Recently in Film Category

A couple days ago, I was asked about my critical appreciation for The Hulk (2003), and how I could find that much seperation between that film and Ang Lee's other film Crouching Tiger - the question being in part whether I viewed the latter much as Native Americans might view Dances With Wolves. I haven't been able to get it up to write much online since I responded, so this is just what I sent back.

V. Interesting. Yes, there is an extent to which for me and monkey, we are more familiar with the genre that Crouching Tiger inhabits, and so we really see the generic aspects of it. There is an extent to which we feel it panders to western audiences, and that's not something we like, though I have to say I have much more substantive issues with the film.

Having said that I'm at least as familiar with the genre The Hulk inhabits, though my memory of the original Hulk series on TV is a little fuzzy. But I place it very squarely in terms of the 80s/90s Superman franchise, and certainly in contrast to the Batman films, more recently the X-Men films etc.

So purely in terms of genre, I'd have to go with the Hulk, if only because if how Crouching was very much an exhibition of a genre, rather than the adding of a new sophistication and refinement on a genre that has had rather uncomplicated antecedents.

But that's not the extent of it by any means. The one thing that stands out to me, and I'd say this about both Crouching as well as (the god awful) Brokeback, is that both find themselves plotting around very conventional notions of family and responsibility. Fair enough. But in doing so it seems the narrative they tell is very much bound by that convention - of straying away from the strictures of how you were brought up (ie: this taking up the middle of the respective films) and then having to pay some kind of price or consequence for the transgression. Not that I have any real trouble with this kind of moralism (though I do to an extent), it's simply that it breeds rather unsophisticated narratives. The Hulk is much more interesting in this respect. The argument it makes about childhood and about the fluidity of time and moment, not to mention the much more subtle point it makes about a yearning for convention and control in tension with liberation, marks out a new complexity with Ang Lee's filmmaking that he's been at pains to achieve since.

In comparison, while I still have fond memories of it, The Ice Storm is far too MFA to have that kind of resonance. And while Lust Caution was very insistent on a bending of sympathies beneath subterfuge, the way it handled that movement from purity of conviction to the muddying of reality was so awfully melodramatic.

But in the end, for me the final litmus test of the rigour of the film I would argue always has to rest on the way the filmmaker uses image, composition and frame to affect the way we understand the narrative, and in that respect while Crouching was persistently pretty, it was only with The Hulk that that aesthetic sense really marries with a depth of sophistication when it comes to meaning and rhetorical intent. I've talked about the tableau when The Hulk is flying through the air. It's telling that Crouching uses it's flying moments very much as spectacle, as something of astonishing beauty and skill, but I would argue little else. In contrast with the Hulk, the close up on the Hulk's expression as it flies through the air is central to how we understand that experience of flight for this otherwise supposedly self-indulgent monstrous figure. The Hulk brings a new legitimacy rather than simply excitement to the notion of transgressing against the controls of society. And it's telling that this takes place most rigorously in the filmic aspect of the production, rather than purely from the spoken script.

Part of me wonders though, how much of this conversation is the same conversation we always have - where you privilege films with larger more intense emotional effects (Midnight Cowboy springs to mind), whereas I prefer things of perhaps less mimetic rigour, and choose films for their intellectual depth. That you privilege affect and the honesty of emotional engagement in a way that I cannot help find manipulative - such as when films use an extremity of circumstances as a means of evincing emotional responses.

I suppose it makes me wonder what you'd think of Bicycle Thieves - the old Italian black and white film, that while I'm sure if I watched it now I might react to badly, but I just remember it as a film that while hugely affecting, did not feel overtly manipulative. As it is I can't watch section of Sullivan's Travels now just because I know how awful it gets, though I'm still glad of the place that extremity has in terms of the integrity of the film's rhetoric.

Fat Cell

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And so the weekend has really been a sort of lull. Any number of things that I could expand on, but we'll see if that happens. I think I'm going to have a moratorium on the writing plan. I just want to have some time not to think about it.

