Sunday, July 20, 2008

THE DARK KNIGHT

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Sir Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Director: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 152 min.

        I believe in the Batman. I believe in Christopher Nolan. I believe in The Dark Knight.

        And, I’ve given up. I cannot, I simply cannot. It is impossible for someone like me to go ahead and have the gall to review something you just cannot stop marveling at. I will not attempt to rate it and de-glorify it by quantifying it. Forgive me this one time. You could read good reviews down at http://www.rottentomatoes.com/. Let me instead describe the experience of watching such an immense motion picture, the kind of which arrives once…maybe every decade would be a short duration, maybe twenty years is more like it. Consider this my humble homage to the film. And ignore it as the fanboy rant it is. Just do not ignore the fact though that this is one of the all-time great motion picture events. A verifiable pop culture phenomenon. A cinematic juggernaut. And worry not, there’re no spoilers below. And while we are here, let us go ahead and get done with the adjectives and ‘best’ this and ‘greatest’ that checklist, so that it wouldn’t hurt us later.

-> Greatest villain of all timeCheck. Anton Chigurh did hold the post for nearly half a year, but the Joker here is something else. That monster succeeded in merely eroding the belief for men in the world surrounding them. This one here destroys the very moral foundation upon which the same men base that belief. Pay attention to every line of his. There’s great meaning and a great method to all of them. It is one of the great written characters of our times.
-> One of the great performances of all time – Big bold Check. The late Heath Ledger has created something of a flawless masterpiece of mannerisms and chewy larger-than-life supervillain. It is a colossal performance, and it is built with great precision upon what seems like a million parts. You have to watch the film at least three times to even get a complete hold of that performance alone. So yes, IT IS THAT GOOD. Consider a moment where one of the crime bosses interrupts his sentence and calls him a freak. Ledger’s Joker is visibly distracted but still completes what he’s saying. And then he looks at the boss and hits them back with a statement that is much more verbally insulting than any usage of an insult like ‘freak’ can be. Ledger’s Joker is not insane; he’s so brilliant he looks insane. Jack Nicholson was visibly upset and was complaining as to why he wasn’t approached for the part. Mr. Nicholson, sir, for all your greatness, I would very much like this astounding phenomenal performance to be, among many other things, a tight slap on that smug notion of yours that your Joker was any good. Your Joker was so pathetic he squealed and screamed when he fell to his death. This here is the definitive version of the greatest villain of all time. It makes me immensely sad because there’s great tragedy when an artist isn’t there when his achievement receives such universal praise. I wish to God he was here to see all of this. May he rest in peace.
-> One of the best performance ever by an ensemble cast – Hands down, Check. Right up there with The Godfather, Goodfellas, Network and L.A. Confidential. Any other set of actors would have been stamped all over by Ledger’s achievement. Not these bunch, and they deliver equally brilliant turns. Eckhart is intense and forceful as Harvey Dent. Oldman, Caine and Freeman exude such immense class and virtue and then there’s that man, Christian Bale, who is the definitive version of the coolest, strongest and darkest hero of all time. Apologies, he’s more than a hero.
-> Greatest summer action blockbusterCheck. The film absorbs multiple genres, taking the spectacle of action, the morality of a noir tale, the gravity of a drama, and many more and creates something altogether different. A gold standard for movie-making the kind of which not seen in many a year.
-> Greatest superhero film – easy, Check. By the way, how about not using ‘superhero’ and trying to pin down this masterpiece. Not that it isn’t one. The brilliance of such films lay in using the goods of its genre and using them as a slingshot and breaking away from their confines and soaring into the realms only few films manage to touch. Frankly, using tags like Best superhero film feels like an insult, howsoever respectfully it may have been attributed.
-> Greatest sequel – Oh yeah, Check again.
-> Greatest film of this decade – Umm, for the time being Check.
-> Greatest chase sequence – No, I’ll still give that one to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But this one has one which is as close as they can ever get to the Harley-monster truck extravaganza.
-> Best Picture of the Year – Be safe and confident, assume you’re the next great astrologer and say loudly, Check. I myself did, I predicted that this was going to be an explosion the sorts of which we have never seen, even before the picture was released and look where that got me. As if it was going to be anything else.
-> Exceeded my ridiculous expectations – poof, a big Check. It took me in, twisted me inside its plot so much that I forgot what I had expected and when it was all over, I felt embarrassed how low my expectations were.
-> Best picture ever, a friend of mine asked – Certainly not. And this was never going to be the best picture. Pictures of this sort never are. But like The Good the Bad and The Ugly and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it’ll for always remain a cherished title in the all-time favorite list of many viewers. Needles to say, including mine. Right up there, in the top 5 I believe. And while I am writing here, the film has touched the IMDb Top 250 No.1 spot. I myself have given it an unabashed 10. It doesn’t mean it is the best film ever, it means how much love it is getting from fanboys and how solidly it lives up to the hype. This picture will spawn an entire generation of true lovers just like Terminator 2: Judgment Day did 17 years back.
-> Greatest day of my life – Ah, come on now. It is not that good. It comes close enough though, to make July 18th – the day when I experienced three back-to-back-to-back screenings of The Dark Knight and was still begging and thirsting for plenty more – go down as one of the most important days to feature in my autobiography with a whole chapter dedicated to it.

