Film Review: Waking Life

An aesthetic, philosophic journey meant to be had outside of the cinema medium.

waking-life
(Image from https://werkleitz.de/en/waking-life)

As much a cinematic voyage as a philosophic one, Richard Linklater’s 2001 flick Waking Life ushers the viewer into a 99-minute dissertation defense that both enraptures and alienates.  Aesthetically dominate with impressionist rotoscopic animations, the film consistently foregrounds its “unreality” in favor of a trip through the uncanny valley at least and total spatial disassociation at most. While it overly favors the inquiry of vast questions over divining answers, the film does force the spectator into the mental spaces and quandaries of the filmmakers and thus is successful in its artistic endeavors.

The film explores concepts of reality with a man (Wiley Wiggins) standing in for the everyman.  Loosely structured around the idea that the main character is lucid dreaming and unable to wake up, the narrative consists of vignettes – people talking more or less scripted conversations about philosophy, art, etc.  Some sequences are more pointed than others, minor departures into strange settings and bizarre caricatures, but most depict seemingly real people discussing reality in armchair interviews.  A notable case includes an early scene where the main character is picked up from the airport in a boat-car and chauffeured into the dream world where he (and by extension we) must “go with the flow” in this “constant departure.”

Waking Life is a challenging film to experience because, unlike traditional cinema which ushers the viewer into a lulled escape from the actual, Linklater’s film never allows one access to the world within the screen.  There is an immediately recognizable absurdity to the film’s exposure of hyper-intelligent, hyper-well-read individuals sitting, discussing philosophy, which reminds viewers this is a directed experience.  The animations make the environments swim unnaturally, foregrounding the medium and the experience thereof, and occasionally makes a character visually indecipherable – a Picasso person conversion across the coffee table.  It falls into the “hyperreality” of Umberto Eco, presenting a amalgam of reality, which we know is false, and beckoning us to accept the substitution as genuine.

What strikes most when the film is put in its production context is that the film demonstrates a pinnacle of the Generation X rebellion and disillusionment.  Casting young people almost exclusively as ones with the right mentality, Waking Life seems to collate the many existential doubts of the generation and place them all in one text for examination by future scholars.  Each individual met posits some grand theory of the meaninglessness of life or man’s fundamental misunderstanding of it, which is presented neither positively nor negatively, but for the audience to discuss and divine.

Amidst the numerous ideologies and teleologies posited, the question ultimately posed by the generation of this film, by the filmmaker himself, to audiences across time is one that dates back to the Bible: How then shall we live?  Choosing to merely exposit the questions, Linklater clearly wants any answering to be engaged outside of the film amongst our own peers and community – a noble and dangerous goal that he accomplishes well.  Artistically a treasure and a realism scholar’s wet dream, Waking Life is a must for your next existentialist dinner party.


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0243017/

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SFC12: Synecdoche, New York

Here we go!  The last review of the Summer Film Challenge 2012 and, in continuing with the established tradition, of course it will be released well over a full year after the Challenge ended. 🙂 The year has been wonderfully busy and I have seen a great number of phenomenal films since the SFC12 ended (look for a big review extravaganza coming eventually).  Now I am finally about to (almost) finish the Challenge by reviewing the last film Ryan gave me.  I still have my Show to review, but that is going to take some work.  However, for now, let us content ourselves with trying to unravel the masterfully crafted, impossibly complex work that is Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York.

How apt that some of the opening lines spoke about things ending in September [when I actually watched the movie :)]!  This film was the perfect one with which to conclude.  What more complicated, poignant, powerful, reflective film could I have finished with?  A beautiful examination of what the self-examined life looks like, Synecdoche is a masterpiece for the artist to examine his own role in society and in his/her own life.

