Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #59

27/05/2018

End Of The Week Shorts #59



Today's shorts: Pete's Dragon (2016), The Dirty Picture (2011), George Carlin: It's Bad For Ya! (2008), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Le Trou (1960), Escape From New York (1981), Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988), Street of Crocodiles (1986)



The 70s Pete's Dragon is just plain bad, and whilst this newer version is an improvement in some respects, it's not much better.

In short, this is just fluff; the whole movie could be reduced to a few shots of people beaming cringingly warm smiles at one another. To be a tiny bit more specific, this is a pretty literal story about a kid who is looked after by a dragon and then found by a nearby town. There are some allusions to ideas of deforestation and animal protection, but these go nowhere. Without anything going on in the subtext, you're left looking for some substance and force of heart in characterisation, but, as said, everything and everyone is just filled with fluff. What are you supposed to do with a movie that has no real character and heart and that disengages its mythological and unconscious underpinnings? Nothing. And that just about sums this movie up. A waste of time.



The Dirty Picture is a semi-successful film that deals with eroticism in Indian cinema by formulating a loose biography of Silk Smitha and other actresses of the 70s and 80s who were typecast and utilised a little like Marilyn Monroe was in Hollywood during her day. In such, this focuses on the love-hate dichotomy audiences (male audiences) seem to have with sexual icons of the screen as well as the struggle that the humans behind the iconography endure.

I fear I give the film a little too much edge in saying this, however, as, whilst its commentary is embedded in irony and satire, it fails to humanise its main character. In such, it takes on a form that is not too different from erotic set-pieces in Indian movies, but still tries to tell a story of the person behind such a veneer. And whilst one could argue that the point of the film is found here, I can't see such a technique bearing much fruit. Interesting, but only so much.



As prolific and iconic as Carlin is, I can't say I think he is a truly great comic. Carlin was an ingenious writer and performer, and if his specials were supposed to be rants, not stand-up, then you could easily call him a master. The truth is, however, that I very rarely laugh when watching Carlin's later stuff. His early stuff from the 70s is ridiculously good as it combines his ability to go through long, fluid and complicated bits with his ability to be self-deprecating and uncannily perceptive. It's then his bits on time, dirty words or stuff that sees him make fun of commonalities from various strange angles. When he applies this approach to politics, consumerism and road rage, the results are novel, but not as funny; they lack humanity and character. Sure, they have personality and opinion embedded in them, but it's only so entertaining to hear an old, angry guy rant about stuff he doesn't like.



Snow White is a drastically incomplete fairy tale that lacks crucial characters and character development. Missing from this narrative is then Snow White's parents, the original king and queen, as well as any development of the relationship between Snow White and the prince and Snow White and the dwarfs. This has an incredibly significant impact on the meaning underlying the classical tale of Snow White, which essentially divorces this narrative's meaning from that of the original. Disney's Snow White is then reduced to a film about the preservation of one's 'innocence' and the gradual confrontation of masculine figures. There is some value to be found in this, but, with a longer run time and a more expansive narrative that wasn't focused on simple musical spectacle reminiscent of Disney's earlier shorts, this could have been much more. Alas, still a classic and a nice film to experience once again. I had hoped to find more in this than I previously have, but unfortunately not.



Le Trou is the kind of film that not invites, not pulls, but imbibes the viewer, entirely absorbing their gaze into the fabric of film, action, drama and light. Time then very much so suspends itself as we simple observe a selection of processes - tunnelling, hammering, watching, waiting - and such brings about a kind of time that is similar to, but functionally abstract of Tarkovsky-time. What emerges from Le Trou is not an observation of time that gives way to a higher, poetic sense of reality, but is almost non-conscious in its fascinating monotony. One doesn't necessarily think when watching the presented processes through, nor do they feel anything of particular complexity; one watches and waits. Some call this tension, but I could equate this experience to thoughtless meditation; existence in a state of patience, with hope for, but without thought of, the future. And such reveals the heart of a film that I cannot spoil, only recommend to all.



In terms of cinema, I was raised on popular Hollywood movies from the 80s and 90s. There were a few movies that many would deem essentials that I missed, however, and, up until now, Escape From New York was one of them. Alas, having finally seen this film, I'm not sure if I was missing out on much.

Escape From New York is interesting for its ironically positive nihilism. It by passes emotion and valour in search of stoic resolution much like we see in Leone's spaghetti Westerns - and such is a difficult thing not to observe thanks to Kurt Russell's explicit Clint Eastwood impersonation. This produces a commentary on a world still trapped in a Cold War that, whilst it has its punch, lacks expression due to the ways in which this technically lacking (sound design, action, general logic). So, whilst there is much that could be said about what Escape From New York is trying to say, I can't say I was gripped or that it convinced me of too much.



This is a biographical film depicting Karen Carpenter's struggle with anorexia. It functions with a double-layered narrative. Fundamentally, this is a tragedy about eating disorders, repression and self-control. In turn, factors such as family and fame are shown to play a key role in suppressing Carpenter's sense of freedom and exacerbating her struggle to gain a control over her body and mind that wasn't self-destructive. On another level, this film formulates a social commentary on freedom that allegorises Carpenter's story in an attempt to show how a consumerist, war-waging society that is far too controlling catalyses the self-destruction of individuals. The contrast between control and freedom in such a respect is presented first and foremost with the use of Barbie dolls that represent people. Alas, the commentary is fleeting and so lacks depth or complexity. What's more, it feels like Karen Carpenter is used as an idol or device and not really investigated as a true person - not because she is represented with a doll, but because characterisation is pretty shallow. For this, I have to say that this is only slightly successful in its aims.



It's difficult to come up with words that can properly describe what Street of Crocodiles is. A mixture of musical montage, sharp camera movement, abstract biography and surreal animation, this defies analysis and becomes a sensory experience. In feeling the tortured and anxious movement of strings and shapes, the folding and twisting of grime, I thought most about construction and the title's reference to crocodiles.

Crocodiles are monstrous reptiles when alive, but, slaughtered and fed through a mechanism, they can become something as benign as shoes or a bag. We seem to exist at the level of the crocodile bag within this short, in the realm of the grotesque and the manufactured that, given artificial life and seen from the right perspective, retains threat and starts to eek towards monstrosity again. Maybe this says much about the allegory for Bruno Schultz's childhood that this is supposed to be?





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