This year’s Best of list is one film shorter because we’re getting older and even my stamina for a marathon of movies has diminished. Before you know it, I’ll be Eben Oldish, the porch-watcher. But before that back-slide, we have three fine films to discuss in the coming month. Our first inductee, though, is probably the least known of the group. If you’ve listened to the November episode of New Satellite Show, you might know a bit more about how we came to know about Song of the Blind Girl and its enigmatic director, “ctom.” If you haven’t listened, go do so now. I’ll wait.
So, to describe Song of the Blind Girl is to invite its madness into your brain and infect it with its odd anti-authoritarian, yet strangely anti-Semitic (or “anti-semit” as the characters pronounce it) worldview. Of course, that’s assuming it’s the worldview director ctom actually espouses. And even that assumes that ctom has a worldview. As it happens, I’m inoculated to most cinema-induced madness, so I’ll give it a try.
The film concerns a nameless Afghanistan veteran who suffers from PTSD and psychosis, as we’re told by the helpful opening crawl that also appears to suffer from the same mental problems. It goes on to posit a United States far more crippled by the economic crisis of the last ten years than our own reality (right? right?). The veteran, whom we’ll refer to as “Hobo” for the rest of the review, enters into an unnamed town filled with abandoned McMansions hoping to reunite with the family he lost while he was away in the war.
So he immediately goes out and kidnaps a teenage girl.
I know what you’re thinking. And, bizarrely, this movie never goes there. It kind of want’s you to think it’s going there in the early minutes, but it never does.
Instead, the hobo treats the girl fairly well … except that he calls her Mandy and forces her to eat the soup he made from the dog that followed them home. This is a recurring thing for the hobo. Whenever challenged by the girl, he threatens to kill her and turn her into “girl soup.” While known for its high nutritional value, girl soup is technically illegal in most of the world. I doubt the hobo really cares about that anymore as he’s a shell of a man with poor grooming habits.
Elswhere, the girl’s mother and her boyfriend are hauled into the police station for questioning by a dead ringer for the late professional film and television cop Dennis Farina. You might think it was him except for the fact that this guy can’t act. He never looks at the person he’s question, which leads me to believe the “actor” can’t look at other people while he’s “acting” for fear of launching into an hour-long gigglefest. Considering his otherwise copish countenance, such a thing would really rob him of what little credibility he has.
The cop uses high-pressure tactics to get the mother to roll on her boyfriend and then uses some straight-up L.A.P.D. Rampart “Ol’ Fashion Justice” in his attempt to get the boyfriend to confess. It takes up a surprising amount of screen time, but somehow ends up being one of the more entertaining aspects of the film. Not-Farina begins all his interrogations the same way, including removing a phone that has been placed between him and his suspect. This is one of those murky aspects of ctom’s vision. Is it meant to be part of the cop’s “friendly” technique? Is it meant to calm everyone’s nerves? It’s purposely placed between the actors, so it’s not an accidental thing. Just another mystery in the quiche of mysteries that is ctom.
Meanwhile, Hobo kidnaps another girl and threatens to make girl soup out of her. Mandy, who’s become more comfortable with the arrangement now, protects the younger girl from the Hobo’s oddly innocent lunacy. While Mandy expected that the Hobo would eventually force himself on her, no implication of sexual violence is ever suggested with the younger girl. I guess ctom has some taste, then. Plenty of other low budget fair wouldn’t show that restraint.
The younger girl does commit to her role, though, even when she’s barely suppressing her desperate need to laugh. She might be the best actor in the film, but that’s still not saying a whole lot.
During one of the Hobo’s girl soup tirades, the younger girl’s facepalm reminds him of a young girl he saw in Afghanistan who sang a song as he and his comrades called in an airstrike to turn her and her entire town into glass. I’m not sure if he actually shows any remorse, though, since he says it was SOP over there. A comment on the inhumanity of war? A small statement on how the military makes psychopathic killers of us all? The source of the film’s title? Or is it just the bean dip in the five-layer snack assortment that is the enigmatic ctom?
With two girls now missing, pressure’s on for the cop to deliver results. His tactics lead him to discover that Mandy’s mother sold her virginity to a local businessman.
Yeah, I had to steam clean my eyes after writing that last sentence.
The cop goes to confront the businessman, who apparently runs an underage brothel in his own home and counts the chief of police as a client. We’re also given the implication that he might be Jewish, but that’s based on the fact he refers to the cop as an “anti-semit.” The chief orders the cop to back off and find another way to solve the case.