What most enthralls me about the film is that it is a work that stops you.  Often, we see films that are fun or exciting, sometimes even poignant, yet they fail to leave us with anything worth pondering. Every rare once in a while, we come across as film that we physically cannot ignore.  Something about the message or the storytelling strikes such a chord with us that we are arrested in thought and must stop to consider what we have just seen.  Thus, Synecdoche.  

Simply put, this film required of me my complete attention, as well as several hours of contemplation beyond the credits (much like 8 1/2 did at the beginning of SFC12).  It forced me to examine why I do what I do and how I attempt to bring truth to people via film.  It reminds me, very simply, that I do not understand Life.  It is a fickle, unintelligible thing.  The film works at laying people naked like a great poem does, getting at the core of humanity and showing us who we really are.  Extremely self-reflective, Synecdoche asks us to join it in being exploratory of our own existence.

But what I most respect about the film is that it reminds you of how small you are in the grand scheme of things.  We all need this occasionally – a glimpse of our lives in the global, chronological perspective.  There are about 6.2 billion people in the world and that only accounts for the present.  When viewed with the understanding that we are only 1 of the countless humans to have ever existed, one is quickly reminded of their place in history.  As the film says, “you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born.”  You aren’t, then you wrestle for a short time, then you die.  God made the human machine to produce beautiful things that reflect Him, and each person is but a tiny tile in a grand mosaic of God’s beauty.  Or perhaps a better metaphor is this: we are but extras on the great stage of life.  By the way, that quote by Shakespeare about all the world being a stage – that makes so much more sense to me now!

To move beyond the esoteric examination into the cinematic critique, let me say that I am not sure that I fully get it, and that I believe this to be a good thing.  Synecdoche, New York is certainly Kaufman’s least accessible film, though I do not think that fault is due to the fact that he himself directed it.   The nature of the story is simply much more complex than his other works (to order them from most to least accessible, I would say start with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindmove into Adaptation, and follow that up with Being John Malkovich and Synecdoche last).

The story is told in a rambling, “C’est la vie” attitude – promoting a sort of hyper-realistic slice of life story.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a Kaufman-esque protagonist just given a large grant to create a unique work of art.  He turns this into a scale model mockup of a large portion of New York City, hires actors to live their character’s life, and then casts himself and all of his loved ones.  All this is an effort to understand his purpose – perhaps by gaining a truly external view of himself – and thus understand his role in the cosmic play around him.  It is a fascinating mix of the Truman Show and Inception, where everything is fake but everyone is in on it.

Synecdoche does a masterful job of wrestling with the most challenging task of life:  to figure out why we are here and then act upon that knowledge.  It asks the question “what if you tried living a Supporting Role in your own story?”  And further, in trying to be real, Cotard undertakes an effort at making something remarkably unreal (and I do not know that he fails in his quest).  Simply put the film is a philosopher’s dream and an artist’s battleground, and the film handles these elements perfectly.

Aesthetically the film is fun, crafting a uniquely enclosed feeling with the color palette and shot choice so as to remind the viewer and Cotard that they are trapped in the depths of the warehouse.  One of the most fascinating elements of the movie *SPOILERS* is that inside of the large storehouse where Cotard builds his mockup, they included a scale version of that very building.  At the end of the film, Cotard is left alone in his creation and journeys literally and metaphorically to the heart of the city (the warehouse) and himself and find that in each depot another microcosm is found.  He travels through several layers of this world within a world until he finally rests in the innermost part.  Kaufman crafts a fascinatingly simple visual equivalent to the inward journey of his character and it pays off in a beautiful manner.

And please do not even get me STARTED on the acting!  Phillip Seymour Hoffman has grown in my mind as a towering giant of an actor who takes daring risks and fully invests himself in whatever role he takes.  His performance in this film should have earned him an Oscar, so it is sad that it only won a few Ensemble cast awards.  Speaking of ensemble, both Catherine Keener and Tom Noonan give performances to last a lifetime and make the most of what had to be a confusing and challenging script.  Every detail of their performances magnificently mirrors that of Hoffman and sells the idea of the film perfectly.  Synecdoche is amazingly directed and beautifully performed.

