Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I don't know if any other filmmaker besides Donald Cammell has ever combined the plot of a generic lifetime original movie with elements of experimental films from the 1960's, mixed with the editing of a nicholas roeg movie (who cammell collaborated with on 'performance') along with elements of an 80's slasher movie...and actually made it work (or at least made it entertaining). Its funny how movie retrospectives can make you change your mind about a director. One thing Donald Cammell didn't have was a large body of work, but he did have range. From 'Performance' to 'The Demon Seed' to 'Wild Side', each of his movies were unique in some way. A few years ago BAM (who always seems to have the most interesting retrospectives, next to anthology film archives), showed 'White Of The Eye' as part of a Donald Cammell retrospective and I've been intrigued with it ever since. Not only did i remember that this was a movie i used to watch on cable tv late at night when i was a kid, but 20 years later i was still entertained (no matter how much this movie kind of falls apart at the very end).
'White Of The Eye' was a return for both Donald Cammell, who hadn't directed in almost a decade ('the demon seed'), and co-star Cathy Moriarty, who stopped acting for a few years after 'neighboors' bombed at the box office. In the film, Moriarty plays a housewife to a hi-fi stereo equipment installer ("Paul White"). As the movie unfolds she learns that her husband is a serial killer (sounds like every other lifetime movie minus the wife beating, doesn't it?). The editing that i mentioned earlier, which is full of jump cuts & random shots of various images (which does get a little over the top at times) puts 'White Of The Eye' ahead of its contemporaries like; 'Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer' or 'Maniac'. Sorry, I know that 'Henry...' is a popular cult movie but i never really got all the hype. It was good, but it also felt like it was trying to be disturbing just for the sake of being disturbing. And as far as 'Maniac' goes, it's almost impossible to take that movie seriously in the least bit. Now, the most unique thing about 'White Of The Eye' is how the murder scenes are shot. From the very first kill we know that Paul is doing all these gruesome crimes, yet Cammell intentionally never shows us his face. That's probably done for a few different reasons: the hiding of Paul's face represents how clueless Cathy Moriarty is to the fact that her husband is a pyscho killer. In fact, the only thing she suspects him of is cheating with another woman for a good part of the movie. The most obvious reason that the murder scenes are shot the way they are is to make us, the viewer, feel like a voyeur, almost as if we're actually in the room while someone is being murdered yet we cant doing anything about it (this kind of thing is explored in Michael Haneke's 'Funny Ganes').

Its kind of messed up, but the murder scenes in 'white of the eye' are pretty stylish (with the exception of one scene where Paul literally piledrives a woman's head to the ground). There's one murder scene where Paul holds a mirror up to a woman's face as she's drowning so she can watch herself die (rumor has it that Cammell had his wife hold a mirror up to him after he shot himself in the head). I'm not a big fan of celebrating violence against women, especially in a film made during the 80's when violence against women in films was at an all time high, but Cammell directs and edits the scenes in this film to the point where isolated stills from the movie look like pieces of modern art (it's clear elements of this film went on to influence 'American Psycho' and 'Dexter')

stills from the opening murder scene of 'white of the eye'. the clean/white background enhances the blood splatters

'White of The Eye' is part of a long list of films about the (usually white) guy who slowly goes crazy, or already is crazy and just gets even crazier by the end of the film, whose victims are usually women. Like i said before, these types of movies were very popular in the 80's but also crossed over in to the next two decades with stuff like; 'Falling Down' and 'American Psycho'. I really cant decide if 'White Of The Eye' is a "so bad its good" movie, an underrated film that went over people's heads, or a little bit of both.

'The Driller Killer'

'The Shining'




'White Of The Eye'

'Americn Psycho'


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...