Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The X Files: Arcadia; X-Cops; Hollywood A.D.; Je Souhaite

The X Files; science-fiction mystery series, USA, 1999, 2000; D: Michael Watkins, David Duchovny, Vince Gilligan, S: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Peter White, Abraham Benrubi, Judson Mills, Gary Shandling, Tea Leoni, Paula Sorge

Four episodes of the X files: FBI agents Mulder and Scully go undercover feigning to be a couple in order to investigate a small suburban town where the mayor, Gogolak, uses the Tibetan powers to create a mud monster that may kill anyone who breaks his rules... The TV programm "Cops" stumbles upon Mulder and Scully who joins forces with the police in order to investigate a monster on the streets that changes shapes during full moon... Mulder isn't too thrilled that Skinner's friend, filmmaker Federman, is making a film about him and Scully for Hollywood... Two dumb brothers, Anson and Leslie, discover a magic genie in a rug, in a form of a cynical woman, and waste their three wishes on rubbish. Mulder decides to use his last wish to give the woman freedom from being a genie.

While several TV shows lose their inspiration in later seasons, "The X Files" actually delivered some of the most creative and best episodes in seasons six and seven. Naturally, this hyped series is uneven, yet these four really stand out with ease. "Arcadia" is a hilarious satire on Utopian, small suburban towns, where the bigger the smiles the bigger the dark shadows behind the inhabitants who all hide a secret. The storyline is assembled remarkably "off", as if the viewers always know something is wrong in the scene but cannot quite put their finger on it, and the writer seems to enjoy exploiting this "rebellion" against Totalitarian perfection to the maximum (Mulder breaks his mailbox and pours some juice on it, just to see who from his neighbors will try to fix it for him to bring back order), whereas a special bonus are the opulent filming locations, since the town reminds a lot of the one in the thematically similar "The Truman Show", and the detail that Mulder and Scully pretend to be a married couple is delicious, which obviously leads to several good moments (Mulder lies on the bed and jokingly "invites" Scully to join him). "X-Cops" is a grand spoof on the "Cops" TV show, where the documentary-style camera at first follows the daily routine of a cop, but then "accidentally" stumbles upon Mulder and Scully investigating a monster on the streets. It took the already known two protagonists the viewers are used to, and placed them in an unthinkable concept, thereby creating magic, a perception as if the viewers explore them for the first time. Writer Vince Gilligan delivered again some wonderfully playful moments (a witness describes the monster, and the sketch artists draws Freddy Krueger; the gay couple bickering...), whereas the original idea was even more spectacular: Mulder and Scully should have appeared in the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries"!

"Hollywood A.D." is David Duchovny's trip both as a writer and director, yet it is the weakest of the four episodes: while the self-referential idea that Hollywood is making a film with Gary Shandling and Tea Leoni playing Mulder and Scully is fantastic, the middle part of the story, where Mulder and Scully are investigating forged gospels in a church, leads nowhere and feels like a fifth wheel. There are several good jokes here, such as the movie Mulder and Scully kissing, which causes the real Mulder in the audience to face palm, or when Mulder is talking to filmmaker Federman about who will play him in the movie ("I was thinking about Richard Gere..." - "We have Gary Shandling." - "Excuse me, you're breaking up, I thought you said Gary Shandling for a minute..."), but several arbitrary scenes have no place in the storyline at all (the moving skeleton; the zombies that dance in the last scene), which shows that, at least here, Duchovny was not yet mature enough as a director and writer, who should always know what or why something is presented. "Je Souhaite" is the first episode actually directed by writer Gilligan, who demonstrated his skills: while the opening five minutes are unnecessary disturbing and bizarre, the rest of the episode plays out practically as a comedy, playing with the ultimate contradiction: power (a genie with three wishes) is given to people who are incompetent to use it the right way. Here one brother wishes to be invisible, but gets instantly killed by a truck on the street, while the other, who is in a wheelchair, is too dumb to simply wish for the obvious. Leaving the abundant comedy aside, "Je Souhaite" uncharacteristically offers one of the most precious, beautiful, wise and cherished quotes of not only the entire series, but also the entire decade, on TV, and delivers it in such an elegant and unobtrusive way it is a small slice of perfection: when Mulder asks the woman-genie to tell what she would want from her life, she goes: "I'd wish that I never heard the word 'wish' before. I wish that I lived my life moment by moment, enjoying it for what it is instead of worrying of what it isn't. I'd sit somewhere with a great cup of coffee and I'd watch the world go by."


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