Thursday, September 13, 2012


The Hunger Games (2012): As someone who hasn't read the book (YA in general is not meant for me, what with me being older than time and liking writers who use complex language), I don't have an opinion on the quality of Gary Ross's film as an adaptation of it. But I do recognize a confidently clever piece of dystopian SF when I see it, appreciate a film that's tighter directed than it seems to be on first look (seldom has blockbuster Hollywood been less showy while using the untold millions in its budget for production design good), and respect how script and film transform everyday experiences of its main target audience into action and drama on screen without having to betray that element for the SF, nor the SF for that element. Add to that another great (and appropriately physical) performance by Jennifer Lawrence and you'll see me all aflutter about a film.

The Survivor (1981): The IMDB (not the most trustworthy of sources, of course) says there exists a twenty minutes longer version of David Hemmings's film, which - if true - may just be the version that makes good on all the film's promises, as made by the often moody direction and a very good cast including Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter, and a ridiculously unnecessary Joseph Cotten. Unfortunately, the version I've seen is just terribly undercooked with no characterization to speak of and a plot that seems too fragmentary for words; it really does feel as if all the connecting tissue of the story were missing, with characters appearing and disappearing from the plot at random, and no sense of progression. That sort of thing can work if a film is so weird the lack of normal narrative connectivity actually feels more fitting, but in The Survivor's case, it just leaves a hole where the film's core should be.

Paprika (2006): Generally, I'm not as excited about the body of work of anime director/writer Satoshi Kon as many of my peers are. The high aesthetic and technical standards of the man's films are of course out of the question. However, I've always felt uncomfortable with the way the Kon uses pop culture to express his loathing of popular culture, even more so with the cloying nostalgia for a stagnant past that seems to underlie most of his films, even if the result is as difficult to resist as anime giallo Perfect Blue. Basically, Kon put his incredible talent in service of a conservatism that makes it impossible for me to get too excited about his films. Ironically and sadly, Kon's final finished movie sees the director changing his tune. Here, the film's designated bad guy is sprouting exactly the sort of ideology usually underlying the director's films; here, the possibility of change and a humanism in Kon's earlier works have become core values. This change of mind is packed into a SF story in techno thriller mode about the manipulation of dreams, the mutability of identity and dream-images as striking as one could wish for, always hinting at a richness and depth the Kon is actually willing and able to provide.

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