The Logic of Falling Down

‘The Logic of Falling Down’ sounds like the title of a collection of short stories.  This is not a collection of short stories but a look into the 1993 film Falling Down.  The title of the film itself is full of deception; is it in reference to the mental break of the main character? Or the collapse of a heavily capitalist society?  Or neither? At one point during the film I was almost certain someone was going to say Falling Down, and when they didn’t I felt sort of lead on.  The film is tricky and far more open than I thought it would be, with a real mix of morality throughout.  To understand it, I have chosen to carefully examine the two main characters of the film.

The Player

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Michael Douglas has a vast filmography and his role of D-Fens in Falling Down stands alone as his most troubled performance.  The character is the focus of the film, being the driving force as a disenfranchised defence engineer, who has recently lost his job and family.  However, apart from that, we don’t know much about him.  Even as the film progresses, his background and current life is shrouded in mystery, which in turn makes his moments of screen very singular.  It also adds a sense of confusion within the film, as both the audience and the rest of the characters struggle to work him out.  What are his motives?  The desire to be reunited with his wife and young child is certainly top of the list but there’s a feeling that he wants more than that.  There’s a dreaminess to him and an idea that he craves something beyond his reach.

His violent outbursts begin simply enough, leaving his car in a traffic jam in search of a phone booth.  From a lack of change, he begins an harassment on a Korean shopkeeper. This is the first point of the film where the morality of D-Fens is questioned, and put under investigation.  Quickly, we are put into a film where our protagonist is no hero, yet no villain.  He becomes an anti-hero with almost no likeability.  This is down to his seamless aggression, and his varying levels of race hatred.  He slides into that category of the frustrated racist, the ‘migrants are stealing American jobs’ kind of guy.  For some portion he becomes a sort of Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) type character, being upset with the cleanliness and poverty of his city.  Therefore this creates a character study film that is a look at a clearly deranged person.  A deranged person whose anger is amplified as the film goes on.

Recently an LA Weekly article was written about whether or not audiences (particularly white audiences) understood that D-Fens was the baddie in the film.  The film was released in a post Rodney King and LA riots world, which would lead me to the believe that perhaps a 90’s audience had very radical take on the film.  Did a scared 90’s white audience sympathise with D-Fens?  Were they disgusted by him, or rooting for him?  I would suggest that whatever they thought, the film would play very differently in 2017. My easily triggered mind was took back by some of D-Fens attitudes in the film, yet director Joel Schumacher never appears biased in anyway.  As far as I can tell, it is not a racist white revenge film, and is directly pointing at what frustration and abandonment can lead to.

The Reactor

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Robert Duvall is a legendary screen presence and he solidly plays Detective Prendergast in this film.  I can’t tell you how much I love that name.  His role brings a whole new set of issues that are distant from D-Fens.  It’s his last day on the job and he too has mysteries about him.  His daughter died young, his wife appears somewhat hysterical, and for the last years of his career he has been stuck to his desk, due to a shooting incident he was involved in.  The motive behind his reaction to D-Fens’ rampage is a sense of duty, and not leaving things unfinished.  There is a hero like quality to him, and a likeability that is absent from D-Fens.  Consequently his character and scenes become almost separate from the D-Fens plot, adding another layer to the film.

What is interesting is that his character is revolved around ageing and moving on, rather than being lost or not letting go.  He is a complete juxtaposition to D-Fens’ want for everything to go back to the way it was.  Prendergast is accepting in his fate, he understands his wives anguish, and his sudden numbness to the job.  This means that when the two characters finally meet, it is a mighty but calm showdown.  Instantly we are aware of the hero and villain.  Prendergast carefully dissects D-Fens and his plan to murder his family before killing himself.  This sets in stone a good and evil battle, rather than shades of grey.  It means the film has a satisfying climax, whilst also leaving unanswered questions.

Prendergast serves as foil for D-Fens and a means to an end to his crazed onslaught. However what the film does well is bring in new themes for this character so that he is not sidelined.  It balances the narrative out nicely and allows the film to be entertaining on a visceral level, rather than just a conceptual one.

