Today’s movie: Leonard Kastle’s The Honeymoon Killers. Just as lurid, cheap, exploitative, and funny as it sounds. An overweight bully of an Alabaman nurse reaches out through a lonely-hearts pen pal club and meets the man of her dreams. Even when he turns out to be nothing more than a Eurotrash gigolo con man, she hangs onto those dreams and follows him around on his morbid “business” travels (bilking women who are, without fail, desperate, naive, or intolerably whitebread), growing homicidal with jealousy and frustration. This woman should’ve been played by Divine, the 300-pound cross-dresser who perennially starred in John Waters’s films (it’s easy to imagine this, with its provocative combination of laughs and murder, as a Waters favorite). As it stands, though, Shirley Stoler handles it with gusto; she should win an award for Best Projection of Surliness. Her character and performance made me laugh quite hard during a sizable handful of moments scattered throughout the film; this is a very ordinary, overweight woman who doesn’t like her job, derives a little too much pleasure from a Whitman’s sampler, and wants some love in her life. She’ll just go to some surprising lengths to keep it there; she’s grimly determined in a way that’s hard not to begrudgingly admire. I guess I just have a disproportionate affection for films that explore how easy it is for basic, universal human impulses to explode through the most unlikely wrong channels. I think I would get a little upset at anyone who, while condemning the act of murder, found it impossible to relate even a little bit to the woman Stoler plays. She’s not idealized in any way, though; she’s too much like all of us real human beings, too capable of unpleasantness, to be thought of as sympathetic by the anonymous demographically conceived “moviegoer” of distributor and studio devise.
It is a fairly amateurish production, but it manages to be the sort where its shortcomings seem charming rather than glaring. Though it was filmed and released at the end of the sixties, the natural-lit, spontaneous B&W camera work by D.P. Oliver Wood is very similar to that seen in so many French New Wave films (as the box notes and supplements included with the DVD repeatedly remind us, Truffaut called it his “favorite American movie.”)
Interesting trivia: Martin Scorsese was the film’s director for a week before screenwriter Kastle and the producers fired him for going over budget. Shades of Marty and Harvey! Much easier to take Marty’s side against Harvey, though.
Speaking of basic and universal human impulses, is there a more brilliant pop song about sex ever than The Smiths’ “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others”? When I first got my copy of The Queen is Dead as a teenager, I thought of it as a throwaway track, an odd and even inappropriate album-closer after “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” which I found infinitely more moving. At that point in my life, angst-filled as I was, I wanted little to do with acceptance or humor when it came to the general shittiness of the world and everyone in it. Now, I feel that “Some Girls” stands with the very best Smiths songs; it’s very funny, very sad, and so, so very true; it earns every note of Johnny Marr’s achy-breaky melody, which is one of the most memorable and lovely of their entire catalogue.
The song explores that space between “resignation and acceptance,” the perfectly apt dichotomy posed by Olmi as I quoted him in a previous post). “From the ice age to the dole age, there is but one concern,” Morrissey sings. And in the next verse, “As Antony said to Cleopatra, as he opened a crate of ale.” It’s about the rather pitiful but yes, very funny inevitability of anatomical obsession. “Some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers.” It makes not a bit of difference to me as a gay male that the song specifies female attributes; taken as intended it means, in a semiotic sense, exactly the same thing as if he’d written “some boys are bigger than others,” i.e., “Boy or girl, you will always notice such things and always care about them, even if you’d prefer not to.” It’s really Morrissey at the height of his observational powers regarding human absurdity. The perhaps insurmountable divorce between our brains, our hearts, and our groins is driven home when he borrows from Johnny Tillotson’s 1959 hit and intones at the song’s close, “Send me the pillow, the one that you dream on, and I’ll send you mine” at the end. Can such cynical physiological bottom-lining and such tender longing coexist in one human being? Absolutely; in all of us, in fact, though Morrissey is an indisputable champion of cleverly, passionately articulating it, which does, in fact, make it a little more bearable.
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