Post-Empire Strikes Back

The following is an excerpt from Lili Anolik’s essay, Post-Empire Strikes Back, from this month’s film issue. The full piece is available to read on


DISCUSSED: Sodomania, A Bug’s Life, A Fictional Work of Fiction, Super-Subtle Intertextuality, Twitter, Picking Fights with Dead Guys, Fifty Shades of Grey, Movies Made by Committee, Ellisian Perversion, The Unsung Swordsman of the Year, Listless Southern California Girls, Striking a Pose and Holding It So the Terror Doesn’t Show, Batwing Lashes


I thought I had The Canyons’ number.

Last winter I picked up Lunar Park, Bret Easton Ellis’s faux-memoir-slash-Stephen-King-gorefest-rip-off-slash-surprisingly-moving-story about fathers and sons. In it, the central character, Bret Easton Ellis, writer of Less Than Zero and American Psycho, is working on a new book called Teenage Pussy, which will, he promises, contain “endless episodes of girls storming out of rooms in high-rise condos and the transcripts of cell phone conversations fraught with tension and camera crews following the main characters around as well as six or seven overdoses… There would be thousands of cosmopolitans ordered and characters camcording each other having anal sex and real-life porn stars making guest appearances. It [would] makeSodomania look like A Bug’s Life.” At the end of this description two words were flashing in my brain: oh and wow. I headed on over to Amazon, all set to place a rush order. Teenage Pussy, though, wasn’t available on that site or any other. Turned out it was a fictional work of fiction. Tough luck for me, I guess.

A few months later I came across a piece in the New York Timescalled “Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie.” The article chronicled the troubled young actress sometimes keeping her shit together though mostly not while shooting what has been described variously as an “erotic thriller,” an “L.A. neo-noir,” a “psychosexual drama,” and “cinema for the post-theatrical age,” scripted by Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Paul Schrader, starring, in addition to Lohan, porn star James Deen, and financed in some crazy way I only vaguely understood but that seemed mainly to involve spit, string, and the popular funding-platform Kickstarter. As I raced through the story, my excitement mounting, I became convinced that this movie (The Canyons) was that book (Teenage Pussy).

Art wasn’t just about to imitate art. Art was about to cannibalize art, then wear art’s skin like a flashy new suit.

Read the full piece on