The Frontier, Now.

Is there any place left in this world for the outsider or the misfit? On anarchy, sovereignty, and why The Way of the Gun is a utopian tale, if you let yourself look at it sideways.

Trust life. If you're careful enough to listen, life does take care.

So we are told by Hal Chiddick in The Way of the Gun, a film by Chris McQuarrie. The film rather conspicuously—and this is not a criticism—pays homage to the spaghetti western. With its gritty violence, its frontier setting, its "rugged individual" male-centric story line and its extra-legal ethical choices and dilemmas, The Way of the Gun asks, meta-style: Where is the frontier, now? What place is left for the outsider, the misfit, the person for whom society has no use and no zone of refuge?

The film opens with a pointless fight. Our two protagonists, to whom we are introduced only once, by outside narration, pick a fight with a bunch of party-ers... why? For no reason. Because they don't care about anything, or they just want to cause trouble, experience the joy of transgression, or something. Just after this opening fight, which is full of (purposefully) idiotic dialogue and equally idiotic because absolutely pointless violence, the camera pans up and out, rising above the prostrate bodies of our protagonists, to the accompaniment of a distinctly spaghetti- western musical composition. This is when we hear their names, in this formal format: "For the record I'll call myself Mr. Parker. My associate will be Mr. Longbaugh."

Misters. And "for the record," etc. Are these their real names? Of course, this question doesn't matter. Their names don't matter. Throughout the remainder of the film there is never a moment when you as viewer or any of the characters in the film wonders about or attempts to use the name of either of these characters. Because they don't matter. They are outside of society. And it is impossible to say whether they chose to leave society behind or society simply booted them outside, leaving them with no choice.

Such a dichotomy, presenting this outsider status as a possible choice, is disingenuous. Hence the question, where is the frontier, now? Who really chooses to be outside society, given that there is no place to go where there is not already society? The world's legal order has enveloped all possibility of frontier. No matter how much a person or group might long for a new "New World," there is none forthcoming. Anarchists, survivalists, frontier-thinkers of all stripes, have, when they have tried to make their refusals real, had to resort to violence, either to create a space wherein they might live, or to defend themselves from the intrusion or jurisdiction of the order they are set on escaping. The frontier is, at heart, a utopian dream, one that was opened up as a real possibility by The West, first in the form of all of America and some exotic islands (which were supposedly there simply awaiting conquest and the colonial impulse), then in the form of the already-settled American continent's western portion.

This "western portion," California and Mexico, is the site of the action of The Way of the Gun (though I believe it was shot in Utah). Soon after the pointless fight and the needless introduction, a voice-over in Mr. Parker's voice (the voice of the film) tells us (while we watch majestic shots of craggy red rocks, mountain ranges, and endless open skies—frontier territory):

There is a natural order. They way things are meant to be. An order that says that the good guys always win, that you die when it's your time, or when you have it coming. The ending is always happy, if only for someone else. Now at some point it became clear to us that our path had been chosen and we had nothing to offer the world, our options narrowing down to petty crime or minimum wage. So we stepped off the path and went looking for the fortune that we knew was looking for us. Once off the path, you do what you can to eat. You keep moving. You don't blow your ghost of a chance with nickel and dime. No possessions, no comforts. Need is the ultimate monkey. A pint of your blood can fetch you fifty bucks, a shot of cum, three grand. You keep your life simple and you can literally self-sustain.

This is, strangely enough, a utopian dream—or at least a signpost on the way. Only someone for whom the world-as-it-is is not enough (James Bond?) thinks in terms of utopia. The dis- possessed, the outsider, the visionary of social justice—these people have designs for utopia. The frontier spirit is a product of the utopian dream, even though it most often manifests what we might call dystopian effects. Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh saw their options narrowing, so they stepped off the path and went looking for a frontier. What is frontier? A space of freedom and possibility.

The movie's plot begins in a sperm donation clinic, where Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh are doing what they can to eat. While waiting for their chance to donate, our protagonists overhear a phone call wherein is described a woman who has contracted to carry a child to term for another couple for a payment of $1 million. A clerk at the clinic is telling a friend of his who clearly wants the same deal the names of both the woman and the doctor who set it up, and here we have the hopes of two desperate outsiders careening toward the same conclusion.

We all know what's coming next: "some deep pockets, a pregnant woman, some body guards, and a doctor's name...." As Mr. Parker is quick to tell us: "the longest line between two points is a kidnapper and his money.... but we were through jerking off."

***

The difference between a moral order and a legal order, for someone who does not internalize the rules of the legal order, is this: the rules of a legal system are tantamount to orders backed by threats—there is no right and wrong when right is power or coercion and being wrong means nothing more than being powerless. If you don't believe in the rules, or if you know the rules won't protect you, you feel nothing when they are broken—unless you are caught. Punishment is the only evil. The moral order, however, knows right and wrong, and has its effects regardless of whether you are caught or anyone else knows your wrongs. Guilt and remorse are their own punishment. Being internal to a system of legality means that the law's norms become internalized, so that moral and legal blame become indistinct, and breaking the law means being a "bad person"; it becomes moralized.

Of course, legal systems handle two kinds of offenses: penal and civil. The laws against murder, assault and battery are perhaps the only ones that blur the lines between legal and moral orders without too much problem. But when it comes to codes punishing petty theft, traffic laws, and other norms useful to human existence in communities but otherwise not necessary to the human condition of living together in the world, the blurring of the legal with the moral becomes more problematic. A much too often repeated phrase coined by Anatole France reminds us that the law in its majesty punishes equally the rich and the poor for stealing bread and for sleeping under bridges. This is because a system of law designed to be a set of neutral principles is created that way in order to treat everyone equally, because equality is one form of justice. The thing is, equality is also a form of injustice, and no neutral principle is capable of deciding which is which.

This is not to say that the moral order is "easy," intuitive or natural whereas the legal one is manufactured and bound to end in hypocrisy. A system of neutral legal principles, especially one backed by rights, is one kind of guarantee of justice, freedom and equality—it's not all violence and coercion. And a system of morality, of course, can be as oppressive or coercive as a legal one—it's not all faith and belief. Moral and legal systems both come from somewhere else, outside of the individual, imposed by a creed, a state or a social grouping or some kind. So what of an ethical order? Is there a difference between ethics, law and morality? It's a big space for argument, but for the space of this article, let's say there is. The ethical order is what you make of it, in your attempt to live in the world. It's partially you, partially how you live together with others. Even anarchists, atheists and frontier-seekers have their ethics.

As Joe Sarno says to Mr. Longbaugh when they first meet: "One's backfire, three is gunplay." Sarno sneaks up behind Longbaugh, surprising him, and Longbaugh fires off a warning shot to tell him to come out of the darkness. Sarno knows this, and steps forward. After they have coffee together, and have come to an understanding—about things other than the substance of their conversation, demonstrating, as this film does over and over again, the complicated ways in which language functions to communicate meanings other than those belied by the strict definitions of words (just as law's neutral principles in their strictness fail to capture something key in law's meaning). Longbaugh feels for Sarno, but refuses his offer to come for a ride to pick up the ransom, because Sarno is a "bag man," and, as they repeat in unison, "Never trust a bag man." These are codes of behavior.

They've just had a hilarious conversation about thugs of today versus thugs of the good old days (which, somehow, they both represent, despite their age difference, which only goes to show that the "good old days" is not actually a historical time-period but a frame of mind), but what Longbaugh has really learned about Sarno is that he is broke, in trouble, and that his daughter is carrying the baby of a rich, powerful and corrupt man in order to earn a million dollars to save him in his old age.

***

There are many different forms of law, many different ways of conceiving what law is and whence it gets its power. We live in an era when positive law, the belief that all law is made by men and posited in institutional form so it can then stand above men and judge in neutrality, has the most force or power. Positive law is a secular form, divorced from considerations of standards above or beyond it such as a god or some other transcendent measure would offer. It is important to remember, however, that within every time frame many conceptions of law are competing. Just as "the good old days" are a frame of mind, an ethos more than a past history, competing conceptions of law are part of the same present, even when they rule each other out. Institutionally speaking, for instance, when the Supreme Court disagrees and some judges publish dissenting opinions, those dissents show that law is not a monolithic institution with one right answer. Likewise, some human actions that arise as lawless gather the force of law in retrospect, so that the very transgression of the law becomes a vehicle for reforming it, as in civil rights struggles. Plus, humans always have powers that are outside of law and must remain so in order to be the powers they are: promise, forgiveness, self-determination, personal integrity—these are all things that legal institutions can support, make easier to practice or more likely of adherence, but in the long run they are beyond the power of legal institutions to create.

"Frontier" is an impulse of human creation, to reach beyond the constraints placed on humans by the very systems they design, to hope for something better, more just, or more free. This is semi- paradoxical, as liberal democratic society relies on the belief (be it shaky truth or outright myth) that no one (living in a liberal democracy) lives under any law they haven't in some form consented to; thus, to feel constrained by the very law you consented to (you consented because of its offer of security and happiness) is to realize the paradox of human will: that an action, once performed (or a law, once made), can have consequences and effects the actor did not intend, that a thinking actor can create what he or she never dreamt up, and that there is no revoking such a creation once it has appeared: I consented to a law that I now feel to be unjust.

Of course, this is over-simplified in at least two ways: one, this is what principles of legal reform and checks and balances are for, to weed out unjust laws and guard against abuse of power; it is to these neutral principles of equal justice that we "consent," by voting and participating in politics or, minimally, by living in a territory. But here's number two, and it's more important: it seems silly if not dangerous to assume that liberal consent theory is valid in an essay tackling the problem of frontier. Most humans don't smash the state, disregard all law, fuck shit up, or take it on the run for no good reason—at least not all of the time. Frontier-seekers "take it on the run" because they have despaired of all possibility of reform, change or justice in the system to which they have become the margins. The bottom line of consent theory is that systems of power don't care if you don't agree—your options are stay or go, and "go," as we've noticed, is not a viable option for 99% of those shifted to the margins by power.

Though this tale of sovereignty abounds in paradoxes, consent theory's denial of difference is not one, but is rather its structural necessity. The thing to which consent is required is the sovereignty of a ruler or nation; the consent functions as legitimation for a regime of power, and sovereignty, in turn, requires boundaries, and boundaries require an outside by which to limit the inside. Thus, outsiders, foreigners, refugees and marginal characters are necessary to sovereignty's self-definition. If you don't like my sovereignty, you are welcome to its outside.

But what happens in a world with no frontier? With no land left to colonize, money and space (that is, outer space) become the "final frontiers," perhaps, the only hope for escaping the constraints of society. But this points to a problem with the whole idea of frontier.

The colonialist impulse, even in its frontier costume, has always disregarded the truth that there is no frontier and never has been any frontier, if we define frontier in terms of "space where no customs or conventions or laws hold, space open to everything, clay to mold." Every geographical space that has been called frontier has been called so by exclusion of and violence to the peoples already living there, with their customs, conventions and laws. Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Africans, many peoples can attest to this, just as any left-leaning liberal who probably secretly wants his or her own frontier can pay lip service to that history of injustice while living on its proceeds and spouting the rhetoric of frontier unselfconsciously, as if it were a true tale of the infinite possibilities of human liberation. In The Way of the Gun, frontier is Mexico, and is figured, hilariously, as a place where cell phones have no coverage. But in the film, in Mexico, at the motel, the diner and the bordello, there are Mexicans, who stand by while frontier-seekers come in and take over, using Mexican space for whatever they need. The Mexicans are ciphers, shadows, insubstantial characters. They don't exist in the film, because they aren't of any use. And if they get in the way, they're dead.

***

Who chooses to leave society? Of course, many do. It's possible to be outside while still sharing geographical space with society. And surely it's possible to move beyond the boundaries of what is viewed as possible without killing, maiming or enslaving someone else. If this tale of frontier and its colonialist limitations seems disheartening, that's only one side of it. Frontier also stands for the endless human ability to innovate, to change and to improve human lives. It doesn't have to be, and indeed hasn't always been, done in the name of self-interest only. I would go so far as to say it is important that each subject of a state nourish a bit of anarchy or resistance within herself in order to keep the frontier spirit or utopian dream a part of language and of life, so that it might do its work.

But if money is the only viable frontier, in real terms, given that outer space is not open to civilians (though it is of some moment that an American millionaire recently bought his way into space—via Russia), is this the end of the frontier dream—because it is only available to a few and proceeds by means of injustice to others? I've tried to show, if only obliquely, that this is the same frontier dream, only moved to another field. Sure, "The West" was open to more people, or to more kinds of people—but isn't equality of possibility of economic opportunity another way of saying "if you're strong enough, you'll make it," and hasn't this kind of possibility always been arbitrary, like all luck or fortune? Part of it is human will and the power to create, part of it is blind dumb luck. Once upon a time in the west, some men lived and some men died, and personal merit had very little to do with it.

