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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Friday, April 21, 2006

homework tonight: v is to blank...

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should see V., and write about it.

So, last night LI did our duty. We’ve read many finely drawn theorizations of the movie. Here’s one, and here’s one. These people know their shit.

The way I saw the movie was influenced, a bit, by the recent re-translation of We. I just did the review for that and interviewed Natasha Randall (a lovely, talented woman who I aim to publicize to the extent I can -- read WE!) for Publishers Weekly. In We, D-503 becomes a free man, politically, as he becomes a slave, erotically, to the sexy I-330. I’m not sure if anybody associated with V ever read We, but the S/M subtext under the political message certainly influenced Orwell and Huxley, and presumably has crept into the dystopian genre. It is a sort of contingent conjunction, really – the original We is influenced less by the experience of Stalinism (it was written in the early 1920s), than by art nouveau decadence – that style that you find in Sologub’s Petty Demon and in Bely’s Petersburg. Those seem to be the major influences in We. Seeing Evie disciplined by V, then, didn’t surprise me. By this time, that motif is almost bound to pop up, rooted in the deep structure of dystopias. And to the marriage of Venus in Furs and The Rights of Man, I bring no impediment. The bride may now suck the blood out of the groom, or vice versa.

About the film itself: we definitely got a rush from it. Especially we liked the blowing up of the Parliament. As blowings up go, that was the shit.

Since this is a Wachowski brothers film, I was looking forward to some exemplary slo mo in the service of bloodshed, and I wasn’t disappointed. Usually, slow mo pisses me off. It is a detour around a big narrative problem, which is that people, even big people, can get easily hurt and die. Now if the big person is fighting, say, three little people, and the three little people are vicious and armed, the chances of death or injury dramatically increase. In the Iliad, when a hero is about to succumb to sheer material force, sometimes he is wrapped in a cloud or a mist by a god and rescued. However, if you had too much deus ex machina action in the Iliad, the battles would truly go nowhere. It would sap all the danger, and hence the dignity, from the poem. There’s a fate, a bare spot – much like the bare spot that makes Achilles vulnerable – that the Gods can’t hide. This is why we hate deus ex machina being thrown into a movie on an industrial scale – as happens in your standard action film. Slo mo is of course the easiest of all technical solutions. What was cool about the Matrix was that the W. brothers decided to make a film all about slo mo. They elevated avoiding an all too human truth by way of a gimmick into a meta-gimmick. Pretty brassy. This time around, the slo mo is connected with an old and pretty disused fighting style – sword play, of which we see bits on tv in the background in the film. And by the time we get to where we want the movie to let go –the climactic bloodletting – the movie has gained some cred by not endangering its superhero in some silly way, so we are in the mood to make allowances. Thus, we get some beautiful bloody wackings, in lovely slow mo. And this is a major lure for us, what we came for.

However, there was one surprisingly bogus moment at the very end. The movie closes on, of all things, Rolling Stones’ Street fighting Man. No way! The Matrix ended on the perfect Marilyn Manson song, God is in the TV. It was calling out there at the end to all the kids. But the Stones? That old clunker? Really, if we had to have something from the age of rock dinosaurs, why not Patti Smith’s Power to the People. Myself, I would have thought about Pavement, or, perhaps, the Tricky version of Public Enemy’s Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos. Or, moving up into the living world, how about Black Angel’s Manipulation. The latter would have been so bold I would definitely have creamed in my pants, but – alas, the Brothers W.'s music sense failed them. Too bad.

5 comments:

Amie said...

on the subject of slo-mo explosions in movies, hard to beat the last shot of Zabriskie Point.

roger said...

Shamefully, I've never seen Z.P. Hmm, maybe I will rent it tonight.

winna said...

V is based on We? I didn't know that.

I might very well have to see it now.

roger said...

Winna, whether or not you see V, you gotta read the We when it comes out. The vaunted retranslations of the Russian classics in the last ten years has not really satisfied me. Some of them -- like Constantine's translations of Babel -- are very inferior, in terms of readability, to the older versions. But Randall has done a brilliant job with Zamyatin. And, according to her, it is truly a nightmare text for a translator. For instance, Zamyatin was like Rimbaud in his association of letters and colors. So often his words work not only on a semantic level, but they are supposed to evoke a kinaesthetic feeling via their phonetic structure. Which is impossible to translate. But still, Natasha tried to find some equivalencies in English for that.
I was quite pleased, at least.

winna said...

I've read translators crying about the inability to translate Gogol in a way that does justice to his original, so I can imagine.

I'll have to get it.