Monday, August 06, 2018

M – a Film by Anna Eriksson

FI © 2018 Anna Eriksson. P: Anna Eriksson / Ihode Management Ltd. / Cursum Perficio. Created and written by Anna Eriksson. Cinematography: Matti Pyykkö – scope 2,35:1.
    C: Anna Eriksson, Petri Salo, Gail Ferguson, Axel Sutinen, Pietari Kaakkomäki, Asta Vieno, Ari Vieno, Paola Bärlund, Veera Siivonen, Joni Segerroos, Dulce Rodriguez-Saldivar, Melanie Rodriguez-Saldivar, Britany Rodriguez-Saldivar, Augusting de Higuera Blanca, Susana Gonçalo, Steve Ramigio Delgado, José Paiva Wolff, Quim-Ze Grilo, Gloria Bleezard-Levister, Alonso Levister, Alexandre Fabião, Oliver Nurmi, Issey O'Brien.
    All female voices & narration: Anna Eriksson. Sound design: Anna Eriksson. Editing: Anna Eriksson. Colour grading: Anna Eriksson & Eliel Kilkki. Co-production in Portugal & Anubis character: Petri Salo & Axel Sutinen. Heavy metal track: "No Doubt" by Shapeless. Graphic design: Pietari Kaakkomäki. Production support: The Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike).
    Loc: Portugal.
    90 min
    Vimeo screener link viewed at home, Helsinki, 6 Aug 2018.

Anna Eriksson: "M is a work of art that explores the relationship between sexuality and death. These two appear to be at opposite poles, but in fact they merge in all of us, disguising the fear of death or the desire to die, the world of Eros."

AA: Ultimately, Marilyn Monroe was a poet although she emerged in the industrial circumstances of a dream factory. She was a living paradox. Susan Strasberg called her "an iron butterfly".

Her friends included poets from Dylan Thomas to Carl Sandburg. More than a hundred poets dedicated poems to her when she died. Among her friends were also writers from Carson McCullers to Truman Capote. Not forgetting playwrights such as Tennessee Williams and her husband Arthur Miller.

For Jean Cocteau poetry was an Orphic quest. Through a dark mirror the poet enters the kingdom of Death. When he returns he keeps hearing messages from the beyond.

Half a year before her death Marilyn Monroe visited Luis Buñuel in Mexico on the set of The Exterminating Angel. Silvia Pinal starred in Buñuel's films at the time, to be followed by Catherine Deneuve. Buñuel was in his blonde period, as was Hitchcock. Beauty and death was a shared theme. David Lynch was also obsessed by this theme in Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, and Lost Highway.

A surrealistic current is present in Anna Eriksson's film M. The central character is not like Marilyn Monroe, but there are superficial and profound affinities with her. We meet a beautiful blonde going through an existential crisis. An Anubis character emerges as a representative of the underworld and afterlife.

M is also a passion play. Physical pain was a constant current in Marilyn Monroe's life. M is a story of torture. A tale not about the pleasures but the suffering of the flesh. This sex goddess is deeply unhappy.

Monroe achieved stardom in the final stage of the Hollywood studio system. She was a prisoner of the Production Code and the dated attitudes of a conventional generation. But she was also a harbinger of the future. The promise of hers has haunted film stars of later generations, including Melanie Griffith, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger, Annette Bening, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, Scarlett Johansson, Sharon Stone, Patricia Arquette, and Michelle Williams.

Marilyn Monroe was a goddess of pop art since its beginning in 1956 when a Marilynesque character appeared in a work called "Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?" by Richard Hamilton (whom we remember this year also as the designer of The Beatles' White Album 50 years ago). Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Mimmo Rotella, George Segal, Nam June Paik and others would create Pop Art works inspired by her image. Particularly Warhol who had always a memento mori approach in them. Sex and death. Also Salvador Dalí created a Marilyn Monroe painting of his own called "Mao Monroe".

In pop music Marilyn has always been present since Bob Dylan and The Who. A new turn happened with Madonna's "Material Girl" concept. Marilyn had created a brilliant satirical interpretation as Lorelei Lee. Madonna seemed to celebrate what Marilyn had lampooned. Marilyn's was a battle of survival with her star image, "her albatross", which was always on the verge of overwhelming her. Madonna turned the tables and repurposed her image as a weapon, in the process turning into an anti-Marilyn. In a parallel process she adopted the Robot Maria persona, the anti-Maria in Metropolis.

Lady Gaga has also played with the legendary Marilyn image. More profoundly, she has been inspired by Alexander McQueen's oneiric visions, deep in the realms of Eros and Thanatos.

Anna Eriksson's quest has affinities with all of them: Buñuel, Lynch, Warhol, and McQueen, not forgetting Magritte. M is a mysterious and shocking trip, not for the faint hearted. The camera does not shy away from the secrets of the flesh. We do enter splatter territory. The physical frankness is startling. It has links with the heritage of female avant-garde film-makers from Maya Deren to Yoko Ono, Valie Export, Chantal Akerman and Penelope Spheeris, and also affinities with performance art. It goes beyond exhibitionism and voyeurism.

M is not a laff fest. We do not see the radiant, smiling habitus of the love goddess. We meet the shadow. Masters of comedy can be depressive out of the limelight. Martin Scorsese created a memorable study of this in The King of Comedy starring Jerry Lewis.

The soundscape is complex, haunting and evocative.

The visual world is assured and poetic. The cinematography has been conducted by Matti Pyykkö in Marilynesque CinemaScope. A parallel world to Los Angeles is discovered in Portugal, and also here the oceanic presence is of the essence.

The characters are not conveyed as psychologically well rounded personalities. They are emblematic figures, striking presences in a performance.

Anna Eriksson's M reverses expectations. Deliberate in tempo, it slowly grows into a shattering experience.

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