My dutiful participation in an embarrassingly remedial math class at North Seattle Community College, with one hour of class time and hours of homework each day (as my first baby step in attaining a degree of some sort), goes a long way toward explaining:
a) My neglect of this blog.
b) The escapist bent of my weekend movie imbibement.
Last night, feeling bored and dazed after a day of spring sunshine spent dividing fractions and finding factors and prime numbers (oh, how it makes me cringe to admit that I can’t do things most high-school sophomores can probably do), I popped in Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise for a brief (only 82 minutes running time), light treat. I wasn’t disappointed; it was, for me and my mood last night, the cinematic equivalent of a bedtime cup of chocolate. The elegant romantic-comedy stylings Lubitsch employs to tell us the breezy tale of a love triangle comprised of a couple of professional thieves (Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins) and a perfume heiress (Kay Francis) in the milieu of the Parisian upper crust of the thirties are enough to make one’s mind simply float away from the workaday. The artificiality of the film is stunning; the moment that remains emblazoned on my mind is the several cuts, from one beautifully composed shot to another, as Francis says to Marshall, “We have a long time ahead of us... Weeks. Months. Years.” As each word signifying a measure of time falls from her lips, a cut: To the clinching couple reflected in a mirror on the wall, then to the same reflection in a table mirror, then to their shadows in profile on a bed. This, not any kind of dull, cheesy, ugly CGI (such as that seen in the trailer for Spider-Man 2), is what “movie magic” should rightfully mean to us.
Today, after a morning spent being the most detestable kind of sunglasses-sporting urban shopper in search of shoes and shirts, I caught the first matinee of Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 2 on the giant screen (with sound so loud it rumbles) at Seattle’s Cinerama. The film is a fitting wrap-up of the gaudy, self-conscious, fantastically violent, mythologically-tinged tale of The Bride (Uma Thurman, of course) and her elaborate, difficult, frequently waylaid revenge upon the man who shot her. While she was pregnant. And at her wedding rehearsal.
Like Lubitsch’s film, Kill Bill doesn't contain a moment of reality; unlike Lubitsch’s film, the unreality here consists of things like an eyeball being pulled out of its socket and squished underfoot, or the Bride and her mentor Pei Mai performing choreographed martial arts in silhouette against a bright red background.
I would’ve actually preferred to see a double feature, Volume 1 and Volume 2 in sequence; the films are completely complementary but rather different in tone, and I think the immediate contrast in effect experienced all at once would’ve been slightly more gratifying than just the over-the-hump-and-downward arc (as opposed to the upward-building one of Volume 1) of this installment. Tarantino’s energy and lust to conflate the tacky with the beautiful (and make us entirely reconsider which is which) puts him in league, as we’ve known since Pulp Fiction, with his cineastic heroes Samuel Fuller and Brian de Palma.
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