Two more film reviews

The remaining reviews are being attempted tonight. Maybe I should make myself write them all before I sit down and watch all those first episodes I’ve been collecting… Ok, I’ll stop procrastinating here.

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There are some films that one should never see unless one knows something about them, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is counted amongst that number, at least in my world. Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name, it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to actually experiencing what effects the hard drugs have. Seriously, just take a look at the cover:

The basic plotline of both book and film involves Raoul Duke and his crazy attorney, Dr. Gonzo, pursuing the American Dream 70’s style – Wikipedia has a much better description of it. I’ll leave off all the stuff that cult fans know (Duke = Thompson etc) and just comment on what I thought. Which isn’t much.

My user info professes that I am currently bent on watching every film with Johnny Depp in it. It’s not that I find him that attractive (and besides, he’s happily partnered off), but since Edward Scissorhands, I’ve thought of him as a pretty damn good actor. Pirates of the Carribean only reminded me to check out his work. And here, again he shows what he can do. Duke is as quirky a character as I’ve encountered and if Thompson really was like that (he did have a pretty wild life), I’m exceedingly amused, and glad I wasn’t alive during the 60s. Depp himself is known for a relatively wild past (did any of the actors of the late 80s/early 90s escape the reputation of being ‘difficult’?) but the way he can become a different character is amazing. And the cameos…Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz…the cameos were amusing. ^^

But this is a film I couldn’t really appreciate. The American Dream is mentioned many times by Duke, and the juxtaposition of it against the hippie, drug-happy culture of the time would have been so uncomfortable to the conservative Baby Boomers at the time. Was it meant to caricature the pursuit of money that is meant to lead to a better life? That was my interpretation of it, but I wonder what Thompson was thinking when he wrote the novel in the first place. Recommendation: read the novel first.

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The last film I borrowed was Onegin, based on Alexander Pushkin’s tale of love and obsession. Evgeny Onegin’s inheritance leads to his meeting with the beautiful and spirited Tatyana Ladin, but set in a Russia where aristocracy is filled with meaningless practices, it can lead only to tragedy.

This film is a Fiennes family affair – Martha Fiennes directs her brother in the title role, with Sophie also acting and Magnus composing the score. The DVD’s extras tell a long story – Ralph was the force behind the film, he was the one who got it made, because he felt that Evgeny Onegin was a character that deserved his time on film. And Onegin’s emptiness and jadedness, his reluctance to acknowledge the existence of love (proved so right with regards to Tatyana’s sister, but so wrong for himself), comes through. Apart from the annoyance of having so watch another girl/woman with an unusual view (at the time) on her life, despite it being a view that I admire given the context of her existence, fall for a standoffish man she barely knows – or perhaps there’s the problem with cinema, there just isn’t enough time.

St. Petersburg still looks breathtakingly beautiful to me in the winter, but here, the stark white seems to represent the coldness that is ubiquitous in upperclass life there. Contrasting with the intimacy and closeness of the countryside where the first part of the story is set, the white sheets cover not only the greyness of the city, but the empty lives that live within it, holding dances and mingling as is expected of them – the life Tatyana is so disillusioned with. And the symbolism of a dark-clothed wreck in a palace of white – her last encounter with Onegin – he has been reduced to a broken man, not even a devil anymore, pleading for an angel to give in to temptation and relieve his pain.

Russian literature, or what I know of it (Anna Karenina and now this), seems to be known for its heavy themes, especially those focussing on love in a society that gives so many of its aristocrats little meaning for their existence, along with various class and political issues (the latter more for AK than for Onegin). There seems to have been a pessimism that an honourable life might lead to happiness, with ambivalence, infidel exploits or, at the other extreme, resignation, permeating the upperclass society. The tragedy in Onegin, in contrast to AK, is that Tatyana’s sense of honour won’t let her betray her husband, much as she despises the life that her true love’s previous decisions and actions have given to her. The greatest pain is hers.

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I’ll try and write the last two reviews sometime soon, along with spiels on the first episodes of various series, but it’s to those series that I now turn, at long last! 

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About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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