By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
In this, as it happens, Avary is echoing his source. Bret Easton Ellis declared in a recent interview with The Onion that he is ”really shocked when critics get morally outraged at my fiction because they think I’m condoning what‘s going on. I’m actually writing from a very heartfelt position about these poor souls . . . My impulses as a writer stem from being a satirist, and they stem from looking around and seeing what disgusts me in [the] culture and creating a novel out of that.“ One thing‘s for certain: The re-regurgitation effect leaves very little in doubt about the kind of experience we’re in for, a film that combines a zestful commitment to ”cinema“ for its own sake with a blunt-force approach to getting narrative points across.
”I tend not to be overly concerned with subtleties,“ Avary grants. ”The one thing the MPAA [Jack Valenti‘s Motion Picture Association of America, which initially slapped an NC-17 on Rules of Attraction, then backed up to an R when Avary agreed to some cuts] doesn’t understand about me is that I go extreme with things for a reason. At the end of Killing Zoe, a character gets shot up during a bank robbery, and that image was originally twice as long. It went on forever. It was physically impossible. It went so far into the beyond that it became parody. And the more you cut it down, the more realistic it becomes. The shorter version is actually more brutal because it stops before the event becomes ridiculous.“ Avary says the uncut ”European version“ of Rules will be available on DVD next year, and notes in a posting on his Web site, avary.com, that ”The MPAA didn‘t gouge us too badly. The benefit of fighting with them, and going back again and again, is that they eventually give in where it counts.“
As an extension of his war of nerves with the MPAA, Avary took his campaign to the press, and if you read his pugnacious statements, it was hard to resist the suspicion that the director would be profoundly disappointed if he ever made a movie that the a MPAA didn’t hate. Anthony Lane put his finger on it in his New Yorker review of Killing Zoe: ”Like Tarantino, Avary isn‘t just crowd-challenging, he’s crowd-threatening. The implication is that if we turn aside, or find it all too much, we‘re not cool enough to watch his work in the first place.“ What, then, could be more uncool than being okay to the MPAA?
”I will be very pleased,“ Avary says, ”if half the people who walk out of this movie hate it and despise it, because I tend to polarize people anyway. A real movie begins when the people leave the theater.“
The cinematic meeting of minds between a novelist and a filmmaker who have been denounced for both their content and their tone has been in the works for something like 15 years. Avary had loved Ellis’ 1985 debut novel, Less Than Zero, and as an undergraduate at Menlo College, near San Francisco, he devoured the writer‘s sophomore effort, The Rules of Attraction. ”I certainly didn’t come from that kind of affluent background,“ Avary recalls, ”and I didn‘t know the East Coast scene at all. But I was seeing things around me at school that were just like the stuff in the book. I was more of an observer, a little too introverted to ever be one of these people, but I loved watching them. Later on, I channeled a lot of the things I saw into the movie.“
He also responded to the narrative challenge thrown down by the novel. The complex storyline is sort of anti--La Ronde, a daisy chain of inappropriate ”attractions“ in which the yearning parties never match: Paul loves Sean, who thinks he loves Lauren, who is carrying a torch for an oblivious globetrotting climber named Victor. They seem to embrace meaningless gratification out of despair at ever finding something genuine. ”This book is entirely about the most intense aspect of sexuality,“ Avary says, ”not the fulfillment but the unrequited desire. In any love story the anticipation of connecting is the most delicious moment, and you never feel it more than when you’re that age. Everything is so big in those moments that it can be really dangerous. That‘s when you do things like putting your fist through a wall, or killing yourself, because you love someone.
“There’s only one time in life when you are taken out of the nest and are suddenly in a place where anything is possible. You are too naive to really understand the world, and yet you‘re exploding on the inside and transforming into something else, undergoing a metamorphosis. There’s a rush of excitement and also a very real terror that a you‘re going to travel down the wrong path and not succeed in fulfilling your dreams -- and that if you make the wrong move, then all those doors will close forever.”
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