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Thursday, May 27, 2010

White material– co-written and directed by Claire Denis, Isabelle Huppert – la belle et la bĂȘte :-), and The soul of man under socialism – Oscar Wilde

The National of Film and Sound Archive is currently screening an amazing film titles ‘White Material’. I first came across this film at the 2010 French Film Festival here in Canberra. With the anticipation of seeing Isabelle Huppert, you offcourse would think that it’s going to be a neurotically intriguing film and yep the neurotic element is there, but it also being presented with subtle and profound African social and political commentaries. I have wanted to write about this film soon after seeing it, but have put it off for a while because there isn’t much to discuss, the film perfectly portrays what it wants to say, Isabelle offcourse is simple, real and spectacular in the film. The thoughts and concepts are bare, simple and communicated very well to the audiences. I now however want to write about it after having read an essay by Oscar Wilde titles ‘the soul man under socialism’. ‘Wow dude, you’re fucking random’…did someone just say that, or did I just make that comment in my head? What is the association there? You can almost relate anything to anything else these days; it’s all about the art of lying and bullshitting...or perhaps I should read the ‘The Decay of Lying’ (also written by Oscar Wilde) before I have a right to continue this blog…hahaha…okay lets get back to ‘White Material’ and ‘The soul of man under socialism’.

In ‘White Material’ Isabelle is presented as Madam Maria, a fifty something white woman living with her husband and a twenty something year old son, she runs a coffee plantation in a French speaking African country. The film roughly started out with a helicopter circulating above Maria’s plantation, telling her that the French troop is leaving the country, that they can no longer offer her their protection and she should vacate her family back to France. Concurrently, the country is also suffering from civil war between the rising of the rebel troop (where mostly school children were recruited to join) and the government army. Being a resourceful place with plenty of food and cash, Maria’s plantation is targeted by the rebel troop and her African employees slowly dissipate, running away to find a more safety place to live. As the film progresses, you learn that Maria is a headstrong and wonderfully kind woman; she is determined to stay in the country and continues to recruit workers for the plantation. Her political belief is neutral, she takes no side except for that of kindness; she allows ‘the boxer’, a lonely hero from the rebel troop to hide out in her shack and provides him food and medicines. And you also begin to question her real character, e.g. is her determination to continue living in the country due to her pride of inheriting her father’s coffee plantation, is it because she is as ‘African’ as everybody else around her that she can imagine no alternative, or is it simply the financial value of the land and the coffee investment? Does she not care for the future of her son? Has her cultural identity so deeply rooted in the land? Maria’s young son, Manuel, after experiencing a humiliating experience of being bullied by two much younger African children, he decides to become one of them in order to gain strength and camaraderie with the rebel troop, to drown the insecurity of being a young man and take on a much more violent sense of masculinity.

Similar to ‘The White Ribbon’ by the magnificent Michael Haneke, the film condemns no one, nor any social/political belief but rather provides perhaps explanations as to how things have become what they are. At the very end of the film, you’ll find that perhaps Maria has chosen a particular direction in her political belief, an explanation for her logic of being or her reaction towards ‘Authoritarian Socialism’; a concept which is negatively criticised by the wonderfully witty and charming Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde never failed to entertain his readers with wits, poetry and logic, even in an essay dealing with ‘politics and socialism’. He simply believed that in a society where the aim of its citizen is to attain as much wealth and private properties as possible, then this would give birth to poverty, miseries, violence and most of all the decaying of ‘arts’ as people would lose their ‘individualities’ by letting themselves being governed by the authorities, money and social status. It is the root of all violence and poverty and perhaps Ms Claire Denis is suggesting the same idea while writing her screenplay for ‘White Material’. Maria has simply made a choice, though the choice is more apparent toward the end of the film, what more apparent is that it was never altered despite being tested many times. She would make an ideal citizen in Mr Wilde’s perfect fictional society.

