Your mind is the scene of the crime.

Your eyes may be open but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re awake.

All that glitters isn’t necessarily gold, not all travelers are lost, and that stuff underneath your feet isn’t necessarily Earth. When the sky’s the limit (and possibly not even then), when you can do and create anything, you’re still grounded by your own rules. Your own sense of understanding of ideas and concepts. Theft and violation are painfully easy, but inspiration is hard. Just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there. Things can only appear strange to you sometimes when you’re told that perhaps that’s what you should be looking for. Sometimes it’s hard to fall, or to feel like you’re falling, when there is no gravity.

This is my simple, rudimentary thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s Inception in three and a half points.

1. Every time I go to see a good movie in a movie theater, one that both excites and intrigues and involves me in some regard, be it superficial or something deeper, more substantial, it’s like a dream, isn’t it? We love the idea of dreams because they’re the perfect metaphor for… anything. Anything you desire.

And more so, we love our stories, and we love comparing movies to dreams.

Film logic just has to captivate you for the time that you’re watching it, to keep you floating in a suspension of (dis)belief, and then the movie ends, the credits roll, and you crawl out of the cave of the cinema. If you’re going to see the matinee, then the sun outside is harsh, and cruel. Your senses are heightened to extraordinary degrees. Every step feels more epic, the angle of objects seems more profound. You just experienced something amazing and you’re taking a little bit of it with you, and by contrast, you feel like you’re leaving a little of yourself behind, but you move on from it because you feel touched, activated, feeling pretty amazing yourself. You move with your own soundtrack blaring, your mind working overtime and recovering from the shock of excitement.

Waking up from an intense, weighty dream can inspire you and invigorate you, especially if for even just half a second, you think you’re waking and walking into another dream, even more stupendous, and of your own design.

2. Comparing things to video games infuriates me. But mostly it’s the people doing the comparing that bother me because, honestly, the idea of comparing things, especially movies, and certain modes of reality, to the idea of a “video game” interests me. I’m by no means a gamer, but the idea, and it’s possibilities, excites me.

Video games are like dreams in a certain regard, aren’t they? At times you’re completely powerful, in control of everything in your surroundings and yourself, and then, with little to no warning, you’re absolutely powerless and everything is completely out of control. The shit hits the fan, then the fan explodes, and somebody gets their head cut off.

Inception feels like a video game. It’s a cerebral maze of ideas, working on a multiple of levels, dabbling exquisitely in both terms of narrative, time structures, visual metaphors, and big ideas and memes (and sorry, everybody, I know the word is beyond detested, but the concept of it, the virus of the idea that spreads and can’t be killed is both thrilling and terrifying).

The other day Benjie Light and I were talking about things that we want to do in our lives, stupid things that we want to imitate from the movies/books/pop culture stories that we’ve ingested and loved over the years, and my big three things were 1) solve a mystery, preferably a locked room murder mystery, 2) plan and execute a (hopefully successful) heist, and 3) diffuse a bomb with mere seconds left on the clock. Commander Light also understandably suggested “car chase” as a scenario that would be nice to throw in the mix, and he’s right, but I’d toss that into the heist paradigm.

My point: I would love to play the video game based on Inception. The one that has a story that works brilliantly and ambitiously and only gets strange when a stranger suggests to you that something seems strange. And then you explore the depths of that strangeness. You have fist fights in rolling hallways, watch cities rise up to meet you, get attacked by angry mobs and the spectre of your Oscar-winning French hottie wife, fire guns, blow shit up, both run and chase after faceless nefarious goons, and deliver mind blowing bits of exposition while looking incredibly GQ.

Also, I’ll say this: Inception had a certain frame of mind to it that I feel like The Matrix could’ve really benefited from having had ten years ago.

It’s a video game that would excite you on a variety of levels, both on the superficial and the deeper, the more intellectual. A cerebral workout. An existential knife fight. The only thing that would make it better than the movie, though, would be that it was presumably interactive.

