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This is very much my blog, so don't be surprised if this doesn't follow accepted patterns and norms. Obviously it started out as a blog about my cross-dressing but it has developed a great deal since then. It is a place where I can be anonymous and honest, and I appreciate that.

It will deal with many things and new readers would do well to check out the New Readers' Page above this and the tag down there on the right. Although there's nothing too bad in here there will be adult language, so be careful. If you think this needs a greater control, please let me know. Thank you!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Beautiful Things: Films

Another day in November, another night spent pounding the keys to grind out the 50,000 words. Full story over on my other blog.  This is not about that. This is about things that inspire me and make me feel happy. And work at the moment is making it hard to remember the lovely things - as usual it threatens to send me into a spiral. So, without further ado, happy things!


Beautiful film, beautiful poster
The first film that I want to share is Pleasantville. I'm not sure how well known it actually is, so a quick synopsis: brother and sister with impossibly different personalities, quirks and lives are sucked into a TV and trapped in a 1950s world with improbable sets and lifestyles. The opening is a bit... tired and trite. It tries too hard to set itself up as a modern life at the beginning and this really dates the film but, and this is the thing, the actual plot and the storyline are timeless. There is a beauty to the way in which the film sets up the central conceit about the introduction of colour into a black and white world and the lives of the characters we meet. It all seems so real and reasonable at all points. I confess that I fell in love with the progression and development of the central male, along with his romance with a girl from the reality, and the central female, from horrid airhead to nerdy University student. In both cases they were played straight and effectively. But the real beauty of this film lies in the allusions it draws between 1950s Small Town USA and the state of Europe in the 1930s. I don't know if this was deliberate, but it works for me. The burning of books, the young hoods who are oh-so-respectable but essentially the HJ and the opposition mural on the side of the diner... beautiful. Whenever I watch it I end up with a lump in my throat at that point.

There's also the complete lost nature of the father, the way in which he loses his way and ends up instituting an effective dictatorship, smothering all that makes his family happy, without even realising what he's done. In the latter scenes, his sense of not knowing where to go, his lost feeling in the world that is opening up around him and the realisation of what he did, and his inability to work out how to make things better, is the most bittersweet thing I've ever seen. It is sad, and lovely, and happy all at once. I feel for him. I have often felt that way in my own life after having seen the film. I still feel like that at work.

Of course, there is still the scene in the bath with the mother in the alternative reality. But I suspect that's a resonance for other people. And the make-up scenes in both realities - I always feel that the second time around is... well... a bit too contrived.  However, the umbrella scenes make up for it in my mind, along with the huddled outsiders in the diner debating what to do about the rules of the town that have been published. Their struggle, their debate, has a timeless quality to it that can just as easily be applied to the current situation in Gaza as it can to the 1930s in Germany or the 1860s in Paris.  If you have not seen this I imagine it's cheaper to buy or download now, legally, than it is to buy a packet of nachos and dip to watch it with. It's worth that. It's worth more.


Beautiful film, beautiful poster. I wanted to
be Leeloo. Or at least wear her wardrobe.
The second film I want to talk about is the geekish labour of love that is the Fifth Element, a film in which every single detail in the background has a story to it and in which people really thought about the fashions and influences for every single character. Jean Paul Gaultier made the costumes and really went all out - not just extrapolating fashions of the late-90s, which would have dated the film, nor trying to thing of 'futuristic' designs that would have looked equally out of place. No, he went with the idea of the film, looked at the concept designs for the cars and the ships and the technology and worked with that part of the team, along with Luc Besson who wrote and directed it, to create something that looked so at home in the general aesthetic that it is impossible to divorce the costuming from the plot. And that is beautiful design.

Cars, buildings, cities, planets and space ships are all carefully considered. Even the crowd shots, using the crew and small amounts of extras digitally repeated, have been carefully thought out. Each apartment in one scene, five millenia later, has a different sub-plot that were all modelled on the stories that Luc Besson wrote about the city when he was a teenager. None of them impact the story he tells in the film in any way but it meant that the actions of all those apartment dwellers had their own internal logic - we were literally seeing snapshots of other peoples' lives. The overall effect is that we feel we are looking upon something real rather than scripted. There is so much depth to the film and the script that I always feel as though I am swimming underwater without the chlorine.

Characters are another string point, each one lovingly crafted and acted with passion. For years I did not know Chris Rock outside his role of Ruby Rohd, so imagine my surprise when I saw him elsewhere and he wasn't a prissy, slightly flamboyantly camp and over-cosseted diva in other films! Even the fact that Bruce Willis reprises his role of man in a vest saving the world / Universe with guns and silly one liners doesn't dampen the film. He manages to make it look fresh and different, and the romance seems to be believeable (okay, there are parts where its laid on a little too thick about what the Fifth Element is and why we should care, and there are repeated images in the War section that are, frankly, not to do with war, but still).  It works enough that I am able to follow it rather than pointing out flaws. Exuberance, the whole film just exudes exuberance and is a lovely thing. Get it, get the special edition with the concept art too, and just enjoy the damn' thing. Watch it as many times as you want, there's always something new, and you won't be disappointed. It's a thing of great beauty and it just makes me feel happy and smiley every time I see it. I own it and still, if I catch it whilst channel hopping, I get the urge to watch it again.

These two films are brilliant to me. They are beautiful things. I am sure they lack artistic merit like Mullholland Drive or the clever angles and reality of Network or the raw power of Downfall or even the general filmic direction of things like La Planete Savage and Aliens and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet but they shine for me on a much more shallow and accessible level. I don't feel the need to study these films, though I do, and I don't feel under any pressure when I watch them. I enjoy them with my mind firmly engaged. They are not escapism and they are not biting social commentary. They are, simply, beautiful, and don't try to be anything else. I love them for that.

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