Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Violently Vicious and Voracious Violation of Volition

I'm not easily beguiled by films. Rare indeed is the cinema flick that impresses me thoroughly -- I sit in Neronian judgment of dialogue, editing rhythms, musical choices, and the nuts-and-bolts of storytelling, and the instant a film errs even slightly in my sight, I begin to shift uncomfortably in my seat and think longingly of dinner.

My skepticism and fault-finding do not diminish with age. I don't know whether it's me or the movies that's to blame here, but I find that increasingly, commercial directors just don't possess even the simple expository skills to convey a set of sequential events in such a way that they tell a coherent story. Whether it's an overstylized and unintelligible fight scene or a tin-eared line reading, films exasperate me far too easily.

All of which goes to explain why I was so thoroughly prepared to detest V for Vendetta, which I saw last night on the strength of Wolcott's rave. I loathed The Matrix with a loathing borne of sickness from cheap late-night dorm-room woo-heavy cosmology, and philosophy of the rigor of a bowl of three-day-old Grape-Nuts in milk, all in service of a bitchen ultraviolent shootout climax with slo-mo bullets. The name of the Wachowski brothers on Vendetta's screenplay set my Spidey-sense a-quivering -- based on a graphic novel (a genre Lit-Boy here seems tragically doomed to subject to knee-jerk disparagement), the film trumpeted its moron-stoner-cred from fifty paces.

Folks, this is a truly thrilling movie.

The core truth of the thing -- overcoming fear of political engagement -- is exactly the same insight that smacked me so hard across the face after I watched Al Gore speak truth to power about blatantly illegal domestic spying, and emerged onto Pennsylvania Avenue to find the White House converted into a missile-hardened pillbox.

Perhaps most surprisingly to me, at no point did I find myself rolling my eyes and groaning at some directorial solecism. The dialog rang true, the plot was skillfully exposed, and (as Wolcott is at pains to point out) the cross-cutting in the climactic domino scene is rhythmically beautiful, and as deftly pulled off as Brian DePalma at the top of his game.

As Wolcott points out, we know how we got here. The point, Vendetta reminds us, is how we get out. And if we must wear a mask, then so be it, for "People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments… Governments should be afraid of their people."

You're going to have to argue hard to get me off this movie.


Bobby Lightfoot said...

Nice, man. I'm psyched. I really wanted this not to suck. Next time I'm stuck with a tenner burnin' a hole I'm there.

Quinn said...

it was a superb movie. I got a double fix. A story about standing up to fascism AND I got to look at Natalie Portman.

ade said...

You're going to have to argue hard to get me off this movie.
Mmkay, the original story was written by the same guy who wrote The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman - the concept of which I know you found laughable when the film version was doing the rounds.
I love the smell of rpulm in the morning.

Arvin Hill said...


Planning to see it Thursday at IMAX. Dramamine optional.

Derryl Murphy said...

I had to drag my wife along; she didn't want to see it, and my mother (visiting at the time) rolled her eyes and told me she'd heard it was "violent," so why would I go.

Well. A remarkable film indeed, and my wife agrees 100%. The only trouble I had was the Matrix-like sequence when V takes on Creedy and his boys at the Underground.

I read the comic when it first came out, and dreaded what could be done to it, but it's by far the best adaptation of one of Moore's books.


beyond passionate said...

Well, based on the Jinkster's review (and having read Wolcott previously) I took my 13 yr old son to see it tonight. Just got home. Man, I hope a lot of Americans- and Brits- see this movie.

I was "there" in the sixties, and took very seriously the counterculture politics of the time. (Okay, go ahead and call me a pre-ironic sucker; I plead guilty) I'd sing along at Jefferson Airplane concerts, "Look what's happ'nin in the streets, got a revolution, fot a revolution"

What puzzles me is, what's happened to all those other hippies who were right there with me then. How do you "grow out of" opposition to fascism? Have they all turned into passive zombies like in the movie, paralized by fear and complacency?

Damn, where can I get a V mask?

Highlander said...

Your opening paragraphs made me think I'd found a cinema appreciating soul brother (albeit a much smarter one with far greater writing talent than I have), but then I found out you actually liked that heap of celluloid camel drool and, well, I lurched away, hunched over in cruel disappointment. Must EVERY liberal love this trite, predictable, banal, badly dialogued, 2 dimensional piece of cardboard excrement?

I too hurtled headlong into the theater with high hopes of seeing something brilliant, impelled by Wolcott's semi-senile ravings. I, too, have great difficulty finding a movie I actually enjoy whole heartedly in these days of celebrated mediocrity. Unlike you, though, I recognized this film for the piece of hackneyed, pointless, blindingly obvious and utterly unsubtle piece of detritus it was.

Christ, it makes my head ache. Apparently I have to go hang out with the conservatives to find anyone who sees through this obstreperously pretentious load of twaddle... no, wait, the conservatives hate it, but none of them have seen it. I guess, in this at least, I am a rock, I am an iiiiiiiisland.

Will Divide said...

frankly, i can't trust the opinion of anyone who uses the word 'twaddle'.

don't neglect the bumbershoot, old sock, it looks a bit wettie in the high street...

annnnyway. i gotta go with the liberal elite on this one. very satisfying popular entertainment, though certainly the spawn of a comic book - excuse me - graphic novel. i am still not sure who the guy the dicks met at the victims' memorial was supposed to be, or for that matter wehere evie was crashing after she left v. but hey, didn't bother me for long.

it may be a bit too slick to be genuinely subversive - 'fahrenheit 451' still sets the mark for my money in that regard - but v4v told a thrilling tale with characters you cared about along with some pretty fine performances

Highlander said...