2 1/2. The thing I’ve noticed about Nolan’s films is that they’re all plot. They’re far from indulgent and long and dense and they move fast, leaving very little time for fireworks that are purely character building. In that sense, he’s the exact opposite of P.T. Anderson, who’s films are all character, and sometimes those characters move in a certain direction that takes them from a starting point to a stopping point. But in the exercises of narrative, Nolan manages to paint shades of characters, both skeletal sketches, like Cillian Murphy’s character in Inception, and those with the driving illusion of more depth, like Dicaprio’s in this film.

And grounded. So grounded. Nolan’s films are fantastical creatures of oneiric energy that are dreamed up by inhabitants of the real world. As scholarly influenced as they are, even their madness, and his, is grounded, and logical. His Gotham City and battle gear clad vigilantes are both out of this world and something that could play on the 5 o’cock news in this world.

Nolan doesn’t speak in a language of dragons and flying carpets and talking animals and liquid robots that morph in physics-defying feats of light and spectacle. His characters live in dreamlands based on urban mazes and high speed travel and real world concern and drabness. And they dream/create with the tools that their worlds give them.

Half of movies is glamor and glitz and show and all preconceived notions. And Nolan is good about using that, especially in his casting. Michael Caine can walk into just about any scene in a movie now and seem like the wise, but slightly jaded mentor who knows that you’re about to go down a pretty dark, fairly shitty path, but still supports your decision and has a few nuggets of sage wisdom for you. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a certain level of cool attached to himself, either earned or not earned. Ellen Page perfectly fits into the category of smart newbie who’s still learning the ropes and is beginning a journey, despite her probably immense and amazing knowledge of all things Cisco. Ken Watanabe always carries a certain sinister edge with him, though perhaps that’s just an occidental thing. And Leonardo Dicaprio has perfectly aligned himself with a certain archetype, that of the little boy grown up into a man, hardened with anger and guilt, and we’ve accepted him as the protagonist cipher who will either work through his issues or ultimately be destroyed by them.

My only complaint about the actual production/composition of this film is the level of soundtrack on display at all times. I really liked Hans Zimmer’s score to the film, so much so that I went and bought the soundtrack immediately after the movie concluded, which was a surreal experience all of it’s own since I saw the film at the theater in the mall which was a weird labyrinth to wander through as I was re-composing myself into reality after exiting the movie. Maybe it was just a bad mix at that theater, but the score seemed to be too loud at certain points, competing with the actors and their dialogue, sometimes defeating them a little, which is a shame because as I said, with Nolan’s movies, nothing is wasted, not a single shot, not a single glance or expression, and especially not a single word or sentence.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the kind of movie that Counterforce has been waiting for all of it’s short life (2+ years now).

SPOILERS, from here.

Apropos of nothing, here’s an idea that you should carry with you into viewing this movie: “just as movies are metaphorical dreams, maybe dreams are metaphorical movies.” Well said. Inception can be just another popcorn action heist movie for you if you want (especially in 2010, the year we make contact with heist movies like The Losers, The A-Team, and Takers), or it can be something more. Or both.

Benjamin Light put forth a desire that I’ll repeat here: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page should do more movies together. They’re the brightest of the hip young things in the world of thespians with cred these days, yes?

That said, amazingly, James Franco was close to getting Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role originally. And Nolan’s original desire was to cast Evan Rachel Wood in the role of the architect, and then it floated towards Emily Blunt, Rachel McAdams, and even Emma Roberts before Ellen Page was cast. That’s just fascinating. And so bizarre.

3. I haven’t repeated the plot of Inception here and I’m not going to. Go look it up. Then watch the movie. Then watch it again. Here’s a spoiler though: Inception ends just like Shutter Island, after a fashion.

There’s a college course or at least a long conversation for armchair cineaists and philosophers in movies like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Mulholland Drive, and Synecdoche, New York, and Inception belongs in the mix with them. Movies are all dream logic, especially more so in the last few years. At a certain point, a 1/3 or 2/3 of the way through movies with a certain “out there” kind of story, we start to look for the seams and loose threads of the eventual reveal that “it was all a dream.” Especially in Synechdoche, New York. By the end of that film, you’re pretty sure that at some point you’ve crossed over into a dream world, but the question is simply: Where? At least Mulholland Drive is a little more straight forward about that, at least, for the filmgoer with is both actively looking for and completely open to massive weird download of logic and strange visuals and strong, penetrating emotions the film requires you to take in.

