Apocalypse Now and Then

September 14, 2008

apocalypse now
Coppola’s classic is considered by some to be the greatest war film of all time

A great cliché about war states that it brings out the best and worst in humanity. War results in a situation where the rules are thrown out, safeguards are dropped, and the extremes are allowed into the mainstream since “war is a continuation of politics by other means” as Clausewitz said long ago. Cruelty, treachery, kindness, heroism, are all amplified and become more prominent on this horrific stage. The Arab word “Jihad” is quite poignant when it comes to matters of war since it refers to both an internal and external struggle. And it’s precisely the essence of this dual-front battle that makes Apocalypse Now more than just a great war movie.

Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the Vietnam War setting serves as the external struggle and the backdrop to the more important battle, the one inside the soul.

Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) represents the inner struggle of the soul. A very talented and intelligent man, the tragedy of the war shakes the philosophical underpinning of his being and makes him reevaluate his entire existence. This reflection leads him to strip his identity old identity away and build a new one better suited to his new self. Yet his movement from the old to the new isn’t complete and the arrival of Captain (Marting Sheen) only reinforces the conflict within him. Coppola’s ambiguity nevertheless suggests that Kurtz is cognizant of the purpose behind Willard’s visit and blesses his own liquidation by his hands. Kurtz’s approval of his own slaughter demonstrates that he himself has no control over his own self even while he serves as a God-King over a tribe of hill natives who quake in fear of him. Therefore his elimination is seen not only as necessary, but as a release from the torment that he is going through. Read the rest of this entry »


The Philosophy of Woody Allen

August 15, 2008

Woody Allen
Nebbish, fatalistic, existentialist, etc….

I was lucky enough to be exposed to Woody Allen’s work at a young age. I vividly recall watching Bananas with my father on television some time in the early 1980s and I remember not only finding the slapstick humour hilarious (which my father is quite fond of) but also noting that there were a lot of “smart jokes” in the film, most of which I was too young to understand. Nevertheless, I filed away the name “Woody Allen” in my mind for future use.

When Arts & Entertainment Television was launched (back in the days when you’d actually get to see some real art on television), the station would play a lot of his films. It was then that I was introduced to his other classics such as Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and my personal favourite to this day, Manhattan. At this point I in my life I was able to catch not just his jokes, but also the philosophical dilemmas in his films that were so self-referencing and personal. His neuroses, his paranoia, his existentialist defeatism, all were on display in all their glory for us to watch, to sympathize with, and often to share. Rather than discuss the merits of Woody Allen’s films, I think it best to simply state that they’ve been both smart and funny: a combination that seems simple yet so foreign in a time when smart and funny rarely intersect. A time in which we now live where smart is often associated with irony and funny is now in the realm of pubescent toilet humour.

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Tarantino To Give WW2 the Resevoir Dogs Treatment

August 14, 2008

Quentin Tarantino
Acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino is remaking “Inglorious Bastards”

Reports are surfacing that the script for Quentin Tarantino’s newest project, a remake of the WW2 flick “Inglorious Bastards”, has been leaked online. Here’s a description:

But the film project by the US director of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, which is a remake of a 70s war film by Enzo Castellaris, has already created a furious response from German critics. One said the effects of the “collision” between pulp fiction and Nazi barbarity were “completely unpredictable”.

The film depicts scalpings, disembowelment and swastikas being engraved in foreheads as a group of American Jewish soldiers are airdropped into Nazi-occupied Europe to wreak revenge on the Germans.

and more:

“This is pop culture meets Nazi Germany and the Holocaust with an unprecedented force,” wrote the film critic of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Tobias Kniebe, in an attempt to sum up the explosive effect the film is likely to have in Germany.

The trouble is that little distinction is made between Nazi and German, ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers or SS officers, to the extent that if the script is anything to go by, there is no such thing as a good German and all of them have to die.

It’s quite obvious that Tarantino will be putting forward a manichean look at WW2 in which Germans represent dark forces without any individuality nor saving graces and need to be exterminated without prejudice while the Americans represent the forces of light. Naturally such a clear distinction will upset Germans who reject the notion that all Germans were responsible for the actions of the Nazis, a position put forward most notably by Jonah Goldhagen. And being Tarantino, the sadism in the movie will be gory and preposterous, in keeping with the style he first displayed in Resevoir Dogs.

The key here will be to see what kind of character development will be allowed for the Germans in this film. Will they be allowed to have a bit of flair attached to the sadism? Or will they be robotic automatons thus rendering the movie a simple comic book?

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