Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Week in Review - 16/8/09

Illness is often the prime motivator for me to watch DVDs, and so this week I watched two. It was a very strange week, in which one day I thought I might die, and the next I was almost back to normal. As I wrote, not dead yet.

  • Tyson (James Toback, USA, 2008)
  • Coraline (Henry Selick, USA, 2009)
  • Apache (Robert Aldrich, USA, 1954)
  • L'avventura (The Adventure, Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy/France, 1960)


Suffering post-MIFF film withdrawal, I had to see something on the big screen, but my need was not so bad that I would resort to most of the pulp screening at the moment. I figured I'd see this documentary that also screened at MIFF and it's not too bad at all. I'm not big on boxing by any stretch of the imagination but what makes this documentary so compelling is the honesty and introspectiveness of the film's subject.

Tyson is completely up-front about his inner world and what motivated him at different stages of his life. He fell into fighting out of fear of being attacked. He desired various things, the tokens of success. When he denies having raped the woman for whom he was convicted and jailed, he says it with the conviction of an innocent man. While I never admired the animalism of Tyson, I found him a character I could empathise with, which is quite an achievement by Toback.

Coraline 3D
The last time I saw a 3D movie, it was at the same Sun Theatre and it was again without knowing that the session was 3D. The initial response of myself and the missus was disappointment. Disappointment that it was costing $3 more per ticket and disappointment that we'd have to don those stupid bloody glasses. So how was the experience?

Well, you'd think that paying those extra dollars would get you a nice clean pair of glasses, perhaps sealed in a plastic bag. No such luck. These glasses are all greasy and sweaty, with smudges all over the lenses. It's DIY cleaning, a real downer, like turning up at the local cafe and finding you have to remove the previous customer's dirty plates and wipe the table yourself.

The glasses are quite bulky and as excellent as Coraline's 3D effects may be, one is always aware of the intrusion of the glasses on the cinema experience. It's both a gateway to the experience and a ball and chain that detracts from it. When all is said and done, there seems to be no net benefit.

Still, the 8yo kid loved the effects, which have certainly improved since we last saw Bolt. In that film, the 3D effects seemed to be concentrated at the start and end of the film, and pretty thin in-between. I don't know if it's because the technology has improved, or whether Coraline had a better budget, but there's no denying that the effects are impressive. But if the technology were to proliferate and become more common, I think one would bore of it. I think the appeal is wholly because it is uncommon.

Another problem with 3D is that it's not really 3D. Rather, the film-makers are very selective as to what to make appear in 3D, which gives the illusion of 3D, but it always feels inadequate. To really get absorbed into the 3D world, the whole image needs to be treated with the 3D effects. Until then, the 3D effects are a distraction from the story as one's consciousness is drawn to analysing what is 3D and what isn't.

In conclusion, even if the tickets were the same price, I'd prefer the regular cinema experience. The main reason is that I find that the glasses intrude on the experience, making me conscious of being in a cinema and preventing my absorption in the story. That I have to pay extra for the experience is a strong negative.

The film itself is very enjoyable and well-done. I haven't read the story, and after seeing the film, I asked my son if he'd like me to buy the book (which was selling in the bookshop across the road from the cinema). He liked the film but his answer was no, to my surprise.

The film is basically a horror story for kids. The idea of an alternate, happy world where everyone has button eyes, and your entering the world means relinquishing your own eyes certainly has the potential for nightmares. Alexander had no problems with that element, so maybe it's more of a problem for some young 'uns. The film's visuals are nice and the story satisfying for adults as much as children.

Westerns are a re-discovery for me. I pretty much grew up on a regular diet of 1950s westerns in my childhood; they screened and re-screened regularly on Sunday mornings on Channel 9 and consequently I grew not to take them seriously. I don't know much about Aldrich, nor much about American history. This film's use of caucasians with face-paint is both amusing and yet effective. I understand the cultural implications, and that native Americans would not have appealed to cinema audiences of the day.

The film has both an air of camp and seriousness and Aldrich seemed determined to depict the Apaches in a sympathetic light, something I imagine was quite rare for the day. I wonder how historically correct it is.

While I didn't like Antonioni's The Passenger, Zabriskie Point impressed me and so does this 1960 film. It's focus on the idle middle-class and their sexual shenanigans reminds me of Buñuel's obsessions with a similar demographic, though the mood is very different.

The mood is very dour, a type of mystery as a woman goes missing and her friends try to find her (if she is still alive). Antonioni is one of my favourite Italian film-makers, especially given that I'm not a big fan of that country's cinema. In fact, I generally don't like the dubbing of Italian films, something I barely noticed in this film. The characters are well-drawn, the narrative is beautifully elusive and the observational nature of the camera is very enticing. The visuals are stunning. I look forward to discovering more of this director's work.


Anonymous said...

L'Avventura is a masterpiece, hands down. Needs to be seen on the big screen if you can. You should check out L'Eclisse which is my favourite Antonioni but not too far behind L'Avventura.

grand trunk said...

Tyson's frailties and fractured persona make him one hell of a documentary subject. His speed and agility coupled with his brutality made him one hell of a paragon of the sweet science too. Toback indeed does a great job of connecting this and creating a narrative.

Even though you started out of order with your Antonionis, now that you've seen L'avventura there's no other choice but to follow it with La notte and then L'eclisse. Then you will be ready for his masterpiece, The Red Desert.

Paul Martin said...

Yes, GT, that speed was something. My Antonioni viewing has been based on when cinema screenings have occurred. The Passenger was at The Astor a couple of years ago and Zabriskie Point more recently at Cinémathèque. L'avventura because I bought the DVD cheap and I'm at home sick. Thanks for the pointers; I'd definitely like to explore his other films. Maybe next year we could run an Antonioni season at Cteq.

Lynden Barber said...

If you like Apache, check out Ulzana's Raid, another Aldrich western from the same period that's more raw and primal than Apache.

Paul Martin said...

I don't have a particular interest in Westerns nor Aldrich, Lynden. The DVD was cheap ($5, I think) and seeing Aldrich's name it seemed worth a blind buy. But if Ulzana's Raid comes up as a similar bargain, I'd probably pick it up. When I do these blind buys, I figure it's worth it even if I watch it once, and I can always give it away. That's what I did with Apache - I don't want to accumulate too many DVDs, and it's not something I'd watch twice.

valentinovalente said...

Hello ! I am Italian man and I love cinema and I am happy you like "L'Avventura " i was surprised to see it on your blog so it's why I comment because I am happy to share with all of you this important movie and you must see " La notte" of Antonioni and eclisse that is la trilogia must important .I love Antonioni .
I was surprise too to see La Belle Noiseuse on your blog Wow !! It's really great movie !! I love it ! I am artist painter and photographer too and I know what doesn mena this movie for me and for all who love cinema.
Thanks!! this Blog is fantastich !!
i am your follower now .

Paul Martin said...

Thanks for dropping by, Valentino, and I appreciate your enthusiasm.

Cde. said...

It sounds like you saw Coraline in a cinema that uses Dolby 3D projection. With that system, glasses are reused, and are quite bulky, and too narrow.

If you see a 3D film in the future, try out a cinema with the Real D system. The glasses you are given are brand new (and you can keep them!), usually come in a plastic bag, are lightweight, and in my experience were vary easy to forget about as the film went on.