April 1, 2006

Two movies, two big budgets, two duds - and Yes

"A story like mine should never be told."
- Memoirs of a Geisha -

You know, there's something to that. It seems to relate to a least two films I've seen this week. Though the issue may be less that the stories shouldn't be told so much as they shouldn't be told in certain ways.

I’ve watched a couple of this week’s big DVD releases – King Kong and Memoirs of a Geisha. In both cases – way too long.

And in both cases, I was bored.

And, in both cases, the problem is sort of the same – not enough emphasis on story, too much emphasis on how wonderful the world’s they were creating were. Yes, the pictures are interesting but images alone aren’t enough.

In the case of King Kong, I would have cut the first hour in half and, in the next two hours, taken a machete to the action scenes. They weren’t bad, they were just too much. And they got boring. I was getting up and doing dishes, laundry, anything because my mind was wandering.

Same thing with Memoirs of a Geisha (which was duller than King Kong). Pretty pictures but pretty pedestrian storytelling. And dull, dull, dull.

I also couldn’t figure out why it was in English. It would have made more sense in Japanese with sub-titles for those of us who don’t speak Japanese. It makes no sense, in 2006, to have a film set in Japan, with all Asian characters, in English – especially one concerning the story this one does. In fact, the movie overall is too Hollywood for its subject matter. (Where's Yasunari Kawabata when you need him?)

Nice story, but poorly executed. Pretty though. Unfortunately, pretty is interesting for about 15 minutes and this thing is over two hours long.

I also watched Sally Potter’s Yes this week, ten times better than those other two movies (Kong and Geisha). Though I wouldn’t say it’s a great film, unlike those other two, even with some failings it is 100 times more interesting and worthy of seeing a second time. (I’m still asking myself, “Yes, but what about the husband? What about the daughter?”)

While not meant as a criticism, I also wonder why Yes is written in verse. Why write it that way rather than the usual way (non-poetic). I suspect because we’re supposed to keep in mind that this is artifice, not life as it truly is (though that’s not quite true – yes, I contradict myself). We’re supposed to be aware that things are at least slightly heightened for the purposes of art – but again, why?

I think because we’re supposed to question it. And I’ve lots of questions.

Anyway … While none of these three films is an out of the park home run, Yes beats the pants off of King Kong and Memoirs of a Geisha. I was not bored for a single moment watching that one.

And, in the end, it simply isn't worth
your while to try and clean your life away.
You can't. For, everything you do or say
is there, forever. It leaves evidence.
In fact it's really only common sense;
there's no such thing as nothing, not at all.
It may be really very, very small
but it's still there. In fact I think I'd guess
that "no" does not exist. There's only "yes".

- Yes -

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