Tuesday, 31 January 2012

#25 USA — The Room (2003)

Half way there! At the start of this I didn't think I'd make it to this point. Here's an extra special review to mark this event. Enjoy.

Never has there been a film so misunderstood as Tommy Wiseau's 2003 masterpiece, The Room. The sheer volume of viewers who don't "get" it and instead enjoy it for supposedly unintentional comic value is disgusting. I assure you that the comedy is not only completely intentional, it is the most subtly satirical and intelligent humour since Jacques Tati.

The Room opens with the main character, Johnny, on a tram journey. The understanding of this metaphorical device is key to understanding the nature of the film. The tram here symbolises the modern way of thinking. Tram systems are seen as important because of their "green" nature and are recently being implemented in a number of cities — such as my home town, Edinburgh — to help reduce carbon footprints and suchlike. Johnny steps of the tram at the end of the title sequence, and thus starts a new life, attempting to appreciate the simple things in life, such as American Football and doing chicken impressions. Such a life-changing moment has not been implied so subtly and perfectly since Jeanne Dielman in Chantal Akerman's 1975 film (reviewed earlier).

One comment which is frequently made about the film is that Tommy Wiseau's acting as Johnny is one of the — if not, the — worst performances of all time. What you will notice, however, is that the acting is very restrained and there isn't one false move until he steps off that tram. Wiseau is inviting us into his simple world, one where we should not judge or be judged for how we present ourselves or how good our vagina location skills are (hint, it's not on the belly button). The fact that most viewers do not find this idea incredibly beautiful makes me weep for modern society.

A scene which is frequently misinterpreted, but is in fact one of the most overtly symbolic segments of the film is the flower shop scene. This short scene has more content and depth than most films have in their whole run-time. I will explain a few of the important aspects, but to go through them all would take a lifetime. First off, the shopkeeper fails to recognise Johnny as he walks into the shop, despite his very memorable features. She does not know who he his, because he is a new man, changed by his decision to live a better life. The fast, surreal pace of this scene coupled with the jarring dialog emphasises his dissatisfaction with the emphasis on efficiency in modern life. This channels Tati's Jour De Fete, alongside the absurdism of Bunuel's comedies.

There are moments, however, when Wiseau takes us out of this ideal view of life, showing it as an impossibility. The most obvious of these is in the plot, where his life is ruined by the modern world for attempting to choose a better way of life. More subtly, the frequently blurry camera suggests that this ideal life can only be a dream, and that it is unobtainable now. The picture of a spoon which is often parodied and made fun of also exists to strengthen this idea. It is a reference to the scene in The Matrix where reality is called into question with the bending of a spoon.

The most important aspect which is often seen as amusing i— ah screw it, this film is absolutely awful. Watch it anyway though, as it's rather hilarious.

Also recommended from the USA:
Plan 9 From Outer Space

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