Category Archives: Musings
It happened to me. After years of mocking quotewhore critics for using sensational prose to get their names and their publications names into movie trailers, it happened to me. My TIFF review for Bunraku was quoted on the back of the DVD.
From the box:
Bunraku blends spaghetti westerns, film noir and graphic novels to create a “visual masterpiece… unlike anything ever put to celluloid” (James Battaglia, The Film Stage).
Yes, my friends, I wrote those words. I did. I admit it. Reading them in the context of the box, I wanted to slap myself for it. “Unlike anything ever put to celluloid”? A “visual masterpiece”? Who do I think I am, Peter Travers!?
It bothered me. A lot. Those words are there for as long as the movie is there. People will pick it up and read it and say “Oh James Battaglia liked this, I will too.” Then if they don’t like it they’ll blame me. Maybe some of them will mail me angry letters. Maybe Woody Harrelson read it and said “James Battaglia is an idiot.”
I had to know if I was right to say those things or if waiting in the rain for an hour to see the movie at midnight with hundreds of excitable fans and the director and cast could have swayed my early opinion, so I watched the movie again.
It turns out I knew what I was talking about.
(Please read my review now if you haven’t. I’m not going to go through a plot synopsis in this post, and it might not make much sense if you don’t know anything about the movie.)
See, Bunraku really is “unlike anything ever put to celluloid.” Sure, it borrows themes liberally from dozens of other, (often better) classic movies. The thing is, none of those movies are anything like the entirety of Bunraku. It succeeds in taking bits and pieces from timeless cowboy and samurai stories and putting them together to create something completely new. Other critics are right when they say its characters and plot aren’t well developed. They’ve missed the point, though. Bunraku isn’t about details, it’s about retelling classic tales in a new way and in that, the film is a wild success.
Visually, it’s also unlike any other movie I’ve seen. Some compare it to Sin City, but that’s not a fair comparison. Sin City used color and graphic novel conventions in interesting ways, and so does Bunraku, but Bunraku is ultimately staged in a big popup paper foldout world. There just isn’t another movie that looks like that. It really is a visual masterpiece unlike anything ever put to celluloid.
It’s also a long movie. Too long, probably. Here’s part of my quote in its original context:
The fact that there are two storylines to first connect and later resolve adds length to the movie that impatient viewers won’t appreciate, but I refuse to complain about a single frame of this visual masterpiece purely on the basis of time.
Yes, they pulled the words “visual masterpiece” from a sentence on how I don’t mind that the movie is too long.
And yes, I bought myself the Blu Ray. Because this is cool.
I’m taking a few minutes out of my Skyrim Weekend Marathon Play Session to draw what little attention I can to the excellent music of Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life. I watched (and loved) the movie for the second time yesterday, and one arrangement in particular, Zbigniew Preisner‘s Lacrimosa, has been stuck in my head all day. The Tree of Life blu ray begins with a warning that the film is best played at full volume. Put your headphones on, crank the levels to 11, and play the track below.
In the context of the film, the requiem’s history and lyrics are also really cool. I wiki’d that for you.
I know this blog doesn’t have any regular readers yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write up a celebratory “We’re Back!” post after a few days away, does it?
In those few days I’ve been away, I saw Special, a heady superhero drama from 2006 that reminded me a lot of the upcoming Griff the Invisible. Griff is quirky where Special is dark, and Special comes out on top for it. Watch it now on Netflix, and check back here later for an in-depth comparison after Griff‘s release later this month.
I also watched a (totally not bootlegged) copy of The Trip, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. I’ll agree with Roger Ebert’s review (how bold, I know) in that the film is definitely at its best when the comedians are doing impressions. It’s got plenty of funny moments, and occasionally explored celebrity and the subjective nature of success, but those impressions scenes had me laughing out loud in a train station lobby.
And yesterday at a drive-in I caught an excellent Captain America and Cowboys and Aliens double feature. Now THAT was a perfect pair of summer blockbusters for a warm starry night. Captain America is an exemplary comic book film, and Cowboys and Aliens is entirely unsurprising in that if you think you’ll like it, you’ll definitely like it. Fans of both will be able to identify themselves as such before seeing the movies.
And that’s my weekend. I leave on another image of Blood from A Boy and His Dog. Cue link to Netflix.
“Hands down best credit scene of the year … Maybe best credit scene of the decade. One of the greatest in cinema history.”
~Quentin Tarantino, talking about Gaspar Noe‘s Enter the Void. See for yourself below.
I loved Enter the Void. I promise I’ll write something about it as soon as I can bring myself to watch it again. If you know Noe, you know watching his movies can get pretty heavy.
I could watch that credits sequence over and over, though.