Sunday, 25 November 2018

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: AMERICAN PSYCHO


93. “There is a moment of sheer panic when I realise that Paul’s apartment overlooks the park... and is obviously more expensive than mine.”



25/11/2018




I’m not sure why I haven’t seen “American Psycho” before now. I have not read the original novel either: Bret Easton Ellis’s Patrick Bateman certainly loves the sound of his own voice, and the dense type of the novel perhaps contributed to my leaving a bookshop without it. Meanwhile, the only thing I really knew about the film, apart from it starring Christian Bale, was its original plan for Leonardo DiCaprio to star as Patrick Bateman – he was ultimately dropped because his role in “Titanic” made him too recognisable, but his role in “Wolf of Wall Street,” which I remind myself is based on a real person, proves he could have been perfect in such a meaty role.

The irony of this is there is nothing to Patrick Bateman – he only exists on the surface. He is his suits, his exercise regime, his appointments, the restaurants and clubs he visits, his bedsheets, and his music collection, the last of which is expressed more as the reciting of the liner notes, rather than any love or understanding of the music itself. He can make a political point at dinner, but it again comes across as something he previously read. He can disregard the porn playing on his Sony Trinitron TV, but he boils over at the finish of a business card. His life is made of appointments, and yet he doesn’t appear to do anything outside of work – we don’t even know what his job really is, as indistinguishable from, and confused with, the other vice presidents there.


What I do feel a lot from “American Psycho” is how the feeling of alienation from your surroundings, of being dead behind the eyes, appears not to be a problem for the other characters. The social and material niceties that pervade their world keeps them in check as much as any ego and superego, keeping up appearances, and making dates to meet, and with nothing to keep Bateman’s id in check, anything irrational can seep in – Bateman kills almost out of boredom, with any preparation for some killings almost as calculating as his choice of songs to play: why just buy an axe, when you can buy a chrome axe? Spoiling the climax, mistaken identity seems all too easy in a world like Bateman’s, robbing him of the ability to atone for his crimes, and for his one moment of sincerity to be taken seriously – there are too many people like him, so it could have been anyone.

Hearing that Christian Bale based his performance on two real-life people is unsettling, even if one of these was Nicolas Cage’s performance in the black comedy “Vampire’s Kiss,” the one that has a shot of Cage running down a street shouting, “I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire!” The other was Tom Cruise, being Tom Cruise.

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