at the Strange Circus. Tis an odd show, with hosts whose sex you cannot quite determine, with rooms painted red as gore and blood, with cripples and amputees suffering and screaming. The first audience volunteer to step up and try her luck at the guillotine is a little girl, a weathered child, experienced beyond her years. “It’s almost like I was born on the execution stand, anyway,” she says, staring towards the blade.

Strange Circus has been called disturbing, disgusting, obscene, revolting and Miikesque. It is all of those things.

It is also a masterpiece.

The film blends several realities, all telling of the horrific sexual and physical abuse of a little girl who (to make matters more confusing) interposes her identity with her mother’s as a coping mechanism. Of course, on top of the various versions of this girl we meet, all of them may be no more than the fictional creation of one eccentric author, keeping her readers happy with graphic shocks.

Or perhaps there’s more truth to it all than the author is even aware of.

I daren’t speak more about the plot lest I give something away, suffice to say that watching this film was a flooring experience and I sat in awe throughout the entirety of the end credits.

It also marks the return of famed Japanese actress Masumi Miyazaki after a decade of retirement. Her comeback performance is incredible. She conveys heavy degrees of anxiety, cruelty, and innocence with stark juxtaposition. She is beautiful, exciting, and horrific.

In the behind the scenes footage of Strange Circus, we see that Sono rarely shoots more than a single take of each shot, the exact opposite approach of legendary auteur Stanley Kubrick, who was notorious for taking up to 80 takes of every shot. While Kubrick’s films, thusly, have that clean and polished look to them, Sono achieves something passionate and raw. As he puts its “if an actor thinks they have only one take, they put everything into it.” Robert Bresson was another director infamous for breaking down his actors with several takes per shot, and I think that the performances in his films, though unique, are bland and uninteresting. Fear, anger, and lunacy  are well communicated through the performances in Strange Circus, and the characters are wiley and unnerving.

As the guillotine blade comes crashing down, severing us from Sono’s world, we realize that we have “always walked on (our) own two feet.” That we were never carried through this film in a wheelchair, but rather stepped onto the stage full willing to be victims to the carnage. In the strangest way (I’ve often felt this about films) we are accomplices to the rape and abuse of Mitsuko, we are the tormentors of all little girls, we are the clowns of the Strange Circus.

And so…realities colliding…truths unmasked…death sure and deserved…cue the curtains.

Part 3: the boy who only wanted to fly

The same as I somewhat ignorantly fetishize Japan, the hero of HAZARD, Shin, somewhat ignorantly fetishizes New York City. Shin leaves Japan seeking danger and adventure in a film that blends the adrenaline of crime and a limitless life with the tragedy of role confusion and ill-fated bravado. The story of his ex-pat quest for a hazardous existence is made all the more crushing by his near-infant daughter’s narration. I remember almost crying as she exculpates his violent wanderlust calling him “the boy who only wanted to fly.” Like Suicide Club, Noriko’s Dinner Table, and Love Exposure the film is rife with themes of social disobedience and disillusionment.

Though the two friends Shin makes in New York, Lee & Takeda, are reckless punks, the relationship between the three of them is touching and heartfelt and never reaches the peaks of abuse I expected it to. There is a genuine gratitude and love between Shin and Lee, and this holds true to the end of the film and beyond it. Shin comes to New York as a confused foreigner, gets mugged, and wanders directionless until Lee and Takeda take him in and give him the nonspecific hazards that he is looking for. Sure, they rob stores, sell drugs, and love a good run from the cops, but they take care of each other, truly listen to one another, and even teach each other. One of the most touching sequences in the film is Lee teaching Shin english by helping him understand Walt Whitman:

“Japan, sleepy but restless,” Shin’s daughter says repeatedly. This description of Japan matches up with all of Sono’s other films. There is something calm and yet tense about Japan. Exteriorly everything appears peaceful, but in the deep core of Japanese society something is festering. We see reactions to this in the forms of suicide, child-abuse, hentaism (i.e. active perversion), and (as with Shin) emigration.

But does Shin ever find what he’s looking for? The American Dream? Hazard? He certainly finds friendship, and in it something more. Perhaps love.

What he wanted out of life was to fly, and as the meek voice of his daughter closes the film, he is still flapping his arms.

Part 4: Here baby, there mama, everywhere daddy daddy.

Long has the West asked the question “what’s up with the Japanese and hair?”

