List 14

As long as you are not conscious of your self you can live; but if you become conscious of your self, you fall from one grave into another. All your rebirths could ultimately make you sick. The Buddha therefore finally gave up on rebirth, for he had had enough of crawling through all human and animal forms. After all the rebirths you still remain the lion crawling on the earth, the Chameleon, a caricature, one prone to changing colors, a crawling shimmering lizard . . .

C.G. Jung, The Red Book (1915-1930)

Greetings All,

After skipping nervously through the existential minefields of last week’s films, one might’ve thought that this list would be making up for all of the anxiety induced by Identity Crisis with one long confetti-filled victory lap of movies calculated to make us feel good about ourselves, the world around us, and our place in it.

Alas and alack, this list ain’t that.

Not by a long shot.

Each of these films offers a memorable response to the following questions: Is rebirth something to be welcomed or suffered? Something we must chase down or innocently stumble upon? Something that necessarily changes us for the better or perhaps leaves us worse off than we could have ever imagined?

Two sides of one quarter are still only worth 25 cents, and it seems to us a more interesting endeavor to reflect on how these categories (Identity Crisis/Rebirth) might be more symbiotic than stark contrasts. Thus, we begin with a lyrical film by Lynne Ramsay about identity-squatting-as-rebirth that does not do quite what you expect it to do when you expect it to do it. Following it up is Joseph Kahn’s third feature-length film, which offers an acerbic, insightful, and deeply offensive satire of academia, battle rap, and woke culture while working its way toward a rebirth scene that ought to make you fidget distressfully on the couch. The Pedro Almodóvar film that’s sequenced next in the list won’t alleviate these tensions and discomfort, but it will intensify and reinforce them in ways that are sure to startle you. Our last two movies this week take seriously the last question signposted above, and as you watch Cary Joji Fukunaga’s African child-soldier drama and Ari Aster’s witchcraft horror film, the matter of what rebirth can be made to mean will come more and more to the fore.

While we certainly hope that you are all currently thriving and adapting and completing that long list of personal goals you never thought you’d ever be getting around to before, we see no harm in exploring exactly how tough all this rebirth stuff can be.

So, without further ado, we give you beautiful imposters, progressive bigots, vengeful surgeons, child soldiers, and straight-up body snatchers.

Maybe the lesson this motley crew has to teach us is that a healthy dose of radical self-acceptance is just what the doctor ordered.

Let’s get to it!