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This film is a gripping watch on the surface.  It can be boiled down to a cat and mouse feature, with 80’s action sensibilities dripping into it.  The story is bold and interesting, in a world where there are more than two sides to the coin.  Looking deeper, it can viewed as picture about capital dominance.  A film about the risks of a corporate push for globalism, and the forgetting of the little guys.  D-Fens is the little guy in a suit, plagued by the heat and the sadness of losing everything he lived for.  It is a origin story of violence, of hatred and hopefully a lesson that everyone is always at the edge.

Manhunter VS Red Dragon

The relevance of these two films in 2017 may just be about dead.  Hannibal, the TV adaptation of the Thomas Harris novels, is opening them up for re-watches.  The story of Hannibal Lecter is of course now legend, thanks to the classic 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs.  Yet, what is interesting is the differences between the adaptations of the first novel.  Manhunter, released in 1986, was our first look at this world and its characters.  Red Dragon, released in 2002, was the much more mainstream edition of the story.  Together, they sit side by side as very similar but also incredibly different, down to simple stylistic abilities.

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On a basic narrative level is where the films are the most similar, which makes sense considering they are taken from the same novel.  There are several lines of dialogue that are clearly taken from the page as they are in both films.  It’s the timings and character moments when the films move away from each other.  Hannibal Lecter’s usage is one of these character moments.  In Manhunter he is used pretty sparingly, with Will Graham being more at the centre.  He dictates the story much less in this version and is only in the film for three short scenes.  In Red Dragon Lecter is very much a vital part of the plot, and often throughout the film directs Graham in his investigation.  This is due to the film having a closer relationship with The Silence of the Lambs and the success of it.  The producers clearly wanted to lean on the popularity of the Lecter character and utilise Anthony Hopkins in the role.  Manhunter, being released before The Silence of the Lambs was without the Hannibal Lecter legend and cult status, therefore he is used much less in the film.  As well as this, in Manhunter, Lecter is played by Brian Cox in a much more low-key fashion.  For me, Hopkins portrayal has always been overrated, but you cannot doubt the greater impact Hopkins has in his versions of Lecter than Cox does in his.

Lecter is not the only character in which the time spent with him is different in the two films.  Our main protagonist of Will Graham has varying weight between the films.  In Manhunter the camera spends more time on his silence and brooding.  There is more of a mystery and damage behind the character that is only brief in Red Dragon.  This is down to execution of the scenes, but also because of the different actors who play him.  William Peterson stars as Graham in Manhunter, and it’s probably his biggest ever role, which means there’s an unknown to him.  Consequently it creates a much more transfixed and dreamy character, thanks to the singular nature of it.  Whereas in Red Dragon, he is played by Edward Norton just past his peak.  The film came out post Primal Fear, Fight Club and American History X, meaning that is hard to separate the actor from the character.  Norton does a fine job, like he always does, but Peterson plays Graham so closely and with much more angst that he comes across as far more intriguing.  Often in Manhunter the film spends scenes really examining Graham and his thought process, which is where the timing of the narrative comes in.  Both films dwell on different plotlines of the story, creating different effects.  For example, they use the family of Graham to show different themes.  In Manhunter it is about Graham’s relationship with his son, and that battle for masculinity over the woman in their life.  And in Red Dragon it is much more about Graham’s relationship with his wife, and her ability to be strong without him.  These subtle differences allow the films to have different character arcs, and what I would say is that Manhunter focuses on these more.  Red Dragon is more transparent with its delivery and so Manhunter has perhaps some deeper messages hidden within it.

