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Watchmen, Bencivenga, Bitumen, Yates

A grab bag of notes.

Watchmen was a film of the sort I normally like-- long, with triumphs strung together by deep flaws.  At its best a proud flesh sort of movie, mean, dark, of the home planet where Heath Ledger's Joker resides.  Rorshach owns the film (with The Comedian as co-owner), and whenever he is not in the shot the film often suffers by an excursion into Disney-like cuteness where the too-good looking heroes try to be "baaad."

The rest is just a blue guy, somehow reminding me of Al Gore, and some used-to-be heroes trying to make sense of the death of  The Comedian, and get a grip on their shrinking spandex.  Dr. Manhattan does have a nice house on Mars, much like the one I will move to if I can just solve the power problem.

The bottom line is that any film boasting two Leonard Cohen songs on soundtrack is a work of art, even if only second-hand. All in all, this movie must be seen if only to be disbelieved.

After the movie I visited the Caveat Emptor used book store in Bloomington where I picked up a book: A Theory of Language and Mind, by Ermanno Bencivenga.  He does a nice apeing of W's propositional style, following the line that reality is more mirrored by the juxtaposition of ambiguities than by falsely logical explanations. My kind of guy.   I noted also that hardback copies of F. Yates books are going for $75 per, so I declined on the basis of budget her nice tome on the Rosicrucians.

As a way back to the Babel puzzle, Herodotus notes that the bitumen used in the masonry was shipped to the tower site from the river Is, a seven day transport.  The puzzle languishes as the colors along the quay are smudgy and various in ways that can not be predicted.  I find one or two pieces and am exhausted.  Perhaps the language of color has been scattered after reading W?  Reddish green will be the end of me.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 15th, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)
I will agree with you that a film with two Dylan songs in its soundtrack is necessarily a work of art. Seriously, I did like the movie a lot. As a matter of fact I've already seen it twice. I do not know the comic it is based on, therefore I have judged it only on its own. What completely impressed me was the plausibility of the alternate reality created. It is not that it is particularly realistic, sure enough a lot of realistic details contribute to it, for example, the coarse quality of the ill fitting costumes of the original Minutemen, but the intelligent translation of iconic figures of our reality into that, makes it somehow very convincing. This worked so well for me that I found myself forgiving it, even throughout the second viewing, the weaknesses of its plot. Interestingly enough, other viewers who were too young to take notice of the ironies implied in a world in which Nixon is still president in 1985 and is nevertheless much too similar to our own, seem to have loathed the movie, as I gathered from the comments that I overheard.
Mar. 15th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
The ambiguity of choice, that is, that there was no clear-cut right and wrong to guide the characters, somehow bridged the gap for me between cartoon and reality. Things seemed to happen based on who the characters were. I thought the character-driven plot was a good idea-- at least Rorshach was loud and clear. I think that perhaps it was somehow inferior, or mood-altering bits and pieces(one might call them scenes from a "different" movie)that should have been cut, and muddied the experience somewhat. In other words, the plot itself was not weak, but the execution in places was flabby. But maybe that too, like the artless suits, added to the reality?

The climax, which is not the ending one has come to expect, gives us both a bang-- and a whisper. That an evil corporation could trump governments to make profits instead of save people is certainly a twist I felt could be real future. I am already uneasy about Google's "do no evil" mask.

Though Veidt gets off the hook the way all governments do by the calculus of least harm, he was still as much a power-hungry liar as Nixon. He was obviously into killing people and obviously wanted to be "a god," and would continue to be a villain.

I found Dr. Manhattan quite fascinating and wondered why everyone did not want to get a "blue do" and control matter? I would have been next in line for the reactor treatment. I was so disappointed by his collapse to Veidt's alibi. Why he should kill Rorshach instead of Veidt is beyond my comprehension! Maybe that just underscored Manhattan's need for a quick fix so he could leave? Maybe this injustice was done to give Haley his "Oscar moment?" But I now think it just under-scored the flawed nature of Dr. Manhattan-- he had less intellect than all all that power and vision demanded.

Mar. 17th, 2009 04:25 pm (UTC)
Anyone care to comment on what the psychological meaning of substituting "whisper" for "wimper" might be? I guess the idea of "wimpering" is a distraction? The librarian in me is saying "Shsssh-sh!

Mar. 17th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
I'd venture the theory that whisper is a freudsche Fehlleistung. Wimper is more in accordance with your passionate feeling about the ending. I was going to reply that, even though I now feel more inclined towards your interpretation, my feeling was that the end meant to imply that Dr. Manhattan really didn't care too much one way or another but went along with Ozymandias because the damage had already been done; As Rorschach himself said, if he had cared, none of what happened would have. Even Kovacs accepted the pragmatic way out. That is why Rorschach, who was not going to compromise no matter what, takes the mask off and leaves Kovacs to plead to Manhattan to put an end to the conflict. Whisper is a less harsh description of the gray, blurred, immoral course of action. So, maybe subconsciously you were more forgiving.
Mar. 17th, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
So which is it? Dylan or Leonard Cohen? and which two songs? the citations in a Google search switch back and forth between the song citations in the movie and in the graphic novel so frequently that I can't quite figure out the sequences, but am struck with the fact that the witnesses (to use the term for differing texts of the New Testament) disagree so much about an event so recent in time.

Both Dylan's and Cohen's songs are used in the movie, so I presume the wisecrack from anselmo_b is a disagreement as to which songwriter's inclusion makes a movie worthwhile. (The online witnesses dislike My Chemical Romance's rendition of "Desolation Row" and the placement of "Hallelujah.")

I have to go see this film, obviously.

also am a bit puzzled as to why the bookshop would have extremely expensive hardcovers of Frances Yates when most of her books (except for the almost unobtainable volumes of Collected Essays) are still in print in such inexpensive paperback editions.

I know I sound sarcastic but I am genuinely baffled on both counts....
Mar. 17th, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
The best response might be that any movie with at least one Simon and Garfunkel song may be in trouble?

The Cohen songs were "Hallelujah" and "First we Take Manhattan."

Having LC singing back-up during sex is a threesome I have experienced as a college student in the latter sixties, but frankly it made the scene between the two hot heroes seem kinky and perverse-- Leonard was like a voyeur ogling folks outside of his fan base. I found it an exhilarating and bold choice, but I can understand why some were put off(no college nostalgia over "Suzanne"). I found that many of the music choices were exciting like that but also distracting enough to pull you away from the film, as though somebody real famous just crashed your private party and almost ruined it.

It was a nice touch that the male hero had so repressed his hero's persona that... Well, I should leave that as a teaser.

I was told that in Bloomington F. Yate's hardbacks will be sold rather quickly at that price. Maybe scholars prefer hardbacks that don't fall apart in 30 years? Myself, I bought her Bruno book in the new U. of Chicago paperback edition.
Mar. 17th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
The Dylan songs are "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "All along the Watchtower" (as rendered by Jimmy Hendrix, a version which Dylan reportedly liked so much that he adapted his own performance to it). Of course I was just teasing good davross by asserting my preferences. I'd agree that the "Desolation Row" wasn't treated too kindly (Why does the name of the group has to be "My Chemical Romance", just because we were going to talk about it at some point?!). But I agree totally with davross as to the placement of Hallelujah.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Cydonia photo: ESA

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