Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #60


End Of The Week Shorts #60

Today's shorts: In Heat Of The Night (1967), Slashdance (1989), Flashdance (1983), Persepolis (2007), Trevor Noah: Afraid Of The Dark (2017), Chris D'Elia: Man On Fire (2017), Ichi The Killer (2001), Lonely Boy (1962)

Films about race and racism prove to be incredible difficult to pull off. This has much to do with the fact that, outside looking in, racism of the explicit and brutal kind is all too easy to decry if anyone has any real moral fibre. In the fray, however, dealing with racist attitudes can seem almost impossible. And lacklustre films about race exemplify this with their lack of complexity or substance and abundance of fluff and pretence. Alas, In the Heat of the Night, whilst not a technical masterpiece, understands like few others the true difficulty of confronting racism as a theme. It depicts racism as a product of amorally displaced and violent ineptitude; a means of making victims out of others so that one does not have to confront their own inadequacies. In turn, it confronts racism with truth as a primary weapon, one that not only challenges, but obligates moral introspection, making all too obvious how it is not the black man who is a nigger, but the cop, brother, sister and boyfriend who are broken people. A pivotal American classic.

Slashdance is a comedic crime movie that is, in some ways, a parodic combination of buddy cop and undercover cop movies, 80s slashers and the aerobics/dance nuttiness that, in many ways, aesthetically defines the 80s. In being this blend of trashy and incoherent nonsense, Slashdance is somewhat entertaining and funny in an incredibly absurd manner. This can actually be a confounding film at points as it seems to be formulating an allegory about Hollywood and sexual abuse - something we're all too familiar with today - but uses what can only be called 'trash feminism' to do so. This was seemingly born in the late 50s and it is essentially a form of movie feminism that centralises female figures, makes them powerful, quippy and strong, and reduces men to slobbering, disgusting children who, as we must, just ogle at tits. I always feel like these kind of movies say most about the weirdo who wrote and directed them. Then again, I'm the one watching them 30 years later...

Having seen this after 1989's Slashdance, it was hard not look at this in a somewhat favourable light, technically speaking. At the same time, however, I'm not sure what film I enjoyed more, or what film balances absurdity, exploitation and honesty better.

Alas, Flashdance is essentially a take on Saturday Night Fever in that it has almost identical thematic concerns in regards passion, confines, hopes and dreams. But, Saturday Night Fever simply feels more genuine. Flashdance is motivated by a yearning to depict strong female characters whilst it simultaneously forces upon us a weird, boring and uncomfortable romance. In turn, the forces at play within Slashdance - which I highly recommend anyone watch after seeing this - seem to be at play within this to a lesser, more subtle degree (to what benefit I don't know). In the end, this is pretty silly nonsense, but that damn song is going to be in my head for a long time.

Persepolis is a pretty good movie; I cannot say that I felt it doing anything particularly special, but it constructs a strong character arc between a girl and a young adult. The film's greatest attribute is then its ability to peel away layers of naivety, slowly, reasonably, surely and yet not go too far so that its falls upon cliche and a lack of verisimilitude. And this is certainly something that all coming-of-age narratives try to do: to show how naivety naturally and causally falls away from a person as they grow. What holds these narrative back, however, is the sometimes obvious nature of the lessons learnt, but, with its context and its comedy, Persepolis keeps cliche at bay. That is not to say that it is entirely original and affective in a manner that cannot be felt in other coming-of-age films. Alas, it remains a solid vehicle of engaging storytelling that, whilst it left me desiring more character and complexity, was a good watch.

Quite spectacular. I've never seen Trevor Noah's stand-up before, but this took me by complete surprise. There's a political element that I expected, but this is, in essence, someone taking their roster of accents that they can do and not just turning it into an hour of comedy, but an hour of brilliant storytelling. This is something I've never seen done before; accents, certainly - they make for a good 5 minute video, if that - but Noah takes the accent shtick to the moon. He does this by imitating what greats such as Eddie Murphy did so well: he commits to his act outs to a degree that he is lost in them entirely; the audience with him. In conversations between a British and Indian man, between Obama and Nelson Mandela, there then shines some of the most ingenious and technically perfect comedy I've seen in a while. So, whilst there's a lot of pandering that sullies the substance of Noah's commentary somewhat, this is a brilliant hour that is well worth the watch.

Solid. D'Elia's Man On Fire opens with some of the best comedy I've ever seen from him. The timing, the energy, the nonsense and absurdity have been fine-tuned and pulled into a comedic thesis on human hubris. It was whilst D'Elia initially explored the ways in which we think we're living our own movie, but most probably aren't, that he pulled some of the most ridiculous guffaws out of me that snowballed across many jokes and far into his stream of mad cap, brilliant physical comedy. Unfortunately the energy mustered in the opening 30-odd minutes wanes away whilst he gets caught in a joke about a gift that goes on a little too long. Things are brought back for the tremendous ending and the strands introduced in the over-long section find their place, but, because the initial thesis was veered too far from, the special feels slightly incomplete and just a little too scattered. I was believing that D'Elia is one of the very best comedians today in the first half, not so much in the last, but Man On Fire certainly proves he is way up there. Recommended.

A masterpiece. Ichi The Killer sits amongst a class of 'J-Horrors' that are overwhelmingly misunderstood. This is not a horror film, and nor do I believe that this is as direct as a critique of violence in media as many suggest. A tragicomic melodrama much akin to Oedipus Rex, Ichi The Killer is a film best understood as an experiment in and study of the Jungian shadow. The shadow is that within ourselves that wants what our higher self does not want and does not want what our self wants; it is the dark demon we fight against as to muster morality. Alas, the shadow should never be destroyed, nor repressed, instead, integrated into the higher self. Ichi The Killer, much like Oedipus Rex, depicts what happens when one attempts to split their inner monster from their self, and so is a film about darkness having self-autonomy within the human body whilst the higher self cowers in tears or in worship. I could write so much more about this film, but, I will save this for another time. I urge anyone who despises gore and needless, over-the-top violence to attempt to get through and understand this film.

Lonely Boy is a fantastic example of cinéma vérité - a kind of observational cinema that means to preserve the truth embedded in a realistic image, one that so often is reflexive in that the filmmaking process and presence of the filmmaker is recognised.

This speaks brilliantly to the 1967 direct cinema classic, Don't Look Back, which takes a look into the behind the scenes life of Bob Dylan as opposed to Paul Anka. Both artist are presented in very similar lights and both show themselves to be highly aware of what the music business was and how it operated in the 1960s. The difference between the two is that Anka wanted to master the system whilst Dylan wanted to escape it - and this is presented perfectly with the way in which each performer interacts with the documentary film lens. I then highly recommend this to anyone interested in documentary and/or musical celebrity.

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