Happy Friday Collapsers:
Since the weekend is when most of us have the spare time to hoover up longer-form content, I wanted to introduce my readers to one of the philosophical fathers behind NARRATIVE COLLAPSE, and recommend you dig deep into the archive I’ve highlighted below. His name:
Now if you know Mr. Ellis, it’s likely because of his nefarious, transgressive tome “American Psycho”, but if that’s all you know about him, you’re missing out, because Mr. Ellis has been charting the COLLAPSE since 2011 with his essay EMPIRE VS. POST-EMPIRE, in which he called an end to the GRAND CELEBRITY NARRATIVE using Charlie Sheen’s meltdown as his fulcrum.
The article is a devastating takedown of how around 2005 (an arbitrary date somewhat, but I’ll take it) the celebrity NARRATIVE (behaving, taking work and interviews seriously) ground to a halt, liberating certain stars (Sheen, John Mayer) and leaving others in the dust (Tom Cruise).
But ELLIS was only getting started.
His next broadsword against the conventional HOLLYWOOD NARRATIVE was “The Canyons”, a project birthed from Ellis and director Paul Schrader’s (YUP, that PAUL SCHRADER, mentioned on the WELCOME PAGE OF THIS SITE), frustration with the new economics of film financing, and having several of their projects fall apart. They GOT the fact that even INDIE FILMMAKING was beginning to mimic the BIG STUDIO NARRATIVE.
“The Canyons” was funded via Mr. Ellis, Mr. Schrader, and Braxton Pope (producer), with a generous helping coming in from Kickstarter (they were the first to take advantage of crowd-funding, Zach Braff, Spike Lee, and the Veronica Mars movie followed). The bulk of the actors were found through the online application LET IT CAST.
The second scorched-earth policy came when Ellis and Schrader cast Lindsay Lohan at the height of her burnout, and male porn star James Deen in the lead roles. They sent out the signal: We will touch you, ESPECIALLY, if a STUDIO WONT. Which is definitely not part of the NARRATIVE.
Then the New York Times visited the set, and the entire NARRATIVE of the film switched over to how Lindsay Lohan was out of control. Next, the film itself was attacked by the SXSW film festival claiming it was “cold and dead inside” (as if a work by Schrader and Ellis could be anything else?) and rejected by Sundance.
So the NARRATIVE kept MORPHING. FIRST, the project was a RENEGADE GUERILLA OP against the studio system. Then it was THE LINDSAY LOHAN SHOW. Then it was just a BAD MOVIE. Not even a BAD OBJECT that could be reclassified as CAMP, because as Ellis knows: CAMP IS DEAD in the NARRATIVE COLLAPSE.
So “The Canyons” became a blank slate to etch all these different NARRATIVES on. But what everyone seemed to miss (except Ellis) is that what was ON FILM DIDN’T MATTER (although in my opinion, it was quite, quite GOOD). The entire point of “The Canyons” was about THE DEATH OF TRADITIONAL CINEMA. The making of the film and the reporting were all part of the EXPERIMENT.
The film is a devastating repurposing of McLuhan’s MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE. Schrader and Ellis used THE MEDIUM to the DELIVER THE MESSAGE: YOUR MEDIUM IS DEAD. And here’s the PROOF.
How did SO MANY PEOPLE miss this? The opening scenes of the film are a montage of DECREPIT, COLLAPSED MOVIE THEATERS. Schrader himself said: “The movie is about kids who showed up to be in a movie fifteen years after it was over.”
Who cares if the movie is good? The MOVIE isn’t the POINT. The dismantling of the way FILMS ARE MADE, REPORTED ON, and RELEASED is the point of “The Canyons”. It’s a middle-finger by two ARTISTS. It’s punk.
But if you want Ellis at his best: LISTEN TO HIS PODCAST.
Ellis doesn’t want artists with anything to promote. He wants to engage with them for an hour (sometimes LONGER) about the state of the mutation and the COLLAPSE. Some of them get it (MICHAEL TOLKIN gets it BIG TIME, but he wrote “The Player”, so he’s just a genius), and some of them hold on to the dream narrative.
As with “The Canyons”, Ellis is carving out a niche where THE PROCESS is the POINT. And that’s an integral part of the COLLAPSE itself.
This is something way beyond POST-MODERNISM, wherein you laid the apparatus bare to show the reader or viewer that we are all made of CONSTRUCTED NARRATIVE. No. Those artists were still trying to manufacture ART with a capital “A”. There is no ART in the COLLAPSE. There’s just DIAGNOSIS.
Ellis is using the PROCESS ITSELF (film, conversation) as THE NARRATIVE. There’s no additional NARRATIVE necessary. The MEDIUM isn’t the MESSAGE. That NARRATIVE is over too.
Bret Easton Ellis gets it. And so should you to learn how to READ THE COLLAPSE.
Let him guide you…