September 10, 2005


Batanga Batanga Batanga!

Bits on various media (no, not "the" media, just media) that I've enjoyed lately:

Aguirre: the Wrath of God; I jumped this up to the top(ish) of my netflix queue a couple weeks back due to a rather positive review over on Ruthless, and afterwards had to seed other Herzog films throughout my queue. The bit of the review that really sold me was an in-passing note of the fellow having a quote about the so-called harmony of nature really being the harmony of mass-murder. Now there's a kindred soul--what's always bugged me most about treehugging types isn't the tree-hugging itself--trees are amazing things when you stop and really think about it--but the saccharine veneer that "nature" tends to get painted with. You know it, cliches about man being the only animal that takes more than he needs from the environment, the only animal that kills for pleasure, and other assorted bullshit. Nature is indeed beautiful, but it's also intensely prodigal; the entire biosphere's something of a giant death-engine constantly eating itself, and there's a damn good reason that human progress can be modeled fairly well as a desperate effort to get out of the engine's way and start steering the damn thing--if not perfectly, at least away from us. (I firmly support tampering in God's domain.) The inherent ugliness in nature is, paradoxically, part of its beauty. This makes for lousy protest slogans, so it's a factor that doesn't get much popular press.

But anyway, it's a flick that definitely shows it was made by a bloke who understood that. Also, the lead actor has a terrific crazy-eyed intensity--apparently because he literally was completely batshit insane in real life, and Herzog just liked harnessing him. I hear tell both actor and director fully intended and planned to murder one another. If that sort of thing makes for good film, I'm all for it.

Nochnoy Dozor, aka the Night Watch. Apparently this is going to get some sort of limited American release at some point, but I ended up using a time-traveling Atlantean bubble-car to view it. Good stuff in the not-art sense; the story goes there's forces of Light and Dark--old hat stuff--who met in battle, and it became clear they were so completely evenly matched that if they kept fighting every single one of them would die. So they struck a truce; the Night Watch keeps an eye on the Darkside, while there's a Day Watch who does the same for the Light folks. There's a prophecy about a one who will choose one side or the other, and, like I say, definitively not-art. But I liked the general aesthetic of the whole thing, which was a sort of low-rent grunge affair--a Hollywood film on the same thing would have made everything glossy and a matrix ripoff. It reminded me somewhat of some of the writings of Tim Powers--the "Others" are usually invisible to normal folks, have various inhuman powers, etc., but rather than portrayed as cool and so forth, most of them are barely functional. The quick-response arm of the Night Watch doesn't tear around town in the souped-up classic sports cars they would in an American version, but a city utility truck. The protagonist barely has one outfit to his name which is more goodwill than thousand-dollar trenchcoat, and so on.

The effects are a mixed bag of cheapish cgi and stop-motion practical effects here and there, but effective as part of the aforementioned low-rent grungy feel. I'm looking forward to seeing the sequel if it gets made.

Ong Bak: one of the best martial arts flicks I've seen in quite awhile. Tony Jaa has the physical prowess of a younger Jackie Chan but doesn't play it for wacky propfight laughs--while the fights are impressively impractical, they're that in a downright brutal way. The Chan comparison also holds by the stunts basically being wire-free and most likely rather injurious to life and limb. I look forward to the fellow continuing to try to kill himself through action film for my viewing pleasure.

posted by Gar @ 5:19 PM
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