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Style is the massive comparison between the two films.  It’s easy to say that Manhunter is more artistic than Red Dragon and can stand alone as its own film; not part of some Thomas Harris – Hannibal Lecter universe.  However it’s the simple things and creative control that highlight this.  Manhunter is directed by Michael Mann, who shortly after went on to direct Heat, which is the definite heist film and a crime classic.  As a filmmaker he has individual look and way of storytelling.  Some of the shots in Manhunter are sparse and lonely, bland but full of depth.  He uses a wide view in most of the scenes, yet isn’t afraid to get extremely personal with the characters.  His use of colours is evident to show emotion, and there are a couple of scenes of strong blue that is prominent throughout all his work.  Mann has put his stamp on this adaptation, and it also helps that he had writing control.  This is a Mann written project and so his screenplay blends together with his directing.  The same cannot be completely said about Red Dragon.  It is not at all a badly directed film, and has moments that are pleasing on the eye, yet there is a lack of style there.  The director Brett Ratner is much less acclaimed than Mann and is certainly a poppy mainstream director.  He relies more on his cast and the story to keep the film going.  There is seldom use of techniques that make it individual and at times it is a culprit of attempting to copy The Silence of the Lambs.  This is something that Red Dragon can’t escape from, as the film has the same writer as The Silence of the Lambs.  Subsequently you quickly get a film trying to desperately replicate the success of The Silence of the Lambs, but also be separate from its director.  Ratner seems to be going scene by scene without really touching on the complexities of the story or characters.  Overall it doesn’t make the film any less entertaining, however it does leave Manhunter the more compelling watch, due to its auteur driven nature.

So far I think I’ve made it clear that my favourite of the two is Manhunter.  Despite this, I like Red Dragon for a multitude of reasons, the main being its remarkable cast.  I’ve already mentioned Ed Norton, but alongside him is Harvey Keitel, who I think is slight miscast because he’s caught between the straight up nature of Jack Crawford from The Silence of the Lambs and the more laid back nature of Crawford from Manhunter.  There is the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, possibly my most beloved actor, playing the slimy reporter.  And then Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson in a wonderful pairing.  Fiennes plays the villain with much more vivacity than Tom Noonan in Manhunter and he is the king of many scenes in the film.  The Emily Watson character as the love interest of killer Fiennes is much more fleshed out and her empathy in the film is really beautiful.  She does an excellent job of bringing another element to the film quite late on.  This ensemble cast means that the big moments in the film are exciting, as there is Hollywood finesse to it.

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To conclude all of this rambling, both films are great on different levels.  Manhunter is becoming a film I love more every time I watch it, because of its nuances and its care with the source material.  It is crafted stunningly together by Michael Mann, and sits almost like 70’s independent auteur film, whilst also having some 80’s romp sensibilities.  The darkness and pacing is balanced so well, putting it on a must watch list.  Red Dragon sits well as a follow up, yet prequel, to The Silence of the Lambs, and if you ignore the weird ageing of the recurring characters it can be brutally entertaining.  It loses its shine after a couple of watches, but holds up under inspection thanks to two great performances in Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson.  Summing up, no one cares about the intricacies of these films like I do; it’s just interesting to look at two films that have the same content but vastly different styles.  It’s a great example of what makes a quality film, rather than just a mainstream attempt of pulling in an audience.  The Silence of the Lambs will always be the classic view of this world, and the TV show is viscerally enjoyable, however you shouldn’t sleep on a great like Manhunter or a convincing tale like Red Dragon.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 & A Sitcom Set-up

I haven’t written anything on here in over a month and haven’t been particularly inspired by any films lately.  The first Guardians of the Galaxy was pretty dull post cinema.  There is something about a big-budget blockbuster that makes it lose its shine on the re-watch on a smaller screen.  In the cinema (I saw it in iMAX 3D) it was entertaining and the visuals were actually quite mesmerising, but watching it again felt like a chore.  I got about half way and thought ‘I’ve seen this, so whats the point’.  There is a limit to most of the Marvel films, even ones as edgy as the first Guardians.  Now, coming out of the sequel, I felt like the film may have more longevity.

