16/01/2018

The Shape Of Water - The Monstrous Lover

Thoughts On: The Shape Of Water (2017)

A cleaner in a secret government facility falls for a prisoner.


The Shape Of Water is a pretty good movie. It has quite a few glaring plot holes and doesn't build into anything that will change your life, but it is a classical story rife with well-constructed archetypes that is told quite well. It goes without saying, but this also looks great too.

The most interesting element of The Shape Of Water is the relationship between our main protagonist and her love interest: the Creature of the Black Lagoon. Reworking the classic monster movie, Del Toro essentially tells the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

The Beast as a lover to a female protagonist is an incredibly prevalent archetype with many faces: the Beast can be a werewolf, vampire, pirate, zombie, surgeon, corrupt billionaire, jerk or bad-boy of some kind. This Beast, despite his monstrous facade, almost always has a weakness within him, and this is so often loneliness of some kind. Moreover, the monster within the Beast almost always projects his anger outwardly, away from the female protagonist. It is she who is attracted to the inherent antithesis within him (his loneliness, his hidden weakness, his corruption) and means to tame that Beast as no one else can. Again and again and again we have seen this played out in movies: in Beauty and the Beast, 50 Shades Of Grey, Twilight, The Hulk movies, Gone With The Wind, It Happened One Night, Edward Scissorhands, Shrek, etc. In all of these movies, we see beastly male archetypes confronted and tamed by women.

In some senses, this kind of narrative is then one about maternity and a woman's compassion; she finds a man with attractive attributes that are maybe a little out of hand, but, using her influence, carves out the man of her dreams from the Beast. There is then a strange line that is always almost toed in these stories. As in narratives that reverse these roles and see men save the damsels in distress, there is an element of infantalisation; the damsel becoming a weak child and the beast becoming a mother's baby boy. However, it would often be wrong to pick up on this and think you have struck gold. This infantalisation comes with the weakness within a subject attracting the hero. For example, in The Shape Of Water, we see loneliness weaken and infantalise The Creature From The Black Lagoon to some degree. In other movies of this kind, 50 Shades of Grey for example, this infantalisation is also at play with the monstrous side of the corrupt billionaire manifesting often as a toddler's temper tantrum (what's more, I'm pretty sure he has plenty of mummy issues). This puts the female archetype on the precipice of becoming an oedipal mother (which essentially means in a potentially abusive, life-sucking relationship), just like male archetypes seem to be approaching pedophilia sometimes. However, it is only with bad writing that this problem becomes obvious. It is nonetheless interesting to see many movies that fit into these classes skating a line between classical romance and something rather nasty.

On the note of 'something rather nasty', it is also interesting to see the Beast be captured quite literally in many stories of the kind we are discussing. The Shape Of Water is an example of this: throughout this story we see a woman fall in love and then develop a sexual relationship with a fish-man. Never is this really questioned in the film, and most engaged audience members won't question this either. Instead, the cuteness and the prowess of the thing is made clear - as is his humanity through his weak attributes (his loneliness and silence).

One of The Shape of Water's best attributes is then that it fully embraces the rather strange qualities of this classical story and its archetypes. What's more, it emphasises certain key elements; for example, the sexual relationship between creature and human is not hidden as it is with, for example, Beauty and the Beast. The inner psychology of the audience and this kind of film becomes very stark when watching The Shape Of Water. And in such, we see intriguing subconscious affinities emerge, those that have something to do with maternity, sexuality, monsters, binding weakness and female enchantresses.

All of these various elements may be a reflection of what it is that the archetypal woman wants: she wants a monster to fight for, to defend her, to love her and to be weak with her. And this is all, as must be noted, in direct conflict with the real monster: the Gaston archetype, who is monstrous toward the woman, and who also plays a role in this narrative. As misogynist as this analysis may appear to some, it is overwhelmingly obvious that this is the subtextual point of The Shape Of Water and the plethora of other movies like it. In genuinely capturing what may be an archetypal truth, this is then a movie that is very hard to dislike. As said, this isn't perfect and doesn't build into anything particularly substantial, but, this is awash with some nice characters, some comedy that hits and an immersive story, and so was quite a good time.