When the age of conquest of the new world was drawing to a close, because the map was all filled out, utopian writing shifted from positing its golden lands on isolated islands to siting them in a not-yet-reached future. Frontier will always be "there," somewhere, even if only in text or imagination. Humans will never stop wanting more than they have; some of that aspiration will be for the good, some for the bad. The utopian dream is a human dream of possibility. It is the frontier, fraught with all its colonialist implications.

***

The kidnapping and escape involve a whole lot of gunplay and awesome slow chase scenes. I don't mean slow motion, but slow choreography. There's no hurry. They all have guns. No one is being hasty. The guns speak for themselves.

In fact, the guns speak louder than the actors. Much of the important communication in this film is conducted silently, or at least non-verbally (and then again, loudly: pow pow pow bang ricochet ka-pow). Thankfully, Benicio Del Toro plays Mr. Longbaugh, as this non-verbal communication is the field in which Mr. Del Toro excels. See the film, and it will blow you away.

Kidnapping accomplished, they hit the road, as outsiders do. They head towards Mexico, which stands for frontier. Right away it becomes clear that the girl, too, is an outsider, like them. In fact, no one needs to know her name either, though at some point we find out it is Robin. Such is the development of a plot that begins with a population that hangs out in a sperm donation clinic and ends in a Mexican bordello—these are all margin walkers.

Longbaugh asks Robin what she's going to name the child. She says it's not hers. He replies, "Like that matters. You have to have a name." She says: "When you think about deaf people, people who were born deaf, who have never heard a spoken word, what do you think they call the sun? Or their mother, or their own reflection in a mirror? That's what I call it. There's no name. I'm not going to name it. For what?" This is a speech of someone who has despaired of all connection with her child, despaired of all possibility of a good outcome. Parker and Longbaugh exchange glances, silently recognizing that she is like them.

Of course, they have kidnapped a woman who is nine months pregnant and ready to give birth. Complications are built in to this scenario. Longbaugh leaves Parker alone with Robin and sets off to pick up some food and view the video tape she was clutching when they grabbed her. Parker softens toward the girl, and, as she is in pain and fearful for her life and the baby's, he agrees to call her doctor. Longbaugh walks out of the mini-mart (in the midst of a great thirty-five seconds of silence wherein his face does all the work: it flirts, masks his shoplifting, negotiates with the teenage female clerk to use her VCR, is confused by what he sees, figures it out, leaves the store, encounters Parker on the phone, realizes what Parker is doing, and censures him). Parker, responding to the censorious glance, says, "He's a doctor, man, he'll do what we say." Longbaugh responds, "you have too much faith in people." To which Parker replies, "how can you kidnap someone without it?"

It's true. Even kidnapping for ransom, though it breaks one form of rule, relies on another form, that of promise and exchange. "I have this child, which I will give to you when you give me this amount of money." It also relies on conventions of family ties and emotional attachment, the assumption that someone will pay large sums of money for a child. Mr. Parker's belief, of course, also shows his naiveté. Longbaugh knows already that the girl will have to be killed, that the child might not make it, and that Parker's "faith in people" is misplaced and misguided. Nonetheless Parker's remark is telling: there is no escaping all rules, only "the rules." You can escape or deny the rules of a community, a state, a club or a game, but you cannot disregard all rules and still live in a world with other people. The rules of language, the rules of conversation, the rules of human interaction—there are many different takes on these and many different forms of subversion of settled takes on these, but everyone comes up with rules for dealing with other people.

This is, after all, a film about a gun-slinging duo, not a lone shootist, and that fact makes its own argument about the necessity of law, ethics or community. Parker and Longbaugh communicate more with sight than with speech, but their communication is successful. And it is important. Two gun-slingers working together must have a successful form of communication or they will surely die soon. This is an overblown metaphor for the impossibility of evading all rule as sure as the gunfight that takes place in a motel parking lot while a nine-months pregnant woman negotiates her way across it is hyperbole extreme of the role of guns, men, women and life in a spaghetti western or a dream of frontier. The men want to control life, which they claim to do by means of their guns. But no one kills a pregnant woman. That is a rule, too, a fairly sacred one, even in a secular gun-loving society which makes gratuitous violence both its form of entertainment and part of its everyday life.