Ultimately, I cannot say enough good things about this movie.  Synecdoche, New York is a masterwork of cinematic expression and intellectual contemplation.  Kaufman proves once again that he is able to cofound the greatest of us and humble us all with our true nature.  I think the only way to pay it proper tribute is to leave you with the full portion of the quote I gave earlier and leave you to ponder what it means in your own life.  My deepest thanks to Ryan for sharing such a beautiful and stopping movie as this.

“Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain, wasting years, for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right. And it never comes or it seems to but it doesn’t really. And so you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope that something good will come along. Something to make you feel connected, something to make you feel whole, something to make you feel loved.”

Rating:  10//10

Trio

And there you have it!  All Sixteen films of the Summer Film Challenge 2012 complete and reviewed. Because of the delay in writing this post (and the fact that Ryan and I never quite figured out our upload space issues) it may be some time before we can get a podcast out for this and his final movie, The Fountain.

Thank you so much for reading over the past eight-ish months!  It has been a great pleasure to do these reviews and I hope you enjoyed them.  And they are not done!  As I said earlier I still have a TV show to do – Firefly – and the movie that accompanied it, Serenity………yeah.  That one is going to take some time (not as much as this one, I assure you) but please do stay tuned for that.  Further, I plan on doing a couple of Quickee posts to sum up as many movies as I have seen since the challenge ended.  So be looking for those sometime in the future.

Again thanks and I will see back here for a breakdown of FireflySerenity!

MindBleep: Being Really Confused

So…..I am going to try to unpack one of the most trippy, the most twisted, the darkest and most confusing films I have ever seen.  It deals with deep and disturbingly real issues in a very Greek fashion.  Hopefully I will be able to make some sense out of it, so please enjoy my review of Being John Malkovich.

Basically here’s how this is going to work.  I am going to break it down in the following fashion and hopefully that will allow me to fully examine this movie:

  • Plot Structure and Narrative Elements
  • Philosophical Questions and Morals
  • Last Thoughts and Commentary

So with that understanding, lets dig into this ridiculously trippy film 🙂

1.  Plot Structure and Narrative Elements

What is the plot?  You could say that it is about an apathetic and creepy puppeteer who discovers a door into John Malkovich’s mind, but honestly what does that mean?  It comes down to the film being made up of the many stories of an Ensemble cast.  Everyone gets a character arc (sort of) and we (the audience) get one heaping mess of confusion.

[SPOILERS] In case you are unaware, the film revolves around the failing relationship of Craig and Lotte, an out of work puppeteer and his wife.  Craig gets a job in a very odd building and there meets Maxine, whom I can best describe as a vivacious, foxy little bleep, who leads him (and later Lotte) around on a sexual “Odd-yssey”.  Oh, and Craig finds a door into actor John Malkovich’s mind.  No big.

From there it gets really weird.  Sexual identity questions mingle with philosophical inquiries and time traveling old people?  Yeah…it just gets weird.  Suffice to say, Craig takes over John Malkovich for a while and has a relationship with Maxine, then gives it up so that he can reunite with Lotte who has been in love with Maxine the whole time.  I can’t state it enough, this film is absolutely bizarre.  Craig ends up alone with no one to love or to love him and entirely broken mentally.  Yes, it is Defeatest but it does so in a classy manner.  It just warps your mind.

Let me break it down a bit more and take it back to one of the first dichotomies of how story works. In Greek theatre there were three basic structure for narrative:  Comedy, Drama, and the most important for us, Tragedy.  I was looking for a good way of expressing what the Tragic structure of story is, and in doing so I found a great quote from the Grand Valley State University in Michigan.  Their definition is quoted below:

Tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods. The tragic hero’s powerful wish to achieve some goal inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty (flaws in reason, hubris, society), the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or nature. Aristotle says that the tragic hero should have a flaw and/or make some mistake (hamartia). The hero need not die at the end, but he / she must undergo a change in fortune. In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition (anagnorisis–“knowing again” or “knowing back” or “knowing throughout” ) about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Aristotle quite nicely terms this sort of recognition “a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate.”