To end, we'll conclude as we usually do. Have you seen The Shape Of Water, or even films that sound like this? What are your thoughts on the monstrous lover?






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Shoah - A Historical Document

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14/01/2018

Shoah - A Historical Document

Quick Thoughts: Shoah (The Holocaust, 1985)

11 years of questioning what the Holocaust was and what its impact is.


What can I say? What can I write down for you to read having just spent a whole day with this film? How can I choose--how can I even decipher a moment to talk about? What am I to articulate, and how am I to do this?

These are questions I don't think I have any good answers for, and so I won't try to confront them - not yet. However, I can try to tell you what this is. Shoah is one of the greatest and most important documentaries ever made - I don't think such a point is debatable. This is not a documentary about history, however. Rather, Shoah is a historical document. In such, this never attempts to directly explore and bring back to life the Holocaust. The Holocaust is instead so often symbolised by the sound of heavy wheels on old train tracks; it is a happening lost in the past that no one can ever bring to the present to explain in full or even comprehend, yet it is also a weight that the world will likely never feel alleviated. With the train repeatedly used as a symbol of the Holocaust it is shown as the climax of the industrial age and the precipice of a new, forthcoming one. Moreover, it is portrayed as an entity that has evolved, but nonetheless remains. What Shoah does so well is manifest this ominous train with detail, scope and depth, and then have it run through your consciousness, billowing voices whose words, it seems, we will never be able to listen to properly.

It is ultimately a gross understatement to say that this has left me speechless as I don't even know how to deal with what it has left me. This is a film that everyone needs to see once in their life time. Find a day, and spend it with this film, and then you will know what Shoah is.






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End Of The Week Shorts #40

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End Of The Week Shorts #40



Today's shorts: What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932), Thor (2011), E.T (1982), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Destiny (1921), The Cremator (1969), The War Game (1965)




What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a heart-breaking film about being trapped within a bubble of shame and embarrassment - a bubble of love and responsibility - and trying to make it a better place despite the chaos and atrophy around you, despite the pressures overshadowing that bubble and despite the temptations of the world and its freedoms that may lie beyond the shadowed poll you call your life and your family. This is then a film about attempting to traverse an internal corridor of torture that exists between the individual and the collective self. 
Far too easily overlooked and forgotten as one of the most poignant and touching small-town dramas ever made, this is stacked with perfect writing, tremendous performances and so much more. What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a classic and a great movie - undeniably so.



Boudu Saved Fom Drowning is a spectacular satirical comedy that is, thematically, quite like Buñuel's Viridiana. However, the comedy of Boudu Saved From Drowning brings about a harmony from chaos that Buñuel doesn't attempt. And in such, this is a simultaneously critical and forgiving film about the pretense of charity and the rules of the bourgeois. Ultimately then, this is a film about freedom, destiny and embracing life as is and as your imperfect self - which is more than refreshing considering the weight of this film's themes if they were taken seriously. 
Energised by tremendous performances and writing, and captured beautifully by Renoir's often unique mise en scene and blocking, this is a pure joy to watch and a film I can't help but recommend.



Quite mediocre, but nonetheless good fun. 
The humour and a few of the characters keep Thor beyond bad. Thor and Loki are then played and written pretty well, and the comedy that revolves around them is pretty strong. However, all of the minor characters are written and played in a highly cliched and senseless manner. The same can be said of the plot: cliched and pretty senseless. And the direction... The constant, constant, dutch angles are truly ridiculous. I don't know how you could think they would work as a director. 
I think the biggest problem with this film is the fact that the director wanted to capture the comic books - which, from what I can tell, are quite dumb. However, that's a subject for another time. All in all, I had a good time with this, but it remains mediocre.



