Sunday, September 05, 2010
There are fair bit of movies I've seen 2 or 3 maybe even 5 times. Then there are a lot I've seen 10 or so times. And a group that I've long lost count how many times I've seen them. I am a Star Wars and Indianna Jones freak and have seen them beyond counting. 50? Yeah, probably at least 50 times. And then I've lost count how many times I've seen Apocalypse Now, Citizen Kane, Rear Window, Vertigo, Breakfast At Tiffany's, The Deer Hunter, The Matrix, Casablanca, The Wizard Of Oz or The Godfather series. I just can't tell you. Probably 20, 30 times.
I was at my friends Jenny and Monique's house the other night and babysitting their two kids. The kids had gone to bed and I started channel surfing and The Deer Hunter had just started without commercials...so I thought, "Hey maybe I'll watch this..." It is a little dark to watch on your own but I felt like I was really tired and maybe I'd get into it although I have seen it so many times. I hadn't seen ot for a number of years though, maybe ten years since I last watched it. It really turned out to be an incredible experience watching it the other night, almost as if I hadn't seen it before. I can't say i gave it a second shot since I'd seen it so many times before but I really hadn't expected to see something or feel something different. I was very surprised how experimental it felt. I was quite jarred when the movie moves from Pennsylvania to Vietnam just like that in mid-manuever to find DeNiro's character passed out cold in a military battle. I just didn't remember how innovative the narrative was in this movie. I also didn't remember that there were 3 distinct Russian Roulette scenes. I knew there were two. The movie is structured in such a way that it is cut into three Acts. The 3 suicide games appropriately mirror or accent that structure. I was also surprised how absolutely attractive and beautiful DeNiro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep look. Meryl Streep is a good looking woman and in Bridges Of Madison County she seems sexier and more beautiful than she had all through the 80's and 90's. But I think her looks just weren't fashionable in the 80's...next to the masculine athletic preppy looks of supermodels Evangelista, Crawford and Brinkely. Streep is more of the etheral beauty of Faye Dunaway and Kate Moss. Christopher Walken is gorgeously androgynous...and I hadn't ever thought of him as being good looking before, but somehow it's like i saw him for the first time in this role. He is delicate and thoughtful and shy which makes his storyline even more tragic.
-The Deer Hunter was partly an amazing film when it came out because there was a rule against making Vietnam movies at the time. Also, the film deals with family abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, and without a morality looks at how patriotism sometimes makes us not ask questions.
-The movie seems massively sensitive and forward-thinking of its times and profound today as it did when I first saw way back when. There are so many layers you could explore with this movie...the town of Pennsylvania is a Russian (Rusyn) American community. Russia is communist, Vietnam was resisiting the Communist invasion, America also resisted by invading Vietnam....and then the game of Russian Roulette. So many cultural labels and layers are delicately here but without heavy moralizing and with poetry.
-Sure, it's an anti-war movie, sure Michael (DeNiro) doesn't want to kill anymore, something has happened. In the idea of patriotism and customs and following the responsibilities of our culture was the idea of not thinking or questioning...and the repercussions of going to war under that kind of climate. But...the other night I noticed something that not only can traditions and customs control us and cushion us from challenging our life...they are also comforts when we are tramatized or under duress. When the friends sing "God Bless America" in the past, and with many critics the image is one of a cynical attitude towards patriotism. I saw it as Dzunda's character is making them breakfast and there is a lot of sorrow and tension (because Michael/DeNiro brings back the suicided Nick/Walken). A funeral is an uncomfortable social setting. Contrasted with the heavy rituals and customs of an Orthodox wedding in the movies opening where traditions guides the community...again tradition guides the community. In both celebratory and in tragic circumstances.
-I did some reading and one of the actors was in end-stage bone cancer and Meryl Streep was engaged to him. The producers didn't want to keep him on the movie and he couldn't get insurance. But Streep and the director both refused to work if he wasn't allowed to keep his part. He knew he was dying and he wanted to finish his last role. DeNiro apparently paid for his insurance.
-And...notice the photo above? I was so taken aback when I saw the ring leader of the gambling joint conducting the betting on Russian Roulette after the match stand in that pose. I wondered if that is where B-Boys, Breakdancers and Rappers adopted that stance?
I think giving movies that excite or challenge or mystify us a second shot is one of life's pleasures.