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For a start, it is far more character driven than it is plot driven.  The plot is thin and loose and writer/director James Gunn is focusing more on the interplay between the characters.  A lot of this, like many major films, appears like added fat, however there are certain arcs that are interesting.  For example Yondu played by Michael Rooker is a conflicted criminal with far more baggage than first seems.  He is equally compassionate as he is evil, and the criminal underbelly he is a member of is probably the most intriguing part about this world.  This character driven plot allows the film to have more compelling set pieces, because they basically mean nothing.  If there is no plot behind an action scene, then the director can play with it more due to it not really needing a place to end up.

One way that Gunn does this, is through a comedic set-up, and in a way a sitcom one. There is a scene in this film where Rocket (Brad Coops) and Yondu are held captive by the hilarious space pirate Tazer-face.  To escape, they need the help of Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), who is free because he is ‘too adorable to be killed’.  What follows is Rocket and Yondu trying to explain to Groot what they need to escape (Yondu’s head thing) and he keeps coming back with the wrong thing.  Okay, so firstly, why is this scene here?  It is here because it leads to another set piece (a mass murder one), but mostly so that Gunn can present something to the audience.  He can present something that is both funny and incongruous to the rest of the film.  The whole scene plays out like a sitcom-misunderstanding premise.  It is like watching a scene from Seinfeld or Porridge, and it had the whole screening in fits of laughter.  James Gunn is presenting a piece of art here, a moment to strike a particular emotion from the audience, rather than piece in a puzzle that reaches a ‘satisfying end’.

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All of the best films in history have been about the journey and not the destination. Guardians of the Galaxy is an anomaly in a bloated Marvel Universe, where the writer/director has creative control over the project.  And in this sequel, he plays around a lot more with it.  He is able to craft a film of his choosing, and mould together scenes that are expertly put together and humorous in content.  The greater themes of loss and mortality never really land, but I think it’s remarkable the scope of film-making that is achieved in this cluster of a space adventure.

Free Fire: Film Review

There is a two problems that come when you are excited to see a film.  The first being that it will never live up to your expectations, and the second being that it can make you ignorant to the films faults.  Ben Wheatley’s new film Free Fire is my most anticipated film so far this year, and so these problems do arise.  This review is an attempt to move past those problems and mark the film on its own merit.

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The set up is simple, it’s Boston in 1978 and the IRA are in town to buy some guns.  They meet, via a couple of middlemen, a dealer and his goons in an abandoned warehouse. Through some coincidences and ambiguous antics the nights before, tensions arise and quickly a 60 minute shootout begins.

Now Wheatley is directly playing with genre conventions here.  He is taking a small piece of action movies and stretching it out to cover almost all of the run time.  There is an element of picking and choosing genre devices to use as plot points.  For example, it’s a period piece, yet set in the middle of nowhere.  This means he can use 1978 by having the IRA at the centre, and abandon any use of mobile phones.  Consequently the plot becomes isolated and grounded around one premise.  The premise – build up doesn’t last that long either, and the opening has enough time to establish all of the players.  Without much time passing, we are familiar with traits of each character.  Then, as the film plays out, these traits are fleshed out in correlation with the characters actions.  What I’m trying to say is that the premise and genre selections allowed the shootout to make sense on a narrative level.  The writing of the plot allows the deus ex machina’s to be sidelined by a coherent purpose.  This is all minor stuff if you put it against the film as a whole, but I think it’s brilliantly done, because without it there would be no weight to all the shooting.

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When the shooting comes, it is cartoonish, yet it was more visceral than I was expecting. The film definitely has moments of Kill List (Wheatley’s first feature), as the violence is graphic and at times quite sadistic.  This worked for me and sat side by side in the grounded nature of the plot and characters.  Bullets are flying everywhere and it’s shot in a style where it is not completely clear who is shooting who.  There are quick cuts and shaky footage as concrete blocks ricochet, which at times makes the film quite disorientating.  I think perhaps this might unsettle some viewers, though I feel there is enough gravity to each bullet fired to make it an entertaining performance.  There was a real impact every time someone got hit or injured, often by their own failings.  A lot of this comes down to technical design, and the team behind the sound and the set deserve the credit for this.  Every character is crawling in pain for at least half of the film and the moments of quietness are what make the louder moments so enthralling.