        I had never experienced anything like this at the movies. That was the first thought I had in mind when I walked out of the first screening, drenched by the film. The ending left me shattered beyond words. I was touched and I didn’t feel I had the energy in me to speak. I was satisfied I was all alone, because the ending affects you that way. It stirs a personal chord inside of you where you feel you would much rather be all by yourself. The theater was kind enough, especially in these times, to let the credits run the full course and I was the only one left sitting there as they rolled. And behind A Dark Knight played. I swelled like I had never swelled before at a movie.
        The film is as impeccably paced as any film I’ve known, and through the action and the engrossingly thick plot which just never leaves the hold on you, I had no idea how these characters were impressing themselves upon me. And believe me, it is as engrossing as No Country for Old Men was. It is that rare kind of film inside which you wouldn’t have time to think about anything else. Not your office, not the falling stocks. There’re have been astonished people around me wondering how the intermission arrived so soon on every one of the four occasions I have watched this film.
        But that isn’t where its true greatness lay. The mark of a great film, a great thriller, a great actioner, is when you walk outside not thinking of its plot or the spectacle of it, but instead feel touched by it’s the characters, and are left wondering about them. About the choices they have made. About the decisions they took. About how it isn’t much about good or evil, or hero or villain but much more. It is, in the end, what we do that defines us. The film puts a fascinating spin on that piece of wisdom from Batman Begins, and it goes – "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain." I always had a nagging fear at the back of my mind for quite some time, that the Joker might overshadow the Batman. Especially after hearing such ravings, and in hindsight so very deserving, of Ledger’s Joker. I was relieved the legend of Batman endures marvelously and touches such new heights.
        There haven’t been many comic book/superhero films that have actually been worthy of their source. Entertaining yes, but worthy very few. What makes the art of graphic novels flourish is simple – narrating a weighty morality tale. The Dark Knight understands that and it is a tsunami of moral themes and conundrums. It has a great story, and God bless the Nolan brothers and David S. Goyer for it. It works on so many levels. As a thriller, as an action film (and boy, is the chase scene something), as a crowd pleaser, as a crime drama, as a superhero film, and as something which can be quoted out of in a group. Such a rich story it works under the form of multiple parables. For instance, consider the obvious one. Batman – United States, The Joker – terrorism and Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent – the conscience at stake. But the thing with parables is that they’re like symbols. You strip them of their one meaning and they lose their existence. The Dark Knight has a story that is timeless, and at the same time being a popular film that raises questions regarding the present times. Raja Sen, in his own fanboy rant here, gives the film one of the best compliments I have come across – that the film unlike anything before, deserves a comic book miniseries inspired by it. What a wonderful thing to say. It is all about the choices. And the Joker is here to upset every choice made and make everyone doubt themselves.