Indeed long, black hair does seem to be an ubiquitous image/motif of J-Horror, whether it’s draping the ghost child emerging from the television (Ringu), coming out of the tap instead of water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara), or filling the haunted bathtub (Ju-On), and as I later learned in a Foothill College Anthropology of Magic, Science, and Religion class it goes all the way back to Japanese ghost stories of the Edo period.

Our teacher even showed us a clip from Ringu to demonstrate the look of a typical Japanese ghost.

Kaidan, a 1964 feature made of four vignettes, is one of the foundation films of the J-Horror genre. The first vignette is called “Black Hair.” Take a wild guess what it’s about.

There’s no doubt that hair is a strange human byproduct. It is at once revered (on the head) and detested (on the body). It is both dead and yet part of something living. Hair, as a theme, is common to the storytelling of all peoples (e.g. Rapunzel,) but the Japanese have, more than anyone, explored its dark side.

It’s almost as though Sion Sono looked at Japanese culture and just said “you want hair horror? I’ll give you hair horror!”

Eccentric horror indeed, Exte tells the story of a corpse who’s hair continues to grow. Not just a little bit, as is common with the dead, but filling whole houses, crawling through fax machines, swimming through veins and bursting forth from eye sockets.

After this Chia-corpse is stolen from the morgue by an old hair-fetishist (who seems to really like the Yanki style,) the hair’s rage begins to infect anyone who wears a piece of it in the form of hair extensions.

This is something else about hair (that I mentioned earlier.) It is both a part of us, and yet not, as it is dead. It does not feel pain like we do. This is why one of the uncanniest and most communicative moments in the film is when a cut lock of hair begins to bleed. Suddenly something dead is alive, and it’s pissed.

Although it might appear just another J-Horror about left-over rage seeking non-specific vengeance (this is the nature of a certain kind of Japanese spirit, see Ju-On for a better understanding) Exte has some serious dramatic elements. Child-abuse, abortion, and near-Lynchian normalcy that is creepy in its own right before any hair starts slashing about.

All the same Sono dipped his pen in the visual shock pot for this one and it’s good eye-candy if you have a taste for the dark.

Part 5: Hentai!

Love Exposure is my favorite film by a living director (it recently unseated Performance.)  At an epic 4 hour runtime, history may prove it to be Sono’s magnum opus. In the same literary fashion as Noriko’s Dinner Table it blends three principal characters; Yu, a brilliant tosatsu (upskirt photographer) who has mastered his profession in an effort to rack up sins so as to have something to confess to his emotionally distant priest father, Yoko, a fiery misandrist who spends her days screaming, fighting off invisible enemies, and dancing with her father’s ex-girlfriend, and Koike, a sinister cult leader who has targeted both Yu and Yoko as potential converts for her Zero Church.

Cinematic oblivion at its best:

I went to ridiculous lengths to view this movie. First of all, it’s impossible to get a hold of in the States. I had to go through unofficial channels to get a copy and when I finally did the subtitles were out of synch with the dialogue. So what did I do? Give up?

No, I opened up two different video files of the film, stretched the viewing screen of one down below the other so that just the subtitles were showing, and then did the pause and play dance until the dialogue and subtitles were synched correctly. Could have learned fucking Japanese in the time it took me.

This, of course, meant I couldn’t pause the movie without getting it out of synch. I also had to do this three times because the movie, (being so long) was split into three parts. But as with any religious labor…

…the kingdom of heaven rewards us for our toil. Never before has a movie brought tears to my eyes not out of sadness but out of reverence for its brilliance.

Just as Yu spends the first quarter of the film seeking out his Maria (i.e. Virgin Mary) I came to this film seeking something pure and holy. On all fronts this film delivers, though some may not have the patience to let it fully unfold. It does not rush, it takes its time, it allows each character to slowly rise into form, until they all reach a common locus and achieve singularity.

At its core it is a love story, one that takes influence from Shakespeare, from the plethora of tosatsu pornography that has inundated Japanese culture, and from Christ. It is an orgy. It is a fast.

It is, in many ways, a religious experience.

