Queen of earth by Alex Ross Perry

10:23:00 AM

Elisabeth Moss is a marvel in a menacing tale of female friendship.Queen of the earth by Alex Ross Perry.
The scariest movie I ever saw is Repulsion by Roman Polanski. If you are like me, and you like your suspense, slow and menacing, wounds to bleed internally, and deep psychological scars rearing their ugly heads, this one is for you.

What a marvel Elisabeth Moss is. Some actors project an image, a few invite you in. The camera edges one beat to the left and she goes from plain to gorgeous, from innocent to a threat, from smart to naive. She surpasses that cliche of the most exciting actor working today.   To be as electrifying as she is you have to imbody that go for it/jump without parachute spirit. Ego is in fact that parachute, ironically the downfall for so many good actors.  Moss is so refreshing because it seems that nothing is holding her back, she is there, no tics, no vanity, nothing up her sleeve. And she has an uncanny instinct for mapping out her career. Instead of going up, she delves deep.

In Mad Men she was the typical show stealer, but it is obvious that in Queen of earth she was Alex Ross Perry's muse. It made me think of Antonioni's fascination with Monica Vitti, like the master, Perry sees his existential emptiness reflected in his main actress haunting eyes and carried by her strongwilled profile.
Who can blame him, If I was a filmmaker, I would put the camera right on Elizabeth Moss's face and let her rip.
And that is how Queen of earth starts. Elizabeth Moss plays Catherine, and we catch her at a really bad time. Her father, an artistic genius, has just committed suicide and her boyfriends picks that awful time to tell her that he is leaving her for another women.

The men in these movie are an intrusive species. That is already reflected in that first scene, where her boyfriend remains off camera for the most of it. Moss is balling her eyes out, mascara way down her cheeks, and ugly crying face that could become the next meme. But it's different from the ones we know. The close up makes it beautiful. Lately it seems that young filmmakers are experimenting again with closeups (check out Mr Robot for an interesting take) Perry makes the closeup, a theme in itself. As Catherine says a few scenes later:' everything feels so close, the good and the bad.'

Closeness is the horror in this movie.
So we are introduced to Catherine's friend, Virginia ( Katherine Waterston), who invites her to recuperate at her parents lake house, in a case of the told you so's. See, a year before Catherine also visited Virginia, and against her hostess will brought her then boyfriend, irritating the hell out of Catherine. Who then described their  their lovely dopey ways, as crippling codependency.

Soon its obvious that the codependency is between the two women. Virginia always seems to be observing, watching, almost stalking Catherine. And when Catherine starts to get unhinged, Virgina's gaze that for one sec seemed to imply concern, slowly, as the current rippling in the outside lake, turns into hostility.

The cinematography by Sean Prince Williams is gorgeous, shot on 16 mm it makes the most of it's low sun drenched location, full of halo's, and dreamy reflections, but as the current in the lake picks up, the undercurrent starts to feel venomous.


There are lot of echoes of other movies in Queen of earth; the earlier mentioned Repulsion, in the unease felt in watching a women disintegrate and not really understanding what is going on. Antonioni comes back in the mystery being vague and clear at the same time, and in the defeat we feel when we just cannot see a way out of what is dragging us down. Bergmann's Persona when  Catherine and Virginia blend, confront and collide into each other. There is this excellent long take, where the two women are telling each other about their love delusions. The camera touches one face and then the other, they melt, their stories interlace, but they are not reacting to each other, and both look straight ahead, so close and yet they couldn't be more distant.
Apart from the obvious European influences it reminded me a lot of Marcy Martha may Marlene. Where the suspense was also created by the unknowable madness behind a women's gaze, and by the women looking over her shoulder, judging, while she dives into the deep.

Catherine says that she is stuck in a self perpetuating cycle of the defeat and she can't get out.  When you are as codependent as she, you expect others to reach out and save you. 'Human nature is to expect the good in others.'
A good friend, your best friend would be there to pick you up. Your best friend would try to understand you. But your best friend would also know when not to pick a guy over you.
It's a movie about interrupted intimacy. Claustrophobic intimacy. While Catherine and Virginia are free, surrounded by nature, calm, and quiet, they are locked into each other and suffocating. It's the horror of a female bond, where intimacy doesn't breed love.

When the story inevitably takes a turn for the bizarre and Catherine is gone, unhinged, deranged the low blow your stomach arrives. Looking in to her friends sickly face and mad eyes Virgina says with pleasure: ' It's like I see you for who you really are for the first time.'  A chilling and awful thing to say, in a movie full of ascorbic lines.
It is always the one closest to you, that will hurt you the most.

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