starring Hugo Dillon, Arben Bajraktaraj, Manon Maindivide, Ophelia Kolb
written and directed by Quarxx
by Walter Chaw French multidisciplinary artist Quarxx's sophomore feature Pandemonium is relentless miserablism presented handsomely and with neither of the usual pressure valves of archness or irony. It's punishing. Although it doesn't share much in terms of approach or narrative with Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, they have a similarly slick surface, and it did make me feel uncomfortable in the same way. And, ultimately, almost as unhappy. Films like this--such as most of Lars von Trier's and Michael Haneke's respective filmographies--are generally provocations without much more on their mind than to upset expectation and a perceived general apathy, but Pandemonium did get me thinking about how I'm raising my kids, so there's that at least. I wonder if the function of the film-as-endurance-test isn't ultimately as a lens with which to focus one's empathy. That is, to say that for as lousy as your life feels at any given moment, it can and almost certainly will get worse. How consistently I enjoy movies that make me feel awful (and now I'm thinking of Brandon Cronenberg's Possessor, which made me feel bad for months--and topped my best-of list of that year) says something about our desire for confirmation bias, I suppose. I want to be reassured that my Hobbesian outlook is rational. I'm addicted to that reassurance.