The past week or so has been spent in a gluttonous haze of watching films. Sometimes two or three in a day. Work in piling up, and I should cook instead of eating take-out and cereal, but somehow I can’t stop. Not that there is any logic to what I am watching. Here is a selection.
Rope (1948) by Hitchcock. I didn’t expect it to be as engrossing as it was. Those long-takes are pretty engaging. It almost felt as if Karl Rove had written much of the script, except the part where the murderers get caught. Lots of talk of, “We do what we want and create the reality we want, because we are truly powerful, while the rest of you are wussy members of the reality community.”
Crash (2004) by Paul Haggis. Some critics seem to have a problem with it (Village Voice, Daily News, The LA Times, etc). They don’t like the multiple story-lines and coincidences in the film that resolve all those story lines, and a lot of them hate the dialogue. They seem to think that the film is about “real” things like racism, and therefore must be “realistic.” There seems to be very little tolerance for any kind of stylization, even though the film does a good job of setting up how you are supposed to read it. Perhaps they are just uncomfortable at being asked to enter a universe where their senses aren’t lulled, and the narrative resolutions don’t really close off that universe for you–after all we are beyond the age of melodrama, which I would think is a strong point of the film. Interestingly most critics mention the racist cop played by Matt Dillon, who gets a chance to redeem himself at the end (don’t want to spoil it for you), as somehow being an example of complex characterization. Nobody mentions the young cop who loses his idealism and innocence or the Upper Middle Class African-American TV director who embodies race, class and gender in a very complicated way. After all too much “realism” is a bad thing too.
Key Largo (1948) by Howard Hawks. This was gripping in the way old fashioned drama is. Lots of dialogue, a lot of it anti-war. It turns out that Maxwell Anderson, the writer of the play, on which the movie is based lost several jobs for his anti-war views during World War I. IMDB has a short bio of him. Great pre-McCarthy era fare.
Batman Begins (2005) Finally a decent Batman film. The film spends a lot of time on Bruce Wayne’s childhood, his relationship with Bats, and the trauma of losing his parents. Move forward fifteen years, he still feels the same; just like in popular Indian Cinema, where twenty years are nothing, and characters feel the same way they did now as then! The orientalism in the film was different from what one usually sees, I’ll wait for Kerim to blog about it, meanwhile he did tell me that audiences in Taiwan burst out laughing when Bruce Wayne spoke Chinese.