Friday, November 26, 2004


I wrote this up right after I saw the movie Dogville. There are spoilers below, so if you haven't seen the movie, see it. If you have, read on.

I completely loved the film, both story-wise and production wise. The stage setting was a gimmick, but it wasn't gimmicky, in the negative sense of the word, as in, just relying on something outlandish as a way to get the audience interested, it worked in the way that the best Buffy "gimmick" episodes worked, using the style as a means of exploring the story and characters. I don't think the movie would have worked had it not been set on a stage. It made the town feel much smaller, and increased the feeling of paranoia as the movie went on. The rape scene was very powerful, and different, because of the gimmick. The shot towards the end, when Grace is in her house, the rest of the town is meeting, and Tom is outside, was brilliant, because we were able to see the choice he has to make, and the community vs. individual theme was driven home.

Some of it was a bit questionable, like using the drawings of gooseberry bushes, and the drawing of the dog, but the acting made it feel real. I think the stage setting also gave it a timeless feel, rather than the more cliched period small town setting.

I thought the story was powerful, and a great depiction of what power does to people. When the people of Dogville, so used to the status quo, are given the opportunity to control someone, they become monsters, which is paralleled at the end when Grace, finally given the opportunity to take revenge, destroys everyone. It was a really simple story, but just told very well.

Despite being three hours for a relatively simple story, I didn't feel like any scene was unneccessary. They all added something to the story, and that's largely because of the performances. This was probably Nicole Kidman's best performance, and she was heartbreaking, as well as astonishingly beautiful. The rest of the cast was great as well, completely inhabiting the roles. Patricia Clarkson was particularly impressive, since I'd just been watching Six Feet Under season two, where she plays a role that's essentially the opposite of who she is here.

I loved the ending of the movie. The fact that he just broke out 30s style gangsters, with tommy guns and fedoras, was impressive. And then the brutal killing of the entire town. The scene where the children are killed, to parallel the smashing of the figurines was particularly notable.

That's not to say it was a perfect movie. I feel like having the entire town raping her was a bit excessive, and it really bothered me that she didn't try to defend herself or even get Tom to stay with her and stop them. The end of the movie she does fight back, but I found it odd that at the time she didn't try to do anything. Also, the DV style worked most of the time, but sometimes, the wandering shots and odd framing got annoying and distracted from things. Though, I did love the use of jump cuts.

Overall though, I thought it was spectacular. The stage thing kept the focus on the plot and characters, and really made the film work. I hated Dancer in the Dark, but this film redeemed Von Trier for me. And, I don't really see it as anti-American. It's more anti-human if anything.

Related Posts
Top Ten Films of 2004 (1/5/2005)
Review Revue (Breaking the Waves) (5/25/2005)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What's the deal with being depressed...

Working three hour shifts in the computer lab means I spend a lot of time wandering the internet, and I come across people's livejournals and such. There seems to be one common theme among all these journals and that's that the people writing them are writing about how depressed they are. Judging by these things, people are all aimless, without focus or direction and searching for their place in life. Now, obviously people use the livejournal as a place to vent, and I find when I write, I always focus on the problems, because you take the good things for granted.

When you think about your life, there could be a million great things going on, but I find that I still always want more. And, it's that one thing I don't have that occupies my mind, rather than all the good stuff. I mean, sometimes I can just go outside and look at the beauty of a shadow falling across a tree under a streetlight, or the majesty of a great work of fiction and get completely absorbed in it, but I eventually always go back to the things that I feel I've failed at.

This brings me back to the fact that we have to be confronted with bad things in our lives, so that we can get better. If we aren't reminded of where we've gone wrong, we're never going to try to correct the errors we've made, and improve in life. That's what The Invisibles is all about. The archons, the things that hold us back, exist to make us better. In the long run, it's better to have these problems because in confronting them we can improve and become stronger.

But, back to my original point. I think one reason people constantly feel depressed is because the media creates this image of what we should have. Like, at college, you should be having the best time of your life, you should have a girlfriend, you should have meaning in your life, a real sense of purpose, and I think most people don't. They just go along, fulfilling obligations, and I'm not sure what their ultimate aim is.