        I had the better part of two hours on me until the third screening. And I wondered about The Joker – Batman arc. One, an agent of chaos, an absolute form of evil and anarchy who so magnificently disrupts and destroys the existing order. And the other, a selfless savior, not a guarding angel but a superhuman mortal who strives so devoutly in inspiring and uplifting it. And both are essentially considered freaks. The Batman knows it but doesn’t intend to acknowledge it. The Joker is hell bent on reminding him that he is an outcast in this world, and in his own way trying to corrupt him and buy off his soul. But the Joker wouldn’t want him to end, because then where will be his equal. Batman lives by his principles, he doesn’t lay a fatal hand even on the devil incarnate, and thus these two sides of the same coin of insanity have always been destined to fight each other trapped in this paradox of theirs. And on the edge of the coin lay their world.
        The arc between them is handled with as much resonance and gravity as I have ever seen. In films like Heat, the confrontation scenes are fantastic but they seem padded up. As an obligation. Here, it took me the third viewing to realize that the two scenes they converse are actually confrontational. They feel so much part of the overall narrative that is difficult to look beyond the entire experience as just a film. It feels serious. The entire film seems serious. They never overshadow the greater theme – the morality. And it is a testament to all the aspects of cinema performed so incredibly well – greatly etched characters, profoundly written words, powerhouse performances, and great directorial and narrative skills. The lock up sequence is a virtual hall of mirrors.
        The true superhero of the film though is that genius we all now know as Christopher Nolan. He summons grit at will, and stirs it up every now and then with a little poetry when he needs and gives us something we can watch and appreciate in different moods. Not all great films are capable of that. He has changed the face of the genre. Earlier, superhero films as well as summer action blockbusters were safe havens were we sat munching our popcorn knowing all will end well. Nolan has just jolted the entire structure and here we well and truly feel the dread that envelopes Gotham city. We’re swept inside of it. It is one of the film’s many great achievements. He loads the film with so much plot that is enough to fill a bloated trilogy in any different hands. And he never does stall the narration for the sake of style. There’s a nonchalant sense in him that feels so honest. Never does it seem he is out to parade the Batpod. It is just that they fee functional elements that happen to be so incredibly cool.
        Nolan has stated in numerous interviews that he wasn’t making this film keeping a third part in mind. He put everything he had into this. There’ll be third film, make no mistake. Some of the actors are contracted for a trilogy. But I wonder, even if Nolan directs the film, how can they top this one. I can’t imagine something better than this. Maybe, the Nolan brothers can.
        This film doesn’t deserve anything less than a nomination under Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Ledger, Eckhart, and/or Oldman), Best Editing and one or the other of those technical categories. For an action film as this, it is always necessary to choose between energy and clarity. This film, under Nolan and his collaborator in all his films Wally Pfister, strikes the exact balance. Considering batman Begins landed a nomination for Cinematography too, let us rope that category in as well.
        One of the most overused terms in film and literary criticism is the word ‘epic’. I have myself been guilty of using it rather lavishly. But I have come to realize now when the word deserves its usage. An epic, I feel, is anything after which everything else remarkably trivial. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King made me feel that, Lawrence of Arabia did, and there are others. There Will be Blood inspired me not to watch another film for five whole days. At the moment, I don’t have it in me to watch any thing else for what feels like a whole fortnight. I just want to be inside the magic of this great film.
        And as I drove back from the theatre to my home, in the night, I stuck my head outside like a mad dog. The Dark Knight score blared out of my car deck. It honestly felt, insane. For I just had the day of my life.

