Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight:
It's been interesting to watch all three of these films back-to-back-to-back. I admittedly went in ready to be a giant dick, but my bullshit meter went all out of whack. These really are great films, but they've definitely gotten better as they've progressed. And I still think they could get better with some tighter writing, mostly because Midnight unravels a bit towards the end.
One running commonality between the films is a suffocating awareness of time. As indicated by their respective titles, each film burdens itself with a time limit to coincide with Jesse and Celine's precious few hours together. Each film has been able to build on the last by introducing a larger piece of the public realm into their lives, which is key for three stories that desperately try to concern themselves with solely the private realm: Jesse and Celine.
Sunrise works beautifully as a simple story, and director Richard Linklater had yet to establish the force of the public realm upon these two young lovers. The only presence is, of course, the rising Sun, which indicates that their time will finally come to an end. The public realm almost carries a mystical sense, which, now that I'm thinking about it, it sort of perfect for their situation. They're young and in love, running with the time they have, unattached to their social obligations and missing a respectable sense of responsibility. All they have is now, and the world is standing in their way. From the gypsy who speaks of Celine's fear of commitment to the poet who speaks of time fading away, there's always a force ready to remind them of their short time together.
Perhaps this is why Sunrise is the most underwhelming section of the trilogy. Sunset and Midnight are much more in tune with Celine and Jesse's personal lives, and the exposition doesn't purely derive from two individuals slowly getting to know each other. Their fears, motivations, and darkest secrets are happenstance in getting to know one another, but the sheer idea of spending every waking moment looking into each other's eyes takes adherence.
In Sunset, we find much more rounded individuals--and it's not because Linklater had another movie to feed off of. This plays into my argument that sequels shouldn't be allowed to simply rest upon its past films' body of work for lazy exposition, as those ideas should resurface and take new shape. Here we have the same two people: Jesse is noncommittal, constantly alters his perceptions, and addicted to self-flagellation; Celine is fearful of solitude, disrespects herself, and pushes away people who accept her for who she is.
But, add: Jesse's new career as a novelist, and Celine's multiple failed relationships. As Midnight portrays much more aptly, Jesse's biggest fears stem from perception, and Celine's biggest fears stem from time. Jesse requires writing because he desperately needs to alter his state of reality, which has reach a new low: he's in a loveless marriage and inattentive to his son. Celine is desperate to regain her youth, thus seeking out the man who took her breath away years ago. Suddenly, as time begins to escape them in the public realm, it too begins to eat away at the moment. Jesse slowly reveals he wrote the book so Celine would come and find him, and his profession--which he used to alter reality--suddenly becomes his moment to recapture his past. And Celine is hesitant to pursue Jesse, as time has allowed Jesse to drift away from the life they once sought together. The idea of time continues to build upon itself with each film in this manner.
And, of course, we have Midnight, which is easily the most multi-faceted film in the trilogy. I'll be writing a larger analysis soon, but more than anything, consider how Midnight starts. The first forty or so minutes surround Jesse and Celeste with their friends and family--there's a first. But why are they there? Why does Jesse go on a rant about his new novel? And what does any of this have to do with time, especially now that Jesse and Celine are happily living together?
To be continued...sorry.
Howard the Duck:
Modig just ranted about fucking Marketa Lazarova, and I'm talking about Howard the Duck. Ugh.
What is there to say? It really is horrible. George Lucas really is off his rocker. There really are duck titties.
Completely free of competent structure, no editing in the writing department, no direction, no clear focus of what the real story should be. No connections. No real romance. No exciting action. I hate to disappoint you fuckers, but you know what this sounds like?
Now Star Wars is a lot more competent in the structure department, but only because it's a completely safe, unadventurous version of countless other interesting sci-fi flicks. The kind of stuff that went on to inspire guys like Joss Whedon to regurgitate the same crap he always made...but in space! The kind of stuff that didn't inspire guys like Brian De Palma to actually explore space and all of its wonders.
I seriously want somebody to explain to me why Star Wars is a classic film, and why Howard the Duck is one of the worst movies ever made. Because in reality, they aren't too far from each other.
Beauty and the Beast:
This is one of the stupidest movies I've ever watched.
The directing is fine. The sets are awesome. The acting is good. There's even funny dialogue. And this is a BELOVED CLASSIC. So why do I hate it?
The plot is drivel.
Obviously the source material can be done well. I think the Disney version is far far far far superior. It's less on the nose. And has a larger scope.
Let's take a look at this.
Belle is, in this film, an idiot. She is a Cinderella-figure who WILLINGLY plays house maid. Yeah, yeah, her dad lost all his money because his ships didn't come in, so she's being practical while her sisters are awful bitches who only think about their social standing. What's it say about Belle that she is submissive to these two women? That she doesn't see them for what they are? Is it just because they are her sisters? That's awful. Does she not have a backbone? And then we're told later she loves/loved Avenant? She did a horrible job showing it. Everything we see of Belle is that she's very sweet, but she's also an idiot who does a poor job of making her own decisions. And I only call her an idiot because she listens to her sisters crying that they want her to stay then doesn't think it's suspicious when they go back to being awful to her. I just find this version of Belle...so pathetic it's hard to stomach.
