An open letter to Monsieur Alain Guiraudie, director of the new film “Staying Vertical”,
Dear Mssr. Alain,
I have not seen any of your films before your latest effort, which premiered back at the Cannes Film Festival in May and which I got the honor of seeing at the Chicago Film Festival, but I wish to say this: thank you. I say thank you truly and profoundly for this film, which is funny, because I sort of hated it, but it doesn’t matter. This is a film, alongside the Daniels’ “Swiss Army Man”, is one of the few things in this year’s typical endless deluge of watered-down comic book movies, biopics based on real people where their lives were more interesting than a literal dramatization thereof and terribly improvised comedies… that actually dares to be original. And I’m not talking in that pseudo “LOL I’m SO RANDOM” way that the internet tries to do, with their cats and overused memes and intentional lowercase letters to make things funnier. No, how many movies dance over the lines like this regarding sexuality and good taste? What other movie would have a scene where we see a woman give birth in incredibly gross detail after several establishing shots of her looking very attractive indeed? What other movie would then have a climactic scene of that child’s grandfather using that baby as bait to hunt wolves? What kind of film would feature a tree that can read your vitals, a film producer hunting his screenwriter with a gun, and a man complaining about his boyfriend trying to seduce a kangaroo, all within a thirty-minute span of each other? Who would make the emotional pivot of their film involve Pink Floyd and the single most shocking bedroom scene since Marlon Brando and some butter in “Last Tango in Paris?” And not only that, your masterful direction and handling of tone all make it seem if not logical—because come on, a human baby doesn’t make sense as wolf bait, the baby sheep at the end of the film is much more logical because the wolves know what the sheep is and don’t know what to make of a human infant—apart of the universal rules in which you’ve created. Sure, you do stuff like have no real plot, a terrible male lead and an unsatisfying ending that made me actually twitch, but who cares if your film is most likely nothing? Who even cares that you will never read this letter? You followed up your very popular murder mystery “Stranger by the Lake” with an insult to the idea of making nice with the mainstream, and for that you have my respect. Your movie was kind of lame, Alain. I’m genuinely glad I saw it.
OK, we got the novelty gimmick out of the way. Sorry about that to everyone who was confused and/or suffered through my literary silliness. Suffice to say, you should totally go see “Staying Vertical”, even if you don’t like it. In fact, I suspect every single one of you who ever reads this will hate this movie with a passion. This is not to insult you, but simply a descriptor of the piece of art that it is. In fact, it’s why I think you won’t like it you should see it.
The same goes true with films like “Possession” (the 80s one, not the one with Gwyneth Paltrow and a very, very miscast Aaron Eckhart), “The Handmaiden” (which I think a good number of you will like, but only if you have a very…peculiar sense of humor), and “The Man Who Fell to Earth”. These are all films which are fundamentally themselves, a truly different voice that deserves your time and consideration, because life is short. Why would you see some white dude play a historical figure and grimace and be brilliant for two-and-a-half hours, when you can see something like what I described above? There are pleasures in the ordinary, but sometimes to feel truly alive you have to watch something that, in a rather dark way to put it, does not care about you but is fully concerned with other things. It’s up to you to accept that, and I hope you do. “Staying Vertical” has no chance of coming to Appleton, but verily, you could do a lot worse than seeking it out.