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The Cell - Film Only
The Cell (DVD)
Member Name: DavidJay
The Cell (DVD)
Date: 23/09/08, updated on 23/09/08 (28 review reads)
Advantages: Original, daring, visually stunning...
Disadvantages: Bare-bones plot, definite reek of misgony...
Tarsem Singh (or just Tarsem as he prefers to be known) is not, I suspect, a very likable chap. In interviews, he comes across as obnoxious, chauvinistic and pretentious, and there is little in his work that contradicts these impressions. Be that as it may, said work never fails to enchant me.
The Cell, Singh's debut feature-film following a widely-lauded career in music videos and advertising, is astonishing on several levels. Granted, none of those levels are anywhere near the level upon which the Plot is situated, but so intoxicating is most everything else that one scarcely has the wits to notice.
That plot - a flimsily-strung mesh of cliché and genre conventions - concerns the efforts of psychotherapist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) to - quite literally - get inside the mind of captured serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) by way of an elaborate machine of some kind that transports one into the dreamscapes of another. To this end, she is assisted some by Stargher's captor, FBI agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn), himself harbouring a fair few demons also.
It is whilst wandering those dreamscapes that The Cell astounds. The work of Scandinavian artist Odd Nerdstrum is plundered throughout, and the resultant imagery is by turns beautiful, horrifying and disturbing, but always unforgettable.
A few hands were wrung over the head of the film's allegedly blasphemous content at the time of its release - a charge mostly centred around a stunning sequence in which Deane adopts the dress and manner of an image of the Virgin Mary - but more likely to upset are the seriously distressing sequences in which Stargher pleasures himself over a corpse whilst suspended on hooks, or the moments of horrific abuse in which he himself is set upon by his father.
There is an air of gratuity about it all, but it is undeniably powerful stuff.
There are flaws, most of them narratological, some of them regarding the Woman = Virgin / Whore business (Lopez didn't HAVE to wear that Mary outfit, we'd still have gotten the idea), some of them down to clumsy writing, but so unique does it seem (obvious lifts from art and literature notwithstanding), so successful is its melding of Lynch and Jodorowsky (both of whom have also been guilty of rampant misogyny in their careers - although, in the latter's case, it has since been acknowledged, if not exactly apologised for), so striking are its visuals, that it scarcely matters.
Not a masterpiece, but certainly a challenging, brave, bold piece of filmmaking well worth giving a couple hours to.
Summary: Flawed, but commendable.