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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A Certain Violent Tendency

The recent statement made by Tarantino in London that violence is what the cinema is for and about, will not surprise either his detractors or fans, though it is a sad aesthetic limitation; I suspect it is a red rag to a bull or red herring: QT's work is as verbal and musical as it is visual. Indeed, if he ever makes a non-violent film (well) he can rest on his laurels. I find it intriguing that two of the best American films of the year are violent Westerns by other names - Basterds by QT and The Hurt Locker by Kathryn Bigelow.

QT's film is a contrast to the Iraq bomb disposal film in almost every way: one is comedic, falsifies history, and flamboyantly cinematic; the other is tragic, attempts to be cinema verite, and uses documentary style - but both are about bands of wild (and less wild) American soldiers fighting on the margins of the acceptable. The Hurt Locker is one of my favourite films in a long time, mainly for how its main character mushrooms from villain to enigma to existential hero to symbol. And what a symbol - the last scene, and frame, of the film is one of the more indelible in cinema - quasi-sci-fi and weirdly life affirming. One has to go back to Yeats' poems of life-in-death and warfare to find such a disturbing portrayal of the ambiguous power and beauty of combat, suffering, even facing death. QT is wrong to think cinema is for violence only or mostly; cinema is for the poetry of life and death. Which is violent but more mysterious and deeper too.

{Meanwhile, those looking for Gun Crazy style noir and Marxist historical film-making with the gravitas of Costas-Gravas should consider viewing the recent German classic, The Baader-Meinhof Complex, which arguably glamourises - yet contextualises - the Uzi-toting killers - by rendering them as young and charismatic and deranged (and angry) as they actually were. As one of the lewdly sunbathing gang says, to an astonished Palestinian in a desert training camp, "guns and sex are the same".}
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