I have trouble trusting the word of anyone who writes in incomplete sentences and doesn't know how to punctuate. Also --

but v4v told a thrilling tale with characters you cared about along with some pretty fine performances

if you cared about those stereotypes wrapped in cliches that some men might dignify with the term 'characters', well, again, I can't much care what you think.

Bad movie. Pity so many intelligent people are so easily duped by a political subtext nearly as complex as 'BAD guys are EVIL'. But it's reassuring to see some asshatted dimbulbs are taken in by it, too.

Neddie said...

Boys, boys, knuckles down.

We're all entitled to our insane opinions.

Will, Highlander's an old friend and is allowed Leeway.

Highlander, if all you took from the movie was the message that "bad guys are evil," then I suggest your contemptuous preconceptions about a comic-book movie blinded you. The character V is brilliantly nuanced, not at all the cardboard cutout you make him out to be. His violence and conviction of his own righteousness make him as repellent as his eloquence and badassedness make him appeal. David Denby has heaped scorn on the movie for suggesting that the Houses of Parliament are a strawman; that modern parliamentary democracy is the light of the world. I would say back to him that the film makes a point that can't be made strongly enough or often enough or -- here, I think, is the source of our disagreement -- forcefully enough, in these parlous times: that those very institutions that were indeed once the light of the world can be turned by human frailty and cupidity into instruments of oppression in a heartbeat. In Gitmo, say, to pull an example out of the choking and dust-riddled air.

Go read Jason Chervokas' review. If he doesn't convince you, I certainly won't.

Will Divide (is that a verb or a proper noun?), please attempt to use capital letters when commenting here. Highlander, I counted one incomplete sentence in Will's comment ("aaaaanyway."); the only punctuation mistake I saw was a single quote inside a period, which is correct in Britain.

This is what is sounds like when ovuqkdovs cry....

Will Divide said...

(is that a verb or a proper noun?)

Only a promise...

Call me crazy, but periods inside quotes that are not themselves complete sentences bug the shit out of me. And I dig Leeway.

(A medication, right? Or do you capitalize Ideas and Categories here too?)

Highlander said...


I don't like it when people make fun of my vocabulary. So I let fly a little. I know it wasn't up to your standards, and I apologize for that.

I had no idea we were old friends, and you're probably being ironic at my expense, but I'll bask in the glow anyway, being rather dim myself at the best of times.

I have no contempt for funnybooks, especially Moore's; I've written reams on funnybooks, especially Moore's. (I won't bore you with links.) I'm not wild about V FOR VENDETTA, I think even in its original form it was rather pretentious and not particularly original, nor did it have anything particularly new to say... but having said all that, I'm still talking about the movie, not the funny book. The movie was trite, cliched, and wearingly predictable (to me). I could see every so call plot twist (more like plot bumps) coming several reels away, I never gave a shit about any of the characters, and there wasn't any Natalie Portman tittie. Put it all together and what do you got? A film I regard as largely a waste of linear space time. Sorry.

The only interesting idea in the entire film was the fairly clear notion that V, like Tyler Durden, was as mad as a hatter and, in the end, while a violent psychotic may have been needed to bring that corrupt regime down, still, we must remember that V WAS a violent psychotic, as is shown by the fact that by the end of the film, V's machinations have already effectively freed Britain; blowing up Parliament was just sociopathically dangerous grandstanding.

momula said...

I'm so RELIEVED and REASSURED that you, Neddie, like this movie. I saw it with teenage-daughter-who-is-in-love-with-Stephen-Fry (where did I go . . . right? wrong?) & friends, and we all loved it. I could see flaws, sure, but that just makes it more agreeable. (Who doesn't see something perfect and wonder where the flaws are?) Anyway, afterward I read the review and it was snobby and dismissive; is it my ignorance, or Mahnola's attitude, that was failing? . . . but by Jingo, if someone of the caliber of Neddie sees the virtue and worth in it, then I know I'm on the right track.

Arvin Hill said...


An exhilirating and cathartic film.

The story itself is hardly a nuanced one, but, as Neddie observed, V is anything but a simple character. Hugo Weaving's portrayal of V was brilliant and moving.

Natalie Portman's lines lacked punch, but she made up for the deficit in every other way. The camera absolutely loves the woman, and it is not a relationship she takes for granted.

There were a number of memorable scenes, but the one burned into my psyche is when V confronts the doctor. It speaks to complicity and guilt, justice and forgiveness. I found it haunting and beautiful and powerful.

I'd heard the closing credits featured a Malcolm X speech, but at the IMAX showing I saw, The Stones' Street Fighting Man had taken its place. It was a damn good song to close out the festivities.

The extent to which one enjoys V for Vendetta is largely commensurate with how (or whether) one perceives the Fascist Menace in the United States. The more severe the perception, the more the film speaks to the viewer on a personal level.

It was the best ten bucks I've spent in a long time.

Ol' Pal D said...

Saw it with the 13-year (and his friend) at f'n Jordan's Furniture IMAX, if you can parse that. It was his political awakening. Turned on Jay Severin on the way home, shoulda seen his eyes open wide.

I could not have been prouder. Made them eggs-in-the-hole (or whatever them Brits call it) the next morning. With real butter.

thick...? A real word? What a co-inky-dink!