The films shines as just a piece of sheer enjoyment.  Sharlto Copley is fantastic as arms dealer Vernon, who manages to be hilarious with every line of dialogue, and Armie Hammer is unbelievably charming and nuanced as the main middle man Ord.  These two characters alone are why the film is such a pleasure to watch.  However there is also a feeling of heroism in the film, with Cillian Murphys IRA buyer Chris taking on a role that you can root for.  He even has a budding romance with Brie Larson’s Justine, who is in some of the trickiest scenes of the film. All of these personalities jell together and the art of dialogue flow is incredibly well done between them.  Wheatley has crafted a room full of psychopaths trying to kill each other, whilst also inviting them to be likeable and cared about.  The film certainly has a lighthearted tone because of this, but does dip into somewhere dark every now and then.

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It is safe to say I have gushed about this film too much, though like Green Room last year, it is a film almost made directly for me.  A film with interesting characters, that never dwells on the drama nor looks past it.  A film with a limited amount of ways to breathe, that keeps a focus throughout.  The tone of the film leads it to be desperately fun from the opening credits, and the execution is just as remarkable as the idea of a feature long shootout.  Must watch.

The Lost City of Z – Film Review

An exploration adventure flick is what I was hoping for, and I got something a lot different. I am aiming to explain why I still enjoyed the film despite some fatal flaws.

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This is the true-life story of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), a solider and explorer in the early 20th century, tasked with charting parts of South America.  Alongside companion Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), he soon discovers the traces of an Ancient city.  From this we get a tale of an abandoned family back home and a real desire to embark upon something special.

In the film it’s pronounced ‘zed’, though it might as well have not been pronounced at all, because the picture definitely exceeds its grasp.  Telling a true to life tale can always be tentative, but perhaps director James Gray was too careful when approaching this.  The story itself is an interesting one.  It’s a story about great exploration and conflict, one of a broken family and loss.  Yet despite this, it never really comes together like that.  What ends up happening is that we get a competent drama that involves some of those things.  The narrative has this awkward pace that leaves gaps in these stories, and they never connect to one another.  Just as we settle into one scenario we are onto the next in quick succession.  On some level this works, because I wasn’t bored during the film, but the emptiness left me disappointed.

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Unfortunately the film is plagued by an awful Charlie Hunnam performance in the lead and it pretty much scars the entire film as he’s in almost every scene.  He is extremely blank in this role and often just feels present as an actor, rather than the character.  I don’t want to assassinate the guy but in this film he has the charisma of a paper bag.  He spews line after line with such wooden and dull delivery.  The material isn’t great and a lot of the dialogue is incongruous, which doesn’t leave him much to work with.  However the writing can’t be blamed for his ability to literally take all the energy out of a scene.  This film could have easily been boosted to a higher standard with a different actor in the role, and that’s such a shame.

There are some positives to the movie (quite a lot of them actually).  First of, the supporting cast is excellent.  I found myself wanting more Robert Pattinson, because he appeared to have an actual character and moulded into the role far more Hunnam did.  There is a quietness to him, which allow there to be a mystery with his character and this in turn makes him incredibly watchable.  Sienna Miller is the heart of the film as the left behind spouse of Percy, and thankfully takes control of some of the scenes she shares with Hunnam.  She is a complex character; torn between wanting her own adventure and letting her husband have his.  Miller balances it well and I was relieved when ever it cut back to her in England.  The other parts where the film shines is during its moments of action.  Now not all of it is executed perfectly, due to the weird gaps I was talking about, however for the most part these scenes are tense enough.  The conflicts with the native tribes are shot nicely and this adds some much needed excitement into the film.  And overall the film is shot well.  I enjoyed the colour palette of the rich greens and it works effectively as a period piece.  It becomes more vibrant aesthetically, and also narratively in its final third; I think thanks to a solid Tom Holland role as Percy’s son. His character joins up late to the film and is able to give the film a sense of purpose finally.