For me, the thing that simultaneously makes me happiest and saddest is my desire to be a filmmaker. This dream gives me direction. Even if I'm wasting time along the way, I have an ultimate destination, a passion that drives me. I find it difficult to think of people for whom art isn't a big part of their lives. Like, I don't see how you couldn't want a job that allows you to express what's on your mind. I don't get how you could live if your ultimate aspiration in life is just to get a boring job, and keep moving along in the way that society has prescribed you should. Everyone has to have some passion that keeps them going.

And I think it's the lack of a dream that makes people so depressed. All the aimlessness I go through, I still ultimately have this dream that I'm working towards. If you don't have that, these probably will be the best years of your life, and if you're bored, what does the rest of life hold for you?

Maybe that's a bit defeatist. I look forward to getting older. Hopefully I'll be making films, but even if I'm not, it doesn't mean I can't still enjoy myself. There are people who will have had the best time of their life in high school, some in college, and some after. I liked high school, I like college, but I'm hoping things will get even better as time goes on.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Downloaded Worlds

I bought Promethea book 4 today, haven't read it yet, I'm going to wait until the last issue comes out in February and then do a really immersive read of the whole series. But, the book got me thinking about a certain type of story. Promethea feels perfect, like every single issue was carefully thought of, and came out exactly like the creators wanted it to. There were no mistakes, and you can't really criticize anything, becasue the book is so internally consistent. It is the type of work that feels like the creator tapped into some other universe, took the book, and brought it back here.

For me, the work that feels most like this is the original Star Wars trilogy. Despite having seen and read many many things on the creation of the trilogy, I still don't view it as a movie that was filmed, it really feels like you're looking in on a piece of another universe. I can't imagine cameras being there, or the places being sets. I know the movies aren't perfect, but I can see very few specific flaws, because it doesn't feel like Lucas made up the story, it felt like it was all there already, and he had no choice in how to tell it.

Another great example of this is Lord of the Rings. The movie feels this way, but the book is perhaps the best example of this anywhere. It's so detailed, it feels like Tolkien tapped into this alternate universe.

Which brings us back to Promethea. The entire book is about the power of thought, and a sort of shared universe of thought called the Immateria. This is where stories come from, and this book really seems to be downloaded from the Immateria. The art is so brilliant, it doesn't seem like a person could make it, particularly working on the deadlines imposed by monthly comics. I can't imagine JH Williams drawing anything else, becuase to me, he is the guy that channels Promethea.

While I think The Invisibles is a much stronger comic than Promethea overall, it doesn't have that downloaded from another realm feel all the time. The Jiminez issues, notably Entropy in the UK and Black Science I do, as does Weston's run at the end of Volume II, and most of all, Quitely's absolutely brilliant issue 3.1. However, there's also the dreadful art in The Invisible Kingdom storyline, which completely takes you out of the story, and the illusion that this is a real world.

Related Posts
Vintage Invisibles Reactions (3/1/2004)
Promethea (2/22/2005)
Ten Works that Changed My Life: Part II (5-1) (5/2/2005)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Wong Kar Wai's Days of Being Wild

Today I watched Days of Being Wild, a film by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, who did the brilliant movies, Chungking Express and In the Mood For Love. Days was an early Wong Kar-Wai film, and it wasn't as strong as his later output. However, that doesn't make it a bad movie.

The movie feels very New Wave inspired. There's not much story, and a lot of what happens is just people sitting around talking about stuff. We basically see York living his life, and what happens to him. That forms the main basis of the movie. However, there are other characters on the peripherary. Maggie Cheung appears as a woman he dumps, then she goes on to meet up with a police officer. Her encounter with the police officer was my favorite chunk of the film, it felt a lot like In the Mood for Love. The movie looks beautiful. The use of color is extraordinary, and there were a number of shots that just jumped out to me as aesthetically perfect, and a great use of framing to tell the story.

If there are any problems, it's in the lack of focus. The movie kind of meanders along, and I wasn't really sure where it was going. Also, even though it looks great, 60s Hong Kong looks even better in In the Mood For Love, and in comparing the two, Days suffers.

Related Posts
Days of Being Wild: In Depth (4/28/2005)
Ashes of Time (4/20/2005)
Wong Kar-Wai Day (8/3/2005)