Part 6: a quiet victory

Chanto Tsutaeru (Be Sure to Share) is the one Sono film (so far) that I was not able to watch in a single sitting. About an hour in, I couldn’t bear the sadness anymore and I turned it off. The next day, after I’d cheered up a little, I started back up where I’d left off and finished it. As a beautifully tragic family tale it was certainly effective

So what pushed me away from this film? Once again, it was mastery. Sono took on family loss telling the story of a son coming to terms with his father’s cancer, only to learn, later on, that he himself has cancer and may die before his father. He thinks back on his parentage and reminisces about what he and his father have and have not done. Fishing is a major motif, a sport that is repeatedly described as “surprisingly enjoyable,” despite it’s outwardly boring appearance. Be Sure to Share could be described similarly, it comes across as a sad, melodramatic family film, but quietly achieves something magnificent in it’s mellow exploration of a secret human pain hiding in the midst of the Japanese family structure. As the film closes the words:

This movie is dedicated to my father, Otomi Sono

appear on the screen, confirming that this is certainly a very personal work.

Part 7: How morish

Though I’ve probably seen more Sono than the average American, I haven’t seen nearly enough. I’m still desperately searching for a copy of Into a Dream (in any form) which tells the story of a boy travelling back to his hometown to discover the origin of an STD.

I also can’t get any information at all about Kikyû kurabu, sonogo, which doesn’t even have a plot description.

Not to mention anything Sono did before Jisatsu Sakkuru, including his poetry, which I would love to read. I understand that his first film I am Sion Sono! is nothing more than him reading his poetry aloud to the camera. I bet I’d enjoy the hell out of that. I doubt, however, that there’s even a single copy of it in this country.

As for what Sono’s up to next, we’re waiting on the release of his retelling of the “Saitama serial murders of dog lovers” (with dogs changed to fish) in Cold Fish, which looks pretty great:

as well as Sono’s (jizz myself with excitement) upcoming biopic of the legendary Norwegian black metal band Mayhem in Lords of Chaos.

Til then I’ll just re-watch what I’ve already seen of his. There’s always something new to be noticed.

Clown Horror Oblivion

Posted in Sermons on September 7, 2010 by nicholasnordlinger

“Why is Clown Horror such a neglected genre?” This is the question my brother and I asked each other (I can’t remember who asked it first, we both drifted towards the topic) a couple of weeks ago during a conversation about the status of the horror genre. Both of us could not think of a better, scarier piece of Clown Horror Cinema than The Tale of Laughing in the Dark:

Truly Zeebo has stood the test of time, traumatizing us as children (when Nickelodeon had a healthy edge) only to remerge just as chilling upon a mature reviewing. The story structure of this episode is perfect and it stands out, for me, as the clear best episode of Are You Afraid Of the Dark? and undoubtedly the scariest. Cinar tried to replay this card with The Tale of the Crimson Clown, which was altogether less memorable but equally traumatizing:

But after discussing these two episodes of an old kids show, and running through the familiar gamut of just-plain-fucking-awful Clown Horror atrocities (e.g. Killjoy, Fear of Clowns, S.I.C.K.,) we had to truly ask ourselves “seriously? The monopoly on good clown horror goes to Nickelodeon?”

the orange splatter is clown blood

My brother mentioned the obvious epic of the genre IT by Stephen King. This more than 1,000 page novel takes Clown Horror beyond the object and to the roots of what fear truly is (I’ll come back to this) describing the menacing Pennywise, the dancing clown, as only one of many manifestations of IT.

The subsequent miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise got a love it or hate it reception and falls somewhere between Killer Klowns from Outerspace (which succeeds more as Clown Horror Comedy <a genre eating its own fucking tail> than as pure Clown Horror) and Zeebo as far as good coulrophobic horror goes.

It’s not that we suffer from a lack of scary clowns in our media. Scary clowns get a cameo in plenty of horror flicks (e.g. Poltergeist, Hellbound,) the Joker has long held the position of king-villain in the DC Comics universe, and Juggalos nationwide continue to represent the aesthetic with mad loyalty:

Zeebo laid down the roots of this movement

…but good, scary horror films that really focus in on a clown as the central monster are few and far between.

And so our search began, and after some diligent googling through horror message boards we finally found exactly what we were looking for.

The holy grail of Clown Horror:

Clownhouse just straight owned this genre, reinvestigated everything that is at the root of Clown Horror and turned it in on itself, drew on what Stephen King explored in IT (as far as the clown is fear is clown is fear ad infinitum) and focused in. I’m not saying Clownhouse is a better movie than IT, Laughing in the Dark, or even Killer Klowns From Outer Space, but I am saying it is better clown horror than all of them. It is Clown Horror perfected.


The protagonist of Clownhouse is Casey, a young boy who suffers a near crippling fear of clowns and (as horror movie luck would have it) is about to go off alone with his two older brothers to the carnival.

