Monthly Archives: December 2011

The joy of searching

To me, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation is a near-perfect film: well made, well told, well performed. The storytelling is focused and controlled and, as with all good stories, the mystery works in pleasing tandem with the main character’s own inherent fears and anxieties.

But beyond quality (pah! quality!) I loved the way the film repeated the conversation, to which the title refers, over and over again. I wish I’d been able to watch this film in the theatre, rather than in front of my laptop with its tinny-tiny speakers, but alas.

The film revolves around an audiotape, and the conversation between a man and a woman recorded on it. The main character Harry, played pitch-perfectly by Gene Hackman, is a surveillance expert who has recorded the tape for a mysterious client.

Harry listens to it over and over again, adjusting the levels and patching the different feeds together in order to get a clear master version of what the couple is discussing. But the more he listens to it, the more anxious he becomes about what the conversation really means and to what end handing the tape over might lead.

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Melancholia and The End Of The World

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by stories about the end of the world. Post-apocalyptic stuff like The Stand or Earth Abides or The Road – wherein small bands of survivors struggle to survive and maintain human civilization – are okay, but what I’m really drawn to are stories (like Last Night or On The Beach) where EVERYBODY dies.* For a variety of reasons people have always had an appetite for tales of the apocalypse, but what I’m interested in for the purposes of this blog post is my personal reaction to them. Which brings me to Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. Julia and I saw it a month ago and while I didn’t think it was entirely successful, it has stuck with me for reasons I will attempt to explain here.

I don’t think it counts as a spoiler to tell you that the film begins with a shot of the titular massive blue planet colliding with Earth and completely destroying it. The thing is, Melanchoia is no more about the literal end of the world than The Hit (a great film about death and how people prepare for and approach it) is about crime. It doesn’t attempt to realistically depict what might transpire in the face of the events the movie dramatizes; the astrophysics are pretty ludicrous and society’s collective reaction to a new planet that may or may not collide with Earth seems rather muted.

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Out of control: The Last House on the Left

I have a special love of horror movies. There’s something compelling about vicariously confronting the abyss, however the film in question defines abyss – death, insanity, damnation, exile, the unknown, abandonment, bodily mutilation and desecration…

But for me, it’s one of the trickiest genres to get right. I’m not an expert, or even a geek, but in this genre I don’t need to be – real horror quickly announces itself. My heart beats faster; my sense of reality starts to warp and wane; I no longer feel like I’m safe, psychologically speaking and…uh…wait – why did this seem fun, again?

At any rate, I recently watched cult classic The Last House on the Left, directed by Wes Craven and released in 1972 (itself based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring – now on my list to view in future).

A house

Not from the movie, but creepy nonetheless.

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