        I feel so happy.

Note: I feel inspired to write a thematic analysis of the film. But that would involve spoilers. And it would require me walk out of the shadows of my present state of awe-filled love. It’ll take a while.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

KUNG FU PANDA: MOVIE REVIEW

Cast (Voices): Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu
Director: Mark Osborne and John Stevenson
Rating: **1/2
Runtime: 92 min.
Genre: Animated, Comedy, Action

        Kung Fu Panda is another addition to the non-Pixar animation assembly line which consists of innumerable titles paying attention only to the gags. The storyline is an afterthought, an excuse to string these jokes together. So what we end up doing is hop from one joke to the next without actually going anywhere. I’m sure kids would love this film, they’ll probably laugh their hearts out when the fat panda Po (Black) bumps off the steps, or gets something pierced in his posterior, or he pulls out a contorted facial expression complete with a hanging tongue. And watching your kid jump about in his seats, you might probably catch on the laughing part too. But they’re kids you know. We’ve probably had our life’s share of the infinite-steps-leading-to-the-monastery joke, and I’m not sure adults would be able to muster a laugh all by themselves. I could barely register a smile. Oh yeah, lest I forget, I was barely moved even when the film tried it’s hardest.
        The proceedings are fairly predictable and the makers do not seem to be too concerned either. And since you’ve made it till here, I guess you would know the complete drill once I list the keywords for you – Over-fat over-weight panda, kung fu, kung fu monastery, a master, his best student gone evil, a relic, and a worthy warrior for it. There you go. Connect the dots and the story you’ll come up with in the next five minutes is the plot here.
        The film and its wit begin on a promising note. Flushed in red and its shades, the sky lush in orange, we are narrated in a devout tone the legend of a master panda, the master panda, who travels the length and breadth of the known world to find a warrior of his match. There is a certain freshness we feel then, and when the narrator (Black) injects his quirky ‘awesomeness’ we feel we’re in for a treat. Unfortunately, it is a dream sequence, and when reality opens into the morning, the film settles into that rather outdated plot where a misfit chases his dream and finally achieves it despite never seeming quite worthy or deserving of it. Kung fu spoofs that have long gotten stale are the means to achieve that end. What unimaginative means? What a tired end? I mean, haven’t kids already have had that believe-in-yourself thing done to death for them. More so through such a film where every tell-tale sign is pointing towards the contrary.
        The fallback joke is the fatboy and his anatomy. The problem is the film seems to fall back on it all the time. He climbs and falls, he gets stuck, he flies and bumps, and our end of the deal is to laugh. When a joke begins you know exactly how it’ll end. Take for instance the training stint with a kicking bag. Po unleashes all of his Jack Black attitude upon the poor bag, and even before he lands a foot upon it you know precisely who will get kicked. That is of course if you’ve made it till here. The training doesn’t begin until the second half, and once it starts it ends in a hurry with the master declaring the panda as awesome. I’m not sure I could digest that, but you might say this is just animation and comedy. Precisely. That is the failing of these films. They do not take themselves serious enough. There ought to be plausibility to proceedings, an animation-esque plausibility but plausibility nonetheless. We just ought not to be given news; we should care for the characters. The basics that work for live action films do work for animated films. And the vice versa does hold true as well. Just because it is animated doesn’t mean the audience could bombarded with tired physical jokes.
        But then, I may be over-reviewing the film. I believe I am. Kung Fu Panda is a run-of-the-mill Hollywood summer offering – predictable and safe. And with its Panda letting loose a kick poster it seems to be saying to the family audience – Look, I’m a panda with kung fu on me. A chubby panda. I just cannot go wrong with your kids. That is precisely the deal. The animation is great. The dungeons, the creatures, the landscape are all so exquisitely created. The action sequences are worthwhile enough for a young kid to wow and pow out of the theatre. What more does your kid need? Who cares if the voice talents (Jackie Chan, Jolie) are wasted? Who cares about novelty? Who cares about creativity? Who cares if the humor is jaded? A panda fighting with his bubbly paunch seals the deal any day.
        There’s a scroll at the center of the film that holds a secret so powerful only the great dragon warrior is worthy of opening it. When they finally open it, watch what it reveals. And then, think about the Midas touch of Pixar. Probably that there isn’t any. They simply are geniuses because, well, they are.

Friday, July 11, 2008

HANCOCK: MOVIE REVIEW

Cast: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Director: Peter Berg
Rating: **
Runtime: 92 min.
Genre: Action, Comedy, Superhero, Fantasy

