Men Not At Work: The Three Stooges and The Day He Arrives

The mind needs structure. So when watching films in quick succession, unexpected linkages emerge, like the strange thematic similarities between Hong Sang-soo’s The Day He Arrives (in theaters now from Cinema Guild) and The Farrelly Brothers’ version of The Three Stooges, discovered while watching them back-to-back over the weekend. The first is a critically-acclaimed art film in limited release, the second the lowest of lowbrow comedies out everywhere, and yet they are both  episodic narratives about arrested male development, albeit in different stylistic registers. The Day He Arrives uses a teasingly complex script to lay out the alternate life paths its passive protagonist could have taken, hypnotically acted out with repetitive gestures and phrases. The Three Stooges, however, are active participants in their own destruction, eager to endlessly pratfall down the same road to get the eternally recurring nyuk-nyuk inducing result. Two versions of male stupidity, touchingly rendered.

The Day He Arrives is the latest generator of masculine regret from Hong Sang-soo, who has been mastering his elegiac deadpan mode since ’96, with increasingly fractured narratives. This one circles around ex-film director Seongjun (Yu Junsang), who leaves his exile in the country to visit his college friend Youngho (Kim Sang-joong) in Seoul. He says, “I’m not going to meet anyone but him”, which of course means that everyone on the street is a former lover or fan, forcing him to relive all the fumbling mistakes of his past. As Seongjun walks in circles, in a predetermined grid set up by the opening shot of an intersection, his past life starts repeating in the present. A rekindled relationship with an old flame from school is then re-enacted almost word for word with the owner of a bar named “Novel”. Seongjun learns nothing new, though,  keeping his distanced, faux-romantic pose as he once again cuts off personal contacts and retreats into his shell. Though he idly hopes that his films will be “re-evaluated after enough time has passed”, he never deigns to re-evaluate himself. It’s a bumbling, tragi-comic vision of Nietzsche’s eternal return:

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’ - Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Seongjun is too oblivious to be aware of his endless circling , his flickering consciousness too self-absorbed  and far too passive to gnash teeth. Maybe he would make do with a clench, if it didn’t strain him too much.

The Three Stooges are also stuck in an eternal return, not just of the endless recycling of television characters, but of their insatiable need to beat the snot out of each other, a trio of sadomasochistic co-dependents. Seongjun burrows inside himself to escape the world, while the Stooges slap each other to do the same. The Farrelly Brothers have examined all kinds of physical and psychological maladies (Seongjun is heading in the direction of Jim Carrey’s severely repressed schizo in Me, Myself and Irene), but the Stooges are the most sociopathic characters in their careers. A stupider and more violent Dumb and Dumber, which means, yes, it is a stirring return to form.

The Farrellys  give the reborn Stooges an origin story, as babies dumped at an orphanage at the feet of the curmudgeonly Sister Mary-Mengele (a hilariously harrumphing Larry David). As amateur hell-raisers they are never chosen for adoption, and are spurred to action when the nuns are forced to sell the place unless they raise six figures in cash.

The trio of low-watt celebrities do a remarkably good job at capturing the staccato tempo of the original Stooges. Sean Hayes has a fine falsetto whine as Larry, Chris Diamantopoulos has the nasal a-hole Moe voice down pat, and Will Sasso does a nimble Curly, always the most balletic Stooge. Avoiding the baggage of the originally rumored stars (Carrey, Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro were all attached at one point), these anonymous performers are able to put the jokes center stage.

Sent off into the world, the Stooges are as helpless as Seongjun, although instead of re-living past failures they establish new ones, including starting up a free-range salmon farm that flops. They attempt to insulate themselves from the world through their friendship (as the conjoined-twin protags of Stuck on You do), but start to crack apart instead. They re-team because they have to, due to the demands of Hollywood narrative as well as their own natures – they eye-poke, therefore they are.

If posed with Nietzsche’s question, they would probably answer “never have I heard anything more divine”, fools in love with their own foolishness, and when peeking outside the edges of their slap-happy triumvirate, would eagerly agree to stay inside of it for eternity, free to create chaos and baby pee fights wherever they may roam. Seongjun, an alcoholic Bartleby, would rather not participate in life. His Cartesian saying would be: “I think, therefore I want to disappear.”

0 Response Men Not At Work: The Three Stooges and The Day He Arrives
Posted By Juana Maria : April 24, 2012 12:26 pm

The recent articles about “the Three Stooges” reminded me that there was a made for TV back in 2000 with Paul Ben-Victor, who is an actor I like quite well. Not romantically! I just enjoy his acting such as the series “The Invisible Man” and the film “Tombstone” where he is almost unrecognizable from his Bobby Hobbs characrer. Any way, seemed like no one but myself thought of that film, or the Western movie connection with the Stooges. Guess it takes a certain kind of film viewer to point that out.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 24, 2012 12:26 pm

The recent articles about “the Three Stooges” reminded me that there was a made for TV back in 2000 with Paul Ben-Victor, who is an actor I like quite well. Not romantically! I just enjoy his acting such as the series “The Invisible Man” and the film “Tombstone” where he is almost unrecognizable from his Bobby Hobbs characrer. Any way, seemed like no one but myself thought of that film, or the Western movie connection with the Stooges. Guess it takes a certain kind of film viewer to point that out.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 24, 2012 12:30 pm

P.S. I just want to add those babies are so cute! The one in the black wig looks like myself as baby! No really; my hair has always been very dark but when I was a baby it was very straight. Since I was older it got curler,but not as curly as the middle baby! Oh,I just love that last baby in the front!! I just want to hold him so much!! I have mentioned on these blogs about my motherly side.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 24, 2012 12:30 pm

P.S. I just want to add those babies are so cute! The one in the black wig looks like myself as baby! No really; my hair has always been very dark but when I was a baby it was very straight. Since I was older it got curler,but not as curly as the middle baby! Oh,I just love that last baby in the front!! I just want to hold him so much!! I have mentioned on these blogs about my motherly side.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : April 24, 2012 1:18 pm

When the Stooges were alive, no critic thought twice about their movies, which were admittedly far inferior to their series.No one above a twelve-year-old wouod actually admit to seeing them at the theater. Now that they are gone, and three individuals with no attachments at all to the original group, have made a movie with their name attached to it, suddenly it is boffo box office. Wow! the difference four or five decades can make!

Posted By Jim Vecchio : April 24, 2012 1:18 pm

When the Stooges were alive, no critic thought twice about their movies, which were admittedly far inferior to their series.No one above a twelve-year-old wouod actually admit to seeing them at the theater. Now that they are gone, and three individuals with no attachments at all to the original group, have made a movie with their name attached to it, suddenly it is boffo box office. Wow! the difference four or five decades can make!

Posted By Juana Maria : April 27, 2012 10:13 am

I heard once said on a documentary about “Soul Train” that young people would come home and watch “the Three Stooges” & “Soul Train”, wouldn’t have been funny if only they had combined the two! I think I would that. I love those dance moves back in ’70s and early ’80s. I am feeling really old saying that! Anyway, I have noticed too that what is disregarded in the past gets discovered in later generations.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 27, 2012 10:13 am

I heard once said on a documentary about “Soul Train” that young people would come home and watch “the Three Stooges” & “Soul Train”, wouldn’t have been funny if only they had combined the two! I think I would that. I love those dance moves back in ’70s and early ’80s. I am feeling really old saying that! Anyway, I have noticed too that what is disregarded in the past gets discovered in later generations.

Leave a Reply

Current day month ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art in Movies  Australian CInema  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  Swashbucklers  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies