Tuesday, 3 June 2014

I'm getting so sick of blockbusters - also review of The Son (2003)

I have a brother with autism. One of the things we love to do together is go to the movies, the movies that attract his attention are generally movies with plenty of explosions and effects, heroes and villains.
I have a friend who is a cinefile. One of the things we love to do together is watch movies, the movies that attract his attention are a little more varied in scope and style.

Last week I watched two movies; one with my brother, one with my friend. Those two movies, for me in this moment, highlighted everything that is wrong and right with the cinema.  

The first film was X-Men Days of blah blah blah, another one of these carbon copy blockbusters which utilise every technique and technology known to man in an attempt to create action, drama, suspense, tension, or at least something resembling cinema... rarely do they succeed in any way at all. And X-Men: Today is Tomorrow's Yesterday - which from my limited knowledge of the comics, should be Do The Right Thing with superpowers - becomes yet another example of all sound and noise signifying nothing. A collection of ideas and images half thought through and vaguely executed. It is in no way the worst of this genre of 'summer blockbuster' but it was a stark reminder of the increasingly undeniable fact: this isn't cinema.

Then I watched The Son (2003, dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne), safe to say the polar opposite of Marvel project 17, a film which abandons so many things that we have been told 'make a movie', a film which presents the bare essentials (and one may argue, not even that). But a film nonetheless, which is infinitely more interesting, suspenseful, dramatic, and cinematic than that other film with all it's millions of dollars and dozens of Oscar nominees. The Son reminds us of why people invented cameras and added sound - they wanted to tell stories. They wanted to tell more stories to more people. They wanted to show us more places. They wanted us to feel more. The Son is exactly this, while its story could be told through other mediums, it's storytelling could not.

People may feel that this argument is antithetical. That surely the movie set simultaneously in an alternate future and past, filled with explosions and people who turn into fire is the story that most suits the cinematic method. But cinema is form of intimacy and subtlety, of glances and expression, of knowing and unknowing, of withholding and releasing, of here and now. This is cinema.     
The Son is cinema.

I will make one small disclaimer, one last ditched statement of hope for the days of future past... a disclaimer is borrowed off another story from the cinema:
"Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere"
And I can only hope so, because these movies, like my brother's appetite for them, have no end in sight. 

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