Shutter Island almost belongs in that same thread of films, and somewhat suffered because of it. Read any two reviews of that film and at least one will say some variation of “I could guess the ending of this movie long before the finish line and you know why? Because I’ve seen movies before.” So little shocks us these days, and we’re somewhat let down by twist endings now just because they’re expected. We set an extra place at the dinner table for them. Identity was a fine, harmless movie, but after about 25 minutes into it, you were pretty sure that a crime was being committed against you and the culprit was going to be a writer with a flashy, showing idea about tricking your expectations.

And once you start to look for those tricks, you feel like a trick that’s been turned. You open your eyes, you see the money on the dresser.

At least Inception is up front and honest about all of this, with it’s simple and confounding tagline: “Your mind is the scene of the crime.”

from here.

To mix metaphors even more: I think one of the many problems with the modern take on “twist endings” and “it was all a dream” logic in the cinema is that your goals as a viewer and participant get too confused. Are you looking for the map or are you looking for where the map leads you. X is supposed to mark the spot, but it’s tough to translate that when you’re X in that equation.

And, slowly but surely, twist endings are becoming the new “Hollywood ending.” Once upon a time and through the woods and only in a dream can you live happily ever after.

The thing that saves Inception and Shutter Island‘s endings is that they fall down to the user. You’re required to make a certain level of decisions, to feel something, and decide what you believed just happened. You have to be both actively involved, and also open and ready to receive, you have to “get it,” and in return, the film lets you pick a path to go down. It was all dream. Or it wasn’t. The main character remembers everything. Or doesn’t. Something happened here. Or maybe it was there. Maybe it was earlier. Or later. This is a review. It isn’t.

Actually, it isn’t. Just my immediate reactions, of a sort, having just walked out of the movie something like two hours ago (it’s roughly 5 PM as I write this). Such a strange experience watching the end credits rolling for that movie. Like I was walking out of a half remembered dream of sorts, standing on a widening chasm between a narrative flashing on the walls of my unconscious/subconscious mind and the harsh light of day in the real world. Which works dually for this movie as well: An artsy movie full of deep ideas, or at least ideas that can feel deep, but done in a slick, expensively executed mainstream way. As if Michael Mann had remade 8 1/2.

The theater I was in was virtually empty, the two other people there with me more invisible than usual, and it was so strange to feel that as I walked out of the shared dream that is the cinema that way. Dreamspace faded away, light entered the room, the real world was knocking on the door, and I felt more alone than usual. It was a scary but important feeling, my brain decided as it’s gears grinded and took delight in processing what it just took in, but even still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the movie was over and now it was time to go back to sleep.


Once is never enough.

Isn’t that the truth?

I was stalking through the internet yesterday looking for people’s thoughts on 8 1/2 and where “asa nisi masa” was sprinkled about the world (it’d make the ultimate tattoo, body art freaks), I happened upon a blog of a woman whom appears to be a teacher, and she was talking about how she was teaching her students the classic Fellini film that week (the week she posted the blog, back in September of 2007). One of the commenters on her blog mentioned that she should take a gander at the Pauline Kael review of the movie, citing that the venerable critic hated the movie and it’s pretentious intellectualism, saying, “Fellini throws in his disorganized ideas and lets the audience sort out their meanings for themselves.” I think that’s called the Tarantino method, only Fellini is of course a real filmmaker and Tarantino is a fan boy with connections.

Pauline Kael then goes on to quote the film itself, when the wife says to the husband, “If you had any brains you’d take them out and play with them.” Which segues nicely into me saying that this, in the movie, all has to do with a seemingly orthodox fear of onanism and exploring a healthy guilt-free sexuality.

The commenter on that blog who mentioned the Kael review also essentially remarked that anything he said should be taken with a grain of salt after all, because he had only seen the movie once. And then he added, “Einmal ist keinmal.”

