Saturday, May 20, 2017

American Psycho

Author Bret Easton Ellis, Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman), and Director Mary Herron discuss American Psycho.

This is a rare 1999 documentary about Ellis. It mixes interviews with dramatizations of scenes from his writing. The American Psycho bits are terrible, especially compared to the actual movie, which was released in 2000. Rewatching the movie today, my main reaction is that Bale is simply brilliant as Patrick Bateman: e.g., Hip to be Square (reprised by Huey Lewis himself here).

It seems likely that the title American Psycho is partly an homage to the late 1970s film American Gigolo, which had a big impact on Ellis. (I highly recommend BEE's podcast to anyone interested in film or literature.)
Rolling Stone: 'American Psycho' at 25

Before American Psycho came out, 25 years ago this month, it was already the most controversial novel of the Nineties. Its vivid depictions of gruesome murders of women, men, children and animals preceded wherever it went. The original publisher dropped it and told author Bret Easton Ellis to keep the money — but to please go away. The New York Times titled its book review "Snuff This Book!" On the opposite coast, Los Angeles Times begrudgingly wrote that "Free Speech Protects Even an 'American Psycho.'" The National Organization of Women attempted to organize boycotts. Stores refused to order it. And Ellis, who turned 27 around its release, received death threats. ...

Has the way that Patrick Bateman has become a cult character surprised you?
What if I said, no? [Pause.] I'm kidding [laughs]. Of course, it was surprising to me. American Psycho was an experimental novel. I wasn't really quite sure, nor did I care, how many copies it was going to sell. I really didn't care who connected with it.

Why is that?
I created this guy who becomes this emblem for yuppie despair in the Reagan Eighties – a very specific time and place ...

... Beginning in the Eighties, men were prettifying themselves and in ways they weren't. And they were taking on a lot of the tropes of gay male culture and bringing it into straight male culture — in terms of grooming, looking a certain way, going to the gym, waxing, and being almost the gay porn ideals. You can track that down to the way Calvin Klein advertised underwear, a movie like American Gigolo, the re-emergence of Gentlemen's Quarterly. All of these things really informed American Psycho when I was writing it. So that seemed to me much more interesting than whether he is or is not a serial killer, because that really is a small section of the book. ...

... Patrick Bateman, who was obsessed with Donald Trump, would likely be pretty happy with his campaign.
Or would he be embarrassed? Trump today isn't the Trump of 1987. He's not the Trump of Art of the Deal. He seemed much more elitist in '87, '88. Now he seems to be giving a voice to white, angry, blue-collar voters. I think, in a way, Patrick Bateman may be disappointed by how Trump is coming off and who he's connecting with.

To the guys that I was talking to in the Eighties when I was researching American Psycho, Donald Trump was an aspirational figure. That's why the jokes are throughout the book. It wasn't like I pulled that out of my hat; that was happening. And so I just thought it was funny that "OK, well, Patrick Bateman's gonna be obsessed with Donald Trump. He's gonna want to aspire to be Donald Trump." And I don't know if he would think that today. ...

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