Smithee: Temporality and Gender in "Possession"


In this essay, we will examine Alan Smithee's extraordinary Tarkovskian meditation on time, "un-time", the breast as gender-inversed transgressive flesh, and irrational priests. Before going further, we offer here a summation of this film's "plot" for thew many who may have missed it sole airing on the Showtime Network, July 19, 1988. For our review cassette, the author thanks Johansen Brace, of Akron Film Archives for a reasonably- priced review copy of this "lost" film.


I. Stasis as Text

Though LAST POSSESSION ON MANDROID STREET's title is derivative of several then-popular sub-genres, this should not be used as a negative critical base, this being perhaps Smithee's most consciously self-reflexive exercise in genre study/dissolution. In entering into a critical discourse of this films many textural "layers" one would do well to first locate the displacement of reality in this film, and instead concentrate on its visual site, which is, like a repeated musical motif, one of staticness. This choice is mirrored constantly through-out the film's running time, whether in character (a trenchant "lacking" of behavioral cohesiveness, thematically centered in the "lack" of the female protagonist's libido function controls)) subject matter (a world that both "becomes" and is presented as "photographs"--an obvious hommage to Chris Marker's LA JETEE), general mise en sene (Smithee stringently avoids camera- movement whenever possible) and the almost overwhelmingly "static" performance of Mr. Fahey, who seems frozen within the still confines of the narrative space. The one variation from this static visual site is, of course, the sudden intrusion of Kirkland's breast/penis configuration, but more on that later.

In an almost unceasing parade of cinematic choices, Smithee constantly evokes Todorov in its presentation/re-examination of genre "systems" as the viewer is constantly assaulted with "unbelievable" situations." As Todorov explains succinctly in his examination of the fantastic in literature, such situations define are defined by the very limitations evokes by its definition, to wit: "genre is ...characterized by a hesitation that the reader is invited to inspect...what the genre encodes is thus a pragmatic property of the discursive situation."

The hesitations, in Smithee's text are, to be conservative, many.

Smithee and the "Heart of Darkness"