Being the third time I’d heard this phrase in the span of a few weeks, my ears (or eyeballs, I guess) perked up. I believe in connections. I don’t really put much faith in sweet little fictions like God, or Jesus as he’s known (I’m sorry, but I find it hard to believe that a carpenter who looked like Barry Gibb who was strolling around in sandals and wowing the hoi polloi with simple street magic should be my messiah), but I do believe in a much higher power in this sometimes breathtakingly beautiful, sometimes surprisingly fucked up universe: Synchronicity.

Yesterday it was asa nisi masa, the anima and the animus, and now it’s synchronicity. Somehow it always comes back to Jung, doesn’t it? Don’t just take my word for it, though I’m pretty sure this happy looking Asian couple will agree with me:

Einmal ist keinmal is a simple German phrase that literally translates as “once is never.” Or, if you want to get much looser: “Once is never enough.” But that has slightly positive connotations, doesn’t it? From what I read, when used in commonplace German conversations (which I imagine involves lots of yelling and screaming because, after all, it’d be Germans having this conversation)(and I know what you’re thinking, cause it’s the same thing I’m thinking when I see a bunch of Germans talking: “Hitler, Hitler, Hitler…”)(If you’re pondering where the humor is there, I don’t mind telling you: It’s in the racism) it pretty much denotes a having to prove something by doing it more than once.

Like I said, the blog comment yesterday was the third encounter I’ve had with this phrase popping it’s way into my life. The second was about a week ago when I was having a conversation with an incredibly smart and strikingly beautiful German girl in a bookstore. She was loud and very domineering (Hitler, Hitler, Hitler!), but in a very wonderfully European way, as was her freeness and her very casual charm. We almost ran into each other on the fiction aisle, both of us not really looking where we were going as we were thumbing through the I’s (that’s almost a meta comment right there). This lead to a conversation about Kazuo Ishiguro. I said I was a fan of his and she said she’d only read one of this books. “It was good,” she told me in a way that didn’t make her accent sound like culture vomit. “Very easy, very free flowing in a nice way, but you know… Einmal ist keinmal.”

And I have to tell you that she was impressed that I actually knew what the expression meant, and I did, because I had seen it a few weeks earlier when I was reading MOME #11. If yo don’t know what it is, MOME is a quarterly literary journal conceived by Gary Groth and published by Fantagraphics that’s primary storytelling medium is sequential art rather than prose, and featuring a lot of stars of the independent, high minded comics scene like Andrice Arp, Al Columbia (who killed Big Numbers), Jim Woodring, Sophie Crumb, Dash Shaw, and many others.  It’s typically a fun read and nice for those of us who just can’t fucking afford Kramers Ergot.

Killoffer was the headliner of Vol. #11 with a story called, surprise, surprise, “Einmal Ist Keinmal.” Killoffer is a French artist and writer and one of the co-founders of an independent French comics publisher called L’Association. He doesn’t acknowledge it, but his style is a very experimental take on ligne claire (what that means to you is Hergé and a future Adventures of Tintin movie coming to a theater near you soon, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Steven Moffat). He only has one book published in America so far, but he’s considered one of the best of the foreign artists being sought for more appearances stateside.

Killoffer’s “Einmal Ist Keinmal” fits in nicely to vol. #11 of MOME with it’s strong focus on visuals rather than text. The black and white 12 page story going about her life, waking up, showering, going to work, dealing with coworkers, going out to eat, dreaming, watching the news, etc. except that every man she sees or encounters looks exactly like Killoffer. Every man she works with is Killoffer. Every man on the street is Killoffer. Every guy on the mass transit system is Killoffer. When she sees the President on the TV, he’s Killoffer. The only deviation from this is in a dream she has where the man she meets has Killoffer’s hair but her face. Things get intimate and when she begins to fondle her potential dream lover’s penis we discover that hiding there in his foreskin is Killoffer’s very distinct head. That’s a striking image in particular, but the stark black and white works nicely with the vague nightmare-ish quality to the story that’s either an interesting take on the male gaze, or the fact that Killoffer loves himself. Or that he has a hard time drawing male figures that don’t look like him (which fits neatly with his English language book, The 676 Apparitions Of Killoffer). I won’t spoil the story’s excellent final mise-en-scène, but it works nicely.

It’s a nice introduction to the artist and at some point, I think I’d like to look at some more of his work, so I should get his book and have a look at it. Einmal ist keinmal!

