9 More Days Until Halloween, 2013: WHITE OF THE EYE (1987)


I really am excited about today’s movie.  I own a full frame copy on video and I thought it was the only version of the movie available. I wasn’t aware it had been cleaned up and released on DVD in the original aspect ratio (if only in Europe).  This is really a cause for celebration.  I’ll be watching WHITE OF THE EYE this evening as soon as my pizza comes out of the oven and I finish my dinner.

(Of course I’m not going to eat during the film.  This is the kind of movie you don’t want to look away from, even for the time it takes to shove food in your mouth.  I don’t even want to blink.)

The director of WHITE OF THE EYE is fairly well known for his work with Nicholas Roeg on the classic rock and roll head trip film PERFORMANCE but, despite a revival of interest around the turn of this century, he has unfortunately never been given the credit he deserves for his later films (which were quite often shred to bits by the Hollywood factory).  Various myths concerning his life, occult interests, and eventual death by suicide have also clouded appreciations of his work. On the other hand, these same mythologies have continuously kept him in the public eye or, at least, on the “to watch” list of those seeking weird, challenging cinema.

It’s a shame his work has been marginalized as it is clear from his films that the visual experimentation and time bending, disoriented editing that made Nicholas Roeg famous were the result, at least in part, of Cammell’s collaboration.  Furthermore, the themes that made PERFORMANCE such a head trip – gender, power, sexuality, identity, death, the occult – seem to be worked out more faithfully, more obsessively, in Donald Cammell’s films than in any of Nicholas Roeg’s (however much I love Roeg’s early work).  Anyway, you can read about Cammell elsewhere on the net if you want to (and it’s interesting reading).

Back to the movie: WHITE OF THE EYE is both a perfectly realized slasher movie and an idiosyncratic, stylistically jaw dropping work of art.  You can watch it for the visual excitement alone, but you could also spend weeks working out the meaning (I’ll spare you here).  Sometimes Cammell’s intentions are overt, but they are more often hermetic and seductively complex.  Frankly, watching it feels like seeing a classic Dario Argento film made by a man who fully understands ALL of the psychological and philosophical implications of what he is doing.  There isn’t a piece of the puzzle that is missing in WHITE OF THE EYE.  The characters and narrative and style are realized with a holistic precision whereas, like a good Italian, Dario liked to pocket the logic in his magic tricks.  (I only make these comparisons because, of course, I’ll be showing more looney tunes Italian films tomorrow…)

Meanwhile, watch WHITE OF THE EYE in (oh my god oh my god) widescreen!


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