Friday, January 3, 2020

The Joy of Failure

The Joy of Failure 

The Room (2003) is the biggest and most well known ‘bad movie’ of this century. Its presence in the cultural landscape is unmistakable, showings on Adult Swim and public theaters, it is endlessly quoted among friends, it is remixed and memed across the internet, it was even the subject of a tell-all book and film about its creation inThe Disaster Artist (2017). Much of this notoriety is due to repeated showings, but probably more so to the quirks of its director and star, Tommy Wiseau.

Wiseau displays a bizarre persona both in public and allegedly in private, and his first film bears this out. The Room is strange in every capacity. It looks like a cheap television show with its limited and unconvincing sets, questionable green screen work, and odd choices of location shoots. The actors do their best with Wiseau’s stilted and often tortured dialog. As a traditional film, it is found wanting in just about every quality except being entertaining. No rational person would call The Room art...

Yet it is.

The Room as it exists is also a very revealing look at how Tommy Wiseau views the world around him. Wiseau himself is often very evasive about his past and other aspects of his life, but The Room as written and performed by Wiseau in the lead shows someone who is successful at business and love but finds it all turned on him thanks to the duplicitous people in his life. It is not hard to look at Wiseau’s guarded nature and the betrayal of his idealized self on the screen and see that Wiseau himself is using this story as a way to work through a betrayal or at least a fear of betrayal.

It is totally justifiable to make fun of The Room’s failures, but it is also justifiable to dig into it a little see that underneath the mess there is the voice of an artist peeking out. I find these days in the era of slickly produced tentpole films that have smoothed out all the rough edges via research and test screenings resulting in nothing more than a consumer product Films which are personal, messy, and often noble failures are much more memorable. What’s more relatable to the human condition, a CGI mess of lasers and explosions that exists to be equally acceptable to everyone on the planet or a bizarre take on melodrama that could only come from one particular person?

For me the enjour of b-movies and so-called 'bad cinema' is the celebration of failure, because it is through the failure of the cinematic languge we often get a glimpse of the living breathing humanity that goes into any work of art. It is a pop-culture tradition that includes people like Ed Wood Jr. and Tommy Wiseau.

Failure is the most universal of human conditions, we all fail. The last act we ever engage in will be a failure of some kind. Take those movies that are failures, enjoy those failures, celebrate them in fact.  You’ll never find anything more human.

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