Our society has become what it is and what choice have we got? Our choices, my choices and your choices, the choice to live life as it is for each of the individual. Is it worthwhile to go against the system? Is it an entirely bad system? The answers depend on each of the individual, some may choose to find his or her tribe, some may go with the flow because they can imagine no alternative, and some may rebel against the system because of their humanitarian passion and political belief. The greatest of all as suggested by Mr Wilde, are those that able to retain their ‘individuality’ and remain faithful to their human natures. Why? Because true human nature is beautiful, clean and full of love. And what have made it dirty, selfish and miserable?.....That’s exactly right!!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

James Baldwin – Another Country

When James Baldwin refers to ‘another country’, he means ‘another world’, like the Pandora of Avatar. Mr Baldwin’s Pandora however, isn’t full of fluorescence colour plants and magical looking landscapes, it just simply isn’t black and white…‘He stared into his cup, noting that black coffee was not black but deep brown. Not many things in the world were really black, not even the night, not even the mines. And the light was not white, either, even the palest light held within itself some hint of its origins, in fire.’ And the inhabitants are not tall, lean and blue, instead they’re ‘You can’t see yourself all over, but I can. Part of you is honey, part of you is copper and some of you is gold…Part of you is black too, like the entrance of a tunnel’. By this, I think James Baldwin is suggesting that nothing is as it seems, our skins may be black, white, yellow or brown, but these colours are not entirely who we are. More importantly, if a society only allows a citizen to be his or her ‘colour’, then it is a society full of violence, segregation and suffering; a society without freedom, something which we have been fighting for since forever. Our identities, as portrays by Mr Baldwin, are complex, drilling deep into the sexuality residing within our blood, more delicately balancing on the scale of liberty holds up by our society and more mysterious than religions and faiths. Everything in the novel (such as sexuality, vulnerability, skin colours, pain, religions etceteras) exists in a spectrum of colours; and beauty is glorified through the raucous, rawness of our human behaviours (or more bluntly, there are plenty of sex scenes!!!). At the bottom of it all, only kindness and an infinite sense of acceptance of our characters would save the day (rather than the giant animals and the courage to be violent of Avatar…hehaha).

I thoroughly enjoy this work of literature from Mr Baldwin for the sharpness and originality of his expressions, for the simplicity of his lyrical writing and how relevant it is to our modern 2010 society. Although we have progressed so far with our technologies, with the weapons and the defence system of our country, yet our ‘terror’ and fear remain the same. Something in us has not progressed, is it our ability to see that each person is not just his or her colour, but colours? And/or is it our ability to resign to the uncertainties and mysteries within and outside of ourselves?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Breaking and Entering, a perfect goodbye note from Mr Minghella, and the oblivion of our critics (again). Written and directed by Anthony Minghella.

Breaking and entering is a perfect film despite all the negative criticisms from the critics and its low gross avenue. It is Anthony’s last film and it’s a perfect goodbye note to this superficial society of ours. Breaking and Entering intimately defines all the social barriers of our society, the walls that keep our senses of humanity from coming together. These barriers as portrays by Anthony exist in all social classes and families. And to break down these barriers, Anthony cleverly defines the different forms of acceptance that we as a society have yet to come to term with, hence discrimination, poverty and social class segregation still linger amidst our modern and stylish, first world society.

It seems as though, being from a wealthier and privilege world, we constantly try to reach out to the less fortunate ones. But what does it mean to really help someone, is it just simply the act of giving materials and money? Anthony metaphorically selects Kings Cross, a low social economic area within London where an architecture firm is trying to better the look of the area, styling it in order for it to look like a better place. While at the heart of story, the social barriers between the privileged and the un-privileged societies are gradually being revealed and eventually broken. More importantly, barriers that define the freedom of our human hearts and minds are also revealed and broken. Anthony specifically emphasises that the act of ‘breaking an entering’ is a one true remedy that betters the place and any places.

