Saturday, February 27, 2010

February Finished

For the first time there was a stir of feeling, a hint of motivation.  The tip of a pallid tongue licked hungrily around the pale lips.  "I want my soul."

-Fritz Leiber, from Conjure Wife

Cold Souls is a big disappointment.  It especially fails seen in the light of Leiber's Conjure Wife, which I read a few weeks ago.  Leiber's description of a soulless body is unsettling, as these things probably should be.  Barthes's film, in comparison, is just one long weak joke, never really realizing what an outrageously scary subject she is trying to tackle.

Inside the Labyrinth is an awe-inspiring look at the making of Labyrinth.  The mid-80s were the very height of creature effects and Henson and company were among the very best.

Hour of the Wolf might be my favorite Bergman film.  In it, Bergman explicitly externalizes the demons that he has previously only allowed to be seen and heard in fleeting glances and strained dialogue.  

I'm having a hard time feeling motivated to write more.

Briefly, one major connection between Shutter Island and various Bergman pictures is the very obvious one of all of the action being isolated to an island.  The tormented "mentally insane" man is isolated from other human beings in his head; this distance and isolation are manifest visually by the concrete physical metaphor of an island.

I started my Shutter Island post with a poem from Songs of Experience because the film itself references Blake via a print on the office wall.  I can't remember what else was on the wall, but the Blake was obvious.  I think one of the characters actually takes it off the wall at one point.

The visual references and allusions are certainly rich in Shutter Island.  In this aspect especially, Shutter Island shares a lot of commonality with Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.  Both directors live and breathe film.  Filmmakers like Bergman or Tarkovsky made films as the best way of expressing themselves.  Both tended to reference other forms of art, especially music and (more in Tarkovsky's case) painting.  Filmmakers like Scorcese and Tarantino (each following the lead of the French New Wave) make films as an act of film criticism (which is not to say that they are not also expressing themselves).  They will sometimes reference and incorporate other forms of art (each has a sense of timing informed by pop music), but, at heart, they're both primarily film critics.  Film nerds.  Absolute cinema addicts.  The best kind.  The kind who can only make sense of other films by making their own response films.

What's amazing about these two specific visually complex films is how immensely popular they are with big audiences.  Why do audiences flock to what are essentially film nerd treatises?  Obviously, it's because both films are also a lot of fun.  

But, yeah, many critics are scared of this or something.  Inglourious Basterds has gotten a better critical respoonse than Shutter Island, but I think a lot of that might be bandwagon hopping.  The initial reviews out of Cannes and upon its opening here in the States was very mixed to say the least.  I think you may be right, Brandon, that even though Shutter Island is being largely critically reviled right now, it will be vindicated in good time.    

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