Narcissus' Echo

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Over-the-top but enjoyable nonetheless

Note: more quotes than my own writing today. I'm enjoying Diana Krall on my system too much. Krall + hybrid valve system = audio bliss :-)

'Watched the Wachowski brothers' film adaptation of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. The film might come across as over-the-top, but consider the question posed by anmueller:

There are some that will, upon seeing this film, say that it was akin to Andrew Lloyd Weber attempting to make a political statement: overly dramatic. These people would be well served to remember that the symbol of drama is a mask, which certainly begs one important question- Why, if you are so put off by an overtly dramatic motion picture, would you choose to see a movie that stars as the (anti)hero a man in a mask?

Phillipstephenso points out:

The film makes several interesting allusions to the famous Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot of November 5, 1605, in which Catholic conspirators (including Guy Fawkes) tried to blow up the palace of Westminster in England. The conspirators managed to place 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar under Westminster while plotting to blow up King James I and the whole English Parliament, including the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Catholics clearly hoped then to end the Church of England and to place Elizabeth, the daughter of James I, on the throne as their puppet ruler. But, Fawkes was arrested with the barrels of gunpowder in the tunnel under the palace before he could complete his treason. Fawkes was then tortured with unspeakable methods until he divulged the names of his fellow conspirators. Lord Salisbury as prime minister then used this plot as a pretext to persecute all Catholics. V for Vendetta uses the reverberations of this plot as energy for its supposition that a similar method of extreme reaction to terrorism is occurring today that is going to lead to a 1984 totalitarian state in the near future. And V is the catalyst for revolution against the upcoming totalitarian state. The film suggests that the totalitarian state uses corrupt means to maintain power, including secret terrorism of its own against its own people, to maintain the conditions of its absolute power. This is a splendid production, full of poetry and pageantry and drama and mystery. And V is Zorro on steroids, as he fights overwhelming evil.

According to Rick Mansfield (Warning! Spoiler link):

The story itself has been adapted from a graphic novel by Alan Moore, although you won't see his name in the credits. Moore has totally disassociated himself from this picture. Supposedly he has been unhappy with previous movie treatments of his works including From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I've also heard that he did not approve of the script for this movie.

I guess I should find a nice afternoon to head to the local Barnes & Nobles and read through Moore's graphic novel to appreciate the difference.

The movie begins with V (Hugo Weaving) reciting the first two lines of "The Bonfire Prayer": ""Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot." One variation of the complete version goes:

Remember, remember, the fifth of November:
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!
A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!

The movie has enough references to Shakespeare to give Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard) and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" a run for their money. Going off on a tangent here, for those who think Stewart is always the tough guy. Back to "V for Vendetta," there's gratuitous wordplay, which left my friend groaning and me in paroxysms of laughter. Some samples:

Evey Hammond: Who are you?
V: "Who?" "Who" is but the form following the function of "what", and *what* I am is a man in a mask.
Evey Hammond: Well I can see that!
V: Of course you can. I'm not questioning your powers of observation, I'm merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.
Evey Hammond: [short pause] Oh... right.


V: This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is it vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished, as the once vital voice of the verisimilitude now venerates what they once vilified. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, and so it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.


V: [interrupts the three policemen about to rape Evey, whips out a dagger, and quotes Macbeth]
Disdaining fortune with his brandished steel
Which smoked with bloody execution...

I must admit that my suspension of disbelief was somewhat shaken when I found out that the character playing "V" is Hugo Weaving. I kept expecting him to intone, "Mister Anderson!" as Agent Smith, or getting into elvish hippie mode as long-haired Elrond.

Natalie Portman is unbelievingly gorgeous as Evey Hammond. With her curly golden locks she resembles one of the sopranos in my choir. *swoon!*

Julie London's version of "Cry Me a River" on the soundtrack is really something. It will be interesting to pit her rendition against Diana Krall's.

Overall, the movie was a trip. My only gripe was the disproportionate amount of time (and sentimentality) given to special interest groups. (??? Well, watch the movie to find out.)


Blogger Jared Goralnick said...

Excellent commentary, Ben. As someone who's not usually a huge action fan, I must say that this movie was more than worthwhile for its action, suspense, and not so subtle messages. It keeps you glued to your seat and excitedly wondering what's next.

And I echo your thoughts on Ms. Portman...

9:56 AM  
Blogger crufty said...

This is a great movie! I don't understand why some reviewers gave it a poor rating. Was it because it had an un-Hollywood ending?

Hidden behind a mask, it's no surprise they had to get a good stage actor in Hugo Weaving for the role. Body language is everything.

Guess this movie made up for the traversties that were Matrix 2 and 3.

8:47 AM  

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