Sunday, 10 October 2010

" " (Alex Goochy, 2004)

The name of this film is- . Or " ". Or " "(italics mine) That is, it is nothing, or it is a space. The studio backers (Warner Brothers, in the first hand, Dreamworks, the second; finally Columbia in a split the difference we-may-aswell-all-be-in-on-the-gag gesture) might call it The Film With No Name, The Film Without A Name, or Untitled, but all are problematic (not in the least because they have all been used before, attached to poor films and thus stained with failure), and were all heavily opposed by the director Alex Goochy.1

'These are all titles,' said Goochy in 2004. 'I wanted no title at all. It is complicated, but it is related to the idea that in naming something, and this is Eastern Philosophy now... in naming it, you're maiming it; you know it, and contain it. Titling a film, while making sense in many ways, completely finishes it in another. I wanted space for the film to fluctuate and shimmer under the glance of the world like a new species of plant we have just discovered but did not have a word for... or a constellation that may not be the brightest, or the most delirious formation, but holds the interest all the same.... because there is no name to rope the distant stars together' 2

The compromise involved using punctuation: floating quotation marks like this: " ", with, a space in-between, described by Harold Bloom as 'a symbolically hollow center'. He went on, and we should not stop him before he gets into his stride: 'The fact that the quotation marks hover on the billboards and marquees like air quotes made with fingers at dinner parties just makes the whole exercise seem even more damnable; these four separate swords of damocles hanging in two menacing pairs (like smug buddy cops on patrol a block apart), ready to catch us all. And we deserve it.'

Some at Warner/Dreamworks/Columbia, in honour of the unutterable title (or lack thereof) took to calling the film 'Ingooglable Basterd', and even leaked mocked-up posters with this title. The working title was 'Working Title', and this was replaced by 'Untitled Project', and some suggested a return to those prototypes. They called on Vikram Slinki, a friend of Goochy's, to mediate. Slinki, of course, is a a director who switches the titles of his films so as to change expectations; but at least he uses titles. A horror film that purports to be a romance is more shocking,' he said of his Lovely Tuscan Dreams (1999). Slinki suggested that Goochy go the route of their mutual acquaintance Phil 'Bill' Smith, who labels his films precisely. The problem being that Smith's films, including Morose Family Drama With Motown Scene (and Cancer) (1995), Verbose Smug New York Comedy with Unlikeable Protagonist (1996) and What Do you Mean The Girlfriend Did It? (Fake Dream Ending) (1997) all failed to find any kind of distribution at all.3

Goochy, provocateur, art-terrorist, anti-activist, settled for nothing less than nothing. She even suggested empty quotes next to the names of newspapers, her examples being: '" " says The LA Times. The New York Post raves, saying " " about " ", whereas the New Yorker was speechless.' The unofficial poster containing these words and un-words even hung in New York briefly, until the various publications named threatened litigation on the basis that they hadn't said anything or not said anything or even said nothing about " ", on account of the fact that they had not seen " ", and if a party can be unquoted (and have those lack of words presented as if ithey had been uttered or unuttered) about something about which one knows nothing of, well...where does it end?

Where indeed.

A question: Is " " any good? Nah. What happens in the film? Oh, nothing of consequence. Girl meets gun. Girl falls for gun. Girl kills gun. Mildy erotic thriller with epilectic subplot and brain-freeze editing. De Palma on ice, or Eszterhas on mildly tasteful sedatives.

" " Directed by Alex Goochy Produced by Alex Goochy Alex Cox Leroy Smith Written by Joseph Hand Starring SaraJo Belling, Thomas Gunter Warner/Dreamworks/Columbia Release Date US: Oct 2004 UK: Jan 2005 121 mins Tagline: None.

1. Alex Goochy, is in fact not the real name of the director. Born in the Ukraine, she moved to LA aged 23 in 1985, where she has directed many independent features under various awful pseudonyms, including Sue Denim, Biff Bangpow, and Martin Scoreswayze (although not, as suspected 'Bryan Diploma'. When the film Carry (Bryan Diploma, 1999) was released, Goochy was a suspect, but it emerged that Brian De Palma was responsible for this low-budget tribute to his own Carrie, in spoof tribute to Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot Psycho remake (1997) and Claude Chabrol's shot-for-shot The Man Who Knew Too Much (1997) (Hitchcock's 1956 version being the one copied, which itself was a remake of Hitch's own 1934 original of course).
2. Cineaste interview, Summer 2004.
3. A Film, Literally (2007) was on display at MoMA for some time in 2008.

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