The exception to this rule shows up in the form of Chiddick's bodyguards. When Longbaugh and Sarno have a conversation about the new thugs versus the good old days of gun slinging, these are the guys they're talking about. The "new thugs" have no code. Robin says, when Parker and Longbaugh first try to kidnap her and are faced with two bodyguards who would shoot a pregnant woman in the stomach rather than let her be taken on their watch: "Walk away. They don't care about dying. Just losing."

***

The centerpiece of the film is a game of cards that functions as an analogy of the outsider's position. While Longbaugh has been chatting up Sarno, Parker has been watching Robin in a cheap motel room. Longbaugh arrives back at the room and sizes up the situation, that Parker has a heart, and is too soft toward the girl. He grabs the deck of cards between them and starts dealing them. Parker asks what they are playing; Longbaugh says "Hearts," and the girl asks how it is played. Longbaugh says: "Well the object of hearts is to play the safest game possible and finish with the least amount of points. A heart is the only thing of value; if you have one, get rid of it." Remember that the Parker tells us at the film's beginning that no valuable possessions are allowed—keep it simple and you can self-sustain. But remember also that he is in a duo, which already takes it beyond self-sustenance.

Longbaugh continues: You'll need to start with a club. If you don't have one, you can throw in a heart. Don't lead with a heart unless you have nothing else to throw.

Parker breaks in: ...or someone breaks a suit, you follow?

Parker is trying to teach her in a gentler way.

Longbaugh: Couple of rounds and she'll get it.

Longbaugh thinks experience is the only teacher. He draws the queen of spades.

Parker: Shit. You got the bitch. She's thirteen points.

Longbaugh: Fuck the bitch. Just get rid of your hearts.

Parker: Or shoot the moon. That's when you finish with everything. You get all the hearts and the queen of spades and everyone else loses.

Longbaugh: Next to impossible.

Parker: But if someone figures out what you're up to they can sacrifice and hold onto a heart.

Longbaugh: And then you lose.

Robin: Is that so?

Parker is hoping for utopia, the reward of frontier realized—he wants to shoot the moon, or at least believe that it can be done. Longbaugh knows its "next to impossible," that once you reach it it slips farther away—no gun shoots that far.

Robin starts to cry and tells a story of needing the money, and reveals that the baby is really hers, that the in vitro fertilization failed and she conceived her own child for the money without telling the paying parents. This changes Parker's mind—it crosses a line somehow, from the legal to the moral sphere. Longbaugh is unchanged. For him there is no moral sphere, only ethical, and he knows the girl's as much an opportunist as he or Parker.

***

Outside the motel room, Parker tells Longbaugh the story of a man he killed. A District Attorney offered to get Parker off a robbery stint if he would "take out" a man who had molested the D.A.'s son. Parker went to the man's house, found polaroids of the molester's deeds, and felt justified in what he was doing, thought it would make him sleep better at night, until he heard the man praying for his life. That stayed with him, haunted him. So Longbaugh asks Parker: "You wanna get out now, you wanna quit? This is never gonna come your way again."

Parker: What if the day comes and you're face down waiting. What if in your final seconds you start to believe in God. What will you have to give him? What will you say?

Longbaugh: What does it matter we take a child from his mother? After all the people we've robbed and maimed and murdered, you think it matters?

Parker: It matters. Believe me, it matters.

So Longbaugh agrees to leave Robin there and take off, but only outwardly. He has observed that she is holed up in the room pointing a gun at them, and so he sends Parker back into the room to get his coat, but pushes him out of the way at the last moment so he'll see how mistaken he was about her innocence. Parker, angry, aims his gun at Longbaugh's throat. Longbaugh says: "You know what I'm going to tell God? I'm going to tell him I was framed." For Longbaugh, the moral rules are as unjustly coercive as the legal ones. Thinking in terms of God's punishment is the same as thinking in terms of legal punishment—it doesn't matter as long as you aren't in jail.

***

The strange thing about this film is that everyone in it wants a newborn baby to make everything better. Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh, of course, want the ransom. Robin sells the use of her womb in order to save her father's life. Hal Chiddick thinks the baby will make his very young too-beautiful and over-medicated wife love him. The young wife—Francesca—thinks it will cement her place in the rich man's home, and give her someone who will love her unconditionally. The suited bodyguards think it will enable them to take the ransom, kill all the witnesses, and set up their own futures. Joe Sarno will benefit from the money the daughter is getting in order to help him, and even neglects to save his daughter when he can because the money hasn't arrived yet.

