Mar 31, 2012

Jack Be Nimble



Once upon a time and before becoming one of the most hideous pseudo-Aryan platinum blonde chicks-with-dicks working in Hollywood, Alexis Arquette (born Robert Arquette), the lesser known sibling of the famous Arquette acting family (including Rosanna, David, Patricia, and Richmond), played the role of the male adolescent anti-hero Jack in the gravely underrated New Zealand neo-fairy-tale horror flick Jack Be Nimble (1993) directed by Garth Maxwell. More demented and cunning than a schizophrenic tranny on uncut crack, Jack nimbly hypnotizes personal enemies with his artfully crafted motor-powered candlestick and has them unintentionally commit suicide through a variety of intricate, highly intimate, and ruthlessly befitting ways. Jack has very privy reasons for becoming a sly metaphysical mass murderer, but the true root of his irrevocable psychosis is the direct consequence of being separated from his little sister Dora when he was a wee lad.  After his obese father became an unrepentant philanderer, and, thereafter, his mother turned into an emotionally unstable drunk with nil mothering skills, Jack and his sis were put up for adoption and given to two very different families. While Dora was raised somewhat ideally with a good, bourgeois upbringing, poor Jack was cursed to live in the less than luxurious rural land of wild cow-turds with a hostile pack of sadistic Kiwis hellbillies who don’t take kindly to the lonely boy’s proclivity towards impulsive hypersensitivity and playing with furry kitty cats. Although Jack grows up to be a talented murderer and dilettante inventor with an unorthodox intellect, his sister Dora becomes a creature of feminine empathy and intuition as she develops crucial extra-sensory abilities that allow her to know when her bothersome brother is in immediate danger. Despite their deracinated coming-of-age, Jack and Dora remain two peculiar peas in a pod during their vexatious separation. Upon reuniting after many years of emotionally severe severance, siblings Jack and Nora face fierce vulnerability from various outsiders, ranging from jealous boyfriends to split-personalities, but most specifically from a dyke-like brigade of ex-stepsisters. Due to a childhood’s worth of cataclysmic abuse, Jack becomes his own worst enemy; burning every bridge and annihilating all beings that have the misfortune of carelessly crossing his capricious path. 



Director Garth Maxwell has cited various influences, both personal and aesthetic, that went into the creation of Jack Be Nimble. On a more diacritic and arcane level, Maxwell and Jack Be Nimble co-writer Rex Pilgrim have stated their personal familial and social isolation as gay men played an imperative role in assembling the psychologically damaged and confounded character Jack and his affinity for ritualistic revenge.  In fact, the screenwriting duo would once again collaborate on the gay dramarama When Love Comes Along (1998); a mostly mediocre and artistically sterile work that bares no resemblance to its older sibling Jack Be Nimble. Despite the innate (albeit cryptic) gayness of some of the more personal themes that plague anti-hero Jack in Jack Be Nimble, the film itself lacks any sort of overt mention of homosexuality. While Dora enjoys engaging in verbal and physical intercourse with an older gentlemen, Jack's only source of sexual ecstasy seems to be through brute violence, which one could argue is a symbolic metaphor for sodomy.  As far as cinematic inspirations go, Maxwell has (somewhat unsurprisingly) named David Cronenberg, Dario Argento, and David Lynch as filmmakers who had influenced the look and atmosphere of Jack Be Nimble. For the scenes of Jack growing up in rural Hades, Maxwell attempted to channel the ethereal aesthetic potency of the late nineteenth-century Symbolist art movement, most specifically, the work of Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin. Despite its many influences, Jack Be Nimble hardly seems like a hack-kitsch derivative work as the film, much like Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954), has a timeless quality that transcends both age and passing trend, thus guaranteeing its staying power as a truly ominous and caustic, yet bewitching piece of cinema . Upon first viewing Jack Be Nimble, my always discerning eyes failed to notice any blatant influences as I was immediately taken aback by the film’s savage yet startlingly sentimental story and unmerciful yet aesthetically-titillating acid-washed imagery. Like any great modern fairy tale, Jack Be Nimble tells an archaic story in a wholly neoteric and sophisticated way. Being a work of apt cinema, Jack Be Nimble is most successful in depicting the story through its use of exceedingly expressive imagery, keen shot composition, seamless editing (in one clever match-cut, a bucket of pig's blood dissolves into a birthday cake), and overall dynamic mise-en-scène, as opposed to the often platitudinous realm of sheer words.  In fact, the greatest weakness of Jack Be Nimble is its sometimes unconvincing and poorly synched dialogue, which sometimes resembles the poor overdubbing of a Lucio Fulci film.  Of course, like most great films, the actions and images featured in Jack Be Nimble are more vehement than patently restrictive words.  



Jack is quite quick when it comes to stomping on the throats of bloated waitresses who happen to be two times his size, but such erratic and unbecoming behavior ultimately leads to his demise, hence the tragedy of the story and his character. Ultimately, Jack’s greatest talents are merely a clever and intricate survivalist response to his undying and overwhelming pain. After all, had it not been for the barbaric backwoods childrearing techniques of his abominable adopted parents, Jack would have never went to the trouble of fashioning a marvelous machine of hypnotic destruction. While the ending of Jack Be Nimble may be less than ideal to the typical Hollywoodized automaton, the film does provide an optimistic view of family matters and the primordial power of genetics.  Although being a work that is indubitably too dark and risqué for toddlers, and too mystical for the seasoned cynic, Jack Be Nimble is a truly strangle tale that tends to leave most viewers divided, but never blasé.  Undoubtedly, the presence of pre-tranny Alexis Arquette also adds a curious ingredient to Jack Be Nimble that few other films can boast.  Surprisingly, what I found most odd about Arquette's appearance in the film was not the atypical 'leading male' role s/he plays, but the quality and plausibility of his/her performance.  In fact, Arquette's exceptional performance in Jack Be Nimble may be one of the best abstract arguments against sexual reassignment surgery.  After all, who can say anything positive (and with a straight face) about any of "her" subsequent performances?  The creators of Jack Be Nimble described the film, somewhat sneeringly, as the, "queerest little grenade."  Indeed, the film is most certainly preternatural and esoterically homosexual, as well as overly emotionally explosive, but it is also devilishly delightful and crudely charming work of de facto cult/horror cinema.


-Ty E

3 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I never wanted to watch this film because i`d always thought that it revolved exclusively around pansy queer filth, However after reading your reveiw i think i might be able to watch it and enjoy it as just another bizarre and entertaining horror movie, as long as i`m able to forget that the director and lead actor are faggots for all of the movies running time, then i should be OK.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Its very odd that although there are only 3 million people living in New Zealand their film industry still consistently produces a product that is infinitely superior to the British cinematic product (even though everyone in New Zealand is just a British scumbag who just happens to live 13000 miles away from Britain, which makes it even more bizarre when you think about it). You see, its not just the American film industry that is infinitely superior to the British film industry, EVERY other film industry in the world is infinitely superior to the British film industry ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack duck under Heather O`Rourke stick ! ! !. Thats a classic.