a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Myra Breckinridge (1970, Michael Sarne)

So saith J. Hoberman: "[I]t seems amazing that Myra has never been recuperated by film theorists." A Nobel Prize to the person who does. Re-issued on DVD yesterday, the widely-acknowledged Worst Film of All Time almost lives up to its rep, at least insofar as the winner of that trophy would have to be consistently incoherent, insane, and unsettlingly wrong. Were it not for the countless dead patches, it would be -- the Big Moments (Welch raping a cowboy with a dildo; Rex Reed's 9 1/2 Weeks-pre-dating food dream; any moment first-billed septagenarian Mae West walks in) are scattered among lots of stretches where it has nothing going for it past deafeningly-pitched camp. There's a germ of a clever idea buried in there somewhere (in pieces, no less) and trying to stich them together into something sensical passes for fun: Myra (nee Myron) hates what Old Hollywood has become but loves Old Hollywood. Is she trying to recreate its original stasis with a new, sexually-free mold? No clue from Sarne, whose free-form script -- surely designed that way as a poison letter to narrative form -- jumbles everything, pre-occupied with gharish moments over anything kindly approaching clarity. Some nice shots here and there -- the public castration opening is Modesty Blaise-era Losey crossed with Vadim -- though it's mostly (if not only) fascinating for its seams: the star-batttling between Raquel Welch and West; the putting of big stars who moan about crudity in a film that's crude; the stranding of small-time bohemian Sarne in a big budget film that also boasts the 27-years-late return of West. Then again, maybe this one needs to be studied a little more. All I know: as far as Hollywood's attempt at counter-culture-baiting goes, it's no Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.


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