This is what came to my mind when I finished watching Being John Malkovich – a film involving the fall of the protagonist from imagined height to actual depth.  One can clearly see Craig (John Cussack) as a tragic protagonist:  he feels unhappy with his perception of his life, so he strikes out on a ridiculous plan to change everything and actually gets what he wants, until it all comes crashing down.  His pride and confusion about what he wants leaves him more destitute and alone than ever before.  There will be more on this in the next section.

As I mentioned before, this movie is really a collection of characters in an ensemble.  They spend their time dealing with each other – in the context of an insane, backwards situation nonetheless – but ultimately it is about their interactions, desires and damnation.  One could point to Craig being the protagonist because he is the character we start and end with. However, good arguments could be made for any and all main cast in the film being the lead because they are so intimately connected.

Everyone is both Hero and Antagonist.  Let me explain (No. Is too long. Let me sum up):

  • Craig starts off unhappy, gets the chance to have a new life and get what he wants which is recognition and respect. He takes his opportunity, gets conflicted about what he wants, gives up what he has, and finds himself alone.
  • Lotte at first is a pushover who is tragically neglected.  Once she enters John Malkovich, she has an awakening to what she wants (Maxine) but has to push Craig away to get her.  Later she is locked up and kept away from her “love” and watches that relationship fall apart.  Ultimately she ends up getting what she wanted but only because she crushes the dreams of her husband.
  • Maxine just wants to have fun, and thats what she gets.  That is, until she has to choose between her two playthings and hurt one of them.  She makes the “wrong decision” and then has to crush Craig to get what she wants.  In the end she has her desired life, but remember how long it took her to become unhappy with Craig’s Malkovich and want something else.  Just saying.
  • Lotte comes between Maxine and Craig
  • Craig comes between Maxine and Lotte
  • Maxine won’t love Craig or Lotte unless they are in Malkovich
  • Malkovich just wants to be left alone.

Being John Malkovich borders on the Shakespearian in its ensemble-nature and character interactions.  Just make Craig “Hamlet” and then watch as the “something rotten in the state of Denmark” romps around until everyone connected is dead in some form or fashion.

Just a few final points about the technical side of the film before I move on to the more serious philosophical and moral questions of BJM.  I must give credit to the filmmakers because it is a stunning bit of cinema.  The cinematography is phenomoninal, particularly in showing what it would be like to be inside the mind of another person.  The POV’s were incredible and the use of high and low angles solidly builds our understanding of how the characters relate to one another.

The music is…meh. It is musically complex and engaging, but it does become a little leading.  The songs informed me of which emotion I am to feel at a given moment, which I always dislike.  I would rather find how I feel on my own, thanks.

A few other quick thoughts:  The puppetry was masterful and (quite purposefully) took on a character of it’s own.  Another thing, for me, was that the film seemed to lose focus after Malkovich himself enters his own mind.  Everything involving him becomes subplot, as did the romances, and most prominently the random old people trying to continue their pattern of living forever.  It just seemed to get jumbled after that moment and it never fully recovered.

Finally, the film displayed the incredible ranges of all the actors involved and had a few great cameo roles (Charlie Sheen, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn).  On a side note to that,  I want to point out that the only resolved character in the whole thing is the monkey.  Just thought you aught to know.

[Insert Coraline joke here] and that is about it for the plot of Being John Malkovich.  I found the plot as confusing and as depressing as it is supposed to be.  I can’t fully say that I enjoyed the storyline(s) of the film but in the next section you will see what I do find in it to be quite fantastic.