"I wanted to go bowling"

After being basically told that he’s going to die by a fortune teller they go (it was inevitable) to see the clowns, the leader of whom immediately recognizes Casey’s fear and, therefore, picks him out of the crowd and tries to drag him on stage. Casey, naturally, runs from the tent screaming.

Why would a clown go out of his way to pick the obviously terrified child? Somehow this makes the joke funnier. The whole crowd can’t understand why the child is so afraid, the clown is a silly man, look at the nervous kid, aw, look at him panic. His fear is our pleasure. Perhaps it is this, the sadistic and isolating formula of a typical “clown exploits shyness” joke, that makes them appear so threatening.

I remember reading an R.L. Stine short story called “Afraid of Clowns” when I was younger that focused particularly on this aspect of clowns (i.e. their uncanny ability to locate fear in their audience and to exploit it.) If I remember correctly the story tells of a young coulrophobic who is one day taken out from the crowd at a circus and beaten in front of everyone on stage while the audience laughs (believing it to be a joke.) He is then taken back into the circus tent with the rest of the clowns where they explain that they were all once that scared kid in the crowd, that this is the means by which clowns are made, that it is only by having such a fear that you can learn to spot it in others and act as a fearhound (an apparent necessity for clowns.)

This seems to be a commonality in good Clown Horror. The victim of the clown’s aggression has brought it upon themselves with their own fear.

This is what IT is, IT is fear, IT is the ominous emptiness of neglect and violence, IT is us feeding our personal terrors, giving them strength and letting them control us until that day when we can turn from them like Nancy did Freddy (in the original Nightmare on Elm Street) and tell them “you’re nothing. You’re shit,” so that they fade into blue light mid swipe.

At the very end of Clownhouse a quote appears on the screen:

No man can hide from his fears; as they are a part
 of him, they will always know where he is hiding.


Thank you Victor Salva (child-molestor though you may be.) The perfection of your clown opus stems principally from this epigram.

It is Casey who brings the clowns to the house. Casey who invites them. Fear baits the fearsome.

This gives a new meaning to the last line of Clownhouse (right before the epigram appears on the screen) spoken by Casey’s older brother (the middle child, the kinder brother) as he cradles our sobbing protagonist.

“Casey,” he says “your nightmare’s over.”

Indeed Clownhouse walks that postmodern line where the clowns may be either real or imaginary and at the same time are both.

For this reason Casey’s coulrophobia enters a self-perpetuating cycle. He is scared that the clown will pick him out of the crowd and he gets picked out of the crowd because he’s scared.

But Casey illuminates another, more integral aspect of his fear after running in a panic from the clown tent. His (nicer of the two) brother approaches and tries to placate his terror saying:

Bro: He’s just a man Case.

Casey:  I know

Bro: Paint on his face.

Casey: Pretty funny huh?

Bro: No. Know what I used to be afraid of? Still sort of am? The Wolfman. I don’t know why. I know he’s fake, but still.

Casey: That’s what I don’t like about clowns. Their faces are fake. Big happy eyes. Big painted smiles. It’s not real. You never know what they really are.


(incidentally, one of IT’s other forms than Pennywise is The Wolfman)

The same as small or obscured eyes are a visual cue for evil in most movies because they convey dishonesty and antipathy (see RedLetterMedia’s review of Avatar) Casey interprets the obscured facial expressions of clowns as sinister and deceptive. There’s something even worse about the fact that clowns disguise themselves with a wicked satire of what happiness is supposed to look like.

So here is the essence of Clown Horror, it is an ironic excess, it is a sick caricature of how we perceive happiness, it is silly beyond silliness, it is uncanny. And so over-the-top silliness becomes horror, the same as over-the-top horror can become silliness (think Evil Dead 2)

This is another area where Clownhouse shows brilliance, it does not rely on gore (which is one of the freshest reliefs in this Gorno age) and therefore never overdoes unto silliness. Remember when movies relied on creep and not shock? Too long has the grisly trend of raw torture-porn-horror hid under the guise of “pushing the boundaries” when it’s really just laziness. The creep factor of Clownhouse left me more scared than the most brutal torture scene from any of the Saw movies.

As soon as Clownhouse was over we started looking around for more. The dark circus in our minds had been illuminated and now it was insatiable. We found a decent Clown Horror episode of Supernatural called “Everybody Loves a Clown” (season 2, episode 2), reviewed Zeebo and Crimson, and then settled into a final burn of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, which was good fun as a capper:

Now, why would an alien species look and act exactly like clowns in every way (including cocooning people in cotton candy and putting on deadly shadow puppet shows?) After a full Clown Horror oblivion you’ll come up with an answer. We had two theories, my brother’s was that long ago, at the dawn of man, their species visited earth and some Cro-Magnon spotted them, and that is where our whole conception of clowns comes from. My theory was the exact opposite, that at some point a clown costume or a birthday video of Bozo made it’s way through the stars and landed on a distant planet, prompting this species to base their whole way of life on earth’s clown archetype.

