Surrealism was identified by its proponents as a way of reuniting the conscious and unconscious realms of experience so that the world of dream and fantasy could be joined to the everyday rational world — or what one critic called “an absolute reality, a surreality.” René Magritte accomplished this by merging dreamlike imagery and naturalistic detail, as in his iconic canvas Time Transfixed (1938). He also worked carefully on his titles, and he was ultimately unhappy with the English translation of the title of this painting. The original French, La Durée Poignardée, literally means “ongoing time stabbed by a dagger.” Magritte hoped that when his patron Edward James purchased this painting, he would install it at the bottom of his staircase so that the train would “stab” guests on their way to James‘ ballroom. In an ironic twist, he hung it over his fireplace, to Magritte’s great dissatisfaction.
One of the most vivid and cherished dreams I’ve had in the past couple of years involves a dream in which I discover a secret room in the back of my apartment. How I have managed to live in the apartment for 20 years and never even notice his room is a mystery. In the dream, this approximately 225 square foot room has been meticulously finished with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, and it is the most exhilarating feeling imaginable to realize that I have all of this space in which to expand my world. Seriously, I would compare it to discovering a treasure chest full of $100 bills, and you can perhaps only truly relate to and appreciate that if you live in a NYC apartment. Can you even imagine having access to an extra 225 ft. of rent-free space to use as, say, a walk-in closet, or to store absolutely every single thing you’ve ever owned in your entire life? That “Undiscovered Room” dream is probably the best dream I’ve ever had, because it gets to the root of an issue that all Manhattan dwellers live with: the desire for More Fucking Space.
Which brings us to today’s Video Clip of The Week, “Most Space,” from the band Worriers. This song and its accompanying video have absolutely nothing to do with discovering secret walk-in closets in your apartment, but everything to do with the lack of personal space with regard to something that most New Yorkers use on a daily basis, which is the NYC subway system. If you’ve ever been alone in a subway car you know what a euphoric feeling it is to not have somebody right up in your grill. And because personal space in the subway is so wantonly abused, all riders will be familiar with the current Rules of the Subway campaign, which has recently been posted in all cars in an effort to get people to behave like human beings to each other. The campaign includes hilarious posters depicting common sense rules including things like Not Eating in the Car, Not Putting on your Makeup in the Car, not using the Safety Poles to perform your “Current Dance Routine,” and, of course, an attempt at eradicating the dreaded Man Spread, an offense which, I believe, should be punishable by death.
In “Most Space,” the band (and some of their friends) have a great time acting out many of the above offenses, and taking some of them to wildly exaggerated extremes, such as practically moving into the car and making it your second home. I imagine they filmed this during off hours, say between 2 and 5 AM, and they are most definitely on a moving train because you can see them pulling into and out of different stations, although I was not able to figure out what line they are on. At any rate, they make their point, which is that everybody wants to be the one with the “Most Space.“ Brilliant.
Aurally, “Most Space” is a pure hybrid of power pop and punk rock and it is impossible not to love. Worriers are probably a lot of fun to see live, and I’m sure the group’s just-released Debut LP, Imaginary Life (Don Giovanni Records), from which this track is taken, is equally excellent. Enjoy!
When it comes to taking on the hot button topic of Global Warming and its possible catastrophic effects, Snowpiercer is a movie that believes you should either go big or go home – and the films’ premise is a doozy. Set 17 years in the future, Snowpiercer drops us into the aftermath of a failed chemical experiment; one that was meant to slightly lower the global temperature but which instead propels the Earth into a devastating ice age, annihilating all life on the planet. However, a group of survivors have boarded a global circumnavigating high-speed train, run by a perpetual motion engine. The Snowpiercer, as it is called, is both a utopian haven and hellish prison for its passengers; depending on which car you’re in.
Aboard the Snowpiercer there exists a strictly segregated class system that doesn’t really make any sense, but which you just need to go with in order to let the film tell its story. People unfortunate enough to have boarded at the back of the train live in bleak, congested squalor that portrays a dystopian scenario similar to films like The Road and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The train is governed by its mysterious Wizard of Oz-like inventor, Wilford (Ed Harris), and his strict rules of order are brutally enforced by Mason (Tilda Swinton), in a role that is by turns both terrifying and comical. Fed up with mere survival under constant oppression, those in the back of the train band together, deciding it is time to overthrow the nonnegotiable dictatorship and devise a way to advance to the front of the train in order to take control of the engine.
The rebel’s reluctant leader is Curtis (Chris Evans), who is joined by Edgar (Jamie Bell), Gillam (John Hurt) and Namgoong Minsoo (Koren actor Song Kang-ho), a notorious drug dealer with a keen knowledge of lock picking who is liberated from the train’s prison car in order to help the gang in their quest. The scenes at the back of the train are the least visually compelling of the film and tend to drag a bit, but aside from setting up the film’s main point of conflict, they seed the plot for events and revelations that take place further on, so you need to pay attention rather than just “waiting for them to be over.” As the rebels move forward, the settings of the various train cars change from ones depicting simple comforts to over-the-top opulence and outright hedonistic decadence. This is when Snowpiercer really gets rolling.
I enjoyed Snowpiercer, especially the amazing sets and captivating scenes of the train speeding through the frozen landscape, but I think the script could have used a bit more work, as there are continuity holes big enough to, well, drive a train through. The film does at least partially address the question of how passengers are fed, with the growing of fresh vegetation aboard the train, the aquarium car scene – which is marvelous – and the nauseating revelation of just want goes into making those Protein Blocks that constitute the sole sustenance of the train’s rear car inhabitants. But I couldn’t help but wonder how Namgoong Minsoo could have been able to make an annual observation of a plane crash landmark in the arctic wasteland as the train passes the Ekaterina Bridge each New Years Day, when he’s supposedly been living in a drawer in the train’s jail car for who knows how long? Perhaps I just need to see the film again.
It is worth noting that Snowpiercer is the first English-language film from Korean Director Joon-ho Bong, and while he succeeds in making a compelling film on many levels, perhaps the muddled script is an indication of too much ambition and an unwillingness to glean plot points that confuse and weigh the film down. Certainly it is no accident that Snowpiercer is already on DVD in Europe and Asia while its US theatrical release is not until June 27th. Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer will surely appeal to fans of that genre and anyone who enjoys an original Sci-Fi Action flick.
The Worley Gig Gives Snowpiercer 4 Out of 5 Stars!
Rated R with a Runtime of 2 Hours, 5 Minutes, Snowpiercer Opens Friday June 27th, 2014. Find theaters and show times in your area at Fandango Dot Com.
My friend, and former editor at the late, great Pandemonium Online, Dave Liljengren turned me on to this Pink Lionel Train found on the (no longer active) Monkey Goggles Blog. Click Here to read an interesting story about how this train has earned the dubious honor of being “The Least Successful Toy In The World.” Thanks, Dave!