The contrasts of the two worlds are apparent: Will (Jude Law) and Liv (Robin Wright Penn) live in an empty, cold house though chic, sleek and clean in comparison to Amira (Juliette Binoche) and Miros’ cramp and small yet intimate house. And their social barriers are also very apparent: Will is disconnected from his unmarried partner Liv and his intellectually disable step daughter; Amira and her son Miro live separate lives though they are in close proximity, the war and their pasts have also made it difficult for them to share a mother and son life. While Will is trying to chic up Kings Cross for it look like his own town, a burglary incident involving Miro brings Will into Amira’s life. And there, various events of ‘breaking and entering’ take place. Will is drawn to the intimacy and simplicity of Amira’s life and Amira being an immigrant and a weaker member of society, learns to let go of her fears, her defensiveness and restore her faith of humanity despite having to survive through the Bosnian war and her husband murder. In knowing each other lives and breaking down each of their own personal barriers, Will and Amira are then able to break down the social barriers existing in their own homes. This movie almost follows the philosophy of ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ which is made famous by the adorably charming Leonard Cohen. Everything about this film is perfect, the simple dialogues, the reality of the characters and the extraordinariness of our ordinary lives which we often forsaken. It is subtly powerful and beautiful, and the drama, though without the theatrical screaming and overt emotion of the many ‘oh-so Hollywood films’, is amazingly real and effective.

Petty Larceny from the New York Post calls it ‘sluggish’ and states that ‘Not much else rings true in Minghella's screenplay, which is full of coincidences and speeches about race and class’. This woman obviously is trapped in her own mind like those from ‘Sex and the City’ and her philosophy in life is as deep as those belong to Oprah Winfrey. A.O. Scott from The New York Times was too busy counting how many ‘I’m sorry’ were uttered throughout the film, hence his review is nothing but an essay on a separate subject, the subject of making ‘apology’. William Arnold from Seattle Post-Intelligencer has nothing intelligent so say about the film except that ‘it has no vitality, force or discernible purpose’. He obviously needs everything to spell out clearly like A-V-A-T-A-R. David (from the Movie Show) thought that ‘some motivations aren’t entirely clear, but this is still a smart, well-played drama’ and Margaret ‘at a certain point, you're hard-pressed to work out, you know, where the emphasis should be’. Keep on working your minds David and Margaret, please don’t stop.

In this film, I believe, Mr Minghella challenges us to break and enter our own fears and social barriers, and those who have the heart and kindness to do so would enjoy the film immensely, as for those who don’t, then they still have much to live through and learn.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Adrift – Choi voi, Director - Chuyen Bui Thac, Screenplay - Dang Thi Phan

I was in a state of being adrift when deciding whether or not I should go to see ‘Adrift’. Upon seeing the trailer on youtube, I was very much put off by it, mostly by the presence of Johnny Nguyen, the horrendously bad actor who is in ‘The Rebel’, ‘Ban Mai’ etcetera, and at first impression, the way the trailer being played out, it makes the film seems a bit try hard and artistically pretentious. Nevertheless, I had a two-for-one ticket, and it was also an Australian premier, so why not get adrift!!!

Surprisingly, the film is much better than I expected, the term ‘adrift’ is accurately and cleverly defines throughout the film. And there are many ways of being adrift: for a young woman, Duyen (the main actress), one can often be adrift in amidst of being a traditional Vietnamese and a modern one, adrift in amidst of discovering her sensuality, adrift in finding out something and yet never gets to know it fully. For a man, one can often be adrift in amidst of his masculinity, not a boy, but not yet a man (hahaha, sounds like a Britney Spears’ song), regarding his ambition, he can be adrift in amidst of his reality and dream (the man and his fighting rooster).

While seeing several characters progressively being caught in the state of ‘adrift’, there are two female characters that are already being ‘adrift’ and the comparison is obvious. There are certain senses of resignation to life and a certain senses of despair in both, while for the ones who are still in the process; their innocence is tricking out them like white sap from a tree and their curiosity pushes them on into the state of being ‘adrift’. In many ways, being ‘adrift’ is both enlightening and sad, like the concept of ‘existentialism’ though this is not discussed in the film and certainly doesn’t need to.

