Blackpaint 537- Rape in the High-Rise; OK because it’s the Seventies (sort of)?


High-Rise, Ben Wheatley (2015)

high-rise

Laing (Tom Hiddleston) at the high-rise supermarket

First, let’s play the tiresome game of influences and references (because it’s fun); the obvious one is Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange” – Jeremy Irons recalled closely the fantastic Patrick Magee’s crippled writer in the Kubrick film, as well as the general air of impending violence and social breakdown.  The neglected, precocious child left to his own devices to roam the ravaged building is like the boy in John Boorman’s “Empire of the Sun”, based on Ballard’s own semi-autobiographical book.  For some reason, I think of “American Psycho”; there’s something about the excellent Hiddleston’s coldness and the general lack of affect – and for the non-stop smoking, the smokiest film ever, Fritz Lang’s “M”.

The constantly escalating anarchic violence recalled Claude Faraldo’s 1973 grunt fest, “Themroc”, in which Michel Piccoli turns his apartment into a cave and eats a policeman he has roasted on a spit, having had sex with his sister (Piccoli, not the policeman, to be clear).  Finally, there is Pasolini’s “Salo” (1975), just for the sexual violence, perpetrated in this film on the women, but in Pasolini’s, on boys too.  There is no discernible eating of faeces in “High-Rise” however.

I saw the film in the Brixton Ritzy.  Back in 1990, I saw “The Grifters” there; Anjelica Huston (or was it Annette Bening?) was subjected to a beating about the kidneys with oranges wrapped in a stocking.  A young woman jumped to her feet and turned to the audience, angrily denouncing it as “sexist shit” and us in the audience, as complicit for watching it.  I recalled this 26 years later, as I watched Elisabeth Moss, heavily pregnant, being dragged off to be raped by two men and shortly afterwards, Sienna Miller being dragged off by her ankle to be raped, but this time, only by one man.

To be fair, no actual rapes happen on screen – although Sienna Guillory arrives at the “party” on a horse and demands to know “which of you men are going to fuck me up the arse?” and having descended from the horse, crouches down on all fours with a champagne glass balanced on her back, to facilitate her request and to reward the obliger(s).  You also see the tops of female heads bobbing above the crutches of men, who are casually drinking and conversing whilst seated naked on the floor.  Sienna Miller, bearing the cuts and bruises of her rape, appears later, waiting on Hiddleston and Irons, serving them wine, in a subdued, Stepford Wives fashion.

And all this, with no gasps of outrage and even a few laughs from women in the audience.  Maybe the sexual violence was OK because 1. the film was set in the seventies; 2. it was “ironic” in tone; 3. Ballard is now in Penguin Modern Classics, so the rapes have to stay (I presume they WERE in the book?); 4. Arguably, it’s essential to the plot and the atmosphere;  5. The rapes mostly happen off screen and 6. the screenplay was written by a woman (Amy Jump).

Actually, the film is an attempt to make a film of “High-Rise” as it would have been if made in the 70’s; a pastiche, essentially, like “The Artist”.  Brilliant piece of filmmaking, nevertheless.

And was that a real head that Tom peeled?  It certainly looked real….

 

interregnum

Interregnum

Blackpaint

21.3.16

 

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2 Responses to “Blackpaint 537- Rape in the High-Rise; OK because it’s the Seventies (sort of)?”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Sounds revolting – even the presence of Tom H wouldn’t lure me to watch it! Meanwhile, sorry I never quite made it to your and Marion’s recent show – a combination of Work and Life! – and hope it went well? Most taken with Interregnum – a new colour palette – is this the start of your Blue Period???

  2. blackpaint Says:

    Interregnum actually an old one – I can’t manage the straight lines these days. I’ve got a lot of blue paint though, so BP may well follow! See you soon I hope, life and work permitting…

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