2. Philosophical Questions and Morals

As I hinted at earlier, Being John Malkovich takes a particularly Greek fashion of looking at things.  I have already spoken of how it adopts the Greek Tragedy formula but now I want to turn to some of the philosophical implications and messages of the film.  Watching this film felt more like taking in a visual dissertation – it of itself was not particularly appealing to me but the truths to which it was speaking were.

First and foremost I want to list what I think are the three main questions the film is addressing:

  1. What are the ethics of controlling another person’s life?
  2. Would being someone else solve all of my problems?
  3. Is it possible to comprehend one’s mind and soul to the depth at which these characters do?

Each of these is complex and difficult to briefly discuss, so instead I will try to share what I think connects each of them.  In a Humanities class I took last year we discussed the main tenants of Greek philosophy and one of the most prominent ones to me was the concept of “xenia”.  Xenia is the mindset and acquirable trait of possessing good hospitality towards your fellow man.  In the Greek Epics, Homer demonstrates the necessity of having good Xenia by showing those who share it being blessed and those who withhold it punished.

What then does Homer have to do with Spike Jonze?  Each of his characters participate in varying levels of Xenia towards the others.  For example, Craig starts off with just passable xenia towards his wife and when he discovers his dreams within reach, he pushes all others aside and practices very bad Xenia.  Thus in the end he is brought to utter ruin.  On the other hand, Lotte at the beginning has nothing but xenia towards her husband.  Her years of selfless giving and service are rewarded in the end by her getting what she wants.

However, we do get a sort of “negotiated read” on the concept of xenia with Maxine.  She very blatantly practices appalling xenia towards Craig, Lotte, Malkovich, and everyone else she encounters.  However, in the end she gets what she wants?  I think the point the filmmakers are trying to make here is that sometimes life simply doesn’t work according to the so-called laws of karma – sometimes the bad guys win.  Again, however, I postulate that the Lotte-Maxine relationship is doomed to failure once the latter recovers her wandering spirit and her desire for the new toy.

Thus by the selfish or self-less nature of the character is determined their fate, and the beginnings of the answers for the three big questions.  On the ethics of controlling another the film clearly speaks about self-control and care not only for the puppeteer but also for the puppet.  The second question is obviously addressed, but not obviously concluded.  Craig did get everything he wanted when he took over Malkovich but I simply ask whether his problems were solved or not?  He still has a failing relationship, a conflicted soul about what he wants, and just unhappiness in general.  The other characters (other than the weird old people) ultimately make the decision that being themselves is the best option, so I think the best conclusion to draw is that in the end being someone else, John Malkovich or not, is not the best way for us to be.

Now the final question of the three is of course the most difficult to reconcile with the concept of xenia and the most complex ethically.  While I think it obvious that none of us will actually ever enter the mind of another person as…physically as John Cussack and Cameron Diaz do, the question of emotionally and mentally doing so still remains.  On that I think the movie shows that the proper way of understanding others is to respect them as someone totally separate from yourself and to show them proper Xenia.  Again to point out how weird this movie is the only solidly obvious example of this I can come up with is how the Monkey, remembering things of his own past, is able to connect emotionally with Lotte when they are locked up together and is thus able to help her.

Obviously a lot is said by Being John Malkovich towards the psychological and philosophical nature of humankind….and I haven’t EVEN gotten to the SEX yet!!!!  One of the more disturbingly prominent parts of the film is the sexual atmosphere in which the whole thing happens.  Not trying to be crude, but it is inescapable that one consider John Malkovich as the largest Condom in the history of the planet.  Also not to mention the odd LGBT relationships that sporadically pop up throughout the film.