Of course, a newborn baby does change everything in the film, but not in the way anyone expected. Both Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh make decisions other than they would have expected with regard to what is important. Robin gets to keep her baby. The suited bodyguards end up dead. Sarno gets a grandson.

But before all this happens, however, a bloody gunfight and cesarean section have to occur, during which Longbaugh decrees that Robin has "had enough," that everything has gone too far. Parker and Longbaugh leave her with the doctor, and set out to get some of that ransom money without the baby. Parker in his way, and Longbaugh in his, have come to realize that the baby is not the answer to this particular question. They choose otherwise, partially because they are faced with the baby's mother.

***

When moral and legal orders become indistinct, humans can murder without remorse (if they think the only evil is punishment) and they can feel shame for being poor (if they think that being at the margins is a function of their moral worth), and both of these are wrong. It is possible, however, that the thing that would keep these two spheres of law and morality distinct is a person's ethos, or ethics. In this way, the modern belief that ethical concerns are the same as moral ones is one more chalk mark on the side of positivism and its neutral principles, and would function to explain why so many critics thought The Way of the Gun was at best a mediocre too-violent western romp. They listened only to the written dialogue, not to the content the dialogue hinted at but shoved to the margins (because the margins are the only spaces for such content to rest). The oblique view leaves for a margin dweller. Such content can't be seen when viewed straight on, only when glanced at obliquely.

But it's still there—even when it is passed over by the status quo's recording devices—just as, even though the new thugs have taken over the world and the box office from the good old days of gun-slinging, the good old days are not only in the past, but are still a part of the present, an ethos still laboring on behalf of its own account of law and justice.*

After about ten minutes of gunfighting, Parker and Longbaugh seem to have killed everyone, but Sarno is still standing (and his clothes aren't even dirty), and he takes them down.

Longbaugh asks Parker what he's going to tell God now. The movie ends as it begins, with the camera panning up over the prostrate and bloody bodies of Parker and Longbaugh—we're not sure whether they'll live or die—and with Parker's musings on the natural order.

We don't want your forgiveness. We won't make excuses. We're not gonna blame you even if you are an accessory. But we will not accept your natural order. We didn't come for absolution. We didn't ask to be redeemed. But isn't that the way it is, every goddamned time. Your prayers are always answered, in the order they're received.

After which, in the last moment of the film, Francesca Chiddick announces she is pregnant. And, as everything in this film was about getting a baby for Francesca and Hal Chiddick, nothing that happened in this film had to happen. Someone always wins, but it's not always the good guy. You don't always die when you have it coming. Legal principles may be just or unjust, and God's morality serves equally peace and war.

As this essay began, Hal Chiddick says to Robin, somewhere in the film: Trust life. If you're careful enough to listen, life does take care. A baby's life becomes the figure for how life takes care. It doesn't "take care" in the ways men who want to control it would have it be. In fact, the impulse to master life might signal the opposite of "being careful enough to listen." Parker rejects "natural order," and this is not the same as rejecting life. He realizes that natural order is another form of myth constructed by power structures to keep the status quo in place. God and the state and human institutions interfere with the ethics men set up for themselves, though of course the two (or three or four) sometimes overlap, and all are prone to error and injustice. Parker and Longbaugh didn't ask for absolution, or to be redeemed, but they were, somehow, anyway, and not in any way that would be discernible to a legal or moral institution. Their experiences don't bring them back into the fold of humanity and society. The world's systems of law will still be unjust, will still create margins so its centers can be comfortable—but there is something outside of all that, and that is the only thing that is really inescapable. It is the frontier, with all its possibilities, for better or worse.

Footnote:

* Two interesting observations made by Amy H. König: 1) the necessity of obliqueness in communication of these concepts is mirrored in the film's tendency toward oblique/asymmetrical shot compositions, and 2) the film could also function as a meta-commentary on the film industry. Its ethos is the "outsider film." It doesn't care about offending viewers and presents complex ideas in a non-easily digestible format. But it also points to how hard it is to occupy that "indy" space if you want to survive—you always end up being subject to the same rules/economics/ratings systems.