Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Freelance Post

I was going to put up a movie of my children playing a game here but the upload didn't work, so now I have to fall back on some unplanned topic.

I've seen 4 movies in the last ten days or so. I'm not proud of it, but sometimes these things happen.

1. A Hard Day's Night. This has been getting written up more and more as a classic in recent years. It really isn't that good. When I was in college they showed it against the wall of one of the buildings during an outdoor party in the springtime, which was great fun because you get the music and the atmosphere without having to devote your whole attention to the movie; watching it by yourself in your living room in your late 30s the thrill isn't quite the same.

2. The Naked City. This is the 1948 neo-realist-noirish police procedural famous for being the first film shot almost entirely on the real streets of New York City in the sound era. The plot and underlying social commentary are rather stilted but it is worth seeing if you like New York and/or that time period. The deservedly famous Williamsburg Bridge sequence at the end is especially beautiful. I liked the technique of subtly promoting the postwar social agenda (according to one of the interviews on the supplemental materials) by having the wife of the young cop who has returned from the war and gotten hit immediately with a baby, a mortgage and a grinding job welcome him home in the afternoon in a skimpy outfit.

3. I Served the King of England. Czech. Looks to be pretty new. Directed by Jiri Menzel (director of the 1966 Czech New Wave classic Closely Watched Trains) after the novel by Bohumil Hrabal (who also wrote Closely Watched Trains as well). The movie also has quite a lot of similarities to the film version of The Tin Drum. It isn't as good as either of these other movies but it's O.K. Hrabal is a very big literary figure in the Czech Republic. He is not as famous or well-regarded in the West as Kundera or Vaclav Havel because, I am assuming, he was not perceived as antagonistic to the communist system, was perhaps even accomodating to it, and therefore apparently of little interest to us. However, most of the people I knew when I was there who were engaged with literature considered Hrabal to be the most representative writer of the Czech experience over the last 50 years. His view of life is more carnal and absurdist than earnestly ideological. His characters are defined by what appear to be stubbornly cultivated and adhered-to, though for the most part fairly harmless, idiosyncracies, which is their singular and outwardly ineffective act of protest against the madness of the world around them and its systems, whether it be that of the Austrian monarchy, capitalism, Nazis, war, or Communism. The movie is rated R for nudity and sexual situations. As my wife commented "That's about all (the ratings wickedness) the Czechs can muster."

4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I didn't think this was going to be any good, and these expectations were not disappointed. My excuse for sitting through the whole 2 hours and 45 minutes is that I was watching it with other people in Vermont, and unlike Picasso or John Locke, I don't know how to get up and leave the room the second the level of intellectual intercourse drops below a level that is acceptable to me. I have no idea what the point of the film was supposed to be, other than that there is no obvious benefit in having a non-traditional life cycle if one is still to be bound by the ordinary limits of time. The only reason I am even acknowledging that I saw it is that, while I forget what its rating was, I thought it was noteworthy that one of the naughty things prompting it not to be a "G" was "smoking". Someone needs to go back and re-evaluate A Hard Day's Night I guess because that was rated G and of course they're smoking all over the place in it, not to mention all the (mild) sexual (and by current standards sexist) innuendo in it too.

I was going to do something on one of the Issues of the Day, but I think I'll start another post for that.

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