Thursday, November 4, 2010

Puttin' It On Wax

Wax Or The Discovery Of Television Among The Bees(1991)
Directed By David Blair
Because "Wax Or The Discovery Of Television Among The Bees" isn't really like anything else Ive seen it's very, very, difficult to describe.
Yes, "Wax" is as it is most notably remembered (if at all) as "the first independent feature film to have been edited on a digital non-linear system. It is also the first film (independent or otherwise) to have been re-formatted as hypertext and posted on the Internet.", but it is also more than mere technological achievement unlike a certain film featuring blue skinned giants Ive used as a rhetorical punching bag for the hollowness of "film as technology" vs. "film as art".
"Wax" is many things, but first and foremost, it is post modern-film which owes it's greatest debt to William S. Burroughs, who appears in stock footage as our hero's grandfather James "Hive" Maker.
The narrative voice over, plays over almost all of the movie, Blair's monotone, has a spoken word quality to it, similar to Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo or Burroughs own sound recordings, and the soothing simplicity of the reading, acts an as anchor to the phantasmagoric and freewheeling visual montage.
It should go without saying, that it's not for everyone, as there is not much
here in the way of dialogue, characterization, or catharsis.
It is a film experiment to be sure, but one better in it's execution than in just reading it's concept.
Calling this movie "overwrought" is the understatement of the century, but a simpler way to look it at might be...what would happen if weapons could be haunted by the people that they kill?
In order to do that you have to make the weapons into living thing, which is a big part of where the movie's weirdness comes from, but at the same time it asks us to think about the way we wage war, which is shown on t.v. so that it seems not to have a cost in human lives, when in fact, of course, the toll in human life of wars like desert storm is extraordinary
.Having already watched a man become a missile "Enter The Void's" floating "pervy angel"
(as one friend called it) and it's recent excesses, were not so out of the ordinary (still pretty fucking weird though).
Wax is the type of maximalist cinema that is jam packed with ideas and references, which don't die the novel death of random tangents but swirl around and return in some form or another later on integrating and folding themselves into the films themes, visual or otherwise.
On the surface it may only be another run of the mill film about a man who inherits some Mesopotamian bees from his eccentric grandfather who used to experiment with photographing the dead, and his relationship with said bees as they fill his mind with transmissions, visions, and hallucinations which in turn allow him to communicate with the long range missiles he develops for the
Ya know...that old chestnutt.
So far the most accurate review Ive read, has been from an anonymous person on IMDB, and though the author is obviously enjoying name some checking his favorite books, each reference is appropriate, relevant, and possibly mentioned in the film itself.
Anyway here it is the mysterious "Wax" review...
"Wax" is very likely the oddest film I've ever seen.
Marvelously, beautifully, lyrically, and profoundly intellectually stimulating in all respects. Breathtaking in its scope and achievement.
But very odd.
I have read medical reports containing sodium pentathol interviews and transcripts of schizophrenics' monologues.
I have read memoirs and fiction by schizophrenics and hard drug users.
I have read Surrealist and Beat Movement literature.
I have read James Joyce and Gertrude Stein.
I have read the visionary poetry of Charles Williams and H.D. .
I have watched films by Kenneth Anger and David Lynch and Maya Daren.
I have read Yoruba ethnic literature from West Africa and studied Aleister Crowley's skryings on the Enochian aethyrs.
I have read H. P. Lovecraft and also Kenneth Grant's post-Crowleyan magikal writings describing journeys behind the Tree of Life which would have preempted H.P.L.'s usual nightmares had he but known of them.
"Wax" stands tall in that company.
A hypnotic, hallucinatory, purely poetic fusion of words, images, political ideas, and mystical transformations, nothing quite resembles it.
"Pi" (1998) tried for something as distinctive, but that film gave us a glowering, paranoid, tortured vision shot in deliberately painful close-ups.
"Wax" makes a complete contrast in its joyful freedom of eloquence in narration and visuals. "Wax" enhances life while critiquing it.
The film employs early, simple computer graphics.
It juggles idiosyncratic desert architecture, prosaic photography, and absurd juxtapositions of common images.
It tells a story of Middle Eastern honey bees along with offering a hard view of the original U.S. military actions against Iraq in 1991 (a time so simple in retrospect as to seem the good old days).
It links Los Alamos with transformations in consciousness.
"Wax" leaps beyond the merely political in its luminous metaphors for human existence.
You can find stronger films, more beautiful films, more linguistically spry films, but you will probably never find anything quite like this fireworks display of language and image.
Think "2001: A Space Odyssey" on a home movie budget. Your grasp of reality (and cinema) may never feel the same."
Anyway that's my patchwork review, If you like "Naked Lunch", "The Wild Blue Yonder", "Specters Of The Spectrum", "The Falls", or "Phase Iv" experimental cinema with a punch, or are just looking for something, really, really, really, different, cover yourself with some Mesopotamian honey and await further instructions.

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