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To conclude this film is not bad at all, and I definitely settled into it as it went on.  It’s tarnished by a flat central performance and the directors constant habit eradicating intriguing story arcs. My hopes of a colourful adventure were distinguished early on, and the thing that replaced that didn’t make it up to my imaginations high standards.  It’s a watchable movie and is dense enough to be worth your ticket price; I just hope James Gray has more control of his material, and hires a better actor for his protagonist in his next project.

 

Side-note:  I missed the first five minutes of the film as I was hopping from screen to screen trying to find the right one.

S/cene [2]: Fight Club

First edition (The Social Network): https://insiderobbie.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/scene-1-the-social-network/

(There is a serious David Fincher theme going on here)

The Middle Children of History

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This scene comes around about 70 minutes into the feature.  The club is established and we are past the insomnia and therapy session character introductions.  It is a turning point of the film, as from here the film begins to spiral into the franchise narrative.

It opens with a low angle shot looking up at Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) in the basement of the bar where they hold the club, and immediately we know who the king of this room is. He’s dressed in his usual casual attire and is smoking a cigarette.  The camera pans up.  He turns and says “I see a lot of new faces”.  The other men are revealed in the background out of focus, and they laugh at this.  It then cuts to close-ups of a couple of the guys and it goes silent when Tyler says: “Shut up”.  There is no doubt who is in control here.  The camera stays behind him for a few moments, with only up from his shoulders visible.  Still the men are out focus listening intently.  More cuts to close ups then back to Tyler as he starts pacing the room.  The lighting, like most of the film is dark, yet Tyler is illuminated over the others by his white T-shirt.

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He walks around, the camera following, as he spiels his ‘Middle Children of History’ speech.  Pitt is ferocious in his delivery as he discusses squandered potential and a loss of a male generation.  The camera stays still as he’s still and moves when he moves.  His relationship with the lens is kinetic and extremely intense.  Fincher is forcing you to pay attention.  The quotable lines are endless; “our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression, is our lives” is a personal favourite of mine.  As the last line of rhetoric comes the camera slowly moves into Pitt’s face, to emphasise the climax to the speech.  Fincher is closing on his message, and suddenly the other men are vocal as the camera cuts above Tyler.  He begins to repeat the Fight Club rules when the sound of the basement door is heard.

From here it cuts to a lovely focus pull from Tyler to the Narrator (Edward Norton) as they turn to look at who is entering the basement. We see two large men stumbling down the stairs, both dressed stereo-typically like Italian mobsters.  When they reach the bottom of the stairs one of the men is revealed to have a gun, and on this everyone in the room backs off, except for Tyler.  There is a great bit of dialogue where Lou states him self as a player in the scene by saying “There’s a sign above the bar that says Lou’s tavern, I’m fucking Lou, who the fuck are you?”.  It cuts between Lou and Tyler as they posture their Alpha male status.  Tyler is hanging, with some of his physique on show, and this is just one of many instances where Fincher (quite possible on purpose) sexualises his character.  Lou is speaking heavily but the camera does not move with him like it did with Tyler, simply because this is not his domain.  Tyler has all the respect here.  Lou punches him in the stomach and the Narrator flinches in the background, which if you know the film, is a subtle plot clue.

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Quickly the camera is looking up at Lou and down on Tyler, showing that violence breeds power in the scene.  Our first bit of blood comes as Tyler taunts Lou to hit him more.  Then, another lovely focus pull comes as the men approach in the background after one of the hits. The gun then comes into play in an almost point of view shot pointing at the men. They veer backwards and make the gun the most important object in the scene.  Will it be Checkov’s gun? Will it be fired by the end of the scene?  The tightness and tension of the scene is exaggerated by Fincher’s close ups of the men and the weapon.  No-one moves. Tyler’s cackling laugh is incongruous and echoing as he jesters to the Narrator to trust him.  More taunting from Tyler and more aggression from Lou as he beats Tyler to a pulp. Then the Dust Brother’s soundtrack begins, with the camera cutting erratically from Tyler to Lou.  Tyler joking, Lou beating.  More blood is apparent as Lou steps up to leave Tyler and the music quietens with him.  Then out of nowhere, Tyler leaps on top of Lou spraying blood all over him.  The sounds and visuals are repulsive as Tyler rubs his face in Lou’s repeating “You don’t know where I’ve been Lou!”.  It is both disgusting and humorous, a line that Fincher often stands on.  Men are being sick in the background as the cuts get quicker and quicker, Lou is squirming.  He finally gives in to Tyler’s onslaught and leaves him riling on the floor.

