Sunday, July 30, 2006

Basic training

My ex-husband Nick hated the movie, Basic Instinct because it showed a woman in control of everyone around her, a woman who controlled men. He failed to see Catherine Tramell also controlled women. Basic Instinct 2 is no surprise in that regard; Catherine Tramell is still controlling everyone around her, men and women.

The cold cobra-like deadliness is just as evident in this sequel as it was in the original, but Catherine is colder and harder and less sympathetic. In the first movie, Catherine had at least one or two moments when she wasn't blatantly flaunting her sexuality and her control over everyone; there are none in this sequel. Despite the fact Sharon Stone is older and showing her age a bit, despite the strange almost Elizabeth R haircut and hairline (without all the curls, of course), she is still Catherine Tramell grown less repentant more manipulative. There was a brief moment in the opening where she was almost human in trying to unfasten dazed and drugged Kevin Franks's seat belt after they went into the water while Franks diddled her to orgasm after she sucked his finger and guided it between her legs at 110 mph, but it was all too brief. From that point on Catherine pits cops against shrinks, shrinks against journalists, cops against journalists, and shrinks against shrinks while she writes her next book, The Analyst.

Catherine loves to muddy the psychological water, and does it very well, all the while bringing out everyone's most basic instincts, stripping away the civilized veneer until no one is sure who to trust or where next to turn. Everyone is on the defensive when Catherine is on the offensive. Perhaps one person in the whole mix is not dazzled by Catherine's beauty and blatant seductive sexuality, but even she succumbs in the end to Catherine's spin on the truth -- and Catherine knows how to spin things to her advantage.

The ending was a bit of a surprise but not a shocker by any means. What does interest me is not so much the story, which is worth getting and watching a couple times to pick up everything going on, but the history of these two movies and their similarities. I don't mean the superficial similarities but rather the basic bedrock similarities that point to a subtext about the mind games people play.

In both films Catherine is suspected of killing or manipulating the death and destruction of three psychotherapists: her advisor and mentor in college, Noah, the LAPD psychiatrist, Beth, who is also Shooter's shrink, and finally, and most spectacularly, Michael Glass in this sequel. Makes me wonder if the writers don't have something against psychiatrists/psychotherapists, especially since Catherine Tramell trained as a psychologist, as she aptly points out to Nick the cop in the first movie, and knows how to manipulate people with mind games.

You can nitpick with the chronology of events, especially where it touches on Glass's sexual involvement with his patient, Catherine, who was not his patient at that point, and the ethics of treating a patient about whom a psychiatrist has given forensic testimony in a court of law. What it boils down to is at the end of this movie there is no clear cut feeling of whodunit. I do find it hard to believe that Catherine Tramell is anything other than a genius when it comes to manipulating other people into position to take the fall for her murders or that she is the poor little rich girl who acts out because everyone around her dies.

In both movies the original target of Catherine's literary murder fantasies is alive at the end when she "falls in love with them" and lets them off the hook, but the remain damaged, and none so damaged as Michael Glass doped up on a Thorazine and anti-psychotic cocktail to keep him droolingly quiescent while Catherine drops off her latest book and tells Michael she'll wait for him. I am still left wondering at the end, as I wondered at the beginning, where is Nick the cop? I thought Nick and Catherine were going to f**k happily ever after like minks.

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