Moving Pictures
Nov 25, 2016, 10:26AM

Night Vision

Art world satire and weaponized work in Nocturnal Animals.

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I love when they say the name of the movie in the movie, or better yet, the trailer and the movie. I have to go “WHOOP WHOOP!” whenever this happens, an old habit I picked up in high school from Rooster Quibbits. Sometimes it goes over well, sometimes… I mean, it just wasn’t necessary during Koyaanisqatsi. And I can’t just stop the first time they say it, I have to keep WHOOP WHOOOPing every time the name is mentioned or sung, and let me tell you, it’s a bitch of an affliction but I have to do it. It’s never fun when it’s easy. Loving was brutal… but when the name of the movie is something like Nocturnal Animals, and the title is mentioned in both the trailer and the movie, well—let’s just say I get up on my cloud and do a little happy dance. Self-care much? Practice it much? I hope you totally donated to Standing Rock, the ACLU, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, and called your representatives to voice your disgust and your gall with just about everything this Thanks(yuck!)giving. BOOM!

Everyone is too cool to admit to liking Tom Ford’s movies. I’d never seen his only other film, A Single Man from 2009, before this past Monday, and I was blown away, a devastatingly sad and artfully-constructed movie. More fashion designers should make movies. Making clothes that no one can afford is a waste of time compared to this, making movies, giving people in DeKalb and Peoria and East Cupcake, Iowa as the #CoastalElites. No love lost for the fashion or art worlds here, with Amy Adams playing Susan Morrow, a severely disaffected and cynical art dealer/jilted artist, who admittedly makes, sells, and represents “junk” with no meaning, no purpose beyond the satisfaction of the creator’s ego.

Deliberately oblique and prohibitively expensive, the post-Koons art world is given a proper dressing down in Nocturnal Animals, where it serves as the foil for the viscerally disturbing and affecting work of art at the center of the movie: a novel called Nocturnal Animals, written by Morrow’s ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) and dedicated to her. They haven’t spoken in nearly 20 years, and the delivery of the manuscript is the first contact Sheffield has had with Morrow, and he makes it as brutal and devastating as possible.

The film cuts back and forth between Morrow’s life and the narrative of the book. Morrow finds herself unable to sleep night after night as she continues to read the book and submit to the psychic attack that her ex-husband has constructed for it. Nocturnal Animals is about art and how often art galleries offer none of it, none of the visceral, nerve-ending reactions that more populist media are able to offer. At the beginning of the movie, we have to sit through rich art collectors talking about how cynical they are and how all of their work is meaningless, that it all comes from some vestigial part of you that might’ve existed when you were younger but now only exists to serve itself. Nocturnal Animals is about deeply personal art that’s weaponized, and used to get even.

Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1992


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