Despite this reasonably sized oblivion the Clown Horror genre is still wanting. Look at how many goddamn vampire movies there are out now! Are vampires really that scary? (no they’re sexy, that’s the point.) As the horror genre is exhausted by remakes and sequels it’d be nice to see somebody step up to the plate and make the next great addition to the freakish genre of Clown Horror.

The trailer for Love Object is false advertising (unless you get meta about it)

Posted in Sermons on September 7, 2010 by nicholasnordlinger

So Love Object was a fairly recent, above par horror movie starring that one guy from Dexter. Here’s the trailer:

So what is this film clearly about? An evil, living sex doll, right? It’s some sort of kinky retelling of Child’s Play or something, right? Wrong. There is not one bit of the supernatural in this movie (unless you count a purple rash that every sex doll user gets as supernatural. I’d just blame the manufacturer.) The entire story is about our protagonist, Kenneth, going slowly insane as he obsessively tailors his sex doll to appear more like his crush from work (and eventually vice versa) and worries that the doll is going to kill him in jealousy.

It’s an effective horror movie, and perhaps much better (and scarier) for not delving into fantasy, but you have to get over the initial realization that there’s not going to be any Chuckyesque carnage.

However, the most important line in the movie comes at the peak of our protagonist’s insanity as one of his victims begs him for mercy saying (in reference to the sex doll) “she’s not real!”

To which Kenneth devastatingly replies:

“just because she’s not alive doesn’t mean she’s not real.”

So perhaps the trailer wasn’t lying after all. Maybe the doll is a living monster. Maybe anything we fetishize, any Love Object, becomes an extension of our own madness.

A Very Brief Introduction to the proposed Church

Posted in Sermons on September 6, 2010 by nicholasnordlinger

The Church will be open to anyone and everyone. There will be films projected on the outside walls so that passersby may be drawn in (light permitting of course). These films (projected on the outside walls) will be family friendly (e.g. Henson, Miyazaki, 90’s animation) so as not to pose any symbolic violence to the community. The films played on the inside will, however, not necessarily (or perhaps ever) be “family friendly.” As a cleric, it is not my place to stop wayward children from wandering in, and any trauma they experience from the films they see inside may serve well in their personal development, but I recommend parents regard entry into the interior screening room of the church (which, also, may not be the best place for children in that I expect/project that it will be characteristically filled with smoke) as a religious act of Confirmation, the outside walls being a baptism and Sunday School of sorts. The interior of the church will be a large screening room with a variety of seating (e.g. couches, comfy chairs, standard theater loveseats etc.) Films will be shown one after the other, often with fifteen to thirty minute intermissions between. Appropriate music will be played before and between film showings (e.g. during the intermission between Tetuso: The Iron Man and Eraserhead, the noise music of Merzbow will be played, and before a screening of Do The Right Thing Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet will be played in its entirety)

There will be three bathrooms on the interior of the church. Male, female, and Q. Or M. Or Z. I haven’t for certain decided on the third bathroom’s label yet but I am certain that any truly accepting church (particularly one of Cinematic Oblivion) must have a third bathroom for anyone who is not cemented in the male/female gender binary. All three bathrooms will have small T.V. screens in them with the featured film playing (synchronized timewise, of course, with the interior screen) so that bathroomgoers do not miss any of the film. These bathroom TV’s are a crucial feature of The Church (I have always found the necessarily missed minutes of films in cinemas an obvious design flaw of movie theaters/the human bladder) as it is near impossible for any audience member to go an entire screening without using the bathroom (remember, double features, triple features, sometimes even day or night long marathons are the main staple of the church).

I believe that it is also crucial that all screenings at the Church be free. Make no mistake; this is an anarchist theater that refuses to participate in the capitalist relationship on religious grounds. Like any church we expect tax-exempt status. We will survive on the generous donations of our congregation. These donations will not always come in the form of money, sometimes all we need is someone to help out, give a little time or energy to the Church.

