Some Brief Questions About the Movies

One of the best things about films–both good and bad–is that they inspire us to inquire. We ask while watching them: Did it really have to happen that way? Or maybe: What’s with the lighting in that scene? How does so-and-so get out of that scrape? We’re always exploring this universe. There always are questions that come up during the course of a picture.

Recently, I began to wonder if the ones I’m asking while watching certain flicks are the same as those being posed by other viewers. Perhaps we’re all thinking similarly … or perhaps not. In that interrogative light, here are my latest musings, as unattached to each other as they may be:

Does anybody really like the character George Berger in Milos Forman’s film version of Hair?

Which is more disturbing: The discovery in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia that Gasim, the man T.E. Lawrence saved from death in the desert, has murdered another man, or Michael Corleone’s lie to his wife Kay in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather about killing his sister’s husband?

Would Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus be a heckuva lot better without Alex North’s excruciatingly bombastic score?

What would have happened in Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu if the eponymous character had rejected the advances of her suitor at the beginning of the film?

Where did Antoine Doinel go at the end of Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows? How about Kevin at the end of Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits?

Couldn’t Louis Mazzini just have gone back into the prison to retrieve his memoirs at the conclusion of Robert Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets?

I’m just wondering. How about you?

 

 

Skip’s Quips: If It Ain’t in the Book, It Might Work in the Movie

Blog Sketch 082813I’ve always been a bit bothered by the ending of David Lean’s otherwise masterful film of Great Expectations.

Pip winds up tearing the curtains off the windows to rescue Estella from a Miss Havisham-esque fate, and that just didn’t happen in the Charles Dickens novel.

The question is: Does it work in the context of the film? If so, maybe that’s not such a big problem after all.

I’m an advocate of that idea – that a scene need not be in the original source material to be warranted in a film version. Filmmakers change such content all the time in their adaptations of classic works for all kinds of reasons … sometimes, dare I say it, for the better. So why does it distress me so much in Lean’s version of GE?

It certainly makes a big impact at the end of the movie, and although I do find it somewhat melodramatic, the scene is very powerful. I think it’s also in line with the characters, as Estella was groomed by Miss Havisham to be … well, an awful person. Having her consider becoming her former mentor is an interesting way around the book’s ending, and Pip’s “rescue” ties her back to him in a romantic fashion.

Maybe I should watch this sequence again; sometimes, the more you get used to a film, the better it becomes. And I could definitely stand watching this great picture at least one more time. Especially if I’m looking to understand the ending better.

That just might happen.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Ah, Yes, I Remember It Poorly

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Why is it that some not-so-great movies stay in the memory and other, much better ones often don’t?

For example: The Omega Man. Sloppy, mediocre science fiction. Yet I recall the images from this Charlton Heston zombies-on-the-loose gloomfest more than anything from a seminal sci-fier I enjoyed more, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

It ain’t easy to forget a giant robot named Gort. Or the famous mantra “Klaatu barada nikto.” And I certainly haven’t forgotten them. But for some reason, they’re not as defined as all of the unpleasantness pervading TOM.

That includes the script, by the way … which could’ve been a lot better, given the source material (Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend).

Perhaps that’s the root of the issue—that memory often focuses on “what ifs” over “done right,” deserting the positives for second guesses. At least, in my case. The idea of something close to quality may trump actual quality in the mind, presenting a puzzle that continues to disturb at the cost of remembering more important works.

TOM isn’t the only flick that does this. Nixon, Turnabout, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane—all of these horrid films I remember all too well, though I don’t want to do so. And they all could’ve been watchable, though each would’ve needed something more than a touch-up. (In Fairlane‘s case, a full cinematic makeover would’ve sufficed.)

So how do I clear my mind of these film fiascos and replace them with memories of David Lean, Satyajit Ray, François Truffaut and the like? I know of only one way.

Watch more of their movies. Put Gort in the DVD player. And maybe repeat the words “Klaatu barada nikto” in my brain until I get it.

A mind’s a terrible thing to waste … on bad movies. No reason, then, to keep them stored with all of those good memories.