Chafed Elbows (1966)
August 7, 2015 1:16 PM - Subscribe

Hapless Walter Dinsmore undergoes his annual November breakdown at the 1954 World’s Fair, has a love affair with his mother, recollects his hysterectomy operation, impersonates a cop, is sold as a piece of living art, goes to heaven, and becomes the singer in a rock band. (But not necessarily in that order.)

Part of the Criterion On Hulu film club. This film was streaming for free on Hulu this week as part of Criterion's weekly free film festival. You can vote on next week's film here: Criterion Free Movie Of The Week
posted by Ian A.T. (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
OK, fine. I'll go first then.

I kind of liked the way the still pictures were used.

The shoestring aesthetic sort of reminded me of early John Waters.

There were no parts where I was startled unnecessarily by the sound suddenly becoming a lot louder, and I don't think there were any parts with flashing lights that would induce a seizure. I have no reason to believe it caused any physical damage to any of my equipment, and while Hulu made me watch a really stupid commercial before the movie, I don't have any reason to suspect that the movie itself was at fault for that.

And that concludes both the positive and neutral things I can think of to say about this.

Some of this is just "stuff I don't like." Wacky cartoonish voices and gestures just make my butt itch, and I was extra irritated when I finally figured out what that one woman's voice sounded like, and it was Stewie from Family Guy, because Family Guy also makes my butt itch.

Reading the description, I was looking forward to some possibly dreamlike or comically poetic story that would pull the elements together in a cohesive and compelling way, and it just didn't do that as near as I could tell. It reminded me of something that a 12 year old would come up with, where they just toss in references they have heard grownups talking about and hope that it makes them sound worldly, and add some absurdism in there as a substitute for meaningful humor. And the one note (at best) silly names. Leo Realism. HAW HAW I GET IT IT SOUNDS LIKE NEOREALISM. Baby Jane Shrimpton is just two cultural references awkwardly and apparently meaninglessly strung together.

And this might fall into the category of "stuff I don't like," again, but I have known people who think of themselves as edgy and irreverent in the way this movie does, and they're always just loud, overconfident assholes who put waaaay too much stock in their own hot takes. It's as though someone over-praised them when they were actually twelve, and they were never motivated to move beyond that stage of their development.

I honestly tried. After I watched it, I read the Criterion essay, and I looked around at different reviews of it trying to figure out if I missed something about it that made it a good movie, and despite my best faith efforts, my response was always, "Nope."

I even tried running it through some apologetics filters. "Well, this was before my time, so maybe..." NOPE. "He was really young when he made this, so..." NOPE.

I think I'm usually pretty good about taking a director's vision on its own terms. I try really hard to turn off my filters and experience things as they're meant to be experienced. But I could not do it with this movie. I am not against cynicism or irreverence or even that style of humor, but this one didn't seem to really even have a coherent POV that I could latch onto. It was just a series of what were, generously, vague but shallow references and 'edgy' humor, and...what? He didn't show any meaningful understanding of any of the things he was being irreverent about.

I don't really put much stock in negative opinions about art usually. I prefer to see what fans think of a specific work, because they're usually much more insightful about what they see in something. So I generally avoid expressing opinions about things I don't care for. Maybe I was just inspired by all the burns and zingers and the sad, empty thread, but I'm making an exception.

In conclusion, I didn't care for this movie all that much.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:28 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Pretty much agreed. I didn't enjoy it as a film on its own merits, but it was intriguing to me as a slice of a very particular countercultural scene/moment. According to Hoberman, Chafed Elbows was a cult hit, playing for six months. I could envision giggly stoner teens skipping school to see it.
posted by HeroZero at 11:29 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, I recently streamed Tapeheads on Netflix. It's a bit like UHF minus all the sweet charm and dumping on a heap of misogyny. It seems cut from the same infantile countercultural cloth as Chafed Elbows.
posted by HeroZero at 11:34 AM on August 9, 2015

ernielundquist you're more of a cineaste than I am, because the nicest thing I can say about this movie is, "I watched the first five minutes and the only part I liked was the titles."

I thought about trying to grit through it, like I did with Daisies, but decided that while I didn't like Daisies at least it was a well-made movie that was clearly an achievement in film. This dumpster fire reminded me of the kind of turd Tim & Eric might shit out and then act so proud of that some people — I'm looking at you Mike Lazzo — would praise it no matter how horrendous it was.

So I gave in to my, "I could be watching a good movie right now," instincts, hit back, hit "Remove from Queue," and moved on with my life. I'm going to watch the next movie on my list, Beautiful Days, instead and I won't feel the least bit guilty.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:39 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

I only made it through the first 5 minutes. Then I switched to Le Million and had a rollicking time. Anyone want to discuss that one some time?
posted by latkes at 9:42 PM on November 16, 2015

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