Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quick Film Reviews #1

Cross-posting some old posts, because I feel like it.

Duck Soup
It's probably lost a little over time, but Groucho's wit is sharp, and even the clowning raises some laughs. Entertaining enough to watch in its own right, but ideal if you want to know what the Marx brothers were all about.

I raved a bit about this film before. If you want a film that doesn't necessarily make much sense or have any real plot, but batters you with ideas and with hatred for the bourgeois, this is for you. Even if you don't think that's what you want, you should watch it anyway.

The France of Godard's week end is a place where people are united only in despising one another, in a countryside covered in wrecked and burnt-out cars. Middle class are callous, shrill, greedy, murderous, working class are static, ambling, dull, materialistic. Godard's only sympathy seems to lie with revolutionary theory. If the cannibalistic, hippy "Seine-Oise Liberation Front" are an example of it in practice, then of the liberating effects of violence (chez Fanon) are not what was hoped for.
Weekend is a looking glass reflecting colonial violence back into the heart of France, as its characters reference torturing in Algeria or fighting in Ethiopia.

Princess Monononoke
The story goes that the US distributors bought Princess Mononononoke thinking they were getting a nice twee film from "the Japanese Disney", then didn't know what to do with it. It is certainly the most adult of the Studio Ghibli films I've seen - none of the others have a man getting his arms shot off in the first fifteen minutes. I've seen it a few times now, and what struck me last time was just how complex it is. The basic plot isn't particularly difficult to follow, but the number of factions, none of whom have clear-cut morals or motivations, is impressive by any standards. There is magic, but there are no magic solutions in this world, just people learning and struggling to get along.

It was good, but I I was a little underwhelmed. A bit melodramatic (in a negative way), I guessed a couple of the twists (and I'm very bad at guessing twists) and an ending which, while not quite deus ex machina is at least somewhat unsatisfying. The most memorable scene may be the protracted fight along the length of a corridor. It's not a masterwork of martial arts choreography nor a study in painful and bloody realism, but in the confined space it has a wonderful linear progression that's very aesthetically pleasing.

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