miércoles, 30 de octubre de 2013

Devoured by the pumpkin celebration

One of the most increasingly-observed festival in Spanish lands has to do with the straightforward anglosaxonization of former religious traditions. Thus, the highly respected All Saints’ Day has been biased towards the western party of All Hallows’ Eve, where children and not-so-young people hang around from house to house trick-or-treating, wearing (not very) creepy costumes and having fun playing frights or collecting a huge amount of calories and sugar.
The celebration has gone far here, since Halloween is followed by several age groups one way or another. From the very little children going not beyond their own neighbourhood, even block, frequently acompanied or distantly watched by their protective parents, to the adolescent parties including lots of make up and overwhelmingly low necklines.
Horror sells well. Everybody loves it, especially when, as if it were a Disney animated film, you can enjoy yourself in different levels of macabreness, from the very innocent disguises of small children to the creepy creatures sourrounding adult fun. People love fear, especially the youngsters, because it pops up their adrenaline when they really need new thrills. If you can also wear fancy dresses, sometimes to look like a whore, better still. Nobody is going to condemn you for that, particularly in a night where everything is allowed, either tributing Mary Shelley’s Fankenstein’s monster or imitating Count Dracula’s vampiress daughter. Notwithstanding the proximity of the sacred feast, this night is here to give free rein to terrific excesses; something similar to the Carnival spirit, swapping flesh vices for overhorrifying. Dawn will bring peace to souls and to the bodies of the wild participants. Continence will rule again on earth... and under it.

lunes, 26 de agosto de 2013

Lone Ranger or the rebirth of Jack Sparrow

One of the most dangerous things that may happen to a consummate film star is that the actor persona devours the movie character. Thus, never expect Humphrey Bogart to behave weakly or Clint Eastwood to solve trouble by means of accurate, convincing words. The same occurs with Johnny Depp. You may like him or not, but he never deceives anybody. Either directed by Tim Burton or by any other director, Johnny will always be the same funny guy on the verge of madness, taking himself not very seriously –actually, not seriously at all–, showing a huge range of soft, mild, even affectionate good manners and a pinch of idle extravagance.
 For this reason it was not surprising that Tonto, the loyal and supporting native American who finds a more dead-than-alive John Reid and save his life as the ranger had previously preserved his –according to the 80’s film, from which this movie is clearly a sort of remake–, from the very beginning overlaps and overshadows the title character who, by the way, is much duller and softer.
But we were highly warned. A production coming from Disney couldn’t be prone to the free exaltation of violence or the unreasoned revenge of the reflexive distric attorney, reconverted for the occasion in The Lone Ranger, the only survivor of a massacre of lawmen by the ruthless Butch Cavendish. Instead of highlighting the heroic abilities of the outlawed ranger, the studio prefers not to take the film very seriously, and gives Depp carte blanche to repeat all the tics and eccentricities of Jack Sparrow, including a pervading inofensive insanity, a relaxed sense of absurd humour and neverending remarks for every rough situation. Armie Hammer does his best as the ranger, and he’s not bad on his role, but audience and script are on Johnny’s side.
Apart from that naive comical tone that spoils more than improves the film, the length is excessive and the rhythm uneven. Often, accelerated action takes us from one place to another without much sense and other times the movie hungs around interminable reports about the extermination of ethnic tribes, the coming of the railroad to the West or the exploitation of Chinese slaves in the construction of the necessary network.
Nevertheless, the movie has good points, as well. Action scenes are devilishly fun, especially those that occur around the trains, the plot is rarely consistent but works and the general feeling that remains after the final credits is one of high optimism and faith in mankind. Once more, Rossini’s William Tell Overture fills the critical stills with adventure and nostalgic heroism.
Finally, the film doesn’t forget to pay a straightforward homage to some of the great themes, directors and movies of the genre: John Ford, the railroad, Anthony Mann, the confrontation of indians vs colonists, the all-American noble cowboy, as opposed to the crepuscular spaghetti antihero... even to Lucky Luke through the weird occurrencies of Silver, the white horse, which resembles clearly to Jolly Jumper at his best. Another scene is directly inherited from Once Upon a Time in the West, when silence fills the air and something is going to happen while the character is drinking from the well and startled birds flutter around.
The film deserves to be watched, but without too many pretentions. Just to have a good time and remember the old good times of westerns. To expect something else from this product would be an unforgivable error and an exercise of avoidable disappointment. Next try leave Disney and Depp at home and harden the tone. Maybe it flops the same but at least it will have cost much less bucks.

martes, 23 de abril de 2013

The three musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas

Few books have been so widely adapted to films as this masterpiece of cloak and dagger, doubtless the most famous from Dumas, apart from The count of Montecristo, which will probably rank second in his repertoire.
What the average person has got in mind is the popular history revisited over and over again in more than 30 or 40 films. Both original novels –for The three musketeers is only the first and best-known part of a whole trilogy– and subsequent film versions have in common the body of the plot, although it is only the first big adventure of D’Artagnan –that is, the one of Buckinghman’s diamond studs delivery– which persistently appears movie after movie.
An aspect rarely neglected in the film versions that reflects well the feeling of displacement is the arrival of a provincial D’Artganan at the city of Paris, yet a rushing metropoli up to that epoch, being this foreigner’s solitude a sensation overrepeated a thousand times here and there. But the aparent naivety of the young would-be musketter is not so real in the novel, for the Gascon is brave and resolute and, although not familiar to the customs of the Court, determined in his matters and soon affairs of other kind.
Much of the plot is ruled through luck and coincidence, being this way sometimes difficult to believe, but in general facts are fisible and, as we will know much later, logical under the eyes of the Big Brother of the era, Monsieur Cardinal Richelieu, the baddie behind the scenes. And the ending of the book seems solved sort of hastily. Milady Clarick’s perfidy has no limits, we all know that, but we don’t need five chapters to get convinced of that, nor did por Felton, the integral puritan corrupted by her beauty and manipulation into assassinating the Duke of Buckinham and freeing her at the same blow.
And the execution of the Countess de la Fere, aka Milady, whereas essential to the plot, has nothinh heroic on it so it’s frequently excluded in filmed versions. As for the men of Meung, his apparitions are crucial and very mysterious, but the long-awaited duel with the main character actually necer takes place in the novel, and is only referred to in the epilogue.
The book hooks you and ask for more pages to devour, but I don’t think I will take the second part Twenty years later. For now I have had enough of cloak and dagger stuff. Maybe in 2033.