matrixschmatrix wrote:When Mason goes mad, it's not a parody of the first part where all the dynamics are reversed, it's an extension and supertextualization of the currents that had already been established and were swept under as long as Mason was calm and mild mannered.
I agree - the money worries, the distrust of brain rotting television and the "is he having an affair? Phew, he's just working an extra job!" material of early on just gets heightened into the later spending sprees, enforced tuition sessions and one nicely understated scene where Mason appears to be eyeing up his female colleague (was this something that would have inevitably happened or was Mason started down that path by his wife's own suspicions? Or was I, as the audience member, just over sensitive to the idea of an affair because of the earlier scenes?)
Even the potential child murder section, while dark, is quite funny for the way Mason is just resigned to having to take on this extra moral burden after having had to become the ultra-paternal teacher in the other areas, having to make up for all the perceived failings of society. Considering the way that Mason seems to be a rather kind but distant father and husband early on (since he is too busy keeping up society appearances and taking on second jobs), he is far scarier when, as the drugs kick in and he takes over from society, he diverts his whole attention onto his son and seems to be trying to mould the boy in his image (again a more extreme version of the previous low key and acceptable father/son socialisation behaviour).
Of course all this heightened belief in his own abilities comes crashing down when he finally tries to take on Matthau's P.E. teacher in a punch-up! Taken together with the pain, the influence the drugs have and the focus on forcing the son to play football there seems to be a running theme of the physical being able to easily assert its dominance over easily manipulated and changeable intellectual and emotional behaviours.
I quite liked the ending for not coming up with any miracle cure, but instead leaving the family to continue to struggle with the drugs. I don't really see it as an 'undermined happy ending' exactly, more that the family are left in the same basic situation that they were in before the problems with the drugs, just with the admonition to try and be more careful next time (the big message of the film would seem to be for family doctors not to take the weekend off because that is always when your patients are going to get into the biggest trouble!)
I suppose that Criterion is planning to bookend this year's releases with this and Antichrist - another borderline hysterical, scissor related familial film! Though while watching Bigger Than Life and seeing the final violence that takes place in what should be a cosy family front room while the television blares irrelevantly in the corner and adoring children internalise their behaviour from increasingly maniacal parents, I felt it was a bit more anticipating of Haneke and Cassavetes.
A Woman Under The Influence in particular has that same feel of the lack of power of both doctors on the one hand and loving partners on the other in the face of mental disturbance. At least though the family has to stick together through these troubles, while the suggestion here seems to be that outside authorities appear to get involved, make things worse and then drop the issue while taking the credit for any 'recovery' experienced!
Now, when will Criterion get to my very favourite Nicholas Ray film, Johnny Guitar?