Saturday, November 14, 2015

Entertainment (2015)

Most of you cannot handle this movie. "Entertainment" is a declaration of war on the U.S. white status quo. You want to be happy. Fulfilled. You want to think there's a point to life. This movie is a stunning epic of tedium, boredom, apathy, sadness and banal horror, painted in esoteric allegorical strokes. It is complete nihilism, deftly articulated. It is excellent.

What happens when art is the only thing keeping somebody alive, yet it is obviously their death sentence at the same time? "The Comedian" in this film repeatedly points out and ridicules the total ugliness in life and then slams face first over and over into that ugliness, not to mention that the only audience who seems to ever "get it" are the ugliest garbage on the earth.

If we are going strictly by movie titles, "Entertainment" makes "Happiness" look like Laurel and Hardy. "Entertainment" is a two hour-long utter death-screech of a threnody for the first world artiste. It is the sound that some of us make while we bang our heads against the concrete of reality until torrents of blood come gushing out. Naturally, it took a master comedian like Gregg Turkington to create one of the most bleak existential nightmares imaginable. He possesses the reckless sensitivity to stare hard into his own personal void and show it to us with no mercy. He finds that the world is neither laughing with him or at him - rather it just doesn't care at all.

The obvious "laughs" are basically over in the first five minutes. During the opening salvo, the moribund pandering of a sad clown/mime to the lowest common denominator sets an unbearably awkward tone which never resolves. The world of "Entertainment" is one where idiots and perverts win, and the artist is valueless trash. Early on, John C. Reilly is momentarily hysterical as a bumbling, artless capitalist who senses value in The Comedian's work, but just cannot get it. The Capitalist feels compelled to siphon some sort of perceived authenticity from The Comedian. The exchange is ultimately hollow.

The scenes all last too long, on purpose. The soundtrack is mostly muted, dissonant cacophony, surrounded by stretches of awkward silence. The only time The Comedian actually comes alive is during the short bursts when he is on stage. Even then, confrontation and disaster is the goal, or punch line. His act is mostly about brutal ridicule of the pointlessness and fleetingly temporary futility of celebrity. In the film, we hear the exact same stilted Neil Hamburger jokes he has been making for more than 15 years (to my recollection), and that's the point - The Comedian has come to a cross road, where his material no longer falls into any meaningful context. His work has reached an impasse, and all that's left is death.

The Comedian lives to create discomfort people don't want, yet he needs people who don't want it to accomplish that goal. It's a catch-22. Ultimately, The Comedian is more impotent than Don Quixote. He is a vortex, closing in on himself. He has made his whole life about proving that everything sucks, only to find that everything sucks. This movie is a protracted suicide note.

I suppose this movie resonates with me so strongly because I've always been a comedian, first and foremost. All of my music is comedic, often in the blackest ways, but sometimes in the most base sense, but even when it's obvious, I'm generally trying to do something far below the surface. I can't help it. This is the lens I view life through: I am coping with existence the best way I know how - trying to keep some kind of motivation, while acknowledging, mocking and sometimes finding the exquisite beauty in chaos. This is not a popular angle. I don't expect anybody to get it or care at this point. It's largely self-serving. Hell, it's no less pointless than what everybody else on this planet does, so I continue. It's what makes sense to me. Where that's going is another matter altogether.

In "Entertainment", Gregg Turkington, as The Comedian, is basically trapped in a wasteland full of vapid automatons who don't understand why he would even bother. He no longer communicates to anyone. The world doesn't want or need him, yet he has shunned those who do in order to play out a terminal directive. He is outnumbered and doomed, regardless of the clarity of his vision. The fall downhill begins to gain rapid momentum as the artist finally starts wondering why his life's work means anything even to himself.