E.T is Spielberg at his absolute best. Heart-breaking, heart-warming, all at once, and brilliantly so. 
This is, in some senses, a film about losing someone (for Elliot it is his father), and then going on an adventure that teaches you how to make a new great friend, but also how to fight to let them go. This is then a story that is as much about building something as it is about seeing it evaporate, yet all whilst retaining faith in memory and hope in what has passed, knowing that, in the abstract, someone can always live on through you. For the way in which this is captured through a child's eyes, and with one of the most magical scores ever composed for a movie, it is undeniable that this is a classic and a Hollywood masterpiece.



Thor: The Dark World is... ok. 
The direction, in comparison to the first Thor, has improved greatly. However, the comedy is in places it needn't be and all the minor characters are still very weak. What's more, I care less for the main characters in this film - mainly because we're not given too much of a reason to like them. This comes down to the unnecessary focus on minor characters (Portman's character is played and acted worst of all), and the journey we see characters go on. Whilst this journey has some nice moments of action, it feels weightless. And where there is weight and drama, it is quite cliched and predictable. This doesn't stop this being watchable, but this is quite a throw-away movie. See it once and you'll have seen it plenty.



Lang's Destiny is a tremendous picture that seemingly sees Sjöström's Phantom Carriage integrated into Griffith's Intolerance. In such, this is an episodic film about death, fate and mourning wrapped in some powerful expressionism. 
With some great special effects and some incredible manipulation of the cinematic space through framing and lighting, this is a striking visual spectacle. Beyond this facade, however, is a complex story in terms of structure and subtext. Whilst some chapters of this episodic story are weaker than others, the front and back end of this narrative solidify it as a masterful silent picture. As this narrative develops, we then learn the true meaning of love being stronger than death; love will not overcome death, but, love, if it is genuine, overshadows all that lies beyond the now. 
For the manner in which the various elements of Destiny meld, this is then a film I won't hesitate in recommending.



A masterful showcase cinematography, camera movement and montage, The Cremator is a dark allegorical analysis of Nazification and the Final Solution. Often lost in between rooms and locations, very rarely having a full grip of what is going on, this film has a staccato formal approach punctuated by biting montage and dizzying zooms that manifests a legato sense of cinematic space that bears a liquid continuity. The discord between form and content, between the juddering mise en scène and smooth character journey, demonstrates a descent into madness catalysed through an obsession with death and purity and characterised, thanks to the jarring form, by absurdity that is sometimes funny, other times horrifying. 
Difficult to analyse, but almost impossible not to be struck by, The Cremator screams "New Wave" and demands to be seen. Highly recommended.



The War Game is a somewhat interesting BBC television documentary about possible nuclear fallout in Britain during the Cold War. Whilst this was made in 1965, it was deemed too horrifying to be screened, and so was held back for 20 years until it was cleared for broadcasting. 
It is clear why this was considered horrifying thanks to some graphic details, gruesome imagery, worry interviews and dumbfounding facts. However, this is very clearly a contrived document that far too often becomes sensationalist - seemingly with the intention of shocking or fear-mongering. The War Game is then ultimately confounding. It seems to bear graphic truth that would do well in shattering all illusions people may have had of nuclear war. However, it is almost always on the brink of sensationalist ridiculousness. In the end, best taken with a pinch of salt.





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Good Morning - The Silent Fool

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13/01/2018

Good Morning - The Silent Fool

Quick Thoughts: Good Morning (Ohayō, 1959)

Two children want a T.V, and they won't shut up until they get one - that is, until their parents tell them to shut up and they decide that they will... until they get a T.V.


Good Morning is an Ozu film - brilliantly so. Far lighter than the likes of Tokyo Story this retains a focus on family and time, but captures the humour of the ignorance of youth. My only criticism of this film is that they children, who decide to give their parents the silent treatment when they won't buy them a T.V, are a little too obnoxious at times. This undermines the bigger picture of the film ever so slightly, and so cheapens the motifs of naivety to a degree. However, looking beyond this (which is easy to do), we see a network of genuine characters drawn together in an intricate and warm world with humble mastery, leaving this a pure joy to watch.