I love this scene because it’s balanced so well.  We go from deep philosophical thought to an all out visceral attack on the senses.  This to and fro and fluttering between genres is one of the many reasons this is one of my favourite films of all time.  Fincher’s attention to detail is unmatched and this scene highlights that.  Everything is perfect from the lighting to the costumes and every shot is just so dense with flavour.  The homework scene follows and that is brilliant in a totally different way.  Fincher really is the master, but also I believe this is Brad Pitt’s finest moment.  He is breathtaking in this scene and shows a real sense of intensity and range.  I encourage anyone to take a closer look at this scene, and the entire film, because there is so much to find.

The Matrix and Becoming a Cinephile

You can take the word cinephile anywhere you want; the definition would be told as a ‘fondness of cinema’, which is not what I really gauge from it.  To be described as a cinephile you have to have a film knowledge that is far vaster than mine.  However I’m certainly over the edge towards being a cinephile and The Matrix is one of the films that gave me a push. I saw it on video when I was about 10 and i’m hopefully going to explain the impact it had on me.  The impact being that now film is basically my centre of gravity and certainly a guide in my life.

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The box that encased the video tape was beautiful, well is beautiful, it still sits under my bed at home. It had that thing where the letters and pictures stuck out from the rest and you could feel them with your fingers. There was no latch but it sort of folded into itself. it was a cool video and has survived, with a few others, the switch to DVD and then the switch to digital. This alone sold me on the idea of film being an important art form. Forget the cynical marketing view and accept the beauty of the case, meaning that it must be protecting something special inside.  I remember the 15 certificate logo vividly and it was probably the second 15 I had seen after Die Hard.  It was the first one that I watched without my parents.

Green is the first thing that comes into my head when I think of watching The Matrix as a kid. That lovely envious tint that the movie has over it. It gives it a sense of uniqueness and it certainly sticks in my memory. Watching it again recently I was surprised by how brilliant the film-making behind it is.  Each scene on a technical level is choreographed with incredible precision and it allows the film to move dynamically.  By this I mean the film transitions from shot to shot with freedom and it breathes as a painting with each motion.  The characters are placed exactly in the right spots and the camera is with them as they run, shoot and fight.  In the quieter moments the mise-en-scene is dense and the characters mould into every scene. This is all just on a technical level, and the Wachowski’s ability to portray threat and create excitement through the moving image.

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Then you mention the contextual parts, and the open-mindedness of the narrative.  The story of reality and imagination weaved amongst a tale of a hero fighting a villain.  A hero realising their potential through a series of  grounding encounters.  Grounding being the key word as it is the films closeness to the Earth that keeps it compelling. You are thrown down the rabbit by a notion of a simulated world but kept afloat by a string of tangible problems.  The Wachowskis effectively never let you lift off to that dream world, and keep you firm on their arc of pure entertainment.

Now, imagine seeing all that at 10 years old.  My impressionable mind was mesmerised by the action, that was not only explicitly violent, but also cool in every aspect.  I wanted to be Neo in the wavy jacket and sunglasses dodging bullets.  Perhaps what I didn’t realise at the time was that I wanted to be thrilled by films of a similar nature.  It had suddenly come to me that there is a world of film out there that replicates this, and The Matrix is a small cog in a big wheel. From there, film became an independent love.  It was about my connection to movies, and their ability to change my perspective on the world. The Matrix is timeless, and watching it recently I took more out of it than ever.  It sits proudly as the catalyst for the coming of age of my film obsession.

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