Of course, "Matrix" is not just a movie. Like "Star Trek" and "The Wizard of Oz" before it, it's a way of seeing the world, an embodiment of dreams, a cross-cultural phenomenon, a craze. As such, the most interesting thing about the "Matrix Reloaded" premiere at Cannes was not the extra-special effects (we've seen them in beer commercials), the martial arts ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was more convincing), the Matrix within The Matrix mind-twisters ("Twilight Zone" anyone?), nor even the killer sunglasses (déjà de rigueur en Cannes).
Rather, it was the remarkable appearance of the co-creator of "The Matrix" series, Larry Wachowski, on the bright red carpet of Cannes. Wachowski, who (like his fellow writer/director younger brother Andy) rarely appears in public and never gives interviews, was dressed for the grand festival premiere in demure but distinctive drag; that is, full make-up, sparkling drop earrings, a girlish beret and a big lipsticky smile on his/her face. Hours before the opening, a Los Angeles judge froze Wachowski's business assets, the result of a contentious divorce battle between the reclusive "Matrix" co-creator and his wife of nine years. Rumors swirled around the Croisette about Wachowski taking female hormones, partaking in an S/M relationship with a dominatrix à la Trinity, preparing for a sex-change operation and going by the name of Lana. Or was it Lara? Loretta?
So, the co-creator of "The Matrix" is a crossdresser, possibly a pre-op transsexual, what some call a she-male. Now in my humble sex therapist's opinion, that is a helluva lot more interesting than all the kickboxing Burly Brawls, hair-raising Freeway Chases, dramatic Boob-Rub Resurrections and Gnostic-Christian-Zen-Buddhist-Kabalistic-Socratic-Cartesian Shaman-babble in the actual movie. Not that anyone could bring this up at the press conference. Pas du tout, bien sûr! Those hardnosed Cannes Information Ministers wouldn't even let the journalists ask the American stars how they felt about opening their film in France despite the Bush administration's frosty antipathy toward all things Frankish, let alone anything about Larry/Lana.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with being a TS auteur. But then, no one who knows me is surprised to hear me say that. What's rather astonishing is to hear all the Cannes film critics and gossipmongers bending over backwards and forwards to say it's okay for Larry to be Lana. And it's a beautiful thing. Of course, the French forgive most sexual tendencies, as long as they're consensual. But even our typically prudish American journalists are saying it's no big deal that the co-creator of "The Matrix" is a pre-op transsexual (except catty Tina Brown, who's really British). In other words: UP YOURS, SENATOR RICK SANTORUM--AND THE DOG YOU CAME IN ON! It's American as apple pie and blockbuster movies to be a man wearing lipstick, plucked eyebrows, and possibly becoming a woman.
Larry/Lana's emergence from the closet onto the scarlet carpet of Cannes also invites us to look at the movie in a whole new transcendental/transsexual light. Of course, "The Matrix" has already been dissected all over the Internet by every two-bit philosopher with a reality to grind. But this new Larry/Lana revelation opens our eyes to the sexual Matrix within "The Matrix.." I can see the dissertations being pecked out already: "Transsexuality and 'The Matrix': A Cinematic Study in Gender Transformation."
So this is why everyone is not what he, she or it seems to be. So this is why everybody wears sunglasses, even in the darkest catacombs of Zion; the shades protect the Lana within the Larry. So this is why "The Matrix" is filled with secrets, illusions, dredlocks and door locks. So this is why shoving that phallic-metallic probe into the back-of-the-neck body-port resembles sticking something else up a natural porthole a little farther south along the human body...
So this is why Neo and Trinity look alike, except that Trinity looks a little more masculine. Trinity's appearance, especially in "Reloaded," is definitely tougher, more angular, with her cropped hair, severe features, minimal makeup, shiny black, formfitting, vinyl catsuit and that big black motorcycle rumbling between her legs like an enormous, vibrating strap-on. In another scene, she holds something (a gun?) that looks remarkably like a big black dildo.
Then there's Neo, wearing a dress. Sure, it's supposed to be some kind of New Age Jesuit-Buddhist cassock. Sure, it billows like a cape when he does "his Superman thing." But still and all, it's a dress. And on Reeves' svelte, graceful frame, capped by his sensuous, androgynous face, it looks breathtakingly feminine. Even kicking Agent ass and making the Merovingian's bullets fall to the floor like marbles, Neo looks more like a marvelous Supersissy than any Superman.
Which is the best thing about "The Matrix." It's about time we had a Sissy Superhero! The tremendous popularity of "The Matrix" proves that the transsexual imagination is not so weird and unwholesome as Senator Santorum and Jerry Falwell would have us believe it is. Perhaps we could even say that transsexual or bisexual consciousness is human consciousness, and that which would divide us inexorably into male and female is as nefarious a force in human life as The Machines (The Evil Ones).
Of course, The Machines are not altogether evil. They are our friends, our helpmates, as the old Zionist Councilman reminds the sleepless Neo. The Machines are part of being human. Technology, like Art, is an aspect of humanity. "The Matrix: Reloaded" makes this point in several ways, some obvious, others perhaps unintentional. As in most sci-fi movies, the stars' acting is pretty two-dimensional. The only thing close to an emotion emanating from these guys seems to be a concentrated seriousness of purpose. The result for the viewer is that, even if you enjoy the wild ride and the philosophical aspects of the movie, you don't much care about the characters in "The Matrix." They're either human beings without personalities who can do death-defying stunts just by thinking they can do them, or they're computer programs.
The computer programs
have a bit more personality than the humans. Or are they just better actors
because they're not the stars? In any case, the viewer winds up sympathizing
at least as much with software, like the down-home Oracle, the witty Merovingian,
the sly Free Agent Smith and the crusty old Keymaker, as with interchangeable
superhero/heroine Trinity/Neo, or even with Morpheus (who, speaking of
transsexuality, is so bloated in "Reloaded," he could almost
stand in for Oprah).
Of course, the real Matrix of Life, the complex grid that has all of us in its power, from the Pope to a piece of bacteria, deluding us all into thinking we have some control over our decisions when IT controls us so that IT can survive, is our genetic code. Now that's scary.
So, let's hear it for the Machines! They provide comic relief from the real madness of life, and they help us to be more human.
THE CANNES PRESS CLUB