Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fake and Dumb

Watching Il Colosso di Rodi (Sergio Leone's first feature) recently, I experienced a shock of some sort of recognition as two childhood favorites of mine were prefigured by this film. The banquet on the island seems an earlier articulation of the one in Enter the Dragon. Several scenes, and the score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, come off like predecessors to Conan the Barbarian. (Violent movies were part of my upbringing; it was the "adult themes" that I didn't start experiencing until adolescence.) I watched a few of the peplum when I was a kid, though the only title I can ascertain is The Three Stooges Meet Hercules ('62), maybe not quite what most people have in mind when they're talking about the sword-and-sandal genre. At any rate there is something quite beautiful in a film like this--I admire the artifice, the utter inauthenticity.

As I have said before, idiocies bother me much less when the art in which they appear is forthright about them. Two recent-ish sfx films I watched over the Thanksgiving break, Michael Bay's Transformers and Stephen Sommers' Van Helsing, make for an illuminating contrast. Bay's film is knowingly ironic ("I think there's more to you than meets the eye," Shia LaBeouf tells Megan Fox, reimagining the Transformers tag line in, um, a "witty" bit of writing), but it's not actually clever--it's totally conventional, and self-aware only in the most basic and superficial ways. Sommers' film is also stupid, but I find it (kind of charmingly) forthright about this fact. The overpronounced acting, the wooden dialogue, the clear debt the film owes (or homage it pays), visually, to comic books and fantasy illustration ... it's all there to be appreciated as itself (not as camp per se, and not as a film about anything important). It's a certain kind of honesty ...

3 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

I'm sure you would be fascinated by the new Coen movie, "No Country for Old Men." Along with "Eastern Promises," you'll get your violence fix, in a more satisfying way then "Transformers."

I won tickets to a Pablo Infante movie festival.

Alex said...

There's a certain genre of American comedies in the 1950s and early 1960s that does the same thing in an ultimately much more impressive way: the icon of this is Jerry Lewis' solo movies of the period (especially The Nutty Professor and The Bellboy), Frank Tashlin's Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and The Girl Can't Help It, George Axelrod's Lord Love a Duck.

Zach Campbell said...

RE, I actually wrote on No Country just a couple of quotes below!

What is the Pablo Infante film festival? Is this the dancer?

*

Alex, those Tashlin/Lewis movies (I haven't seen Lord Love a Duck yet) are a whole 'nother level, definitely, as you say, and their reflexivity is much more complex than the sort of modest honesty I'm tepidly defending here ...