by Johannes Goransson on Jun.25, 2014
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk…
(Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”)
It seems a lot of people are troubled by Lana Del Ray saying that she wish she were “already dead.” Seems that’s not an “empowering” thing to say. We should all be energetic and as alive as possible. Working for a change in the anthropocene. Something I love about her songs is that she does sound already dead. They all seem written from a haze, from the other side.
It’s in the new one:
But it’s even more in some of the old ones, like “Summertime Sadness” and (duh!) “Born to Die.”
What sets her apart from predecessors in provocation like is that she celebrates the bacchanalian excess of peers like while immolating herself in themes of co-dependency that make smart people squirm. Her songs exude the pain her paramours repress through drugs and sport sex, and their implicit subject is addiction.
In other words, unlike so much contemporary poetics for example, this is not poetry that “critiques,” that gives us an ethical position. Unlike Hollywood, pop music etc: it’s not uplifting. Unlike both: it is not “empowering.”
She gets hit by her lover and it feels like a kiss.
This haziness of death is of course the feverish state of art. It is a kiss but it feels like a punch.
It’s an addiction.
The NPR article is a really nauseating however in the beginning because it posits the “gothic” as a “safe spin” in which girls get to try out woman issues… Gross… It’s of course old news to say that the gothic is feminine, old news to say that it’s temporary, something you grow out of… I’m sorry I won’t. Because the bees are dead and so are we.
What happens when the gothic is “male”? Often it becomes intolerable for folks. Think about the time Seth Oelbaum wrote about Teddy Bear violence and immediately tenured professors threatened to kill him.
Watched Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” the other day and thought it was brilliant:
It’s a saturated movie -the colors, the violence, the decor – about incest, addiction and violence. The kisses taste like ultraviolence. Like Sylvia Plath’s “Fever 103” it takes place in the orient, where imperialism discovered modern beauty in the 18th and 19th centuries. In Xanadu, Coleridge built an opium den…
Thanks to Matthew Suss, I found these negative reviews of the film:
“[Nicholas Winding Refn’s] latest theater of the macabre is brutal, bloody, saturated with revenge, sex and death, yet stunningly devoid of meaning, purpose, emotion or decent lighting.” – Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
“Movies really don’t get much worse than Nicholas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives. It’s a shit macho fantasy—hyperviolent, ethically repulsive, sad, nonsensical, deathly dull, snail-paced, idiotic, possibly woman-hating, visually suffocating, pretentious… [T]his is a defecation by an over-praised, over-indulged director who thinks anything he craps out is worthy of your time. I felt violated, shat upon, sedated, narcotized, appalled and bored stiff.” – Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
“It’s not that overwrought violence and human depravity are unfit grist for art, but without a compelling plot and a modicum of character development, all this film has to offer is a repugnant prurience and heavy-handed atmospherics.” – Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic
“I thought it was just about the worst fucking thing I’ve ever seen.” – David Edelstein, Vulture
… This sounds a bit like the attacks on Del Ray, but they are even worse. The strange thing is that they are very perceptive (as reviews often are): it is a “suffocating” movie in its “heavy-handed atmospherics,” it is “over-indulged”, it has to do with shit, it is both boring and over-stimulating, it is unfit, it has little plot. We cannot see through the heavy atmosphere, we are left in a haze, we cannot transcend the haze, cannot make meaning out of the art. It hits us and it feels like a kiss.
Both Del Rey and “Only God Forgives” IS suffocating art, art that disturbs, art that is overly arty and saturated without the nice little plot that would redeem all the art, make it meaningful, progressive, good for us. And that’s exactly the kind of art that scares the hell out of people because we are already dead.
That’s the only art I want to watch, write, read, inhale, kiss.
(By Carole King)