Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kaurismaki, Wall-E, and MIS

I simply wanted to point to some things going on links I've provided in sidebars. The first is a short, thoughtful, heartfelt essay framing the work of Aki Kaurismaki, a Finnish filmmaker whose work I've previously written about on the this blog in praise of his Christian view of his characters (it seems FAR more important to me to make movies whose worldview and view of their characters is Christian rather than showing Christian characters in an un-Christian way). The link is found on the Dissidenz English blog here. Kaurismaki, in my view, follows in the grand tradition of Keaton-esque deadpan and Tati-esque subtlety. He's truly one of the funniest and gentlest of living filmmakers. (Although Petr Zelenka, the Czech filmmaker, is surely climbing that list, as well, in my mind. I highly recommend his 2005 feature, which has titles differing from 'Wrong Side Up" to "Story of an Ordinary Insanity.")

The next link is to the discussion on Dave Kehr's cinephilia site/discussion board. That site's current discussion (here) on
WALL-E is far more intriguing and thoughtful than the filth-nearing-pure-evil, ultra-right-wing-apostasy post on the same movie over on Millennial Star. (Notice I didn't include the link. If you'd like to post your views on the topic, feel free to do it there — NOT here). I'd feel far more comfortable directing members of the church to Dave Kehr's site than to that post by the author of 'Temple Study' (not to mention people who are encountering the church for the first time).

For those of you unfamiliar with Dave Kehr's site, it is populated by dense references to sometimes obscure titles written by those who are for the most part thoughtful, intelligent, and educated writers. The discussion on the thread about Manoel de Oliveira's films is likewise insightful, even for those who know little or none of his work.

The last link is simply another plug for the new and ever-growing Moving Image Source.
It is an impressive database for anyone interested in this medium. I highly recommend giving it a thorough combing-over.

I believe that one thing that is lacking in 'Mormon Film' is an awareness of world film and film traditions outside of commercial Hollywood fluff. If the viewers and the makers were more exposed to and interested in other traditions, I'm convinced we would be a better people.

11 comments:

patrick said...

Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit"... minus the cheesy 80's style of course

Adam K. K. Figueira said...

Much of the commentary on Wall-E on Dave Kehr's site and other places I've read seems to be centered on the lack of dialog in the first 40 minutes. I haven't seen it yet, but I must confess myself captivated by the concept, and eager to discover what Pixar has done.

Bryce Haymond said...

I'm sorry you so detested my post on WALL-E. But I stand behind what I said.

Trevor said...

Well, while I obviously take a determined stance against your assumptions, I think it's noble to be able to stand up under attack.

Bryan said...

"WALL-E" is a beautiful, beautiful film, and I was both bewildered and heartbroken to read the discussion over at Millennial Star.

I would love to see posts identifying and defending the positive (even spiritual) merits of that film, and even "The Dark Knight," because all I'm reading now is a lot of invective against both in the so-called "Bloggernacle." Both films deserve better.

Adam K. K. Figueira said...

Bryan,

As a result of having three (almost four) small children and two jobs I don't have the luxury of seeing most newly released films, and so often come late to the conversations about them. I've talked before about some things I don't like about the theater-going experience, but I would like to be more current, nonetheless. I think from what I have learned that I would probably share your feelings about both Wall-E and The Dark Knight. When the time comes that I can see them, I may take you up on your wish.

Bryan said...

I have two (almost three) children and am enrolled in a doctoral program, so I understand being busy - but I'm not trying to compare. For me, a lot of it comes down to making plans to see films far in advance and sacrificing things (like sleep) to fit in my "fun." Oh, and having an understanding wife is very helpful too.

From what I've read of your writing, I'm not sure how much you'll like "The Dark Knight." For some people, the darkness in the film is too pervasive, almost suffocating. But I believe there is light there. If you get the chance, I highly, highly recommend seeing it at your nearest "Hollywood" IMAX screen (Jordan Commons?). Several scenes were filmed specifically with IMAX cameras, and the scope and detail in the images is nothing short of astonishing.

Adam K. K. Figueira said...

