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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/08/02 -- Vol. 21, No. 19
Table of Contents
This week's MT VOID is a few days early, as we will be Fan Guests of Honor at Windycon on the normal publication date. We will resume our normal schedule next week.
Toronto International Film Festival Report Available:
Well, sort of. The first three-quarters or so of my Toronto International Film Festival Report is done and available at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper/tiff2002.htm. When I finish the rest, I will announce that the complete version is available. [-ecl]
Go To It, Boy (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
There are ads on CNN for a product for men to increase their sexual potency. The ad says that "best of all, it contains no chemicals." What does that mean? Basically, anything that is made up of matter is a chemical. Broccoli is entirely composed of chemicals. What the ad is really saying is that what they send you is an empty container. I assume what you get is an inspirational message, some sort of pep talk, on the container. [-mrl]
It Was All a Dream (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I had to delve into film conventions on a recent piece of email. Someone who wrote to me has been interpreting David Lynch's film MULHOLLAND DRIVE as a dream, suggesting that explains the strange cryptic narrative and lack of logic. This is David Lynch's latest film that seems to have a straightforward plot for most of it then ends in a confetti-fall of scenes and images that are impossible to piece together into a coherent plot. I don't remember for sure, but it seems to me I found a real contradiction. In any case, nobody comes out of this movie understanding what they have seen. My correspondent suggests to me that it could all be explained by saying what happened in the film was a dream. That really would explain it all, I must admit. But I still have reservations about that explanation.
I am not really happy with an interpretation of any film that says it was all a dream. How is a story that is a dream different from one that is not? In the real world, rules of logic apply. In a dream, at least a cinematic dream, rules of logic may or may not apply as the filmmaker wishes. This means that any film really could be a dream. CASABLANCA could be a dream which just doesn't use the capability to not have logic work. To call MULHOLLAND DRIVE a dream is little more than saying that rules of logic do not apply to the plot of this film. It gives David Lynch license to not be logical. For that reason, I do not go out of my way to interpret a film as a dream unless the filmmaker explicitly tells the viewer that is what is being done.
Of course, there are some films that do tell you what you have seen is a dream. A film like THE WIZARD OF OZ does tell us fairly explicitly that the adventure takes place in a dream but the dream is very different in character from MULHOLLAND DRIVE. The it-was-all-dream explanation I think tells us very little about what Lynch was saying. It just tells us to throw out any requirement that the film have a coherent story.
While I am on the subject, cinematic dreams are not really very accurate representations of real dreams at all. How many people have really had dreams that are a lot like THE WIZARD OF OZ or 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T. or DEAD OF NIGHT? Not even Fellini dream films or Kurosawa's attempts to make films like dreams really succeed in shooting something that is really dreamlike. At least, they are not like my dreams.
First of all, these stories are all too long to be dreams. There was an entire television series (which shall remain nameless to prevent spoilers, just in case) where the last episode suggested that the whole series had been a dream. I cannot speak for everyone but I do not remember ever having a dream that seemed to last more than about thirty minutes worth of story. Most dreams are episodic and are just three or four episodes at most. Most are more just plotless situations. Further my dreams are rarely structured like stories. If they do have satisfying conclusions or conflicts resolved, I think frequently that is a result of my waking up and thinking about the dream and subconsciously deciding how the events might end up. Whatever causes dreams has very little interest in making them dramatically satisfying.
Another cliche of cinematic dreams is weird imagery. In CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI objects are shown distorted with edges at strange angles. Fellini has dwarves and clowns populating the dreams he films. I remember very few images that did not come from reality in the dreams I had. I do remember one dream with a spaceship on a hill, probably pulled from a "Twilight Zone" episode. But that was a rare exception. Generally the world I dream in is duller than the real world.
I would also say that a cinematic dream is a very different thing from a real dream. THE WIZARD OF OZ is a lot more coherent than my dreams and MULHOLLAND DRIVE is even more coherent for the most part.
And when I start a dream it never, never looks like it is rippling like water. [-mrl]
BEAR'S KISS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: A girl who travels with a circus falls in love with a bear who shape-shifts into a handsome man. It sounds like a fairy-tale fantasy, but it really is a bleak little tale. A co-operation of several European countries creates a film that falls short of the magic it would need. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)
This is a European film, a polyglot production of several different countries, directed by Russian Sergei Bodrov. A young bear at a traveling circus turns out to be a shape-shifter who can become human through love. The main focus of the film is life within a small traveling circus. The script is slow and has some inconsistencies that should have been worked out, but the film does have its moments of interest and some likable music.
As the film opens in the Siberian wilderness we see hunters shooting a bear and taking her cub. The cub is bought for a circus that travels through Europe from Russia to Spain. Lola (Rebecka Liljeberg), in her late teens, is the daughter of a performer. She adopts and loves the cub. Other members of the circus think she might be a little too closely attached to the animal. Lola is also interested in romance, but not enough to separate her from her bear that she loves and who apparently loves her back. When her foster mother leaves the circus, Lola chooses to stay with her bear. One evening the bear is not in his cage and a naked young man is there in its place, claiming to be the bear.
