Sunday, March 06, 2011

Two movies about cute blonde children

Poltergeist: The best horror movies are always the ones which aren't really, actually about the horror, but use it as a gateway to explore something else. Hellraiser is about marital infidelity. Hallowe'en is about teenage sex. The Wicker Man is about religious faith and temptation. The problem I had with Poltergeist is that it doesn't seem to be about anything. The spirits invade the house through the television-- is is about fear of the media? Nothing else suggests that. The victims are a Reaganite suburban family-- is it a satire on middle-class American hypocrisy? Apart from the fact that the family keep the disappearance of the youngest child hushed up, apparently not. The catalyst for action is an adorable child-- is it about paedophilia or child abuse? Seems not. There's a suggestion at one point that the mother of the family got pregnant at 16 (the eldest child is 16, the mother is 32), which perked me up thinking that the twist would be that the channel for the spirits was the teenage daughter, fraught with issues about the nature of her conception and her jealousy of her adorable younger siblings, but no, the teenager might as well not be in the movie for all the writers keep shunting her off to a friend's house. Even why this particular suburban family gets the treatment is unexplored (surely the entire subdivision was built on the abandoned graveyard, so why just them? If it's because the father of the family was the estate agent who sold the houses, how are the ghosts supposed to know that, particularly as he did so not knowing about the graveyard?). To top it off, I couldn't manage to care enough about anybody in the story to worry overly if the ghosts got them. Also contains the most product placement per minute of any film I've ever seen, particularly for Star Wars toys. I honestly can't understand why this movie was/is so popular. And remember, this is the producer who made Munich, Empire of the Sun and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Metropolis (2001): Not the Lang version, but a Japanese writer and director taking some of Lang's themes, ideas and imagery and running with them, and the result is a lot better than you might think. It's a story of startling visual and political complexity (particularly the portrayal of the two counter-cultural groups, the crypto-Maoist rebels and the crypto-fascist "Mardukes," and of the coup d'etat promulgated by the aristocrat Duke Red), and its main flaw is that it's kind of difficult to figure out precisely what the Ziggurat, the Tower of Babel-like creation in which Duke Red is investing so much of his time and energy, is supposed to do, which makes some of the characters' motivations equally cryptic. It's a good movie, but be prepared to invest a certain amount of time in trying to figure it all out.

Movie count for 2011: 39