Show business kids makin’ movies of ’emselves…

As much as I enjoy the little featurettes on Rage, Sally Potter’s latest effort, the term “naked cinema” has yet to be defined for me – whether that is because I suddenly find myself a victim of the times and think the absence of a Wikipedia article means a term has no definition, I couldn’t say.  I’m going to venture a guess, though: it means something more than a “cheap movie.”  Rage was made with only $1 million (a phrase I still snicker at when I hear it spoken aloud – “only one million dollars”), and I assume the lion’s share  went to the actors.  If hats didn’t give me headaches, I would wear one and subsequently take it off to this stellar cast of accomplished performers for snubbing expensive jobs they surely could have taken in favor of being involved in a truly ambitious artistic project.

Potter states that “we…live in a culture that is kind of fetishizing fake confessions in the form of reality TV, confessions made for an effect, or to get famous or whatever…I tried to go back to an earlier lineage of confession, which is a kind of…lifting off, if you like, of a mask.”  This film is fully comprised of confessional interviews, supposedly filmed by a high school blogger calling him/herself Michelangelo (yes, it’s important to note that the gender is never revealed; don’t just assume it’s a male).  Michelangelo, a silent, off-stage presence, spends seven days behind the scenes at a fashion show, witnessing a murder-mystery in progress while the key players share their musings with the camera (and quite often share too much).

The colorful ensemble includes appearances by Jude Law as a drag queen named Minx; Steve Buscemi as Frank, a homeless photographer; Judi Dench as Mona, a pessimistic fashion journalist; the gorgeous Lily Cole (who has grown on me) as Lettuce Leaf, an exaggerated version of herself; Eddie Izzard as Tiny Diamonds, the owner of the fashion company; Simon Abkarian as Merlin, a master fashion designer and blowhard extraordinaire; Patrick J. Adams as Dwight Angel, a young, bigoted marketing exec who happens to be ignorant of his own racial insensitivity; David Oyelowo as Homer, a “detective” straight out of a blaxploitation film; and John Leguizamo as Jed, Tiny’s coffee-addicted bodyguard.

For a film almost completely devoid of a traceable story arc, it is impressive to find two sideplots alongside the documentary/murder-mystery (though the first is more of a “side subject”): 1) the creation of a new fragrance, simply called “M,” which leads to insight from several characters about what “M” stands for, resulting in characters “saying more than they’re saying;” and 2) Lettuce Leaf needs to “get away” from the barbarous stress of being in the studio, and asks Michelangelo if she can come home with him/her.  The final shots of the film, quite different from anything previous, are touching, gorgeous, and…shucks.  Just see it.

Rage is a film for the film enthusiast, the writer, and the minimalist.  It’s a film entirely comprised of dialogue, dismissing the importance of plot and resolution, revolving completely around characters and their immediate emotions.  It’s a murder mystery with no possible solution.  It’s a satire of the fashion industry, and more so a satire of reality TV and its dedicated viewers who gawk hopelessly as their idols, people who have done nothing and are nothing, weep and whine about silly, grandiose, arbitrary schlock, and the camera zooms in for a deliberate closeup.

Rage (2009); written and directed by Sally Potter; starring Lily Cole, Jude Law, Judi Dench and Steve Buscemi.