“PERMANENT GREEN LIGHT”
A French Teen
“Permanent Green Light” is a new feature film from co-directors Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley and it is as subversive as Cooper’s most dangerous works of fiction yet without any of the overtly shocking Cooper staples such as killing sprees, cannibalism, and necrophilia or extreme fetishists. It is about Roman (Benjamin Sulpice), a detached French teen who wants to blow himself up in public, not as a grand ideological gesture or to put an end to his suffering, but for the sheer spectacle of it. Cooper’s fiction tends to portray pretty, troubled young guys and the predators who want to harm them As a teen, Cooper was inspired by the work of the Marquis de Sade, and wanting to tap into the dysfunctional family dynamics, reckless drug taking and so he set about writing with an absolute “purity of intent”. His fascination for sexual violence fills his prose, allowing him to explore thoughts and feelings others would never dare to.
Cooper’s novels have a novel way of dealing with sex, as do his cinematic versions of his work. “Permanent Green Light” has a foreboding sense of suburban ennui. His character here just wants to disappear. The film introduces the notion that a person who wants to explode but doesn’t want to die, and above all doesn’t want anyone thinking he has died when he blows himself up in public. It is like searching for the ultimate magic trick that’s completely implausible yet very ephemeral. Roman is the ultimate magician, because he wants to create a total spectacle, which requires complete commitment, whether that is his disappearance or his death.
In this film, none of the characters are objectified or preyed on by older, predatory types. In fact, none appear to even remotely think about sex except one guy lusting after Roman. We are very aware of the film’s deep respect for the complexities and desires that are part of the teenage experience. If Roman was 35 years old, the audience would think that he has mental problems because he is past adolescence and is supposed to be an adult. Roman’s quest is set in that weird teenage period, which is quite scary, volatile and confusing to people, because that’s when anything is possible. Because of the nature of the film, I am limited to what I can say without writing spoilers so I will stop here and leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.