The Church is a place of worship and oblivion, so everyone must follow their own spiritual path. Come in and stay for five minutes, or sit down and stay for five days. All that matters is that you respect the church. Come in and drink a beer, smoke a blunt, come in with a tab of L on your tongue, or come in sober as a judge, your state of mind is yours…yours…yours…for who else should your state of mind belong to?

Some days there will be well-paired double features and triple features (e.g. the previously mentioned Tetsuo & Eraserhead, Jisatsu sakuru & Noriko’s Dinner Table, Back to the Future & Primer <obviously another good one might be all three BTTF’s>, Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade & The Company of Wolves, Star Wars Episodes 4,5 & 6, Hellraiser & Hellbound, Psycho & Dementia 13, Chan Wook Park’s vengeance trilogy etc. <I will probably do a whole other blog just spouting a proposed theater schedule>) other days we will simply show a single, albeit very long, movie (e.g. Once Upon A Time in America, Love Exposure, Novecento, Satantango, Shoah etc.) and still other days we will participate in full days (or even more than a single day if need be) of cinematic oblivion (e.g. Clown Horror oblivion, Stanley Kubrick oblivion, Anime oblivion, Bollywood oblivion, Werewolf oblivion, Sion Sono oblivion, Tarkovsky oblivion, found-footage oblivion, Marxist oblivion etc.) I will expand on the specific schedules and spiritual ramifications of these oblivions in later blogs.

We will also screen T.V. shows, usually committing to showing the entire series in a single run. I would love to treat Paranoia Agent as one 6-½ hour movie. In fact, were this Church to be in operation currently I would most certainly organize a Satoshi Kon oblivion to honor his recent passing.

So the sad truth is that this Church doesn’t exist, there is no building, no screen, and no wealth of films to project. At this moment I am the soul member of the parish. But I carry cinematic oblivion with me everywhere I go, with every film I watch.

There is an abandoned Albertson’s down Channing Road at the ghostly vacant Edgeware Shopping Center here in Palo Alto, CA. Sometimes I pull up next to it in the evening, smoke a cigarette and stare at it’s white walls, dreaming of dancing images, of gathered families, and of the few daring filmgoers slowly edging their way inside, considering confirmation into the Church. It is a dream that I do not currently have the money (damn paper) or business skills to bring into reality, so I will keep the faith with this blog, sharing The Church’s views on genres, auteurs, and specific films, as well as illuminating the possibilities of the actual Church’s existence.

A Very Brief Introduction to the Idea of Cinematic Oblivion

Posted in Sermons on September 5, 2010 by nicholasnordlinger

The drive behind any religious commitment is personal aesthetic, and when one has found the tingle of divinity that best suits them they submit to this aesthetic. The word Islam, for example, means submission. Christianity and Judaism are both built on an Original Sin myth which bends shame/guilt(philiacs) to that aesthetics’ rule. I believe that submission to an aesthetic (be it crosses, stars, or crescent moons) is natural, and is the first step in the quest for oblivion.

One of the most common aspects of any religion/belief  is oblivion.

Christians speaking in tongues, Muslims mass chanting the Koran, the Sun Dance of the Cheyenne, the peyote rituals of the Huichol, dancing or singing, eating or drinking, or fasting…into oblivion…into exhaustion or utter trip, when the body and the mind are worn and see God.

I like movies.

Like the Cheyenne will dance, like the Muslims will chant, like the Christians will jabber, like the Huichol will munch, I will watch movies. Long lost is the attention span that can best a double-feature, but every night I conceive a new perfect pairing, or even a triple-feature, or a good 4 to 7 hour movie no one will give the time. When one truly submits to the guidance of the church it can be divinely rewarding. Imagine the faith it requires to submit 4, 6, even 10 hours of your life to the silver screen. Of course the particular films shown and how they are arranged/presented is extremely important, and I believe I am fit to guide the believers and hold a position in the cinematic parsonage. I want to gather together in a dark room, burn our trees or tobacco leaves, drink our brews and teas, let the light of the projector dance, the sound surround, our laughs and screams echo with tact and timing. Let us, the congregation, watch films all night until we are red-eyed, and wander out into the morning light, sick with oblivion.

Concerts, clubs, and raves have long held the monopoly on modern-age (seemingly)-secular oblivion seeking. Movie-theaters are far too tame for a crazed film cleric (like me). Also, money is art’s kryptonite.

I propose a Church of Cinematic Oblivion. All screenings will be free. Marijuana and tobacco may be smoked inside during all shows. You may come in any psychological condition as long as you respect the church.

That will be the only rule.

Please Respect Our Church

As you would any house of God.