        Early in Hancock, there is a rather standard shot of the moon dissolving into a morning aerial tracking shot of the sea. It feels more beautiful than it actually is, and it is because the film is shot so ridiculously I wanted to tear apart something in my vicinity. Not that I’m a superhero, but these filmmakers who assume they’re cool and groundbreaking with their thousand edits per second and camera-on-dope do tend to bring the worst out of me. I’m not sure why these guys do not find a thing as simple as a stable edit-free shot appealing.
        Consider a sequence in the middle of the film that involves the three main characters – Hancock (Smith), Mary (Theron) and Ray (Bateman). Ray and Mary are family complete with a kid and this scene is set in their house. As has been marketed in interviews involving Theron, Mary is a person with a ‘dark secret’. Ah-ha, it is exactly what you’re thinking. And Ray has found out about it. This particular scene involves three, probably four dozen edits from different places, zooms and close-ups and what not. The camera jerks as if it has just discovered its features, and we are denied our basic privilege of registering the characters’ reactions. More than us, it is they who’re betrayed. The whole sequence, barely a few minutes in length, feels so diluted the ten-rupee mango shake seems godsend.
        Now, since it is Peter Berg I kinda expected that. His previous film The Kingdom is one of the worst bad films I have seen in recent years. What I didn’t expect was that the film would be such an unimaginative whimper. It ends so bad I would trade for the climax of Batman and Robin any day. And just in case you’re wondering, I punish myself with that film whenever I think I have been a bad boy. Something like mea culpa. Hancock ought not to be compared with the likes of the better known superhero films like say, Batman Begins or Spiderman. Because it isn’t. The fact of the matter is, and you ought to be surprised here, that the film is more comparable to, hold your collective breaths here, one…two…three… My Super Ex-girlfriend. And if my memory serves me well, Hancock is only marginally better than that piece of supremely unfunny mess. I guess that is because this one here is more serious.
        The film has a great premise. One that could have been a fascinating take on the thematic elements of a superhero under the quite enjoyable disguise of a comedy. Hancock is a superhero in the Superman mould, i.e., as far as his powers are concerned he is absolute. What differentiate him though is that everybody knows him, he has no alter-ego and he is hated by pretty much everybody in Los Angeles. They’re tired of his uncontrolled drinking habits, and his devil-may-care attitude towards public property. They would much rather prefer to throw him over to New York. If only they could.
        This kind of plot has immense real-world gravity if would care to look at it. Hancock cannot just leave a road cracked, a building broken, or a car impaled on a pole. This is hard-earned tax he’s destroying, and I believe that kind of public ire is very much understandable. In a video Ray shows him, Hancock allows his exposed posterior to be visible to little children. He’s just back from saving a whole lot of people from a burning building, but that doesn’t take away his irresponsible demeanor. Something akin to a celebrity always under the scanner situation. He might score a million runs or win a billion tournaments but he’s liked only when he conducts himself to likeability. One ought to live upto the role model tag.
        Under such a plot a bad film usually explodes into bang-bang action. This one here is worse; it implodes into mush so thick I could feel the growing fungus begging for mercy. I wouldn’t venture what, and why, but you would guess that anyway, considering you have already guessed the ‘dark secret’. All I would say is it doesn’t have any other trick in its bag. It does have Will Smith, surely, and he indeed does a superhero act. The guy-with-the-attitude is done quite nicely up to a point, and when the film does a detour for the worse, his performance does feel jaded and overdone. But that shouldn’t take away anything from the fact that he lends a great deal of credibility to the part, a lot of heart, and of course comic relief. There’re sequences that feel funny because he is in it, and there’re sequences like the one that involves a man’s head in another’s posterior that aren’t funny one wee bit. Charlize Theron looks gorgeous, and she lends quite a weighty performance too. Am I the only one who has been missing her? I could use more of her down at the movies, you know. No other trick, maybe some which aren’t noteworthy, and with its handicapped imagination it just stops running at the 90 minute mark leaving you mighty high and dry.
        I hope they don’t make a sequel out of it or anything. This film has zero potential other than to dupe money under the pretext of summer, Will Smith and superhero. It is so bad it messed up the easy part – the origin story. God knows what it would do now that Hancock has become boring and has realized his responsibilities.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

FUNNY GAMES: MOVIE REVIEW

Cast: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart
Director: Michael Haneke
Rating: ****
Runtime: 111 min.
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller, Experimental

