January 9, 2007

Odd film alert [RSS users beware of Children of Men SPOILER]

Very Short List puts Tears of the Black Tiger at the intersection of Tarantino, Looney Tunes and LSD. From the trailer I'd say they missed the most obvious reference: Powell and Pressburger (in addition to the German dubbing, YouTube does not do justice to the colors; fortunately Criterion DVDs are available). Which definitely means it's something to keep an eye on.

Meanwhile, I finally saw Children of Men and Pan's Labyrinth, and both have shot right to the top of my rather pathetic best of the year list. This is a terrible cliché, but they're the kind of movies that remind you why you love movies. You feel like you're living in them for hours after the movie is over. If it's not a complete oxymoron, Children of Men felt like a neo-realist Brazil. And those single-shot action sequences! Altman and Welles never tried to blow stuff up while they were doing it. Pan's Labyrinth, meanwhile, was an anti-fascist Alice in Wonderland, and a huge leap forward from the interesting but one-note Devil's Backbone.

Problem that keeps Children of Men from being perfect after the jump. MAJOR SPOILER OF A MOVIE YOU DON'T WANT SPOILED. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

A happy ending?! Give us more credit than that. Doesn't need to be a total downer, just... ambiguous. My director's cut would end about 15 seconds before the actual end, with Kee floating in the row boat waiting for a ship that may or may not come.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Wait: You consider that a happy ending? To me, it's still pretty ambiguous. I mean, even if the Human Project is everything we've been led to believe it is, there's still the question of whether it'll make any difference -- that is to say, whether the forces that'll triumph will be the ones shelling each other to death on the shore, or the ones in the boat trying to nurture human life. In fact, I'd argue that the ending Cuaron went with is far *more* satisfyingly ambiguous than the one you describe. With your ending, the main question in the viewer's mind is, "Is there a boat?" With Cuaron's ending, the question is, "So: There's a boat. Now: Can the forces in favor of life prevail over those of destruction?" Given the horror of what we've witnessed in the 25 minutes or so preceding the arrival of the boat, it's a fairly provocative question.

(BTW, on a separate subject, much though I liked the two stories in "Pan's Labyrinth", I kind of thought that each served more as a distraction from than a complement to the other. Or am I alone in that?)

[plugging ears, covering eyes]

Dude, "jumps" totally don't happen in RSS feeds. BIG OBNOXIOUS CAPITAL LETTER SPOILER ALERTS are called for.

Fucker. I'm seeing this Thursday.

J - Sorry. Fixing.

Tim - You're forgetting the rising sound of multiple children laughing as the screen fades to black. Promise fulfilled. I would have settled for removing that, but I still think my ending is better. The immediate question may be about the arrival of the boat, but that's only a more dramatic stand-in for the REAL question, which is the one you pose.

Also: I thought the Pan's storylines complimented each other perfectly. Indeed, as the film progressed it became increasingly clear that the stories were one and the same.

I haven't seen Children of Men yet - and now I guess I don't have to. But on the subject of inappropriate Happy Endings, anybody remember The Fisher King?

I found the texture and voice of that movie very satisfying and consistent until the moment the DJ delivers the grail to the comatose wacko, and from there on the movie played as an over-the-top satire of the "Happy Ending" - completely out of sync with everything else that had happened, with teeth-rottingly cute tie-up-with-a-bow resolutions to everything. I wondered if this was Gilliam's protest about the contentious wrangling over Brazil's ending (his immediately previous film).

(I might have been influenced by a dialogue in Godel, Escher, Bach, where Achilles and the Tortoise converse about how to end a book early without tipping off the reader by having blank pages, and arrive at the solution that there should be a clear and obvious break in the way the story is going and the way the characters behave to tip you off that this is no longer the real story.)

At any rate, I haven't been able to find any confirmation of my theory from Gilliam himself. (Anybody?) Without that it just seems like a terribly-pitched happy ending.

Powell & Pressburger's "A Matter of Life and Death"--the link off the word "Powell"--is not available on a region 1 DVD yet. And I'm really tired of waiting; it's my favorite film. (It's been rumored a few times and was up for preorder, with artwork, on Amazon, but never materialized.)