It would also be a shame of me not to mention that the phrase is used to mean “what happens might as well never have happened” in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being. The books falls into the category of those classics that I’ve started and sadly not finished (something the fraulein in the bookstore gave me a good deal of shit about rightfully so), but maybe someday? Maybe. I do remember from it the notion that womanizing is man’s essential es muss sein! and that life basically sucks, full of unbearable lightness, and we all have only one life to live and therefore everything we do or decide is pointless and insignificant. The Prague Spring and super hyper existentialism! Oh, and eventually it made into a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche that I’m told has it’s fair share of eroticism in it.

Now I totally want to see a future Counterforce post called “The Unbearable Lightness Of Benjamin,” don’t you? Ha ha!

Some of what you might consider graphic novels are becoming literature.

Sarah Palin is getting her own comic book.

Speaking of which, here is a nice series of profiles on political cartoonists, including Goya and Tenniel.

As you may’ve seen an associate of this very blog say in the comments in my previous post, there will be some form of posse from Counterforce at next year’s Wondercon in San Francisco. I’d say we’ve established decent nerd cred for that already, right? Einmal ist keinmal! I’d like to sporatically continue talking about various independent comics and graphic novels here and there, but I believe my next post will probably be about Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the slaying of the manxome Jabberwock. See you then.

Four colors, the beautiful confusion, and “the X stands for everything.”

Asa Nisi Masa.

There’s a scene in Fellini’s brilliant 8 1/2 where Guido, the blocked director struggling to make his new film, flashes back to his childhood living with a large family in a farmhouse. It’s late and the family has left the children alone and Guido’s cousin (or sister, or… whatever) awoke Guido to remind him: “Asa Nisi Masa.” That was their secret chant when looking at the painting on the wall. Those were the magic words to make the picture move, to bring it to life, to have it’s eyes point in the direction of treasure. “Asa Nisi Masa. Asa Nisi Masa,” they’d drone on and on by the light of the fire…

It has an effect on Guido, never really leaving his mind, so much so that many decades later a couple of magicians who at first appear to be frauds are able to pull the cryptic phrase from his mind. It’s a nifty cinematic trick, a bridge from the future to the past, showing us a little of the way the mind of Guido, Fellini’s stand in, works. And the way he feels that he’s losing his gift as a director, his magical ability to make the pictures move. But it’s also so much more.

“Asa Nisi Masa” is child speak pig latin for Anima, the unconscious true inner self in Jung’s school of analytical psychology as opposed to the persona, the outer aspect of one’s personality. Well, actually, it’s more than just that. Anima is the personification of the repressed feminine characteristics in the male mind (while animus would be the personification of the repressed masculine characteristics in the female mind). This deeper level is just another of the many reasons why this movie, originally titled La Bella Confusione (The Beautiful Confusion), works so perfectly, since it’s essentially detailing for us Guido’s intense confusion when it comes to dealing with women. He has to balance his voracious sexual appetite with his religious programming with what seems to be his inability to fully understand how or why relationships work. Or how to control them. And on top of it, there’s his creative impulses, and his desire to conjure up the magic words to make it all work, to fuse it all together to make the pictures move.

On my first viewing of 8 1/2 (given that title because it was total number of films that Fellini had directed, and this movie is all about him, a man working his through his issues, working through his block and finding himself still arrogant and egotistical but also filthy with talent) years ago I didn’t even come closing to picking up on what “Asa Nisi Masa” meant. I think you can understand the nature of Guido and his women pretty easily even if you don’t have words like Anima and names like Carl Jung to throw at it, but my interest in pushing deeper and discovering and devouring that extra bit came when I noticed those magical words, that special incantation to make the image come to life, in the pages of a comic book.