        Has there ever been a greater actress than Naomi Watts? Maybe, Isabelle Huppert, or maybe some artist I have never had the honor of watching. I might subscribe myself to the shame and disgust of a thousand Hostels but never would I be able to bear the weight of her intensity. That she summons all of herself in this picture that is essentially manipulative, false and unbearable isn’t a matter to be held in disregard. The question isn’t how much you liked it, for the picture if any, is infinitely infuriating. You might as well give up on the viewing exercise, and I believe one should. It is a frame by frame, shot by shot remake of Haneke’s Austrian version of the same name, released in 1997, which I experienced to be a trifle less extreme, and all that is because of Watts. It is a light years beyond sustained horror, and I would admit, I couldn’t watch it at a single stretch. I would wander off into the balcony, get some fresh air, and return.
        The question is how much of it can you take for how long. Those 111 min. are probably the most unbearable and relentless I have endured at the movies in many a year. And yet, I appreciate it, for what it is. And I can only appreciate; there cannot be any other positive reaction. Not all good films are meant to be liked, or be entertained, or enjoyed or any reaction along those lines. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who are filled with any level of contempt for torture porn – Hostel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remakes). This is an important film that ought not to be watched by the faint of heart because its ‘games’ are so inhumane. It is made with that very purpose in mind with an eye burning with revulsion. I would like to explain why.
        Funny Games is so spiteful it would much rather spit on its audience and kick them for their fetish for violence in movies prevailing under the sorry pretext of horror. I have often wondered what leads somebody to make a film as sickening and pathetic as Hostel, and degenerate minds appreciating it as great horror. It isn’t horror, you know, because they’re essentially enjoying and getting entertained, which isn’t the purpose of pure horror in the first place. It is like getting off on whacked limbs, and I don’t understand it and I certainly wouldn’t queue up to socialize with such an audience. As a viewer who considers himself almost all kind of subject matter and treatment, I would be the first to raise my hand and scream at the top of my lungs that torture porn cannot be art. They exist for the same reasons as plain pornography. Nothing else, maybe even lesser, because in their own way the films are brain-dead. I’m not excluding myself here either; I have known myself to enjoy the odd burst of blood – John Rambo, Gladiator. Funny Games is the criticism; it is the review that lambastes all such entities that ensure the existence of a favorable financial climate for splatter films.
        The genius of it is hardly any act is shown on screen, and everything that is supposed to be entertaining transpires off screen. We’re subjected to the devastating results of the couple and the child who’re at the random mercy of two young intruders, who just for the sake of fun are indulging themselves in making the rest of the family’s life a living hell. There isn’t any story, and they’re lengthy passages which in any other, lesser film would have been edited out. But then, that isn’t the purpose in the first place. The film makes us aware that it is aware. Paul (Pitt), one of the intruders, breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the audience quite often. He complains that the film hasn’t reached a standard running time. There’s even a sequence where Ann (Watts) kills off the other intruder Peter (Corbet), and Paul rewinds the film. We’re constantly reminded that it is just a film, yet the strange factor is we’re forced to take it seriously. I believe it is because of Haneke’s direction as much as it is because of performances. He always plays it straight, asks his actors to play it straight, and occasionally the film looks at us and winks. And we meander in the hallway. There’s also a conversation that involves a rather hollow debate on what’s fact and what’s fiction. It is a satire that isn’t funny one wee bit.
        Then there’s the language. Only once is the ‘f ‘word used in the film, and probably on two occasions we hear swear words. By that I mean, BS. Much of the conversations include please, sorry and polite words that twist the perversity even further. There’re lines strewn all over the place that under the ruse of dialogue is essentially rebuking the audience. For instance – “You must admit, you brought this on yourself.” Or to George’s (Roth) pleading that why don’t they just kill and get it over with, Paul replies – “What about entertainment?”
        On his previous version, Haneke commented thus –
"Anyone who leaves the cinema doesn't need the film, and anybody who stays does."
(Courtesy: Jim Emerson’s negative review at
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080313/REVIEWS/679566521)
        Funny Games
isn’t even a film, it is an experiment that puts us through a grinder and minces us with all the violence we can take. And it wants us to feel guilty about it. He, and I suspect, most deliberately makes Watts move around in her bra and her underwear. The psychopathic intruders ask her to put her clothes on, yet Haneke manipulates the immediately subsequent events in such a way she remains in her undergarments. Why? Obviously, with the kind of body she has we would be forced to peek at her anatomy, even when we know she is under great physical and psychological duress. And we’re implicated, red-handed.
        It challenges all the rules of standard horror fare, as in a rather good ending, or focus on violence and action, or the weaklings (children) not getting killed. The set of rules that make horror entertaining. I’m all for entertainment, but obviously not at the cost of cruelty. When I watched Hostel on a DVD late in the night, I felt I ought to take a bath. It is twisted and perverse, and not because it is being cerebral about it, but because it is mentally retarded state of mind comes to the fore. Funny Games pukes at such films, and it pukes at the implications. You want to know what I mean. Take a look at the poster of the 1997 version I attach below, and see what I mean. And you’ll know why Haneke didn’t choose the same poster, but instead opted for a wrecked broken pleading Naomi Watts, which is in my eyes just the same.


        There has been much debate on Funny Games, and some greatly learned critics, like A.O. Scott of New York Times argue (here) it is as guilty as films like Hostel. Only that it is pretending to be intellectual, while at the same time providing enough to please the same target audience. The film wants to have it both ways. I’m not sure, and honestly, I do not want to watch it once more just to dissect it. It achieves what it sets out to do, and that there’s no gratuitous violence is what holds me to believe this film is a reaction. An apt reaction.


Note: Only if you care, read, more about the film and its debate at -
http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2008/03/reviews_are_in_let_the_funny_g.html