Recently, we talked about the idea of the fool as the precursor to the saviour, and such an idea maps onto this film quite directly. In such, Good Morning captures the idea that a foolish act catalyses the emergence of truth. We see this picked up on with a local chairwoman having to accept responsibility for a mistake, with two young love birds talking about the weather instead of letting their true feelings known, with two bratty kids shutting up as their parents want them to as to allow the adults around them drop their personas and fill their silence with their own thoughts/anxieties, and with a young boy soiling his underwear daily in an attempt to fart when someone presses his forehead and so join in on the other kids' game. Without being put in a compromised position, a position of foolishness, the characters of this narrative are shown to be unable to access the truth, nor what they want.

As is clear, this narrative isn't just concerned with truth in a strict sense. Characters often become fools as to reconcile with silence. We see this with the two children refusing to speak so that they can get a T.V (an idiot box) and sit in front of it in silence, and we see this with adults greeting one another and sharing niceties that all mean nothing, but nonetheless carry positive weight that silence does not bear. In these situations, we see characters embodying fools as to accept the truth that they are fools; adults use formalities to quash anxieties and the kids use T.V as to distract themselves from the work they should be doing. In a world without fools, without humans that overthink things, that grind through their days without thanks, that try too hard and fail to try at all, there would be complete silence. It is by acting a fool - going to work when we hate it, sitting in front of the television when we should be studying - that we find ourselves silenced and our lives in balance. This silence can be a burden to bear, but it can also be an alleviation. This silence seems to be the outer and inner world at peace and society functioning smoothly, and it takes many fools and many foolish acts to run the machine and to sustain it.

It is through this relationship between truth, foolishness and silence that Ozu finds comedy. This comedy triggers the contortion of our features and the ringing of silly noises from our mouths, but it also brings about an inner-harmony and a sense of peaceful silence within ourselves. And thus we see this film come full circle. Good Morning is as much about breaking silence through foolishness as it is being a fool to find silence. This silence is harmony, and this foolishness is humanity, and such is the subtle profundity within this film. So, with that said, have you seen Good Morning? What are your thoughts?






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Lady Bird - The Limitations Of The Teen Drama

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12/01/2018

Lady Bird - The Limitations Of The Teen Drama

Quick Thoughts: Lady Bird (2017)

A naive teenager on the cusp of adulthood starts to become more self-aware.


Lady Bird is, in many respects, just another teen drama, coming of age picture. It does, however, re-stylise this genre with realism and honesty which actually sees one of this narrative's major points be, you aren't James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, just as much as you aren't Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. However, in focusing the scope of its commentary and in building a pretty unique character and putting her on a somewhat unique journey, this film was lost on me. Whilst I see its virtues and felt I gripped all of what was attempted to be said - this is a film about finding yourself and reconciling with the roots that you are trying to escape, and thus the rebellion that builds adolescence - I simply couldn't connect with what was going on or be at all affected by the story. The mistakes that our main character makes are obvious, just as much as her journey is a pretty ridiculous one, which leaves this film on the constant precipice of cliche. And though there may be an honesty about this embrace of naivety and the mistakes many of us make, I didn't care for the way in which they were portrayed, nor their stringing together.

Quickly realising that this was going to be a film with a character whose conflicts didn't resonate with me, I didn't decide to check out with the hope that, despite there being no present allegorical truth that I felt, there would be a more general or idiosyncratically striking truth to be found. But, approaching Lady Bird as objectively as I could manage, I failed to learn much. This was then an unfortunate disappointment and a film I can't say is particularly special. However, maybe this will work better for others. So, with that said, have you seen Lady Bird? What are your thoughts?






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Good Morning - The Silent Fool

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