Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Falling to "Pieces"

Very soon, I believe, there will be a national fallout regarding violence in the media. As a part of the growing lack of accountability (thanks to the no-nonsense apathy of our current administration, the pinnacle of "it's my fault, but it's not my problem" politics), America has become a nation of lazy busybodies (sounds like an isn't). We're caught up in each other's business, but not in our own.

It's very easy to blame violence on portrayals of violence. It's also easy to forget that for every brainless kid with obsolete parents who shoots up a high school then blames it on a video game, there are the 20 million other kids who DIDN'T kill anyone after playing the same game. This is a tiresome argument, one I've made over and over.

Along comes Nick Palumbo's exploitive, brilliant Murder-Set-Pieces, a film primed to become a lightning rod for controversy and misdirected rage by the pious right and the spineless left. Pieces is the story of a sociopathic Nazi who takes photographs of beautiful women by day (he has a notion that photographs last longer than those who are in them, a notion that is displayed by the photograph of Hitler that rests on his bedroom dresser), then rapes and slaughters them by night. He also obsesses over adolescent girls, ultimately turning them into victims as well.

Murder-Set-Pieces is a truly pure cinematic expression of violent sexual rage. Palumbo goes to great lengths to set up his killer as an extreme case of this type of antisocial behavior. He weeps and rages and Hulks out, slicing and dicing up blonde beauty, the self-loathing Nazi as rapist brute.

The set pieces of the film's title are expertly staged, as horrific as anything I've ever seen, yet also pulsing with the excitement of the killer. Palumbo has somehow managed to take his viewers into two separate places: the mind of the victim and the mind of the killer...both at the same time. Critical response to the film has been misguided at best, dangerously naive at worst. Most have deemed the film and its creator as sadistic exhibitionists. Unfortunately, that displays a bankrupt ability to separate art from its creator. The same type of ludicrous thinking that causes impressionable, abandoned youth to blame the media for their sickness and depravity.

Murder-Set-Pieces, perhaps the greatest serial killer film ever made, manages to be one thing, while also commenting on that one thing, at the same time. It is a revolutionary, important, haunting work that deserves a wider audience than it is likely to get. Check it out if you get the chance. You will be uncomfortable, but you will also be moved.

My friend, director Andrew Repasky McElhinney (A Chronicle of Corpses, Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye) has an interview with Palumbo in the next issue of TFJ.