24 April 2006

La Morte et la folie de la jeunesse

Heavenly Creatures - dir. Peter Jackson - 1994 - New Zealand
Lost & Delirious - dir. Léa Pool - 2001 - Canada

On the surface, Heavenly Creatures and Lost & Delirious have a lot more in common with My Summer of Love and Presque rien than below it. But, really, I do not like to focus on the surface of things, so instead of pairing either of these films with My Summer of Love, I'm giving them their own post. And by "having things in common," I don't just mean lesbian sex.

While having their own merits, both of these films fail to accomplish the beauty and maturity of My Summer of Love in their absence of subtlety and obsession with death. The Romeo & Juliet/Shakespeare metaphor comes up quite clearly in Léa Pool's Lost & Delirious, as our all-girls boarding school discusses the Bard's plays in the English class. Instead of our star-crossed lovers, Paulie (Piper Perabo) focuses on Lady Macbeth. In Lady Macbeth, she sees her own limitations as a woman to achieve what she so greatly desires: the love of Tori (Jessica Paré). And, yet, we still can't get ol' Romeo and Juliet out of our heads. As word spreads about Paulie and Tori lezzing out, Tori flees into the arms of an easy boy from the boys school across the forest (the all-boys and all-girls schools are always very conveniently located, aren't they?)... and Paulie sets out to win back her heart. Possibly trying to steer away from the "am I gay?" coming-of-age tales in recent years, Pool shows us the love of Paulie and Tori in third-person. We see the passion and betrayal through the eyes of our young protagonist Mouse (Mischa Barton), as the film pretends to be about her growth. Instead, Mouse is a distraction. It's quite clear throughout the film that Paulie and Tori are our focus, and this therefore makes Mouse's dealing with a dead mother and a distant father that less captivating. And this, surprisingly, cannot be blamed on Barton, who's gotten a rep as a worthless actress on The O.C. Here, it's Pool's fault. She's trying something different, but it doesn't fully work. This method separates us from the tension at hand, which could have added a nice mysterious veil over the film. However, we still see Paulie and Tori at their most vulnerable, even outside of Mouse's eyes, therefore creating Mouse, the central figure, as a severe annoyance.

In Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson creates for us a visual landscape of the two girls' fantasy world. Their fantasy world is ladden with castles and knights, where they play the betrothed princesses, all visualized with claymation. And while this tactic works beautifully within the film, it's lack of mystery somehow lessens it, in relation to the world of My Summer of Love. It's difficult to say this, as it seems almost a comparison of two pairs of girls' fantasy worlds, as each work in their own respect. Yet, despite already discussing the flaws in the narrative of Lost & Delirious, what makes me like these films less than My Summer of Love or Presque rien?

The lack of subtlety works fine for Heavenly Creatures (it is Peter Jackson, by the way), and, in its own respect, Lost & Delirious does create a beautiful remembrance of the possibilities of youth. However, I'm brought back again to my disdain for Romeo & Juliet. All four films expose the intensity of teenage emotions and the desire to be loved. Yet, somehow, death makes our heroines here the same dumb teenagers as the beloved Romeo and Juliet. I realize as I'm writing this that these observations could be of my own personal reservations. But, it's my blog, so........ Just take note that I already realize this. Perhaps Jackson and Pool meant to show us the immaturity of these girls by resorting them to murder. In Jackson's case, he's dealing with a "true story" (as awful as that may sound), so the adoration he has for Juliet (Kate Winslet) and Parker (Melanie Lynskey) cannot be maimed by their heinous crime. In Pool's case, we see the death of a true idealist, a real dreamer, and it's quite clear that Paulie is the focus of the film, even if her struggle is meant to be a turning-point for the narrator. So, each director has their grounds covered. Yet neither seems to match the maturity of My Summer of Love or Presque rien. Or, maybe still, Paulie, Juliet, or Parker cannot match the maturity of Mona or Mathieu.

As I've been thinking, I've realized how many films in this "sub-genre" that exist. As far as Heavenly Creatures is concerned, another good entry into your own personal lesbian-teenagers-driven-to-murder film festival would be Rafal Zielinski's Fun, if you can find it anywhere. Shot in black and white and color, Zielinski gives us the painfully obvious displeasure of showing us two worlds: one where the girls are together, another where they're apart. Bet you can't guess which world is in color. (Or maybe you can... it's that obvious). Form your own opinons and then come and yell at me.

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