I think ultimately Being John Malkovich makes great commentary on the life that is lived for and about sexuality, and this is the main issue I have with the world today.  We focus so much on “defining our sexuality” and pigeon-holing it into the most minute category possible.  The film shows the lives of three people who allow themselves to be define foremost and almost only by their sexual desires and it clearly shows how that for the most part ends up in ruin. “Money, Stuff, and Sex is the Goal” right?  Well not at ALL according to Mr. Malkovich 🙂

I will conclude this segment about the philosophy and ethics of this bizarre film with two of my favorite quotes from the movie.  I think they perfectly capture the questions asked by the movie and the attitudes it takes in answering them:

“You don’t know how lucky you are to be a monkey…because consciousness is a terrible curse.  I think, I feel, I suffer and all I ask in return is the opportunity to do my work. And they won’t allow it because I raise issues.”

And lastly,

“I took my fill of my wretched pleasures in you and this was the sum total of my love.”

"Check Please!"

3. Last Thoughts and Commentary

Ultimately I found this film to be deeply disturbing, emotionally taxing, and mentally stimulating. There is obvious brilliance in this project; it is just hard to get past the muck of the depressing ideology and the incredibly dislikable characters.  The plot is convoluted and ultimately suffers at the hands of what the film really is about:  providing intellectually engaging and morally unsure questions about the nature of Humankind in general.  And while I love a good “thinker” upon occasion, I found myself seriously bogged down trying to keep all of the elements in check in my head (let alone in Malkovich’s).  Between the ridiculously complex and overly dramatized sexualities competing within the lead characters, the metaphysical conundrums of the possibilities of a door into someone’s soul, and the ethical quandaries put forth by doing so, I found myself spinning so much that even 4 weeks after viewing it I still am ambiguous in my feelings toward it.

I think the best way I can sum up my opinion of Being John Malkovich is to say that I feel towards it as I feel towards The Departed or Donnie Darko:  I don’t particularly love it for itself but I recognize that it is a good movie.  In other words, I love the questions it raises and the truths it speaks to the human condition, but I just don’t really like how it does it.  Just like a textbook or dissertation, I recommend that you force yourself through it so that you can receive what it has to give you.  Technically it is fantastic, the acting is really excellent from all parties, and again I cannot deny that a serious amount of brilliance exist here.  If you are feeling up to it some night to have your brain and soul rocked a little, give Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich a try.

Overall Rating:  8//10

My friend Ryan's face when he sees what I rated BJM 🙂

Well there you have it!!!!  Took my 4 long weeks to complete this review and thus far it was the hardest to complete yet.  BUT don’t go away!  I will be putting up another review VERY soon and I am really excited about it.  Not to spoil anything but suffice to say that I don’t know man from toaster anymore 🙂  Thanks for sticking around and please feel free to leave your thoughts below.  I would love to hear what you think of this movie (maybe you actually GET it).  And tune back in for another review coming up real soon.  Bye, Y’all!

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Appreciation and Understanding w/ Dash of Irony

Hello all!  I thought I would take a break from my reviews to share some news, and have a little ramble.

First, my IRONY MOMENT OF THE WEEK!!!  I was cleaning my room recently, being all productive and stuff, when I found my old Pokemon Ruby Game. Now a bit of history: I have been playing Pokemon games since the first set (Red & Blue). I can still remember playing them on my Original B&W Gameboy at the ballpark when I was 10.  Good times… Anyway, in the 10 years I have had since I have never, repeat NEVER, beaten one. Seriously. I bought every game up to the ruby/sapphire generation and have never beaten any set of Elite Four and Champion. I either spent all my time focusing on completing the Pokedex or lost interest before getting there.

Now having said that, I decided to play the game a bit just for old times sake.  I had made it all the way to Stephen, the Champion, before but I could never beat him.  I decided to try victory road, again just for kicks and made it all the way to the final battle of the 5 and somehow, having not played in over a year now, I BEAT HIM!!! It was so crazy!!! I finally beat a Pokemon game!!! Part of my childhood had ended, IRONY, on the day that the Last Harry Potter film came out!! Just an amazing thing that those two coincided with….the battery died.

