Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 6:54 am 
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Self-destructive youth

A French youth in a series of quiet encounters eventually decides to blow himself up, hoping to disappear completely in a beautiful fashion.

Sixty-six-year-old California-born Dennis Cooper, best known for his 1989-2000 five-part George Miles Cycle. has been active since the Seventies. It's safe to say that his writing , which focuses on "Sexual fantasy, existentialism, death, troubled teenagers, drug use, the inadequacy of language" (Wikipedia), is both transgressive in nature, and reflects a queer sensibility. All of the young men in Permanent Green Light are good looking. The only one crush on Roman is on the part of another boy, Guillaume (dancer Sylvain Decloitre). Cooper now collaborates with Zac Farley and since their first film in 2015 he has chosen to focus exclusively on the activity of their making films together. I thought of Grauerholz and Burroughs, though I'm not sure this comparison is relevant.

Permanent Green Light was originally inspired by the news story of an Australian youth called Jake Bilardi who joined ISIS in Syria and blew himself up, but here, the handsome youth, Roman (Benjamin Sulpice), who lives in an unspecified French suburb of stark walls and blank spaces, has no political alliance or much discernible emotion or clear sexual orientation. The style is slow, austere, intimate, with only diagetic music. I thought of Eugène Green, whose recent films have taught me the pleasures of slow cinema. I think Cooper has mentioned Bresson's Le diable, probablement, and he is a self-declared longtime admirer of Bresson, but he considers himself not a very visual person, hence the value of his collaboration with Farley - who obviously may inject some youthfulness into work that often focuses on adolescent boys.

This is an austere and elegant work that rewards careful attention and repeated viewings. I was as fascinated by it as I was put off by it, somewhat like its attractive protagonist (with his dimples, sensuous lips, and dreamy eyes), who is something of a cock teaser. Roman sends his best friend Ollie (Julien Fayeulle) to a fair alone, and we next see Ollie at the fair with his face streaming with tears. Another friend suggests they get high together and Roman asks just to take the drugs home to use by himself.

Scenes involving a collapsed building, a piñata, a suicide vest, and a purveyor of explosives gradually lead to Roman's radical self-annihilating act. Along the way, three other young people do away with themselves, who Roman is aware of.

See the review by Shame Khanna in TheWhiteReview. Cooper describes the film himself in Artforum, where he is a contributing editor. He and his young collaborator Zac Farley have given filmed interviews discussing their first film at the Festival du Film Subversif and this one at Rotterdam. There is a recent interview with them by Ezra Marcus in Interview.

"Cooper and Farley’s film follows a French teenager named Roman. who enlists a group of friends to help him blow himself up — not as an act of terrorism, nor out of suicidal despair, but simply because he wants to die in a large spectacle that leaves no trace of himself behind.

"What follows is an extraordinarily quiet and thoughtful movie, steeped in the culture and feeling of childhood and adolescence, as well as a highly successful collaboration".- Daniel Felsenthal, Los Angeles Review of Books. It was #10 on John Waters' ten favorite films of 2018 list announced in Filmforum.

Permanent Green Light,, 91 mins., debuted 27 Jan. 2018 at Rotterdam, showing in Oct. 2018 at Queer Porto. It was screened for this review as part of SF Indiefest. Showtimes below.

* Feb. 3, 9:30 pm: San Francisco @ SF IndieFest/Roxie Theater
* Feb. 4, 9:15 pm: San Francisco @ SF IndieFest/Roxie Theater


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