The camera work and lighting are simple and effective, Hanoi is accurately portrayed, its beauty is not glorified as it is in ‘the vertical ray of the sun’ by ‘Tran Anh Hung’, yet in this reality, I find Hanoi much more real and the colours are much more liberating than they are in ‘the vertical ray of the sun’, the poetry in the camera work and lighting are much more subtle. The Vietnamese way of life and of living is sharply put on camera, though the dialogues can seem pretentious at times. The music is intriguing, but irrelevant to the film, the remixed of the song ‘Det Tam Gai’ is the main source and it probably is the most pretentious element in the film. Luckily Johnny Nguyen doesn’t have much to act in the film, I just find him so stiff and unconvincing, though all other actors are mighty fine, in both acting forms and figures (hehe). Adrift, I found, is a simple concept, yet interesting. The film has much more to offer, I find many earthy elements in the Vietnamese culture and the simplicity of the Vietnamese way of life is very heart warming, though this may only appear to Vietnamese audiences living in western countries. The interactions between the characters (especially Hai, Duyen’s husband and the little girl from his neighbourhood) show the openness of our Vietnamese character.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Intimacy – Jean Paul Sartre – Get intimate and dirty with Mr Sartre

On one ordinary day, without specifically looking for anything, I entered an old bookstore on the friendly street of our local shops. And there it was waiting to be snatched away by my very hand. From ‘without specifically looking for anything’, I specifically purchased ‘Intimacy’ before leaving the store.

It is, out of all the Sartre’s books that I have read (the trilogy, Nausea, Words) the most objectively written. The philosophies are clean, the writing is simple and at the heart of it, of course our existence is again being put to measure on the scale of worthiness, liberty and uncertainty. Mr Sartre’s continual search for answers regarding our choices, our decisions, and our nature is apparent, but more importantly, answers are provided within the words.

Intimacy has a very distinctive meaning to Sartre, it is beyond our usual senses for affection, and yet it is so common to our every day life. It is a seed burries deep within our conscious and nature, yet it surfaces on our actions and judgments. And in five little short stories, intimacy is intimately defined in each, and as you progress from the first story to the last, complexes around the central theme of intimacy is built, yet the layers of ideas and philosophies of ‘intimacy’ are being stripped bare, allowing the readers get extra intimate with both Sartre and his characters.

Intimacy – The first story explores the intimacy of a young married couple. To Lulu, the contemplative wife, there is a large discrepancy between the ideal and real definition of how her lover should be. In her real (current) relationship Lulu finds her husband (Henri) habits dirty and somewhat nuisance (i.e. he sleeps in his unwashed, yellow stained underwear, he’s hairy and somewhat voluptuous, he likes to touch her from behind which she finds a little annoying etc…). At the same time, she finds these habits very intimate and liberating. On the other hand, Pierre, her ideal and potential lover is well built, sculpted with hard muscles, he has villa in Italy, he’s charming, well read and well dressed and her good friend Rirette is encouraging Lulu to commit infidelity. The obvious question is not who she should choose, but how does she value her sense of being a woman and what does intimacy mean for her. (Sorry guys, this isn’t Titanic or Jane Austen).

The writing is witty and honest, laying down all the banal, obsolete thoughts of the characters. ‘Once she (Lulu) pretended Pierre wanted to rape Rirette. And I helped him. I held Rirette in my arms…I wonder how her (Rirette) face must look when she’s stretched out like that, all naked, under a man, feeling hands on her flesh. I wouldn’t touch her for all the money in the world. I wouldn’t know what to do with her, even if she wanted it, even if she said ‘I want it’…’ There are also plenty of twists and turns (not like those of Ms Austen) to really portray the honesty of the character Lulu, the nature of women and most of all, defining what is real to a woman in terms of love and intimacy.

The three stories follow (the wall, the room and Erostratus) have similar patterns of thoughts, though they are embedded in different story lines and characters. ‘The wall’ explores the intimacy of a soldier being a millimetre away from death, of fear, of being free from human-hood. ‘The room’ wonderfully explores the intimacy of two minds, one healthy (the wife), the other mentally ill (the husband). As much as she tries to grasp onto and understand his reality, she fails. As much as her parents try to convince her to leave him, to live her youth while she’s still young, they fail. But still, she loves him, alas, it’s not predictable as it sounds, this is where Sartre’s skills for words and thoughts come about.

