thirteen again

October 10, 2007 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment

thirteen

Last week film club (the name is currently being reviewed in committee) watched thirteen. Raccoon and Unscrambled’s write-ups are here, and here, respectively.

One of the pleasures of film club is being introduced to movies otherwise completely off radar. Or off my radar. A brief survey of youtube videos for thirteen presents a dozen “music videos” for the film. In other words people are editing the film, adding music, and sharing. What this means is that people care enough about thirteen to personalize it.

It’s a public personal tale about the struggle of being near-poor, near-powerless, and thirteen. Violence, drugs, sexual experimentation, petty thievery, and cutting are the common experience of many young people. I was involved in 3 of the 5 by 14. I came out okay. So it seems will Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood). Unscrambled’s post is particularly good on the normalcy of fucking up and getting away with it. As she says, the best part about Thirteen is that the movie never quite lets itself be cautionary.

The aesthetic is a bit confusing though. The film is mtv jittery–all angles, cuts, and motion. And covered in mood washes of full-screen color-curtain from time to time. I was high during drug education in high school, and the effect of the washes and off-angles takes me right back. It’s distracting in a film that doesn’t particularly seem invested in moralizing.

Sexuality is like sexuality, all over the place. The traumatized Evie and Mel have some sort of something. Evie and Tracy perform for and with each other and an assortment of African-American and Latino men. The film presents sexuality without moralizing about it, either. Though the sense of dread when a drugged Tracy is being led around by a potential rapist is palpable, the film, wisely, doesn’t go there. In fact it doesn’t need to; we know that version of the story already. Thirteen is less cautionary than demonstrative. Here’s the mess. Sometimes it works out. Other times (one wonders about Evie) maybe not.

So about thirteen and adolescence more generally, the film suggests that people tend to survive it. And there’s a little bit of hope that maybe next year will be better.

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