Bryan,

I get your point, and I'm not trying to compare either. For the record, though, I was referring to the expense of going to the theater regularly. After family, work expenses (one of my "jobs" is a home-based business), and school, I have little to work with most months. Time, like you, I can make, and my editing suite (for my videography business) is a great place to watch DVDs. The Salt Lake County Library System has a pretty decent selection, too.

I also feel bad leaving my family to go to a movie (my wife has ears too sensitive for most theaters) when I'm gone so much already, and I don't have anyone else to go with. Company is important to me at a theater - usually.

Not to turn this into a personal ad, though.

I'm interested and surprised by your comment about my possible reaction to The Dark Knight. What is it about my writing that makes you say that?

I actually have a stronger tolerance for darkness than most of my family, although there are some things that I find it hard to look past. I also have always had a special content buffer for super hero movies - comes from being a fan as a kid, I imagine. Anyway...

I'm curious what made you say that.

Oh, yeah, thanks for the IMAX tip.

Bryan said...

Without getting too specific, just a few of the things you've written here and on your blog Anew, particularly about MPAA ratings and the fallacy of seeking truth in darkness, have caused me to wonder. There is more than a little complaining in some circles that "The Dark Knight" deserved an R rating for all its violence and mayhem. (The author of Mormanity even walked out in the middle of it, and made that the subject of his blog post.) As one who has never seen nor plans to see an R-rated movie, and who harbors a fair degree of skepticism regarding the motives of the MPAA (i.e., it's entirely possible that the teen-friendly PG-13 rating was "bought and paid for"), you might have a pointedly adverse reaction to the things you see on screen.

I think this film makes an excellent case for a PG-15 rating, or something like that, because its content is certainly not at all on the level of PG-13 rated comic-book or superhero movies of the last twenty years, with the exception of "Daredevil," which I really didn't like all that much - partly for the mayhem and gore, and partly because of the amorality of the title character.

Adam K. K. Figueira said...

Bryan,

"Without getting too specific, just a few of the things you've written...about MPAA ratings and the fallacy of seeking truth in darkness, have caused me to wonder."

Interesting. Thanks for reading my blog, though. I didn't realize. I think it may be appropriate to discuss this issue here.

I do have the skepticism you noted about the MPAA, but in honesty, my ideas about truth in darkness are changing rapidly as a result of some things I've read lately. I think this issue is important to LDS cinema.

I've always held that truth, in some small degree, was available everywhere, but, as you point out, I've questioned the wisdom of seeking it in the midst of evil. I don't know that I've ever taken an unequivocal stance against it, though. Then I read this quote from Brigham Young:

"We should not only study good, and its effects upon our race, but also evil, and its consequences… If I do not learn what is in the world, from first to last, somebody will be wiser than I am. I intend to know the whole of it, both good and bad. Shall I practice evil? No; neither have I told you to practice it, but to learn by the light of truth every principle there is in existence in the world… And inasmuch as the Lord Almighty has designed us to know all that is in the earth, both the good and the evil, and to learn not only what is in heaven, but what is in hell, you need not expect ever to get through learning. Though I mean to learn all that is in heaven, earth, and hell. Do I need to commit iniquity to do it? No. If I were to go into the bowels of hell to find out what is there, that does not make it necessary that I should commit one evil, or blaspheme in any way the name of my Maker."

My problem is that I know the darkness within myself and that, were I to search too far into the darkness, I might lose my hold on the light. I'm speaking in terms of both viewing and creating films. I don't want to be led astray in either. Nevertheless, I am convinced that to extract the truth from Satan's lies is one of the best ways to understand and defend against him. Film provides an exceptionally good vehicle for doing this, but with great potential comes great danger. That's the tricky thing about anything great. Where there is potential for the greatest good, there is also potential for the greatest evil. It very often hinges on personal choices; a single moment - one choice or one scene - can swing a person or a film from one side to the other very rapidly. I think that may be what happened with Lucifer.

I'm trying to move beyond whether or not I should see The Dark Knight into principles that we can discuss more broadly.

Bryan said...

That's an excellent quote, Adam, and gets right to the heart of an issue I've been thinking about for the past several days. Thank you for sharing.