Thus happens the most hilarious shoot-out in film history:
Back at the abandoned house, Mandy asks the Hobo about coat-hanger abortions because reasons and eventually performs one on herself. Though he refuses to take her to a hospital, the Hobo manages to save Mandy from the internal bleeding that also failed to ACTUALLY ABORT THE FETUS.
Now that I think about it, the film never “goes there,” but it goes to equally awful places.
Once Mandy appears to get better, the younger girl gets sick and the Hobo admits he has to take her to a hospital. We later see the younger girl reunited with her mother, but it looks like her mom kidnapped her from the hospital; an establishment known as “Doctors’ Hospital.” I guess that’s a sensible enough business name. “Sam’s Janitorial Supply and Hospital” wouldn’t inspire much confidence.
Around this time, the cop waterboards Mandy’s mother’s boyfriend to get a fake confession out of him. Um, I think that’s what happened. I get confused sometimes. Assuming that’s indeed what happened, the cop closes the case and we’re done with ctom’s hard-hitting probe into police corruption in West Virgina or where ever the hell this thing takes place. For all the screentime he devotes to the cops blundering, brutality and old time justice, it never really coalesces into a coherent thought (surprised?). ctom almost suggests that the cops are trying to do their job, but even when they solve the case, their hands are still tied by powerful forces above their pay-grade and the shit always runs downhill.
No, wait, that’s The Wire.
But it’s also kind of ctom’s point with all the police shenanigans. At least, I think it is. Come to think of it, he never really takes a side in all the brutality stuff or the waterboarding. Maybe the cops are bad? Maybe the laws are just a thin veneer for the petty animal cooped up in ever peaceofficer to get their jollies? Or is it just the icing between layers 4 and 5 of the 12-layer cake that is ctom’s vision?
So, despite the attempted abortion, Mandy’s pregnancy gets complicated and she dies … but not before telling the Hobo that she was running from the businessman’s brothel and that, ultimately, the Hobo gave her the best family life she’d ever known.
Let me get clear on this, because I’m pretty sure it’s ctom’s thesis statement: the world is so messed up, that a psychotic, gun-totting Hobo is a better caregiver than most “stable” people out there. I mean, I guess it could be a satirical point. That’s being generous as ctom’s grasp of storytelling is pretty rudimentary. To me, it seems to be the sincere point of the film. The Hobo was, ultimately, a better parent than Mandy’s real mother, who sold her virginity for a low five digit number and didn’t even get cash on delivery.
So, with nothing left to lose, the Hobo confronts the businessman and ctom’s other great point is revealed. With the guy dead-to-rights, the businessman tells the hobo that he can’t kill him because he’s a “holocaust-survivor.” The Hobo responds, “which one?” Yeah, it’s going there. There conversation continues:
Businessman: The Holocaust! Twenty million people survived.
Hobo: If twenty million people survived, then who died?
I think it’s fair to say that ctom is some variety of Holocaust-denier, but it’s tough to straight out call him on it because he covered his tracks in his enigmatic grasp of the cinema arts. It’s kind of like one of those 9/11 Inside Job documentaries that dispassionately looks at all the inconsistencies in the reports of what happened that day and then concludes that the whole thing was a Zionist plot as the credits start to role. It slaps you upside the head, but your left wondering if they’re sincere because of the last minute revelation. Though the earlier scene with the cop being an “anti-semit” sets up this revelation, it’s still crazy for the way it plays out with the Hobo. Eventually, the Businessman gets the drop on the Hobo and shoots him dead. We then cut to a TV report announcing that the businessman is getting an award from the President.
Though occasionally frustrating, Song of the Blind Girl is awash in entertainingly poor cinema. The cop’s terrible acting never fails to charm. It’s special worldview is a Russian nesting doll for the adventurous movie watcher. Also, as a director, ctom makes baffling decisions that speak more to his own mental state than that of his characters. I don’t want to spoil them, though, as they continue to surprise me the handful of times I’ve watch it.
It also manages to ick you out in ways you’d never expect.
But it also engages the viewer. After holding onto this flick for three years, I finally added it to a program that included After Last Season and Invisible Child. I fully expected the later to get Best of status. To my surprise, the overwhelming response to Song of the Blind Girl vaulted it over the others for inclusion in our Hall of Fame.
And now, I offer it to you, intrepid reader. It’s available on Amazon for instant viewing right now.