I view the idea of the uncanny valley as a personal philosophy. We all choose that threshold where we call it quits because it is a sliding scale. Some of us can sit throughAvatar no problem, whereas others will refuse to watch a whole sub-genre because it freaks them out. Recently I watched two films that tested my threshold.
Paolo Sorrentino’s 2011 film This Must be the Place is one of those films that has a great logline, but can never really live up to more than that. Fortunately this film, on top of twenty production companies that spans 4 countries, has Sean Penn. To be fair, I know very little of Sorrentino’s work outside of Place and The Consequences of Love. If I were to make an educated judgment of his work so far, I would guess Sorrentino really likes guys who do not want to be a part of society and have a real problem integrating back into it when they need to. Sorrentino and Penn turn Penn into a rock star who is a visual Robert Smith if he played for Judas Priest, had the partied life style of Kieth Moon, and calls himself ‘Cheyenne’. Penn had to build an entire character from nothing except for what I imagine was the only thing written on the page; ‘he is an 80’s rocker’ it says, Sean read, sighed, and put the video for Pictures of You on repeat.
With that said, it is still hard to forget I am watching Penn. He is under three layers of wig, make-up, and tight black clothing, but it is still Penn. Cheyenne wanders around interacting with a world he is perfectly okay with just existing in and that is interesting, but when Cheyenne must start hunting down Nazi war criminals is where the film gets out of control (if you can believe that). Penn as ‘Cheyenne’ is now hunting down an aging Nazi. If the film was just Cheyenne wandering around, I would have watched it twice and we would not be here. Keep in mind, this film does not star Jame Van Der Beek and will not be showing on the SyFy network anytime soon.
Tarik Saleh’s 2009 film Metropia continues my streak of watching regrettable animation. Vincent Gallo provides the main characters mutterings and soft violent swearing that makes up a majority of his lines. Whenever Gallo is going to be involved in anything, I am guaranteed a dysfunctional good time. In the Metropia’s future, the world is a series of tunnels, but people still live on the surface or so I understand. A man starts hearing voices in his head before getting wrapped up in business wide conspiracy. The first red flag came when I found myself unable to get past theanimation in Metropia, and comparing it to Tim and Eric. The second red flag was the film’s aggressive contempt for all things American. I don’t care about anti-Americanism in film, every other country demonizes us to varying degrees in their cinema, some more light heartedly hilarious than others.
Most of the characters in Metropia have bizarre and uncomfortable movements and when characters walked, they appeared to be floating. I imagine that at the Animation test that did not happen, the producer would have stood up; “go home everyone one” she announces, “There is no movie here.” Saleh took the basic concept of Barzil, stripped it down, and animated it while losing everything fun, interesting and dystopian about it. What we are left with is boring and uninteresting, featuring frightening characters and shame that we are all bad people. I forgot, all good things come from Sweden.