This story has all sorts of fantasy possibilities, but unfortunately few of them are realized in the film. BEAR'S KISS is solid and pleasant but never manages to be magical. Some of the inconsistencies should have been worked out of the script. (Sometimes when the bear shifts to human it is naked, sometimes clothed.) At one point some dogs pull from their master and chase the bear in human form. We know it is the bear in him that enrages them, but we see only a man. The viewer sees Lola, the bear, and the dogs running but not a sign of the master. For all the master knows, the dogs are about to maul a human. There is no explanation why their master does not follow them. The film is likable but somehow lacks the infectious enchantment it needs. Further, the tone and look is dark. It is not clear whom the intended audience for BEAR'S KISS is. This is certainly not a children's film. But it is not likely the story will appeal to many adults. Many scenes fall short of their potential. Scenes showing a fight with the bear are not at all convincing. The music is however surprisingly good. One song that pops out of nowhere and seems to be from the wrong film is nevertheless a very good song. Perhaps it needed a better film.
This is an unusual fantasy that does not always work. I rate it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.
(Sergei Bodrov, Jr. played the human form of the bear. He and was the son of director Sergei Bodrov and had a fan following of his own. Sadly, he was killed on September 20, 2002, when an earthquake and the resulting avalanche covered the Ossetia region high in the Caucasus Mountains, where he and his film crew were creating a new film.) [-mrl]
THE BEST OF TIMES (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
THE BEST OF TIMES begins as a very realistic, even Dogme 95, sort of film. We follow the Ah family living in the suburbs of Taipei through their daily grind. The film takes on a super-realistic style. It looks more like the characters were caught on "Candid Camera." However, as the film progresses there is more style in the filmmaking. We are introduced to two best friends, Wei (played by Wing Fan) and Jie (Gao Meng-jie). Each is nineteen years old and facing the responsibilities of adults. Eventually the film moves from random moments taken from life to an actual plot with some action and even some suspense. Wei is a parking valet. An opportunity comes his way to be a debt collector for a local criminal boss. To share his good fortune he arranges for Jie to join him in his job. The two boys are still mostly children, but they are playing in adult games. Jie, the less mature of the two, gets the two into very serious trouble. At some point the film moves into the world of fantasy, though at just what point is open to the viewer's interpretation. There are some very harrowing scenes along the way with violence that may bother some viewers. This is not an uplifting film, in spite of the title and viewers should expect to be along for a bumpy and frequently unpleasant ride.
This is director Chang Tso-chi's fourth film. As a rather odd touch, the music of this film is done in a Mexican style, perhaps to underscore the unreality of the proceedings. As basically a crime drama, this should be an engaging film, but somehow it just failed to draw me into the story or the characters. Even the fantasy elements cannot raise the downbeat and off-putting tone of THE BEST OF TIMES. I rate THE BEST OF TIMES a 4 on the 0 to 10 scale and a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
MARIUS ET JEANETTE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Romance blooms in a working-class neighborhood in the shadow of an ugly cement factory that has become an eyesore. A politically excited grocery clerk and a lame factory watchman have will-they-or-won't-they (of course they will) romance. The film is heavy with political subtext, but the plot is lukewarm comedy. Very popular in France, but it offers less for Americans. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), +1 (-4 to +4)
In 1997 Robert Guediguian gave us a romantic comedy with a left-wing political twist set in a labor-class community in France. Jeanette is very political. At the grocery store where she works every conflict with her boss comes down to liberal rhetoric. She lives in a small neighborhood on the edge of a totally ugly cement factory in the process of being demolished. One day Jeanette attempts to steal some unused paint cans from the factory grounds, but Marius, the half-lame guard at the factory, chases her off. She complains bitterly about the company's selfishness. Then she is surprised when Marius brings her two cans of paint, and then offers to paint her house for her. This begins a long and eventually romantic relationship between Jeanette and Marius.
MARIUS ET JEANETTE concentrates on Jeanette's relationship with her hot and cold and decidedly political relationship with her neighbors and her relationship with Marius. Jeanette does not fully trust Marius and is mistrustful of his apparent generosity. Marius is torn between his affection for Jeanette and his fear of commitment. These are the sort of relationships we have seen before. As such it is not a greatly original film.
The film uses its ugly setting ravaged by giant machines, somewhat symbolic of a view that industry is exploiting and destroying the world. In front of this is a warm depiction of working class people portrayed in romantic and political contexts. They may have their little conflicts, but they are salt of the earth sort of people and we can forgive their foibles more easily than we forgive the corporations that make their lives difficult.
This is basically a situation comedy that is a little dialog-heavy. The film has little more reward than to build affection for two people and see them come together. Along the way we visit with the neighbors and hear their concerns, particularly political ones. This film was very popular in France. In this country we are divorced a little from French local politics and it means less there. For a French audience I might rate this film higher, but in the United States I would rate my enjoyment a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors. -- Thomas Henry Huxley
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