Four more days till Halloween. My modus operandi now is to post two movies a day: one that is questionably good, but interesting to me (and possibly you) for some obscure reason, and one that is a “classic” or an act of genius (…but which is still comparatively unseen in America).
THE JAR is a movie for which words cannot do justice, one just has to experience it. I’ll attempt, at least, to sell what is definitely an “experiential” film like a Kubrick, Noe, or Lynch. In fact, THE JAR is sort of a poor man’s INLAND EMPIRE about a closeted gay man in the early 80s…or maybe he’s not a closeted gay man and the film is an exploration of more general male insecurities…or maybe it’s not about “maleness” or sexuality at all and it is entirely to do with mental illness, religion and the Vietnam War. Or maybe no metaphor or extended meaning is intended at all. I’m not really sure – I’m not even sure what happens in it. I understand BEGOTTEN, I don’t understand THE JAR…
Something remarkable about THE JAR is recognizing that it was made the same year as Lynch’s BLUE VELVET. If THE JAR were made today one would have this whole history of Lynch inspired cliches to point to and assume that it was derivative. It certainly is not.
Another remarkable thing about THE JAR is the power of it’s form. From the beginning one is prepared to dismiss it because of the content (which seems suspiciously pretentious, perhaps because of our diet of commercial Lynchisms). Nonetheless, as one continues to watch, the “flaws” of the film begin to transform and support the overall mood. I’m not sure of the original aspect ratio, but there are moments in which characters are entirely off the frame except for a sliver of their arm or shoulder. The main actor’s “soft” (read: gaydar triggering) delivery renders certain lines of dialogue (let alone the straight sex scenes) anxiety provoking. Instead of obvious ineptitude, these aesthetic choices, or chances, add meaning and menace (I would compare the main actor’s performance to the flimsy, disposable architectural details in POLTERGESIT III…and there aren’t many movies for which I would compare an actor’s performance with supernatural beige drywall).
Don’t get me wrong, there are several scenes that are creatively and expertly realized in this film, but I honestly have no idea which ones. There is something in the construction of the film which transcends, and transforms, what might normally be considered flaw. This isn’t what you call a “good-bad” horror movie, this is what you call “style”. It doesn’t matter if a certain scene, or the movie as a whole, “succeeds” at what it is attempting to do. What matters is that this film creates an alternate reality in which it works, it has “style”, and all the more for risking failure.
Don’t give up! Keep watching! All is explained in the end!