Just been watching more and more of Jon and Kate, which was initially traumatic, but which is now quite compelling. The hourlong format can be a little taxing. Planet Green has similarly been fun watching. A much more palatable form of remodelling shows.

Went to watch Wall-E. I with the crap bits weren't paired with some otherwise rather lovely filmaking. So much was so leaden.

Tomorrow is back to getting car bits looked at. But it'll be nice once my locks work again and my front squirter works. The MCA was fantastic and Jeff Koons was good fun.Will go to the smart home some time next week.

We bought a Fat Cell. Called Anna.

Still feeling some anxiety about the fact that my OPT card still hasn't arrived. If it's not here or there by tomorrow, it's going to get annoying. Also having to wait on parts for my car, which means waiting on how much it's all going to cost. Planning to go to the Jeff Koons exhibit at the MCA today. We'll see if it happens.

Cable modem got swapped out yesterday, hopefully that fixes things. I suppose there's a chance it could be the router, but then the phone would still work.

Was hoping to get interested in Wimbledon, but just found out Sharapova's been ousted. Ivanovic looks interesting though. Politics has been more boring than usual, if that's possible.

Cookie monster on Colbert was hilarious.

Can't seem to get past watching Family Guy, just downloaded Back to the Future in case I decide to watch it. Am halfway through Rosemary's Baby. Must find/queue up more features to watch. Tempted to watch Star Wars and Star Trek. But the discs are buried somewhere and I'm not in a digging mood. Feel silly downloading them again.

Am finding ways to make peace with utorrent's auto upload limit feature. Can't be bothered with links or pictures with this post, but may change my mind later. The anonymous online lit mag sounds interesting.

Now when I watch the Hulk (2003), I can't help but think of Kellie Wells (who I still secretly want to be my new best friend). If only because I mentioned it was my favorite Ang Lee film, and really how he would never make a film that was better than that. I stand by that, having watched it again.

I will say that James Schamus should just do Ang Lee the biggest favour and stop pretending he's any kind of a screenwriter. Some of his writing is so leaden it's not even true. That said, almost every other aspect of the film exudes a sense of detail and attention that is always synonymous with good cinema. The use of wipes and the editing between shots I must say is particularly well done, and the sense of rage you get from the Hulk is magnificent.

I remember reading how Ang Lee had to step in and take Eric Bana's place when modelling for the animatronics guys, so that it would come out right. There's nothing quite like the look of bliss on the Hulk's face when it's flying free through the air. Similarly him falling out of the sky when the F16 takes him up so high. It's as if the travesty that is Crouching Tiger never happened.

In comparison Iron Man is just the epitome of popcorn sales. Enough depth not to be entirely shallow, but no real rhetorical force whatsoever. Stuff in it is cool, but that is the extent of the experience. No ambition, no depth. With the Hulk, the psychological drama literally plays out as such. And if it weren't for James Schamus, it would have done so in a way that was much more subtle and pleasing, rather than being so very leaden at points. Oy with the expositional dialogue already.

I've said before, that if it's a film about family and responsibility, it's an Ang Lee film, and not always in a good way. But with the Hulk, all the heaviness of the subject matter seemed to dissipate, so that the treatment of family was pitch perfect rather than heavy handed. Nick Nolte is particularly good, and especially funny when he does his little mock jerking as if he were the Hulk in the final denouemont. The allegory of family in the film just plays out so much better than it does in say The Ice Storm (which I don't mind so much) or The Wedding Banquet (which is awful).

Oh, and Jennifer Connolly is lovely beyond measure. monkey and I used to refer to certain women as "nummy", but Jennifer Connolly we always talked about as "marriage material". Sigh. And I don't care what she says about Career Opportunities being the nadir of her career, I think it's a good film, and she's lovely in it.

So. Yes. That's why I'm not going near the new Hulk with a ten foot pole.

And at some time while I was posting my last few posts, I managed to join BlogBurst: 

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