Saturday, November 20

Movies You Should Totally See: American Psycho

I noticed that I had discussed almost every director I had anything meaningful to say about in my Pulling Rabbits pieces. So I decided to start a new column, styled after Roger Eberts Great Movies column. My goal is to make a list of movies that are not only good, but also accessible to people who aren't very much "into" movies. So no matter how great they are, films like A Bout de Souffle or Battleship Potemkin won't be on the list. Nor will movies like Star Wars or The Matrix: everybody has already seen those anyway. No, what I want to focus on are movies that receive a lot of love from their fans, but are a little too often overlooked by the general public. I know this definition will be controversial, but please don't complain if a movie is more well-known then I thought.

Okay, on to the movie.

Patrick Bateman is everything you want to be. He is successful, rich, sexy and always impeccably dressed. He is born into wealth, educated at Harvard and currently residing in a lofty penthouse in Manhattan, with a view over Central Park. His hobbies include listening to music, working out and attending formal parties.

And randomly stabbing people to death.

Beneath his "mask of sanity", as he calls it, Patrick is a sick, deeply perverted psychopath, who has zero regard for the lives of people whom he sees as "beneath him". This is almost everybody. But that is not to say he is simply apathetic: there are some thing he cares about very deeply. He literally becomes sick to the stomach when one of his business partners has a better business card then he does, for example.

The way the film portrays this thouroughly skewed set of values is one half of what makes this movie so great. Everything we see is shows through the perspective of Bateman himself. Which means that all the bloody murder is shown in a way that is just as trivial as Bateman perceives it, while the business card scene seems to take forever. That is what's truly important to the man, after all. This modus operandi, combined with a great style, makes it sometimes pretty hard to take a step back and realize that these are business cards. And that this guy is a serial killer.

But it's the worldview of the movie that sets it aside from a normal slasher flick. Bateman, even though he is deeply disturbed (he even admits this himself), just doesn't get stopped. By anyone. He operates in full view, but no-one really seems to care. His belongings and his looks are the only thing people judge him by, not who he really is. And maybe, just maybe, his rich and successful friends know but just don't mind. I mean, who misses a few hobos?

Or some cheap whore?

It's not hard to see why anyone would want to stop Jason Voorhees, but Bateman just has the luck to be born in a time where a good image can make or break you. Regardless of who you are. Just think of all those young starlets of whom the entire world has an opinion, despite never having met them.

This film is a very biting satire of yuppie culture, and with those people plunging the world in the worst economic depression in a century it has only become more sickening. I don't think that drawing a parallel between dealing irresponsibly with the lives of so many people worldwide and direct murder is overdrawn: the amount of people that have literally died of famine because the bank account of the world is in the shitters far exceeds that of any serial killer. But what really made my stomach turn is the realization that we live in a society that not only keeps these people in charge, but actively encourages them to take the crushing risks they took.

For the more literary among you: this is THE adaptation of Bonfire of the Vanities. It's not an easy movie to watch, and you should definitely avoid watching it with your parents, but if you can stomach some gore you are in for a very intelligent view on a society that is, sadly enough, still very much reminiscent of ours.


This song is about a different serial killer, but no less chilling.

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