Call me Russ L

Girls On Film

Posted in Films by Russ L on 7 January, 2006

Originally posted on 28/8/4.

I don’t really like most films. There are various reasons for this, none of which are particularly important. Over the last week or so, though, I’ve watched quite a few (more than I’d usually watch in several months) for various reasons.

The first I saw was ‘School Of Rock.’ It was fairly funny, not amazing or anything. I don’t really have a lot to say about it other than that. Not bad.

The second one I watched was ‘Snatch.’ That was extremely funny. I don’t really have anything more to say about it other than that, again, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who thinks they’ll be able to see any humour at all in people being killed. I realise some folk won’t.

Next was ‘Stepford Wives,’ actually at the pictures. I don’t really like the cinema. This usually draws gasps of horror from film-fans, but… nuts to you. I don’t like not being able to stop a film to do something else for a bit, I don’t like the prices (although this film was admittedly seen via a special offer), I don’t like the general public, I don’t like the quality of the picture on such a big screen, and close-ups of faces that large never fail to scare the living daylights out of me.

Anyway, I haven’t seen the original Stepford Wives picture, but I would like to now. This one was perfectly watchable and reasonably enjoyable, but seemed to shoot itself in the foot with the tacked-on happy ending. The consistent theme (the fact that what you want won’t be the best thing for everyone else) somewhat conflicts with turning the whole thing into a love story, where what our two heroes wanted most was each other happily ever after etc. etc. etc…

Something pointed out by My Companion For The Evening, furthermore, was that the film seemed to suggest that there is actually something wrong with wanting to be pretty and feminine, with our good guys being presented as the opposite – the Bette Midler character being very slovenly, for example, and Joanna having short dark hair and wearing nothing but black at the beginning. Initially I disagreed with this, but the more I think about it the more I realise she was probably right. My disagreement was based at least partly in the fact that I think that Nicole Kidman was at least as attractive at the start as at the end, and I suppose I have to acknowledge that that’s more a matter of personal taste than any intention on the part of the film-makers. It can probably more vividly seen in the fact that the film has two gay characters, and by default the effeminate one becomes the good guy and the ‘gay republican’ is the heel. While voting Republican probably would automatically make you a baddie (joking, joking, stick your angry emails up your Bush), the non-reinforcement of orientational stereotypes probably wouldn’t. Is ‘orientational’ a word? Dunno.

Anyway, insisting on the purity of the (supposedly) non-conventional is not the same thing as encouraging people to be themselves. Quite the opposite, in fact. I suppose this was a Hollywood film, though, and there are no shades of grey in Technicolor.

I’m not saying I disliked it, though. Not amazing, but certainly watchable. I would like to see the original.

Next on my hit list was ‘The Cement Garden.’ I absolutely love the Ian McEwan novel from which this was adapted. This is rubbish. Absolute trash. It probably looks terrible that the only film I’m really digging my claws into in this column is the only low-budget production, but there we have it. First of all, the bleak, black humour of the book is replaced with ‘lay it on with a trowel’-thick attempts to convey sexual imagery. A drop of milk running down the girls face, for crying out loud? If R. Kelly and Gary Glitter got together and tried to create their own idea of classy erotica they could probably use a few scenes from this film.

The way the picture is shot doesn’t help. In the book there was a strong sense that, although the incestuous happenings were bad for them and would have terrible consequences, the family were happy for a short time, in a way they had never been before and probably never would be again. The dark, dank, gloomy cinematography (whether it was deliberate or a result of budget limitations doesn’t really matter, it still has a huge bearing on the finished product) gives no impression other than what is going on is sordid and dirty. What, then, is this film trying to say to us? “Sleeping with with your sister is bad, hmmmmmmkaaaay?” No shit Sherlock, tell me another one.

All of this goes without taking into account the bloody terrible acting. A lot of the players were obviously very young, but that doesn’t actually make it any better. That the few adults in this showed enough wood to whittle a dozen decent-sized sideboards out of does actually make it much worse.

Bah.

From the ridiculous to the distinctly sublime, the next film I saw was ‘Apocalypse Now Redux.’ This was fantastic, truly fantastic. Anything I say has probably been said a million times before by much more learned pundits than myself, but Captain Willard (played brilliantly by a young Martin Sheen, which was very interesting for me as I know him predominantly as President Jed Bartlett from ‘The West Wing’) sails down the river to assassinate the insane Colonel Kurtz, with his sense of self subject to steady attrition from the horrors and madness he sees. He gets to the end and is confronted with a foe to whom much the same thing has happened – “I’ve never seen a man so broken up inside.” By the end of the film there’s nothing left of Willard – he can barely speak, and his eyes are dead.

You can view it on a plot level, you can view it as a metaphor for war, you can view it as a metaphor for life, and if you want to get wacky you can even view it as his own breakdown projected onto his surroundings – just make sure you do view it.

I haven’t even mentioned the absolutely beautiful look of this film, or the magnetically lunatic colonel Kilgore…

Last but not least, ‘Fight Club.’ I have attempted to watch this once before, but turned it off as it was boring me. Since then a few people have absolutely insisted that I try again with it, and so here we are.

I dunno what I was thinking the first time, ‘cos I really liked it. I don’t honestly think it has the depth that many ascribe to it – the idea that self-destruction is better for you in the short term than (what is seen as) self-improvement, but ultimately is still self-destruction is an interesting one, but not one that is developed to it’s fullest extent – one feels that the jokes, violent set pieces and need to create a gripping yarn were more important to the makers. That’s fair enough, and it works as this is indeed amusing, amusingly violent, and the yarn is gripping. I’m keen to read the book now though, and maybe that will combine everything.

So then, the best of this little lot was ‘Apocalypse Now Redux.’ Joint second goes to ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Snatch’ (despite me not actually having anything to say about it). Fourth place to ‘School Of Rock,’ with ‘Stepford Wives’ very very close behind it, and ‘The Cement Garden’ was the worst of the six by a country mile.

– Russ L

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