Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Breathless (but not so much) and Slashed Open

After seeing multiple references to Godard on your blogs, I watched my first with great anticipation. This will probably get me kicked out of movie club, but I really didn't like it all that much. Usually a film that doesn't have a plot to speak of will have interesting characters, but I found neither Michel nor Patricia to be particularly engaging. Perhaps this is an inappropriate comparison, but I kept thinking that Jarmusch does this sort of thing way better: odd characters in out-of-the-ordinary situations who meander through a hour and a half to two hours of seemingly random events with little to no resolution by the end. By all accounts, that sounds like a pretty terrible formula for a film, but boy does Jarmusch ever pull it off, time and time again. In Breathless, we have the formula, but uninteresting to borderline annoying characters talking incessantly about nothing. Bleah.

It is rare that I will pan so freely a film that has been so well received critically. Perhaps it's because my confidence in the validity of my personal taste is on the rise, or perhaps it's because I just don't have a critic's eyes. I tend to focus more on events and characters and plot than trying to tease out a director's themes (or lack thereof)--I'm mostly interested in whether or not a director is telling a good story that I (and presumably others) can relate to. I couldn't find any fingerholds whatsoever in Breathless, and when Michel died, and I didn't give a crap, I knew I'd probably wasted an hour and a half of my life.

And dear God, after listening to that woman's godawful French accent for nearly as long, I can understand a little bit why the French, as much as they hate English, would rather speak it than listen to us butcher their language.

Tell me if there's something I'm missing here, guys, because I don't see myself alotting any time to Jean-Luc again anytime soon.

In other news, I read with much interest both of your posts on various slasher horror films. I'm sorry I haven't had more time for movie watching lately because you are both writing about a favorite genre of mine. Nevertheless, I have a few thoughts.

I was on a "torture porn" kick for awhile because, at the beginning, the subgenre was really doing something interesting and new. The first few Saw films and Cabin Fever, Hostel, and House of a 1000 Corpses steered us away from the various teenie-bopper Scream permutations we'd been subjected to for the greater part of a decade, and it was refreshing. For a little while.

Then I watched Wolf Creek and realized that something else was happening with these films. Too much, too far. Hostel and Zombie's films made me uncomfortable, but they were still very much tongue-in-cheek-- an element of these kinds of films that is really important in allowing their audiences to view them as fantasy films, which is part of what makes horror fun. You know it would never happen that way. It's so over-the-top and ridiculous that the reality disconnect remains firmly in place. Granted, the question remains as to why we find blood and murder entertaining, and I'm probably oversimplifying it to say that it serves as a release from the real horror of reality most commonly found in the daily news. We have power when we watch good horror films. We have the power to say that it's not real. And we don't have that power in real life. These super-realistic and super graphic "torture porn" type films take that power away. The capper for me was when Captivity came out in 2007. I didn't watch it, and will not watch it, but the notion of the kidnapping and torture of a young woman as a subject for a film is absolutely appalling to me. It was around then that I think I started veering away from that particular subgenre and going back to the classics- Friday, Halloween, Hellraiser, Phantasm, et al- and to modern zombie and sci-fi horror films like Cloverfield that continue to allow me my reality disconnect.

I admired Eli Roth very much for Cabin Fever- I think it's a great horror film in that it does its own thing, and advances the genre, but also pays homage to great horror films of the past. Roth knows his history, and it shows. Hostel was also somewhat ingenious, but now I feel he may have fallen prey to the how-far-can-you-go-and-still-get-an-R-rating mentality of many modern slasher directors. I still have Hostel 2 sitting on my shelf at home while I try to decide whether or not I want to expose myself to it. Zombie, even if he fails in Halloween efforts (about which I remain on the fence), is still trying to further the genre, and I will give him credit for that. I've also continued to watch the Saw films because even though they remain dedicated to gore, the traps are still creative and they are now so firmly enmeshed in their mythology that the rest of the creative energy goes to developing that-- and it sets them apart from these mindless one-shot gorefests, even if the Saw mythology is approaching ridiculous levels of complication, which it doubtless is. They're still great fun to watch.

I am aware that the "new wave" of extra-gory films hails back to the seventies when it seems like horror went through a similar phase (and to which I believe a few references have been made). I have not watched any of these (save TCM- which apparently stands apart for reasons previously noted), so I am curious to see how they compare (Maniac comes to mind as one of the few I know by name).