Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Man is born free and everywhere he is in bad movies

Some people told me that "Children of Men" was a good movie, so I was interested to see it. I was surprised to find that after two hours in the theater, I hadn't seen a good movie; in fact, I hadn't seen a movie at all. In my opinion, a work has to have some sort of point or coherence or logic to qualify as a movie. "Children of Men" does not meet that criteria. "Children of Men" was a very elaborate cinematic expression of the sentiment that we know as Romanticism. If you are not familiar that sentiment, it was encapsulated by JJ Rousseau's famous quote "man is born free and everywhere he is in chains." The idea is that there is something inherently free and natural and good about humanity that we social creatures encroach upon and muck up. It is that feeling you get late at night, often encouraged by music and strong drink, that the harsh forces of the world conspire against your own tender and fragile humanity. Someone had a bad dose of this feeling one night and went out the next day to make a series of visual images that exorcised and celebrated that feeling and then called it "Children of Men." God help them.

The "movie" follows "28 Days" and "V for Vendetta" in depicting a futuristic Great Britain embroiled in political and social crisis. But unlike it's predecessors, which used a political backdrop to point up some message, Children of Men was dazzled by its own lights and forgot to ever make a point. Instead, the film makers packed their time with strange biblical symbolism and insultingly obvious cultural references (Has anyone ever heard of Picasso?). There's plenty of lefty political rhetoric and lots of classic sixties rock, but don't be fooled: it's just part of the scenery. There is no coherent political message at all- only a grab-bag of quasi-related points.

But now maybe you are thinking: "So What! I like biblical symbolism and cultural references and lefty political rhetoric, and Clive Owen is cool, and there were tons of great fight scenes, and the sound track fucking ruled. Who cares about coherence? " Well, that's all fine, Clive Owen is really cool, but you can't just throw a bunch of stuff on screen and call it a work of art. The work of art is inextricably bound up with the intent of the artist. If there is no intent, then there is no meaning, and all you have are some pretty pictures with cool music. Which is fine. And it seems to be the direction lots of cinema is going. But let's all be aware of what is happening: The hallmark of good art, meaningful representation, is being supplanted by impulsive sensory gratification, and those still looking for meaning are left dumbstruck.

If anyone is confused by what I'm talking about, just go watch "The Departed" and you'll see what I mean.

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