Casanova, created and written by Matt Fraction. Issues #1-7 (season 1, “Luxuria“) illustrated by Gabria Ba and issues #8-14 (season 2, “Gula”) illustrated by Ba’s twin brother, Fabio Moon. You can read the first issue here. As insane as it sounds, the series has been called the first important comic of the 21st century and I’m starting to lean in that direction myself, or at least happy to see that it’s a series unafraid of letting smart and fun go hand in hand together. I’ll let Wikipedia give you a general summary of the series: At the beginning of the first issue, Casanova “Cass” Quinn works as a freelance thief and espionage artist who has turned his back on the rest of the Quinn family. His father, Cornelius, runs the world spanning spy organization E.M.P.I.R.E. of which Casanova’s twin sister Zephyr is a top agent, while his mother Anna has been hidden away in a vegetative state for unknown reasons. Casanova is the black sheep of the family and only makes contact with his father when his sister is killed during a mission – they meet again and fight at her funeral.

The funeral is actually a turning point for Casanova’s life as a mystery device is planted on him without his knowledge, a device which thrusts him bodily into the inner sanctum of Newman Xeno – a bandaged super-genius hedonist running an evil organization called W.A.S.T.E (referencing Pynchon’s The Crying Of Lot 49, though taking it step further and having W.A.S.T.E. always stand for something different, like “We’re All So Terribly Excited” one moment, and something else the next). This Xeno, however, reveals that Casanova’s actually been transplanted into a parallel timeline – moving from Timeline 909 to Timline 919 – where Casanova was the dead E.M.P.I.R.E. agent and the very much alive Zephyr is the bad girl thief working for W.A.S.T.E. The morally ambivalent Casanova is drawn into a deceitful game where he appears as his own dead counterpart to work both sides of the W.A.S.T.E./E.M.P.I.R.E. coin.

From there, I’ll just add that it’s like Super Alias on magic sex drugs from the future, with Casanova going on missions for the good guys while also carrying out counter-missions at the same time for the bad guys and trying to keep his head above water when it concerns those who want to control him (and his very naughty, very fun sister). Some of the missions involve snatching up former E.M.P.I.R.E. agents who’ve gone all Colonel Kurtz on an island of orgone-fueled robot orgies or having to kidnap a David Blaine-like magician (David Blaine fucking wishes) who’s undergone a 12 year long meditation like procedure to turn himself into a living God while then having to come up with a robot double to replace the original because his counter-mission involves “creating a little zen chaos.”

The series is heavily influenced by Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius and things like Diabolik and Casanova is drawn like a much cooler version of 70’s Mick Jagger. The series impresses with each new issue with it’s continuous references, whether it be children named after old CIA torture manuals, aliases derived from albums by The Mountain Goats, or lines like “I want to shoot this guy so bad my dick is hard,” which both comes from New Jack City and manages to be a very nice, very not too subtle bit of foreshadowing.

I had read the first season of Casanova (as they break up the storylines in easy to digest television-like mini batches, utilizing season premiere issues and season finale issues, “previously in Casanova” recap segments, etc.)(it makes it easy for a writer like Fraction to do something like this, which he clearly loves, then take a break and go work for someone like Marvel and make some actual money) about a year back and finally got around to reading the second one this past weekend. It was, unsurprisingly, excellent. And best of all, not at all what you expected. All the set up laid out in the last issues of the first season? Barely touched upon, and when touched upon, widely expanded, and the series was bold enough to barely even feature it’s lead character this time around, instead leading the excellent supporting cast take over for a storyline unofficially titled “When is Casanova Quinn?”

Each issue (and you can’t really see it in the above cover, but each issue usually has a vaguely Klimt-like quality that I love for it’s ugly simplicity) in the second season was good (and filled with the same kidn of treats for longtime readers and those who just generally pay attention as fans of The Venture Bros. would get) but then I got to #10 and the series became so much more for me. The issue starts at the masquerade ball reveal of particularly cruel version of reality TV. A young woman, the guest of honor, learns that the morbidly obese man that she thought was her therapist is actually the ringmaster in orchestrating every single event in her life over the past few years, every high, every low, and that it’s all been filmed for the enjoyment of his demented troupe and he whom call themselves The Secret Cinema. Her uptight banker boyfriend who she had to begrudgingly ask to perform oral sex on her? He’s actually a gay hustler with hepatitis, which she probably has now too. Your roommate? She’s been selling her panties online and using the money to buy hidden recording equipment in the bathroom. The kindly elderly landlord and his wife? They’ve been the ones in charge of putting disgusting things in her food. And all of it’s been filmed. And all of it’s been laughed at. She’s been the butt of these people’s jokes for a long time now as they’ve “focus group fucked and gang bang branded” her life into a narrative and as she breaks down at the reveal, they celebrate. They’re going to turn her out into some prostitution ring now that her human spirit is completely broken apart. “Asa nisi masa,” the ringleader says gleefully, caressing her tear-stained cheek as she kneels before him, emotionally shattered. “Open your head,” he tells her, “and the let the pictures come…”

“I want to shoot this guy so bad my dick is hard,” says Casanova’s sister, Zephyr, as she watches all of this on tape during a mission brief. She’s become the female lead with a twist of the second storyline, and is now working for a hi-tech super terrorist group calling themselves X.S.M. The S and M stand for Super Mechanix and the X stands for anything they want it to. The X stands for nothing, or anything, so therefore, “the X stands for everything.” They’ve been hired to kill the ringleader of The Secret Cinema, the large fraudulent psychiatrist Dr. Toppogrosso, and Zephyr’s the girl to do the job. But she doesn’t just want to kill him, she wants to destroy his whole organization, and for fun too, the same fun he takes out of destroying others.

She goes undercover as a mousy librarian-looking new patient of Dr. Toppogrosso’s and willingly sets herself up for one of his traps. She gives him information about herself and he begins his schemes on her, first hoping to shock her by blowing her car up in front of her, but it doesn’t shock her, she tells him. It excites her. She gives her statement to the police at the scene of the explosion and she checks herself out in the mirror of a car parked there. “it suddenly felt important to look good,” she tells the doctor, though she knew that one of his cameramen was hidden in that very car, capturing her admiring her appearance. Then she went and got ice cream from the supermarket. As much as she wanted, all of it because it was very unhealthy. At home, after devouring several cartons of the ice cream (“Gula,” the title of second arc, in addition to being a Babylonian goddess, means “gluttony” and in a lot of different ways, that’s very much what this storyline is about) she gets herself off right there on the couch. And again and again, she proudly tells the faux therapist. This blows his mind since she appeared to be such a timid creature when she first entered his office for her first appointment (she wears glasses after all!), but now he’s impressed, shocked, amazed. “Such naked candor,” he moans in awe. She smiles and says it’s something she’s gotten very good at, and asks if he’d like to see what else she’s gotten good as she removes her shirt in front of him.

There, tattooed right over her heart, are the words “Asa nisi masa.”

She then takes the doctor sexually right there in his chair, pulling him out of his amazement and into her. I won’t spoil the big reveal of the “Gula” storyline too overtly for you here, but what you’re seeing is a brilliant play on the male super sexuality usually on display in spy stories. That and the fact that “asa nisi masa” isn’t just the words that make the pictures move, it’s also the words that bring the anima to life. Oh, and I will add that Zephyr films her seduction of Dr. Toppogrosso and plays it later as she climaxes during a particularly fitting orgy of violence in a cinema.

In the backmatter to Casanova #10, Matt Fraction talks about how the name of The Secret Cinema came from an old Paul Bartel short film (that was later remade by the director into an episode of Amazing Stories) he had seen when he was younger. He also mentioned seeing 8 1/2 when he was younger and how much it affected him, especially the scene with young Guido, the director’s semi-autobiographical stand in. “You know why I love Fellini?” Fraction says, “because his movies feel like my dreams feel.”

In that same mini essay in the back of the issue, Fraction brings up something that I had forgotten, despite my vast reservoir of useless knowledge about classic films. Throughout the filming of the 8 1/2, Fellini kept a note taped to the camera as a constant remember to himself. It said, “REMEMBER: THIS IS A COMEDY.”

Fraction then mentions that he keeps a similar note taped to his computer monitor when he’s writing: DON’T SUCK.

Chicken scratched on a piece of paper in front of me as I write this are the words “Einmal ist keinmal.” They almost literally translate as “once is nonce,” or “once is never,” or even “one time is no time.” Why? I’m so glad you asked. Stop by tomorrow and maybe, just maybe, I’ll tell you. Until then, I’m going to see if I can make the pictures move…