The entire point of the movie, which is THROWN in our face several times with lines like "You're a beast, but you're more man than most men," is that the Beast while being a beast is also kinder and sweeter than most men. How's the movie go about showing this? By only giving us three other male characters. The father, who is nice. Avenant, who is scum. And Belle's brother, Ludovic, who is well-meaning scum. That's it.
We're supposed to the Beast is this great gentleman simply because the other two men Belle knows are assholes? And she LOVES THE ONE. This movie is all sorts of fucked up. At least the Disney one has an entire town full of people who admire Gaston, thus showing they're all a little wacko and invalidating every other man in town. And the Beast is actually quite caring.
In this movie Beast isn't caring. He's a melodramatic maniac. Belle says there's a man who loves her, Avenant, and Beast RUNS AWAY HE IS SO UPSET. That's one of the most pathetic things I've ever watched.
The dad almost dies because he's sad he lost his money and his daughter. Instead of picking himself up and dedicating himself to provide for his family: he starts to die.
Beast: is going to die from grief because a girl he has spent 2 weeks with won't come back and see him.
It's awful. Awful awful awful.
Was there no other dudes in town? Just Ludovic and Avenant? Was there no nice guy? Had Belle ever met another man besides Avenant? So she's known two men and she loves them both? It's RIDICULOUS. It isn't a great love story: it's a Beast who was once a man and is desperate for a girl to love him so he can turn normal again, and a girl who KNOWS NOTHING OF THE WORLD AND WILL LOVE ANYONE WHO PAYS HER ENOUGH ATTENTION BECAUSE SHE DOESN"T KNOW ANY BETTER meeting. That's sad.
And the outfit the Beast wears when he turns into the Prince is laughable.
I hate this movie.
Though the scene that was cool is when Beast is all sad because Belle said another man loved her and he goes out and kills a whole bunch of shit and comes back covered in blood and smoking. That was funny.
This is one of the best movies I have ever watched. I'm having a hard time understanding how it exists. Mostly because it was made in 1967 but feels like something Terence Malick would do at the height of his power.
This movie was filmed in the Czech Repulic, I guess. But in the woods of the Czech Republic, in summer and winter. It's so fucking real. I never once thought I was watching actors. These people were just...real. I kept waiting for them to break character. If it were up to me: every single one of them deserves an award for "best actor" and "best actress".
Have you read Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian? This is the closest cinematic equivalent. Especially with the title cards preceding each section. Like "Mikolas spares the man after seeing a holy vision." Had we not received that tidbit, we may not ever have known it was a "vision" Mikolas saw. Or the set-up about the wandering Priest and his sheep. "How he finds his sheep" and we see the Priest sitting in front of a roasting carcass. If you realize it at the time, you think: OH SHIT THAT'S THE SHEEP. In case you don't realize it, a few minutes later: The Priest finds the sheep's head.
And the black humor! When the upset Priest trips and the sheep's head goes bouncing down the hill. So fucking crazy.
What about the narrator? The arrogant narrator who tells us these are a bunch of random stories when it's clearly one narrative. Which leads us to question why then he said these were chosen at random? But, more importantly, what about the narrator GETTING IN AN ARGUMENT WITH ONE OF THE CHARACTERS? That happens. That's Monty Python shit in a serious drama. Blows my mind.
The movie ends up being about choice. The final shot showing Marketa Lazarova on a random road/path. And We see in the final shot there's a left fork and a right fork. She's taking the left fork, with the Priest, off chasing his goat, yelling for her to come back to him. Very very interesting. Couple this with the narration about Marketa's son and Alexandra's son growing up to be strapping men but Love and Cruelty battled for their souls...That's awesome. And we see it throughout this movie. Every character shows kindness and cruelty. No one is one-dimensional.
In terms of scale, scope, acting, direction, narrative tension, narrative coherence, and narrative tautness: this movie scores, for me, perfect 10s across the board.
The movie definitely isn't for everyone. It's bleak. There's a sort of rape. It's sometimes hard to follow who is who. Marketa often looks creepy as fuck.
This is a bold bold bold bold bold bold bold movie.
Hiroshima Mon Amour:
I kept hearing how strange this movie was. It's not that strange. In fact, I find it very straightforward.
The title translates to "Hiroshima My Love" or "My Love Hiroshima". And at the end the girl tells the guy his name is "Hi-ro-shi-ma". On one level, the title works as this love story between the guy (Lui) and woman (Elle) with the woman as the focal character.
On the second level, the movie is about the destruction of Hiroshima. We get a 30 min opening of images from post-bomb Hiroshima. Wounded kids, dead bodies, destroyed buildings, rubble, rubble, rubble. The title becomes an expression of love for this place that was destroyed and is struggling on, for the life there, capturing the pain and the pride.
