Sunday, July 17, 2016

"Creative Control": An Act of Cinematic Masturbation

Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray

An early line in Creative Control is a direct quote from Tommy Wiseau’s The Room: “You’re my favorite customer,” said by the protagonist’s co-worker in order to mock him.  Ironically enough, this moment perfectly encapsulates why Creative Control does not work as a movie; the reference exists for those in the know, but doesn’t serve a purpose in the narrative and is meant to portray the character speaking as someone we aren’t supposed to relate to because he knows it.  The movie doesn’t seem to understand that it is purposely offending the very people who would find its aesthetic and cultural touchstones entertaining.  The film uses hipster bullshit in order to take potshots at bullshit aspects of hipster culture, which just makes it a hipster bullshit snake eating its own tail.

Set in the near future, David (played by director and co-writer Benjamin Dickinson, making the comparison to Mr. Wiseau again more apt) works for an advertising agency, and the stress of the position causes him to lose interest in his girlfriend and become interested in his best friend’s girlfriend, Sophie.  When his company takes on a campaign for a new reality augmentation system called Augmenta, David uses his sample of the product to design a virtual version of Sophie, which he masturbates to as it goes through the motions of fucking him.

The first thing one is likely to notice about Creative Control is that it is shot in black and white, with color only entering the frame in the form of David’s interactions with Augmenta.  It’s a pretty pedestrian way to show that David is more connected with his virtual world than with reality, particularly when he’s downing handfuls of anti-depressants and spanking it to his high tech hologram love toy in vivid color, but it would actually work if the film had much more to say than “Hey, hipsters are kinda self-destructive sadsacks, aren’t they?”  Unfortunately, the dialogue and story beats really only convey just that, as characters spout niche referential tidbits and produce ironically commercial “art” with barely an arc to be seen until the film’s final moments, when David has to make a contrived choice about how he wants his life to proceed, only to cut to credits before that choice is shown.

Dickinson asks us to accept his artistic pretentions while attacking the same pretentious sensibilities of the privileged hipster class that serve as the grounding for his film’s sense of humor, cinematographic style, and self-contragulatory, masturbatory story about douchebags being douchebags.  He either wants to be the butt of his own joke or wants to take down those he perceives as egotistic hacks without realizing that he is one himself, and I’m not sure which.  He’s like Tommy Wiseau in that regard, but with much more raw talent; he can frame a shot, write some entertaining dialogue here and there, and can even act to a certain extent, yet he doesn’t understand that the methods by which he tries to communicate his points are self-defeating and, ultimately, self-indulgent.  Creative Control could have benefited from a more straightforward, less artistic-for-artistry’s-sake mentality, but as it stands, Benjamin Dickinson is just jerking off into the camera, literally and figuratively.

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