I don't remember when I became aware of Nan Goldin's work. Like all of my interests I'm pretty sure I was fairly young and the work was by most American standards "inappropriate children". I was smitten. The candidness, the sweaty realness cut through all the bullshit I was seeing at the time. This was a seminal experience realizing the beauty in ugly raw real life. Also the naturalness of nudity, of children and parents, of queers in love, of broken women, drunken nights smeared lipstick and ten thousand transcendent smoked cigarettes trailing like incense in a mass to the heavens was a calling. When designing my feature film debut I looked at collections of Nan's work and said THIS! It has to be dirty like this! or I need the light to be at least HALF this beautiful. Here's hoping.
Ok sad but true story. I discovered the amazing and deeply disturbing Mr. Cooper's work from a line in Gregg Araki's film Totally F**ked Up (apparently the asterisks actually ARE part of the title). Two characters are on a sorta first date and mention Cooper's books as involving serial killers and guys who eat shit. Um I was about 16, I headed out to the nearest bookstore (50 miles away) and ordered all his books. Never looked back.
I saw Breaking the Waves and my life changed. I always knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but seeing that film made me focus that dream more so. It troubled me. That's all I really know how to say. It deeply troubled me. Almost all his films do. Dogville left me stunned (and no I don't find it boring and yes even though it's shot like a play YES its a movie.) Riget (the Kingdom) gives me nightmares and like nearly every person who saw Dancer in the Dark I cried. No I mean I REALLY CRIED. for like an hour. Many decry him as pretentious preposterously nihilistic, maddeningly cruel and loath his use of ugly digital video. I find it liberating, he's so closely linked to Dogma95 and yet only one of his films is in fact a Dogma95 film.
All three of these people are provocateurs. This is what the world needs more of. Who will provoke us? wake us from our slumbers and make the next generation follow their lead? Who?