Your take on "Children of Men" mirrors mine. "Neo-realist Brazil" is a very nice description. I side with Radosh over Tim: the last fifteen seconds do hurt the movie, and ambiguity would have made it so much better than to have a deus ex machina named "Tomorrow" flying in to save the day.

Vance: if you care about movies, you do have to see this movie, even if you know how it ends. Hardly a day passes in the last twelve days that I don't marvel at the jaw-dropping single-take scene in the car that I won't describe further, but you'll know it when you see it.

As an old childless female, I'm not sure those laughing children were optimistic. Something in them seemed...taunting.

*heads to Match.com*

I wouldn't call it a happy ending so much as a hopeful one. Of course, I spent the last 20 minutes expecting them all to be killed at any moment, since that would be more "realistic," so I was just relieved the baby made it to the last frame.

Also, is it really a "deus ex machina" if it's the goal the main characters have been working toward, with the help of many other characters, for the whole movie? It's not like he just decided to row out to the middle of the sea for the exercise.

Was anyone else here disappointed the film offers no explanation as to what's causing the infertility? I hate to sound like some preteen popcorn muncher who needs everything spelled out, but if Cuaron's not going to offer any exposition as to what's ultimately led to the possible extinction of the human race, then it just seems too easy to project whatever themes you want onto the subject matter.

I mean, I still really liked it. How many times a decade are you gonna get a genuine sci-fi film that isn't merely an excuse to have an action movie? I just wish it hadn't abandoned its more interesting sci-fi concepts in favor of a, Gotta Go Hide Out At My Old Friend's Place So I Can Watch The Bad Guys Kill Him Right Before I Escape-type narrative.

Anybody with me, or am I simply trolling it up by not putting it in the same league as Brazil and Blade Runner?

David John - no, you fierce and terrible troll, I completely disagree. An "explanation" would have removed some of the hoplessness (if there's a cause, there's hope for a cure), and robbed us of the element of people in the movie projecting different themes onto their own lives (e.g.,the penitents).

I don't think it's in the same league as Brazil, but what is?

Yeah, it's only because it has the ending it has that I wanted to know the origin. Indeed, it would have been perfect if everything had been left bleak and ambiguous, just like (insert your favorite science fiction film here). But if a ship's going to appear out of nowhere and show us how it all ends, then I wanted the film to complete the arc and tell us how it began, as naive and simplistic as that sounds.

Unless of course the ship being named Tomorrow, and the sound of children laughing, actually is meant to be ironic and sinister . . .

The ship didn't appear out of nowhere. They were trying to get to the ship for the whole movie. They went to the place they were supposed to meet the ship. This is all in the film.

Yes, I realize the characters are trying to get to the ship for the whole movie. I say "out of nowhere" in the sense that the ship feels completely antithetical to where the filmmakers are going for the whole movie. The ship can be there or not be there, except that it implies The Human Project is real. For me at least, it doesn't seem in keeping with the unrelentingly oppressive 108 minutes leading up to that point for The Human Project to be revealed as anything more than a fabled construct.

So it would be better if the rowboat tipped over and the last shot was their futilely thrashing hands finally sinking below the water.

Duh. Obviously it would have been better if just as the ship arrives, Kee looks up — and Jason Voorhees bursts out the water and drags her under!

Then the ship explodes.

Neither I nor my friend even noticed the children sounds at the end and so we spent a lot of time afterwards discussing what might happen next. We found it quite ambiguous (was she the only one? were the HP assholes just like everyone else? had she been infertile?). Both of us were, however, driven nuts by the fact that they don't spend a single moment tying the rowboat to the buoy. Would it have killed them? Everything was so nice until then. It was like Blindness meets Khan Yunis.

TG that drove me crazy too!

This movie is torture to anyone who was once the neighborhood babysitter.

I agree with Tim's interpretation of the end scene. The big question was whether the boat would actually be there. It was, and the fate of the infant (a symbol for the fate of the future of humanity) was suddenly far more optimistic.

Of course, nothing is definite. There would likely be years more struggle and things would probably get worse before they would get better.

Regarding the origin of the lack of fertility: The MTV-esque propaganda scene in which the viewer is brought up to date on the fall of NY and the rest of the world alludes to massive environmental damage.

I'd also argue that the God in the machine was an intentional plot device used to address the state of human faith. The human project was essentially legend up until the point where you see the boat.

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