And just when you think you know how Sartre’s chain of thoughts works, more surprises spring about. In Erostratus, Paul Hilbert, a ‘black hero’ (and black here does not imply skin colour) a misanthrope, an man who idealises his destiny to be short and tragic, planning his act of murdering random citizens of Paris and then his suicide. Erostratus was a man who became famous because he couldn’t find anything better to do than to burn down the temple of Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of the world. Paul Hilbert may sound despicable and insolent, but the deeper you get into the story, the more you understand his logics. And in a creepy sense, while reading the novel, I actually wanted him to carry out his plan successfully, perhaps my feeling for the character is stronger than my philanthropic sense, but that is the power which Sartre has over the readers like me. Sartre’s sense of irony is wonderfully ironic and real, it is shown throughout all of his stories.

The childhood of a leader – This last story is one I most love and despise at the same time. Lucien, the angel child (with golden, radiating curls) while growing up discovers many things in life, in particular, the concept of truth and lie, the saddest of which when he finds out that he no longer loves his mother and begins to question the value of his existence. He of course, being a creation of Sartre, finds human existence quite empty and starts to plan his suicide. In his schooling years in Paris, Lucien becomes friend with Berliac and is quickly influent by Berliac’s obsession with Freudian works. At this point in his life, Lucien is very open to people around him, especially those who he feels have the same complexes with him, people who – lives outside of the matrix (as in the movie Matrix). Then along comes Bergere (one of Berliac close friends), a mid-thirty man, who challenges Lucien’s masculinity and deeply wounds his sexuality. From this point onwards, Lucien is more submerged in the mainstream society, diverged away from the bohemian crowd and very much involved in extreme politic, a subject which celebrates male camaraderie and allows him the typical masculinity which society expects of him. His complexes change, he loses his innocence, begins the practice hatred (specifically towards the Jews), and assumes the role which ‘destiny’ or ‘society’ expects of him. On a personal level, I really like this story because of the similar thoughts and complexes that we might all have perceived as a child growing up, while reading I kept thinking to myself that ‘yes, I thought of the same thing when I was 9’ etc…and obviously Lucien has chosen to become someone else, someone perhaps he finds easier to exist, easier to be accepted in his society and easier to rule society if he wants to. There is much to discuss about this story, and Sartre has made it obvious regarding the difficulty of life choices, the easier of which is adopted by Lucien. Yet ‘But if I could only be what I am I wouldn’t be worth any more than the little kite’. What could one discover searching in this mucous intimacy if not the sorrow of flesh, the ignoble lie of equality and disorder? ‘First maxim’, Lucien said, ‘not to try and see inside yourself; there is no mistake more dangerous – as much as I find Lucien so unlikeable toward the end of the story, I must also agree with Mr Sartre that he has the right to exist - ‘rights were beyond existence, like mathematical objects and religious dogma, the right to be existed to the very flesh, obeyed to the very bed’

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dream Story – Arthur Schnitzler and Eyes Wide Shut – Stanley Kubrick

Sexuality is an ineluctable illusion and so is truth. Desire is sagaciously simple and so is religion. The coupling of sexuality and truth, desire and religion, may seem hardly relevant to a common person, but not so for Mr Kubrick and Mr Schnitzler (as I believe).

‘- And no dream, is altogether a dream…’ by this statement, I believe that Arthur Schnitzler is corroborating Sigmund Freud’s theory that our dream indeed reflects certain aspects of our unconsciousness. And what if that ‘unconsciousness’ or that ‘dream’ becomes a little conscious, a little real and sensitive as it is for Mrs Albertine’s (Nicole Kidman), then you would get a wonderfully profound and curiously exploring novel (and film) on sexuality, truth and humanly desire.

Both the novel and the film follow the sexual conscience of the marriage couple, Fridolin and Albertine. Being the nature of a novel, the reader of course is able to expand their senses on the descriptions provide by Mr Schnitzler and more events are entailed. Schnitzler’s writing is no doubt both wonderfully sharp and elusive, allowing the readers’ minds to grasp onto the ideas and concepts that are being portrayed, yet to really pin point it, perhaps requires a certain senses of ‘unconsciousness’ like that of the author. For example, in the scene where Marianne confesses her love to Fridolin - ‘Fleetingly he recalled a novel he once read, in which a very young man, almost a boy, had been seduced, or rather raped, at his mother’s deathbed by her best friend. In the same instant, he could not for some reason help thinking of his wife’ It is easy for one to understand why he would think of this particular character while he himself is also being undesirably seduced, but to associate this event to his wife, it is indeed ‘for some reason’ was put there by the author.

