THIS BLOG IS MY BLOG. THIS BLOG IS MY BLOG. Welcome to the Home of Hyperopia.: Words About Movies - BROKEN FLOWERS

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Words About Movies - BROKEN FLOWERS

With further apologies to Erin, last night I watched Broken Flowers. If you want to read a real review of this movie, click here. If you want to keep reading for my thoughts, see below.

The "independent" film thing that is so popular these days. The concept. It frustrates me. And that's not to say I don't like "independent" films. I do. I enjoyed watching Broken Flowers. But it didn't further me farther in any way that I am aware of.

The real problem, as I see it, is that a great many of these movies (these "independent films")are more snapshot than story. As a general matter, stories and fables and books and movies and theatre and the narrative tradition is about (or at least should be about, in my view) transferring experience and the wisdom derived therefrom without requiring the audience to undergo the experience whence the wisdom sprung (sprang?).

But a significant number of independent films no longer transfer wisdom. A significant number of independent films no longer even try to transfer wisdom. These movies simply let us play voyeur on the life and times of the people in the movie. In Broken Flowers, as in so many of these movies, at the end of the movie we don't know any more than we did at the beginning. The players themselves are just as lost. The stories are just as confused. There are just as many loose ends at the one hundred twenty minute mark as there were fifteen minutes into the show.

This is like real life, of course. But that doesn't make it helpful entertainment. When I purchase entertainment, I want answers. When I rent a movie and the movie tells me that the main character, a flawed and lonely fellow, may have a son by a woman he had a relationship with almost twenty years in the past, I want the main character to find out whether in fact this son exists. I do not require that the main character and his son, if his son in fact exists, make peace with one another for the water over the dam. But I do want them to at least meet.

There is too much ambiguity in today's "indepedent film."

There is too much uncertainty.

Now, there is good stuff there too. A significant number of today's "independent films" are just beautifully crafted. They contain lush and rich and full and evocative scenery. The production in lots of these movies is fantastic. Background noises meld magnificently with the primary action going on. The colors in these films are spectacular. The actors are consummate professionals (and just as an aside - I thought, to my surprise, Jessica Lange looked hot). Everybody involved does a great job building the product.

But the product isn't about anything.

There were two scenes in Broken Flowers where a passenger jet is shown taking off into an overcast sky. The jet rises against the overcast. From the angle of the viewer, light shines on the jet making it appear to be roughly the same color as the white-gray of the sky. There is a very tall, dark streetlight like the ones along freeways in the shot. In the first shot (which I think is towards the very beginning of the film), the streetlight is on the left and the plane rises from its base. The shot fades out as the jet gets towards the upper right-hand corner of the screen. In the second shot (which I think is towards the end of the film when the Bill Murray character nears the end of his journey), the streetlight is closer to the center. The shot fades out as the jet crosses near the top of the streetlight. No doubt the filmmaker did this on purpose. There is some symbolism at work here. I missed it. I thought the shots were gorgeous, though. They were motion pictures; a painting being drawn while we watch. But since the movie itself lacked any deeper meaning, the beauty of those two shots is all there is. Can something that lacks substance be symbolic?

Shakespeare already wrote about this phenomenon a few years back:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

But, according to the profit and loss statements for some of these filmmakers, beauty and professionalism seem to be enough to put butts in the seats. Maybe entertainment is entertainment. Maybe it doesn't have to be education as well. Maybe filmmakers are right to save their powder; why go to the effort to transfer wisdom if your customers don't require it (or want it).

Or maybe there is wisdom being transferred, and I'm the idiot.

Photo credits: here and here


Blogger PDD said...

Okay, at this moment I don't have any time to read this post, but I will as soon as I get a moment. I just wanted to say I really, really want to see this movie.

8:09 AM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger The Velvet Fog said...

Your time would have been better spent watching Wedding Crashers instead of this artsy fartsy hoo-ha.

10:55 AM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger PDD said...

The one thing I can't stand is when every piece of film needs "transfered wisdom" as you call it.

Not all movies need to have a big resolution at the end. I have seen some really good movies that avoid inserting the big resolutions. More often than not, big resolutions are predictable and can sometimes ruin the movie and be flat out boring.

I love those somewhat ambiguous character driven films (If they are good). I prefer character driven films to plot driven films. But this is not to say I rule out a good plot driven film with great character.

I enjoyed reading this post.

8:26 AM, February 02, 2006  
Blogger PDD said...

Garrett, it's now time for day eight.

10:37 AM, February 03, 2006  

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