For me, Tim Burton‘s Batman gradually became a parent punisher. I used laser discs to distract the boys in their toddler years, and they wanted to watch this 1989 film over and over and over. I gradually became so sick of the dialogue; every line that Pat Hingle said drove me up the wall. I’ll probably never see it again. Favorite sequence: When Jack Nicholson‘s Joker tells his goons to leave a Francis Bacon painting unharmed. Least favorite sequence: The bat-costumed Michael Keaton swan-diving off a super-tall skyscraper and not dying because…I forget. Because his leather cape slowed him down or some kind of stupid micro-thin cable attached to his belt…I don’t want to remember.
For tough-minded critics, the pared-to-the-bone perfection of Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory falls apart during this final scene, which lasts just under four minutes. To them it’s a forced finale — an attempt to abruptly squeeze emotion out of a deeply cruel situation that Kubrick has portrayed in a cool, realistic, matter-of-fact manner from the start. And then, out of the blue, a roomful of coarse, rowdy soldiers, showing their own kind of cruelty to poor Christiane Kubrick, is gradually reduced to silence and then tears in the space of 100 seconds.
In short, critics have said, the first 84 minutes constitute one thing, and the final four are something else.
In my view the scene is saved by the unknown actors (who may have been extras for all I know but nonetheless hit the notes) and the expert editing, which allows the sadness to leak out just so.
How would Paths of Glory play today, if a fact-based World War I film was to somehow get made and distributed theatrically? One, making it would be awfully difficult — too much trouble and expense for too little return. Two, it would never open theatrically — a film of this sort would never have a chance with the downmarket megaplexers, but would probably find a berth with Netflix or Amazon. Three, the film festival circuit would appreciate it but the p.c. fraternity would probably give it a mixed response, partly for the ending and partly because it’s too white (no French solders of color) and too straight (no LGBTQ characters).
Billy Dee Williams at Episode IX panel: “I’m sick and tired of people saying I betrayed Han. Did anybody die? I was going up against Darth Vader. I had to figure something out.” HE reply #1: Lando could have whispered to Han and Leia as they arrived that Vader and his goons were already encamped and ready to pounce. HE reply #2: No, nobody “died” but Lando’s complicity resulted in Han being (a) severely tortured and (b) frozen in carbon.
Last night Donald Trump was fanning the usual anti-Islamic hate flames by attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar for referring to the 9/11 attacks last month as “some people did something.” Righties have glommed onto these four words as an indication of a blithe disregard about a truly horrific slaughter, but lefties haven’t helped the situation by focusing only on conservative Islamophobia while ignoring the import of Omar’s words.
Which was worse — Trump declaring on 9.11 that 40 Wall Street was “now the tallest” building in Manhattan after the collapse of the Twin Towers, or what Omar said?
But in all honesty, what would the reaction be if any official or politician was to refer to the 9/11 attacks as “something” that “some people did”? The Left is aggravating the situation by ignoring the fact that Omar did attempt to minimize the 9/11 tragedy. A Somali-American, Omar was obviously indicating an unwillingness to strongly condemn the perpetrators, whom (be honest) she probably feels a slight kinship with on some vague cultural level.
Imagine the reaction if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton had described the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre as “a local disturbance.” What would the gay community have said if a Florida politician had described the 2016 Orlando massacre as “an unfortunate incident involving a nightclub crowd”? Imagine if Franklin D. Roosevelt had announced to a joint session of Congress that Japanese bombers had “stirred things up” with the 12.7.41 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Omar could have made this whole thing go away by apologizing for a poor choice of words, and expressing profound sorrow about the slaughter of nearly 3000 New Yorkers that day.
Posted on 10.3.14: Abel Ferrara‘s Pasolini, screening this evening at the New York Film Festival, is about the last day or so in the life of the noted visionary Italian filmmaker — a brilliant writer and impassioned artist, upscale and refined, incredibly hard-working, the maker of one of the most rancid and perverse films of all time…and a guy with a thing for low-class, curly-haired boys. And an inclination on some level to flirt with danger.
Ferrara is obviously in awe of Pasolini’s artistic bravery (or obstinacy) and has captured some of his visions and dreams by depicting portions of Pasolini’s “Petrolio,” a meandering unfinished book he was writing, and has depicted his violent death with a certain raw power but…how to best say this?…I was faintly bored by some of it. Not dead bored — it’s an intelligent, earnestly presented film about an interesting man — but my fingers were tapping on the tabletop. Too many shots are murky or underlit…not Gordon Willis dark but “you can’t see shit” dark.
I actually loved Ferrara’s capturing of three scenes from Porno-Teo-Kolossal, a film Pasolini intended to make as a follow-up to Salo, The 120 Days of Sodom. And Willem Dafoe‘s performance as Pasolini is arresting — he obviously looks the part, and for whatever reason I didn’t mind that Dafoe and almost everyone else speaks English the entire time. And I love the way he pronounces “bourgeoisie” as “BOOJHwahzEE.”
But it’s finally a mercurial film aimed at Pasolini devotees. I agree with Variety‘s Peter Debruge that “it’s not fair to require audiences to know Pasolini’s ‘Petrolio'” — if you haven’t done your homework some portions of Ferrara’s film will throw you blind. But it’s lively and unfamiliar and anything but sedate. It’s not so bad to be faintly bored; it also means that you’re somewhat engaged. I’m glad that I saw it. It has portions that work. My vistas have been somewhat broadened.