But, really, the PLOT of the movie wants to show us, first, how people react to devastation, and then that LARGE-SCALE devastation on the level of Hiroshima is just as powerful and obliterating as PERSONAL devastation--loss: loss of a loved one, loss of a career, of respect, of reputation, of home, of material possessions, of your children, of pets, anything.
That's the point of our whole long middle section of what happened in Nevers.
This is the interesting part, and the awesome thing about plot structure. So, the film gives us The Tale of the Hiroshima bombing by Elle speaking over flashbacks. The film then gives us The Tale of Nevers by Elle speaking over flashbacks. This structurally links the stories. Moreso, the content is the same: we're hearing narratives about what happened in the wake of a destructive event: bomb, death of the person you love. Now the awesome thing: we see how Elle has faired since Nevers. She is haunted, yes, but she is happy. She has a husband she loves. She now has Lui who she really loves. She is beautiful. She laughs. She smiles. Despite the horrible thing that had happened to her, despite her extended insanity (she would pull at stone until her fingers bled then lick the blood), despite her shaved and ugly head, despite the poor reputation she gained...all of that came and went. And it's not trivialized or minimized: for Elle, those memories are still right there. But the important thing is: with time, we move on enough that we can forget.
By juxtaposing Elle's tale and Hiroshima: we then can extrapolate what's true for Elle's tale and assume it will be true for Hiroshima. That, over time, the pain will lessen, the city will gain a sense of normalcy, will become more happy, will find love, will find an even deeper, more necessary love. All of us will always struggle with moving on and remembering. We shouldn't forget the people or the things that shape us. But we don't have to let them always haunt us. This is the central tension of the movie and one that is never resolved because it can never be resolved.
So why does the movie end as the movie ends? The characters come to define the two tragedies we saw in this movie. Which then says a lot about tragedy. It has a complicated life.
Interesting to compare this to Tree of Life.
Video Game High School:
Actually holds a pretty high ranking for me. The plot is predictable as shit, but I was okay with this because the movie seemed to know it too. "Sure, this plot is cliche. But everything else we're going to do is stupid and original."
It's a farcical world, set up from the beginning by showing actual people in the video games. This conveys, yeah, how much the people believe in the game. It also allows for a reversal: "we can make the real world less real". We get, right away, the Video Game news station which has nothing but hot women who love video games. There's a flying bike. The fact THIS MANY PEOPLE CARE ABOUT VIDEO GAMES is in and of itself a ridiculous concept. What we're watching is a farce.
We get details like Brian D having the skill to defeat The Law but then burning his mouth because the hot pocket is too hot (demonstrating the weird tension between people who are AMAZING in certain areas of life and terribly dumb in others). Before Brian D goes to Video Game High School, the most prestigious vg school in the world, the movie wants to show us he has no friends. One method could have been having his mom throw him a going away party and no one showing up. That would have forced the Mom into a bigger role (she's nearly nonexistent). Instead: Brian D has a heartfelt goodbye with his cat. That says everything about Brian D's social life.
There are some great lines in this movie.
The principal says to Brian D when Brian D arrives on campus: "Buckle up kid, because this ticket puts you on a plane straight to hell. And the in-flight movie: Super Hell."
Brian D, in response to asking if he's nervous about talking to this girl: "Of course I'm nervous. Did you see her 1080-no-scope-natty-ice?"
One character's name is "Games Dean". That won me over completely.
When the asian friend is introduced by two dudes bullying him, he says "We got some loser who was hardcore guffin me." MacGuffin is a film term started by is a motivator in a narrative that isn't fully explained. The viewer just buys into it. Like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction is a MacGuffin. Or...Eh, here's a list. This shows, again, a self-awareness in the film. We never know why those two dudes were being such assholes, we just get that they were and accept it happened and, oh, look, it just so happens this is how these two became friends!
One thing I noticed: everything Brian D does ends up coming back to bite him. He throws his hat away and it becomes the cool hat Games Dean wears. He bakes a cake and it gets tossed aside and then Dean says he made the cake and everyone loves it. Brian is about to set the time-completed record for a Training Course when the hatchet he throws misses its mark and comes back to strike him in the head. Things go on like this until Brian stands up for himself by fist-fighting The Law. Which is the entirely wrong message to send but the best thing this movie could have done. Beating someone else up makes you feel good. It's why bullies do it. Except, here, it was standing up for yourself. Maybe you shouldn't fight everyone who is being a dick, but you do need to assert yourself when someone is constantly and consciously and successfully ruining your life.
"Do you hear any ROFL copters, son?"
That quote made me laugh.
They crib Casablanca.
And, finally, I love Johanna Braddy. As much as Kel loves Orange Soda.
Weekly Viewing Diary 9: Beauty and the Beast; Before Sunrise; Before Sunset; Before Midnight; Howard the Duck; Marketa Lazarova; Hiroshima Mon Amour; Video Game High School