Monday, November 11, 2013

Holli Would... But She Shouldn't

Go on, look closer.  Mee-oww!
It was the early spring of 1992, and on the back of every--and I mean every--comic book that made its was through my house had the exact same back cover advertisement.  "Holli Would If She Could," it read.  The message was clear: something seedy, something dark, something sensual.  The things we heard about in health class. 

That Cool World would unquestionably be the greatest thing EVER was just taken for granted.  That, at 12 years old, I'd unquestionably have to wait until it appeared at Prime Time Video that fall--at the earliest--was also taken for granted.  I mean, look at that poster!  You don't have to be Desmond Morris to decode the innate sexuality of Holli in that poster; nor do you have to be Joseph Campbell to decode the setting (snakes show danger, the door behind her is her "entrance," and so forth). 

Indeed, it was so simply known that the movie was the sort of thing that one watched alone that, when in July of that year my brother shystered my parents into taking him and a friend to the movie, buying tickets, getting them into the theater, then going away, I promptly torpedoed it by grabbing a comic, confronting my parents in the hall, and showing them the tagline.  "Holli would if she could," I said.  "They aren't talking about going to a party."  My brother was crushed.

It was years later when I finally sat down to watch Cool World.  Those of us who have been to even one wedding have likely heard the reading about "setting aside childish things."  Whenever I did see the film, it was with vague interest.  I was then living in the world of the Internet.  The true sense of titillation was gone... but still, I sat down feeling like it was almost forbidden.

The perfect first library!
The first thing that strikes you is that the film is by Ralph Bakshi... of The Hobbit animated film.  I have fond memories of going to see The Hobbit when I was 3 or 4.  I had a front row seat at the Point Pleasant Beach brand of the Ocean County Library.  A converted house, it's a creaky, warm, lovely little building, the perfect place to see literature on film. 

But back to Cool World.  The second thing that strikes you is that it's much more... animated than the poster suggested.  It isn't Jessica Rabbit animation, it's mostly Roger Rabbit goofiness.  At least, until Holli appears. 
I've never liked rotoscoping.  I think there's something unnatural about how natural it looks--animation can extend itself to the little nooks and crannies of its imagined physical world, with stretch and squash being prime examples.  To see Holli appear, bosom a-wobbling, butt a-shaking, it was all wonderfully gelatinous... but also so tethered to earth.  

Think again of Jessica rabbit.  Her figure literally would kill a human.  Add to that an intentional unnatural bounce (her breasts bounce up when they should boune down, and visa versa).  That's the stuff of untethered animation. 

Yet as sultry as Jessica Rabbit is, I think the two clips capture something about subtlety, and certainly sexuality.  Jessica is all about the slow sizzle, the long play before, and ultimately has a sense of girl power.  Let's not forget that she almost kisses Eddie Valliant, before "backing off." Heard at 1:54 in the clip, just before her final sung word, is the quiet grunt of a man off screen.  It isn't the sound of completion--it's the sound of stopping right before.

Holli, on the other hand, is not subtle.  She's clearly a tease to Gabriel Byrne's character (who, ironically, is the most artificial-looking thing in the scene).  She clearly isn't far from screwing or stripping for a reason.  Were she a real person, she would unquestionably have had a long stretch of time in foster homes with men like Kate's father from LOST. (Jessica, on the other hand, was probably did what Kate did more than once in her life.)

Ultimately, Holli is the perfect metaphor for what makes Cool World unwatchable tripe: no sense of of the subtle or sublime.  Every shot of animation is leeringly goofy, when not overwrought with the visual smell of sex-and-candy.  The set production, when not animated, try to cross a visual style between real and animated.  It's like trying to mix a tiger and a lion.  What you get isn't either, and isn't pretty.  As noted, even the acting from real-life, pretty good actors is awful!  

Bizarre character choices.  Wooden acting.  Idiotic story.  And a box office failure.

Holli, it seems, simply shouldn't have tried.

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