Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remote Control (Jeff Lieberman, 1988)

The idea that a videotape could to do harm has been explored many times, but never have I seen it done with such flair before. In Remote Control, the mildly satirical sci-fi flick that treats the VCR as the object of menace that it really is, the idea of a malevolent movie is amplified to a galactic level. Unknown aliens from outer space have found an ingenious way to take over the earth. Utilizing video technology and exploiting the earthlings dependence on filmed entertainment, the aliens plan to wipe out humanity by having them kill each other. Now, you're probably asking yourself, "Why would they kill each other? I mean, human beings hardly ever engage acts of physical violence." Well, you see, after you watch a 1950s science fiction movie (also called Remote Control) up to a certain point, the urge to kill literally inundates your brain with murderous desire. The exact moment the viewer's killer instinct kicks in happens just after the character of Eva (Deborah Downey) stabs her husband in the chest with her automated knitting needles and begins to stare intently into the camera. The front line of this battle for planet earth, circa 1987, is, of course, the video store (a place where VHS tapes were leased in exchange for some sort of reusable currency), and two clerks named Cosmo (Kevin Dillon) and Georgie (Christopher Wynne) are ready to greet the first wave with a hard-boiled intensity. (In reality, they're the last people you want defending the human race from an unseen scourge.)

The movie has already claimed the life of one person (a scantily-clad, paid-up member of the tv generation who was just about to take part in a cheeky round of sci-fi sadomasochism with his wife) and more copies of the evil movie are being distributed as we speak.

Remote Control, to put it simply, is a configured mass of reticulated beauty. An artful examination, if you will, of humanities obsession with watching itself and the lives of others. It also shines some much needed light on the influence 1950's sci-fi culture had on the styles and sounds of the 1980s. (As a character in the fifties version of Remote Control says, "You have to keep up with the times in the 1980s.")

The paintings of artist Kenny Scharf and the alien orgasms of Liquid Sky permeate this film's aerodynamic nimbus like a neon cloud covered in lime syrup. The film's score was obviously influenced by Slava Tsukerman (either that, or Slava and Peter Bernstein shopped at the same synthesizer shop) and the fashions had me doing double takes left, right and centre. The amount of colour used in the costumes was off the charts in terms of iridescent splendour. I particularly liked the costume designer's emphasis on new wave athletic gear. And the silver, gold and black combination that was used in Deborah Goodrich's futuristic getup was exceptional.

I thought Kevin Dillon represented the new wave credo against non-violence perfectly as Cosmo, the film's reluctant hero. I mean, I totally supported his diplomatic approach when it came to problem solving. Kevin portrays Cosmo as a romantic at heart and a loyal friend (he tries to help Georgie overcome his shyness around women). Now, violence obviously needs to be implemented when a gun is pointed at you in spite, but Cosmo only implements it when all other avenues have been exhausted. And as a new waver with a Gothic exterior and an industrial heart, I respected that.

The statuesque nature Deborah Goodrich's hairstyle in Remote Control was a work of disentangled artistry. The manner in which it flowed down the side of her head was a breathtaking example of follicle defiance. Lingering in a suspended state of absolute perfection, Deborah's hair should be extolled as a work of art, as it is obviously the creation a master craftsman. Actress turned compulsive gambler Jennifer Tilly sports a hairdo (an upward bob) that had its charms as well, but her squeaky voice and tight red dress (an outfit that accentuated her Chinese heritage) overshadowed her hair. No, Deborah definitely wins the award for hair of the decade.



  1. Jeff Lieberman has put this out himself on DVD ($19.95) and Blu-Ray ($24.95) in a limited edition pressing of 1000 -

    1. Thanks for the heads up. I need to get me one of those.