I was watching the final cutscene where May comes back and is all surprised that you are the Champion and then Prof. Birch comes in and is all surprised that you are the Champion and then he takes my Pokedex and says, “Here’s some advice…”  CLICK.  My battery dies….right there….. GAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!

It was just hilarious that I had waited so long for that moment and when it comes I was robbed of it 🙂 I did go back and beat it about an hour later after I had gotten over how funny it was.  The ending was awesome just as i had always read in my strategy guide (JK!! Haha. Just…..just kidding…….totally not me………..yeah. I did read it cover to cover….yeah.) I loved the Hall of Fame thing and the credits (didn’t even know they did that!) and then….at the end….it says….”THE END”  😀

YEAH! 😀

So now that the embarrassing, end-of-my-childhood moment story is over, I turn to a more philosophical thought.

Something which I have been trying to nail down for many years is how one appreciates a work such as film or book. Recently I had a breakthrough thought which I’d like to share with you for your thoughts.

Our society seems to stress two conflicting opinions.  First, post-modern culture puts forth that appreciation of art can be had in any form or way and by any medium, but I will focus on the thought that no Understanding is required for Appreciation. The Second worldview, coming from Academia, says that in order to fully Appreciate something, one must have full Understanding of it.

Let me give two examples to clarify.  The former puts forth things such as John Cage’s 4’33” or Jackson Pollock’s abstract art as important because each person experiences it differently and in unique manners. The Latter would take things such as Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” and say that in order to fully appreciate it you must know that it was done as a fun exercise with his wife, and that each variation is based on one of his friends.  Obviously the two are in conflict and thus I turn to film.

My friend Ryan and I have a disagreement. Last year he gave me the French film Amelie as part of the inaugural Summer Film Challenge. When I started the movie and realized it was entirely in French without subtitles, I made the decision to watch it without them.  I had taken French in High School, but the true reason I made that call was because I wanted to see what the film was like unhampered by English text muddling the image.  I wanted to watch it as the French did, and I am not sure whether Ryan has forgiven me yet. 🙂

The reason I bring this film up is that I just ordered it on Amazon and I am not sure I will ever watch it with the subtitles, which brings us back to the original point:

What is the relationship of Understanding to Appreciation?

I propose these thoughts on this issue:

  1. I think that everything is art, and some of it is good, but only a rare bit is Great Art and that is what we must focus on. (More on this in a Ramble to come)
  2. While I can get how Knowledge in tandem or conjunction to a piece of art that helps me understand it’s origins and purpose enhances the experience of it, I wonder if we are losing a part of Appreciation by doing so.
  3. The Appreciation lost by seeking understanding I shall call Wonder or Awe. It might be aptly titled “Magic”.
  4. The Wonder I experienced when watching Amelie in French was that, though I could understand only the occasional word or phrase of the dialogue, I was able to understand the film’s plot and message remarkably well.

As my friend Ryan pointed out to me, I did miss the full meaning of the “Counting Orgasms” scene.  However I was able to appreciate that sex plays a major role in the life of Parisians in Amelie’s world and that she is keenly aware of the sexual world around her while remaining aloof of it. I was able to gleen that without being told it by verbal means. This shows me that their is a level of appreciation which is obtainable and important because you experience something unobtainable otherwise.

If you enter into something without understanding and experience it, you are able to return later with understanding and have a new experience (see – INCEPTION).  However, this path cannot be traversed the other way; if you know going in, you can’t experience that Magic (see – INCEPTION again). You can never watch Fight Club, Memento, even Jaws the same way you did the first time, so I stress the importance of not missing appreciating something as wonderful, magical and worthy of our awe.

Just to point out, I do see the irony that I am discussing “Magic” both in the context of the fanciful film Amelie and on the eve of the finale of Harry Potter franchise. 🙂

Thanks for sticking around.  Please tell me what you think about how we appreciate art, film, etc.  I’d love to hear from you!

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