Saturday, August 16, 2008

Quiet Chaos Vs. Just Plain Chaos

Flashky joined me for "Quiet Chaos" the new film featuring Nanni Moretti. It must be the most static film ever made (I don't know of a cinematic version of 'Waiting for godot'). Moretti, a recently bereaved husband, takes the loss with dignified calm. his ten year old daughter imitates him and so life seems to flow on peacefully, but when the girl returns to school, her father developes a habit of waiting for her in the nearby public square. This habit lasts for months, during which he reflects, mourns and shares love. By sticking to the square he also rebels against a daily routine that betrayed him, expressing a new view of the world.

I kept looking sideways at 17 years old Flashky, hoping he's not going to hate me forever for this. Italian widowers aren't hot among teenagers these days, but Flashky is no regular teenager and "quiet Chaos" moved him about as much as it moved me. Later that night we discussed its flaws and its wisdom, and declared the wisdom triumphant.

Twenty four hours later I went with Elise to watch "The Dark Knight", The most hyped up film of the season. It is the exact opposite of Quiet Chaos: it presents a city in a state of constant hysteria, constant movement, constant violence, and almost constant horror. Loss is an issue in "The Dark Knight" too. When Gotham's district attorney loses his beloved Rachel to the vile tricks of the psychopathic joker, he loses his mind as well as his moral backbone and goes on a killing spree dedicated to avenging her death.

I'm going to say something that will make me unpopular, but Christopher Nolan has got to give me a break. When human response in a movie is unconvincing, all the capsizing lorries and exploding hospitals and fire spawning "bat-pods" and Michael Kane cameos on earth won't make it a good movie. Even the late Heath Ledger's truly arresting performance as the Joker couldn't produce depth out of a charecter that has only one motive: lunacy.

However, our immidiate after-film chat dealt with much more somber stuff. "The Dark Knight" is disturbing politically: The rich and beautiful high-techy white people are the good guys, while the low-life gangsters, most of them black and hispanic, meet in a restaurant kitchen and watch their Chinese scum-chum on a low-tech T.V. screen.

In "Quiet Chaos", anti-materialism is a virtue. Moretti's charecter, Pietro, distances himself from a collosal business merger that can financially benefit him but will not allow him the emotional rejuvination he needs. In "The Dark Night", materialism is the value. The Joker is seen burning piles of dollar bills and mocking the love of money, in a scene that is meant to horrify and disgust the viewers.

That same Joker also adds one more minority to the bad guys' side. His slightly effeminate domeanor and taste for camp both intimate homosexuality. Batman, of course, is a man so stiff and solid he can't turn his head in his own suit. His masculinity would have been impressive if it wasn't for a bearded chap sitting on a bench in front of his daughter's school, showing what manlyness really is.


Theodore said...

אני מחקה על היום קשהיה כתובות כאלה בעיטונים גדולים פה באמריקה, וקש יקרו איתם.

Aliza said...

did you see yet valtz im bashir? what did you think?

Yuval said...

I have. I thought it was well executed (a few of people I know were involved in the animation, Including Assaf Hanukah who designed the cover of my new novel), educational and unique. I wasn't sure that it wasn't a bit to easy on its subjects, placing the soldier of an invading army in the victim position is a bit problematic and as Israelis we should do our best to avoid "shooting and crying"(DL did much to open my eyes to this question). nonetheless, in a war - everybody is a victim, including the soldiers of the invading army, and everybody's experience deserves being discussed. I recommend "West Beirut" as a good film discussing that war from a Lebanese perspective.

homefris said...

i came out of the dark knight deeply disturbed..perhaps because i'm easily shaken and moved, but mostly i've been able to articulate it as a re-opening of my own interest in lunacy. i loved the tension the joker started to poke at of order vs. chaos, and the ultimate stagnancy/instability that attempted order can cause.

too much for a comic?

Yuval said...

Not too much at all, Homefris, and I'll take it further if I may. I feel that the Joker represents America's encounter with terrorism over this decade. Like Osama Bin Laden, He dresses funny, mocks the American establishment on videos and causes mayham for reasons that are not personal financial gain. My problem is that according to this film, if the reason is not personal financial gain, it's no reason at all. As one charecter in the film explains the Joker's motive: "some people just like to watch the world burn".

I'm not saying that Bin Laden had any good reasoning behind his murderous actions, but this oversimplified explanation reminds me of the "they just hate freedom" bull you heard a lot in the U.S. over the first years of the decade. a little bit of more intelligent analysis and the U.S. might have gone much further in its "war on terror". They might have even caught the guy!

What I did like about this film is how helpless the Batman appears. If we are to follow my previous analogy, he represents the Bush administration, using violence where he should have used intellect, spending a fortune on fancy weapons and immunition, causing much more harm than good and ending up vanishing into the dark night seen as a villain by all. In this sense, The Dark Knight is nearly satyrical.