« Some observations on the piece "The Unfinished," by D.T. Max, in the March 9, 2009 issue of The New Yorker | Main | Damn kids... »

March 03, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Tony Dayoub

Loved your comment on the radio show:

"... my own politics, as practiced, are not necessarily the politics that I enjoy seeing practiced in a film world..."

So true.

Peet Gelderblom

I really enjoyed listening to this in the car. From the stills I can find, the Blu Ray has a pretty cool look and I may just prefer it to the original, but it's not very 70s. Friedkin claims the film now looks exactly as it did when he saw it through the viewfinder, and frankly, that's a load of crap. Unless Friedkin has a film lab and a Telecine inside his brain, that is.

You did a great job at explaining how difficult this discussion really is, Kenny. I know from first-hand experience that pretty much everything is possible with today's digital color grading tools. It's a blessing as well as a curse. What's key is to make sure that the right people are involved. In this case, it would have been fair if Friedkin had made the call to Roizman before going all CSI over the Oscar-winning material.

Tom Russell

If it's any consolation, I get probably just as furious as you do when I read or discuss Kael. My wife actually got rid of the Kael books we had because she knew whenever I read one, I would get myself worked up. It's not just her short-sightedness and the way she consistently devalued the art form she professed to love (no reason to see a movie twice? really?) or the hack job pretending to be research that, to the best of my knowledge, still prefaces most editions of the Citizen Kane screenplay.

It's that, as you say, she is never consistent. She pulls loads of contradictory crap out of her ass to try and knock things she doesn't agree with; if I'm remembering correctly, she lambasted DeNiro for "King of Comedy" for disappearing inside the character and not "winking" at us to let us know he's in there. God, she makes my head spin.

I agree with your point about politics in life and on screen. I'm probably more of a raging touchy-feely liberal than Kael could have ever hoped to be, but criticizing "The French Connection", or any of the great vigilante cop movies of the seventies, for percieved fascism or a glorification of violence is just patently ridiculous.

But, apropos the strange intersection of politics and films, you scratched your head in blogpost and podcast alike about Zach Snyder's adaptations of "300" and "Watchmen", which are, as you noted, politically polar opposites. I wonder, though, if politics have much of anything to do with it for Snyder. (After seeing his "Dawn of the Dead", he certainly lacks the political/satirical angle that often infuses Romero's best work.)

I recently read in one of those big coffee table photo books about Eastwood that Don Siegel was not a particularly right-wing guy but he directed "Dirty Harry"-- presumably because, in the end, it was a good exciting and compelling story. Perhaps Snyder felt the same way about "300" and "Watchmen"-- they were comics he loved and wanted to bring to the screen as faithfully as he could. How that makes him a "visionary director" is however somewhat beyond me.

Peet Gelderblom

Tom: I have yet to see Watchmen, but 300 was never intended to be a political film and neither was Miller's book. It's a tall tale as told around the campfire by the only Spartan survivor of the battle of Thermopylae; a hyperbolic myth meant to tap into our most violent of primal urges. Its larger-than-life machismo should not be taken at face value. There's irony in the pompous ridiculousness of it all; the film makes me smile almost constantly.

Think Tony Montana times 300. At least that's how it works for me.

Tom Russell

While I agree that any political dimension would be wholly unintentional in Snyder's film, I'm not so sure about Miller. People, Miller included, often defend his work as "satire". This discussion was, indeed, recently resurrected because of Mr. Miller's new Batman comics, All-Star God-Damn Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder: Batman kills cops (satire!), Batman asks Robin if he's retarded (satire!), Batgirl is called a "cunt" repeatedly and, due to a printer's error, legibly (satire!).

The thing with satire, though, is that it actually has to be funny and intelligent. Just being violent, shocking, and misogynistic doesn't quite do it.

Back in High School, when a substitute teacher took over the course for about a month while our regular teacher (the legendary and cantankerous Russ "Paul is Dead" Gibb) was out for surgery, our video class was watching Fight Club over the course of two or three days. The following day, someone brought in a tape of the latest WWF pay special. The sub said no.

"But," said the fellow who brought in, "we were just watching Fight Club! That's more violent than wrestling!"

Quoth the teacher: "Fight Club is about the degeneration of modern society. Wrestling is the degeneeration of modern society. There's a difference."

That, to me, is the salient point; "300" and DePalma's "Scarface" might share an over-the-top appetite for violence and machismo, but I think that the latter ultimately has something of value to say about it. And not to get all reductive and internety, but if you're going to defend the film as "Tony Montana times 300":

Al Pacino > Gerard Butler
Brian De Palma > Zach Snyder
"This is Sparta!" < Any Line in Scarface*

*And because one thing always reminds me of another, I should note that the first time I ever saw Scarface was during the re-release some years back. Huge screen. Theater was packed. And everyone but me had seen the movie before. In fact, everyone but me had memorized the damn thing. Every line. Every single line, shouted at the screen in unison. Felt like I was in the midst of a religious cult.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad