Analysis & Commentary: Little Red Riding Hood

In which Patrick Macias and Joseph Luster provide extensive analysis of the latest film by J.L. Carrozza (AKA Kojiro Abe), Little Red Riding Hood.

• • •
PM: Fundamentally, I think the film represents an ethical struggle for meaning taking place within Carrozza’s own mind. It reveals many doubts over the “dark side” of humanity. I think the younger “Kojiro Abe” would have been content to let the nihilistic figure of the wolf triumph over all at the end. But perhaps now he is recognizing in mature fashion that man’s animal nature must be overcome in order for civilization to persist. After all, at the end of the piece, the orally fixated Wolf (who desires to “eat” Red more than to have carnal relations with her) has been castrated and heterosexual reproduction, in the form of Red and the Woodcutter, is allowed to resume.

JL: I think, as the Wolf itself has been presented as an extension of Abe’s persona, that the character, through its animalistic and arguably misunderstood nature, represents a fruitless search for love on Jules’ part that is always thwarted by another man.

PM: Yes, I think so, too. This was definitely among my first impressions. However, I don’t think the wolf is “arguably misunderstood.” He is simply not very likeable aside from his vitality and lust!

JL: And yet, Abe is left alone in the woods, with the remains of the past (the “grandmother”) all that he has left to feed upon. This is symbolic of his taste in cult films.

The Wolf offers up his only remnants of sanity: dirty movies on DVD

PM: If only from the standpoint of the Wolf’s character, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is a simple “loser narrative”, as are many of the Asian cult films that have inspired Carrozza over the years. But the film is loaded with possible meanings. Note, for instance, that the Woodcutter and the Wolf bear a distinct resemblance to each other in physical appearance.

JL: They do.

PM: Almost as if they are doppelgangers. Both are bearded, use coarse language, and do not hesitate to shed blood.

JL: The Woodcutter could be seen as one side to Abe’s mind. One that, while within his grasp, is always just out of reach.

PM: The Woodcutter partially succeeds because he is a hard worker. All the Wolf does is watch cult movies and think about food. He seems to be indicative of the masturbatory sexuality of male adolescents and a life force that is vigorous but not generative.

JL: I think he is indicative of the time when Jules’ worked in a fish factory.

• • •

JL: Do you think there’s some sort of symbolism behind the Woodcutter’s limp and effortless swings? Does Red, then, represent desire?

PM: I do not believe in didactic symbolism so much as possible theoretical readings.

JL: Well, let’s look at it from that angle then.

PM: In traditional Freudian readings of fairy tales, the story of Little Red Riding Hood is about a young girl’s frightening but necessary initiation into the animal nature of male sexuality. I don’t think Carrozza’s version significantly deviates from the original in this respect, which I think is one of its flaws. Red’s duel with the Wolf is a good idea, but her previous characterization in the film does not support such actions.

JL: Agreed. I think he could have taken her arc into a different direction. But, what of Abe’s choices in his uplifting ending? Do you think that the wolf could actually be “Kojiro Abe,” while the woodcutter is J.L. Carrozza?

PM: I find that art is often inseparable from the artists’ psyche.

JL: I’m starting to really get behind the idea of the film as an execution of a former ego.

A nymph from within the recesses of Abe’s mind attacks his vulgar alter-ego.

PM: I wonder if it is an entirely “uplifting ending,” though. While Jules seems to hint that the world might be more peaceful without the threat of the wolf, we each have to ask ourselves, “would I myself want to live in a world without a Kojiro Abe?”

JL: Where’s the balance? We also, if we’ve watched it correctly, have to take the cock-shot into account. The castration and murder of “Kojiro Abe.” Injured by J.L. Carrozza and finished off by a female.

PM: Yes, I think a possible subtitle for the film would be “The Symbolic Self Castration of Kojiro Abe.” However, it is possible that Carrozza wishes us to see the Woodcutter as fundamentally no better than the Wolf, though.

JL: Indeed. I definitely see them as two sides of one coin, connected strongly.

PM: Another clever doubling in the film: Granny and the Wolf. Note how Jules defers to the traditional “what big eyes you have” exchange of dialogue. But with the added complexity of the Wolf-Woodcutter relationship, it is almost as if the film is telling us that we each have to be like Red and carefully pay attention to “the form of the good” when it appears before us, as it does with the Woodcutter. Consider also the masterful use of split-screen, where we must somehow “read” two distinct images at once.

JL: It’s certainly something for all of us to think about.

PM: Upon further consideration of the use of doubling patterns in this film, I retract my earlier statements about it not containing a radical enough rethinking of the original source material. However, I stand by my criticism of the uneven handling of Red’s characterization.

• • •

JL: What of “mama”?

PM: Indeed ! We have left out one important character in this “Dark Fantasy.”

JL: Mr. Punishment, an extension of the restrictions laid out by Abe’s own parents; the fact that it appears in a movie that they would no doubt revile is worth noting.

PM: It’s possible to see Mr. Punishment as a phallic extension of the “Castrating Mother” figure.

JL: Yes.

PM: Which supports your theory about the film as a symbolic act of self-castration.

Carrozza’s Unattainable Self displays one of its many talents.

JL: It’s also worthy of study that there is no father figure in this film – unless you count the Woodsman.

PM: Jules has chosen to play this part of “mama” himself. In addition to alluding to the god-like authoritative powers that a director wields over a work of cinema, “mama” is something of a sacred androgynie who has transcended either sex. Fittingly, the nurturing qualities of motherhood have been inverted. This mother gives Red food only to feed an ailing grandmother, not herself. Taking all this into consideration, I believe that “mama” is the castrated J.L. Carrozza himself.

JL: Good point. There’s also a hint of dependency on the mother’s end, and not just for this reason. There’s an urgency to keep Red’s exposure to the outside world limited, por exemplo: Highlights for Children. While Mama chooses to observe the world through a skewed looking glass: in this case – Weekly World News. Don’t even get me started on the reality phases that the wolf passes through after the shotgun attack.

PM: I think the Highlights for Children magazine represents Red’s Edenic, pre-fall state of ignorance over the fundamental truths of human sexuality. But at the end of this film, we have all gained some small modicum of insight into its complex nature.

JL: Good call.

PM: By all rights, Abe’s next film should further explore the complexities of female sexuality.

JL: Oh, I think so too.

PM: If he wishes to continue to mine classic fairy tales for inspiration, I would recommend to him such stories as “The Princess and the Pea.” In any event, Little Red Riding Hood marks an enormous artistic leap forward for J.L. Carrozza. The film is thematically and technically light years ahead of earlier works such as “The Big Toe.” I am very much looking forward to the fantastic tales he may yet weave.

JL: Will he be able to do so with his next movie, Film Club? Either way, we’d like to thank J.L. Carrozza/Kojiro Abe for providing this dark alleyway of thought through which we have strolled today, both as observers and participants.

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