The film is a magnificently separate piece on its own, Stanley Kubrick uses very atmospheric lighting, often illuminatingly gold, and falling of darkness in amidst of blossoming artificial light. In comparison to the novel, there’s a difference touch of mystery in the film, not in the words and dialogues as it is for the novel, but rather the images, the music and the women characters that willingly give themselves to Fridolin. Albertine character is not altered; she maintains both her goddess and human ascriptions in the film and the novel. Where Schnitzler leaves his words elusive, Kubrick makes it more apparent, as apparent as the last line of dialogue that Albertine utters in the film.

For a woman, human sexuality is deeply explored in her dream, while for the man, it is explored within the boundary of his reality and desires. Yet, it is the depth of Albertine’s dream that leads Fridolin to numerous adventures, pushing him close to the edge of fidelity and while the reality of her experience is much less than his, both Kubrick and Schnitzler let Albertine sit on the sexual throne of the marriage. This I thought is feminism in its very subtle form (you have better to learn from this Mrs Brelait!!!). At the end of the day, it is their faiths that have safely let them emerge from their adventures, both the real ones and from those which they dream about.

The novel and the film may appear complicated and there may seem a thousand ways to understand them. If you, like me are able to attain a certain sense of ‘unconsciousness’ to live and know that sexuality is an illusion and so is truth. Desire is simple and so is religion. Then it isn’t at all difficult to understand them, it is perhaps both the book and the film are no more simple than the act of f***ing.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin – Baldwin bolted inside

Are you one of those people who pride yourself on your willpower, on your ability to make a decision and carry it through? If you’re indeed one of those, then James Baldwin would have a thing or two to tell you. I think, we all probably, in one phase of life or another, believe that we are able to achieve whatever future goals that we lay down, that as long as we put in the hard work, the harvest time would soon come. But without faith and humility, can it be so?

For I am – or I was – one of those people who pride themselves on their willpower, on their ability to make a decision and carry it through. This virtue, like most virtues, is ambiguity itself. People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception. Their decisions are not really decisions at all – a real decision makes one humble, one knows that it is at the mercy of more things than can be named – but elaborated systems of invasion, of illusion, designed to make themselves and the world appear to be what they and the world are not….I had decided to allow no room in the universe for something which shamed and frightened me.” - James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room.

Before wrapping my work for 2009, I was in the middle of reading a very tasty novel that I’ve found during one of the Lifeline’s book fairs. The reading continued as I took the book with me back to Brisbane to spend the Christmas and New Year break with the folks. The book sharply shines some lights on the subjects of emancipation, masculinity and of course love. From a writer who was a civil rights activist and a close friend of the jazz legend Nina Simone, you can expect accurate and at times, poetic social commentaries on the cultural differences of Paris and New York, on masculinity and self-deception.

New York through James’ eyes is ‘It’s very high and new and electric – exciting, it’s hard to describe. It’s very – twentieth century’; ‘All the time to come. There’s such power there, everything is in such movement. You can’t help wondering - I can’t help wondering – what it will all be like – many years from now’. And Paris, it is simply ‘No city is more beautiful than Paris’; ‘Paris is old, is many centuries. You feel, in Paris, all the time gone by. That isn’t what you feel in New York’

A good book I believe make you see a certain aspect of our human nature or allow you to philosophise certain ideas as you digest the words. What I got out of the book is that if you denial certain part of yourself in order ‘to allow no room in the universe for something which shames and frightens me’ then you are no more than a ghost of your reality, you’re not really living a full life. Giovanni, I believe, represents an idea of what a real human is, someone that understands love, someone who is generous with his emotions and stands up for his dignity. Above all, within the decisions that he makes, he allows room in the universe for things that might shame and frighten him. Though his fate was tragic, I believe his life is much more fulfil, in comparison to David (the main character), who has yet to distinguish his real self and his ideal self and therefore the process of accepting his ‘real self’ has not quite progressed.

While I can’t help but feel certain connection of James Baldwin’s to Satre and Flauberts’ view on existentialism, for it seems as though those who live like real humans, their fate always end in tragedy (Giovanni, Emma Bovary and Matthieu Delarues), but these perhaps are real decisions made by the authors – a decision to make the characters humble, and their fates are at the mercy of more things than can be named…

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – the oblivion of our film critics.

How do you get people to believe in something out of their own will? In other words how do you acquire a ‘faith’ or ‘belief’? Faith as the great Virgina once put (from her novel Day and Night) ‘She looked at the lemon-colored leaflet, and thought almost enviously of the faith which could find comfort in the issue of such documents…She read Mr. Clacton's statement with a curious division of judgment, noting its weak and pompous verbosity on the one hand, and, at the same time, feeling that faith, faith in an illusion, perhaps, but, at any rate, faith in something, was of all gifts the most to be envied’. As much as I envy Mrs Woolf for writing such a brilliant line, I whole-heartedly agree with the woman.

Now, what has the movie got to do with my previous paragraph of ranting? It is my ‘belief’ that the film is a highly religious one, exploring deeply within the issues of religion, acquiring faith and facing your personal morals. The mystical, beautifully penurious, Rimbaud-esque theatre troupe is run by doctor Parnassus and his two young assistants who have the purest of hearts. The troupe in its original and penury appearance in amidst of the contemporary and present world, is not attracting a great deal of the crowd, by this, I believe Mr Gillian, the film director indicates that faith is difficult to find among people of the modern world. The arrival of Tony, a man understands material beauty, wealth and marketing, changes the troupe’s success. This is where the questions of purity and acquiring faith come into play, where is the purity in acquiring faith amidst of all the marketing and manipulation?. For those who choose to enter Dr Parnassus’ imagination, they find themselves lost in their own imagination and desires and by a process that isn’t portrayed in the film, salvation, and much happiness are found without the material wealth of our world. As the story unfolds, character’s intentions and fates are laid down; justice and fairness are shown to each of them. The character Tony, especially, faces his own morals and fears. The film I believe is highly metaphorical and contains many symbolic concepts; Terry Gillian’s intellectual is sharply exercised to intertwine his story with wonderful colours and symbolic images.
However, as obvious as it is to me, none of what I discuss above is mentioned in the reviews of the movie critics. Most appreciates the film because it is Heath Ledger’s last cinematic appearance, other than that; these are what generally have been said about the film:
• Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic – ‘It's neither a coherent, discrete work nor a zany tribute to the late actor (Heath Ledger). The first hour contains long, pointless scenes that you just know would have ended up on the cutting-room floor had Ledger lived, but no one could bear cutting them now’
• Matt Pais, Chicago Tribune – ‘a dizzy spell of visual fantasy and rickety plotting. I'd rather get lost in a filmmaker's warped mind than spend a second in the head of a director with nothing up there’
• Even our own David Straton, At the movie – ‘on one level this is a typically chaotic and rather overdone fantasy from Terry Gilliam, but Gilliam’s style – brash, noisy, a bit annoying, tends to detract from the magic of the enterprise’. Magaret Pomeran – ‘And, he does go overboard. It is a bit repetitive. It is a bit long but, there's no one like him (Terry Gillian) in film’.

It is a perhaps that Terry Gillian’s hypothesis regarding faith and the modern world is further proven by the critics’ comments. For unless, one knows faith and understands religion, one would come appreciate the film with ease and enjoyment, and for those who don’t, then they perhaps would get lost, and find it chaotic and long. After all, faith is the most envious gift of all and is often received by the purest of heart. For even with much experience in film, education and intelligence, the critics in their oblivious minds, did not receive the gift of faith. As for Heath Ledger’s performance, it’s a wonderful adieu and a most relevant message to our modern world.

I recently purchased a most peculiar book by Gustave Flaubert ‘Dictionary of Received Ideas’, it is indeed a dictionary. It amazes me how all these ordinary words have such distinctive meaning to Mr Flaubert. And so it is with Terry Gillian, in the movie, you can see that the act of climbing ladder, the shattering of mirror, the giant shoes and perfume bottles (of an old woman imagination) etc…these too, have very distinctive meanings to the director.