Tuesday, June 28, 2011

E(very) P(esticide) A(pproved)

"Vanishing of the Bees" is a documentary about CCD - Colony Collapse Disorder. If you haven't been keeping informed, honeybee colonies have been basically disappearing in large numbers over the last few years.

Apparently it has come in conjunction with the uses of new systemic pesticides. These last a long time, but were only tested (by their manufacturer) in large doses in a one time application. The EPA approved their use. After honeybees are exposed, the pesticide gets into their food supply, into their offspring and about six months later, CCD. The bees abandon the hive, leaving only babies and the queen. The ramifications are widespread, for bees, our food supply and probably for humans and human children as well.

This film conveys a lot of important knowledge and I highly recommend seeing it. Two last thoughts: the French EPA (whatever they call it) supposedly runs on the basis that what you don't know can hurt you. Our EPA does not.

And perhaps the most obvious evidence from the film that we have a very screwed up relationship with the environment: the bee keeper that called his bees "equipment." That is an indication of a very serious problem indeed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Resnais' "Night and Fog"

I made a decision recently to try and write a post on this blog about every film I watch in its entirety. Unfortunately, I just watched Alain Resnais' "Night and Fog." After watching his "Hirsohima Mon Amour" for a class paper, and feeling a pretty deep connection to it, I felt I needed to finally see this earlier film of Resnais.

It is about the Nazi death camps, a documentary of the shells of the places which held such horrors. It is a short film, just over half an hour, and should be seen by everyone. It is not a film I feel the need to write much about. However, right before watching it, I caught a promo on TCM for "Judgment at Nuremburg" in which Spencer Tracy, as a judge, speaks the following line:

"...this is what we stand for: justice, truth... and the value of a single human being!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Postscript on The Tree of Life

"Exactly, it's the mystery," says Nino Quincampoix. "You won't find it here!"      replies the sex shop proprietress.
Avoiding the inevitable, I found myself re-watching "Amelie" this morning, right after my last post on "The Tree of Life." The above quote describes "The Tree of Life" perfectly. 
This is the problem with Malick's film - there is no mystery. He presents the   world literally, expecting us to be awed by it.
"Amelie" presents a world of awe - mythically - and we ARE awed by it. Somehow, the theme of both films is the same. 
One is presented literally, one mythically. Just re-watch "Amelie."

And the 2012 Academy Award for Cinematography Goes To...

Emmanuel Lubezki, for "The Tree of Life." A very good cinematographer outdoes himself in collaboration with Terrence Malick. Every shot is excellent, camera movement amazing. I was compelled to watch simply because of the beauty of what was up on the screen.

Unfortunately, the cinematography was the only element compelling enough to keep me watching. When a couple stood and left just before the credits rolled, I realized I had wished to do just that many times over the last two and a half hours. Just how much did the jumbled concept and narrative contrast with the camera work? There are three young boys in the film. Sean Penn plays one of them as an adult. My friend and I, with a random third guy that heard us talking and sidled up, each thought Penn was playing a different child as an adult. I think I at least got that one right, but that says it all.

Just what was this film about? I am tempted to be swayed by my myth and depth psychology studies and say "the shadow." Some of the beautiful shots we see most often are of the shadows of children, and others, dancing and twisting along the earth, often on concrete. And the shadow side of a person, where all the unacknowledged, undeveloped yet still percolating traits sink to lie dormant, looking for ways to get expressed, easily explain the madness of every character here. Repression only lasts so long before the dam bursts.

But Malick's film tries so much more - I think - that this shadow play running through the film gets bombastically paralleled by what I can only guess is supposed to be the grandeur of the creator God. The film starts with a Bible quote from Job and proceeds to show the Big Bang and evolution, microbes and dinosaurs, planets and huge tidal waves. Set to some sort of religious choral music, it is the anti-"2001: A Space Odyssey." If these scenes of multiple and wildly messy upheavals as life and matter gets created in a billion random ways are supposed to suggest a human-like god planning every step of creation, I suggest it does the exact opposite.

So it then seems the film re-focuses on the smaller family story, on the choice humans have: to live in the state of nature, defined here as choosing pleasure for yourself or following a strict orderly life, or the state of grace, defined here as - what? The only explication I could find was that grace means living and loving. Truly loving, not just going through the motions as the father does.

But then there are those dinosaurs. One is shown lame, laying in a river bed. Another, different dinosaur comes running up to it, presumably for an easy meal. After stepping on the lame one's head, it looks down and then leaves. Without eating it. Is Malick suggesting the dinosaur chose grace - to love the fallen brethren - rather than nature - to eat it? While a really wonderful idea, it's rather silly.

There are other plot points from the narrative with the family that make little sense, mostly concerning when and how the youngest brother dies exactly. As a little tale of being raised in a 1950's family of conformity with bitter anger running through them behind the walls of their home, this works pretty well. Combine it with the scenes of god-creation and some incredibly ridiculous ending of dead people reuniting with the living, and you have a massive debacle.

But what an amazing debacle to watch. Perhaps the ad they are featuring, composed of multiple shots from the film, tells all. Come for the cinematography. Leave when it's done.