Sunday, May 20, 2012

Quick Film Reviews #6

More old film reviews.

Woody Allen in slapstick mode as a man in a coma revived after centuries. Involves a lot of people running around chasing other people in a comedy fashion. I wouldn't say it's a work of genius, but it's quite funny, though probably more for the wit than the running around.

Demon Seed
James lent me this because it's one of his favourite sci-fi films. I didn't realise until I started watching that it's based on a book by the epitome of airport thriller writers Dean R Koontz. It's vision of a super-intelligent computer and automated house is wonderfully 70s. Proteus does seem to be the Anakin Skywalker of computers though. All that awesome intellect and knowledge of humanity, but absolutely no persuasive skills. Oh, you rebutted my one sentence argument... Then I will have to kill you! Also, let's give this computer a really sinister voice. Or maybe he's the MacGuyver of computers, able to create a reconfiguring, levitating polygon and a tailored embryo using just a laser and a mechanical arm. There's some kind of message about inhumanity and the environment, but I think it got lost somewhere.

Blue Velvet
This is actually the first David Lynch film I've seen, so I braced myself for a baffling story of mysterious symbolism. I was rather surprised to find a linear plot, clear good and bad characters and a neat resolution. It does have a "strange and brutal underside to the normal looking town" theme to it, but this is made less threatening by the fact the two sides are very clearly spatially and thematically separated. The ending is parodic in its upbeatness, even down to the mechanical robins straight out of Mary Poppins. It reminded me of the basic structure of a fantasy story where chance leads the hero into an alternate world, at least until its problems are resolved. (It also reminded me somewhat of A History of Violence.) None of which is to say there's not a depth to the film and its symbolism, and there are a number of very memorable scenes, mostly based around Dennis Hoppers legendary satanic performance.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Books: The Gum Thief

Continuing my attempts to write something about every book I read.  Not as a "review" as such, but to encourage me to think a bit more about about them.  It looks like I can read books faster than I can write about them, as I have a backlog.

I think Douglas Coupland is one of those zeitgeisty authors.  I don't mean that in a bad way.  More that he tackles the modern condition openly.  And by "the modern condition" maybe what I mean is "first world problems".  I don't think I mean that in a bad way.

In case you haven't guessed, the Gum Thief is a story of people in America who feel trapped and unsatisfied with their lives.  I read it on a rainy Sunday when not leaving the flat was a rational plan, rather than something to fight against, and there didn't seem to be anything else to do.  When I started the book I thought "this is how I'm feeling".

I think the moral of The Gum Thief is that changing ourselves is very difficult, but through reaching out to others and trying to imaginatively live their lives, we can find connections and effect some kind of change.  It made me think about the experience of imagining yourself in someone else's position, trying to feel what they're feeling and what choices they might make.  I don't think I've thought about it much before.  It's not something I'm very good at, or at least I don't do it instinctively.  I'm bad enough at imaginatively inhabiting my own life, let alone someone else's.  So I probably go through a book or film, or similar story, without really connecting with the characters the way other people might.  I can't remember any examples of going "that was a particularly convincing character".  Though maybe it's only critics, authors and literature students, who think about these things too much, who say that, as I can't remember anyone I know saying it.

My main problem with the book was that it alternates letters/notes between the characters with sections from a terrible book one of them is writing.  It's amusing, but I don't want to spend too much time reading something that is deliberately terrible (and not deliberately terrible enough to be great).  The whole book's fairly short though, and breezes along, so it's not a big problem.