Tuesday, February 04, 2003

a philosophical take on progressive rock is what Avant Rock (another haul from AFPL) promises to be. Bill Martin is first and foremost a writer of philosophical ideas. He has brought this intellectual baggage to the musical domain to produce other interesting books, but this will my first taste of his writing. The first couple of chapters are full of those references to authors and important thinkers of the domain of philosophy and classical music that I fail to understand (and hence appreciate). But there's the interesting notion of materialism, which has encouraged me to press on. Keep an open mind, I say.

The public library is also a place to find reading treasures ... for cheap. I picked up my first Clive Barker book The Inhuman Condition for 2 quarters and a brand-new hardbound edition of AntiPatterns for 4. A good deal methinks, which helped cloud the obvious irritation at the undergoing construction at the nearby train station.

governing dynamics

So close to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari I caught A Beautiful Mind yesterday evening. There's a common theme of loss of contact with reality, but only this and nothing more. The biggest grouse I had was that the public library (where I picked this DVD as well as The Royal Tenenbaums and Strangers on a Train) has also gone the BlockBuster way of reinventing the horror of full screen versions of movies, unfaithful to their original widescreen vision. More and more consumers who don't give two bits to filmic authenticity and intention are purchasing DVD players and the nightmare begins all over again (history does indeed repeat itself). Despite its trappings of a "made for Oscar" film, A Beautiful Mind is a very engaging film. This despite my constant uncomplimentary vision of director Ron Howard as the actor from Eat My Dust. The beautiful talented Jennifer Connelly offers able support to the over-criticised Russell Crowe in a role that deserved more from the writing department. John Nash's story is one of many uplifting stories of human struggle and achievement and there are undoubtedly numerous complexities that would have been interesting to tackle but would fail to fly in the domain of the big studio big-budget mass audience market which this film is made for. Don't get me wrong. This is a far far better film than most other Oscar-fests that abound in sentimental tripe and scenic pornography (with post-modern Max Steiner-esque floods of string sections). The device used to give the audience an idea of Nash's schizophrenia is an old one ... even recent viewers of The Sixth Sense can see it coming a mile away, but it gives Ed Harris' excellent performance an added edge of dread and menace. Especially fulfilling is the car chase sequence which (if you are paying attention to the detail instead of the movie) is executed (with good accompaniment from James Horner) as a dream sequence, where the horror of the action is underplayed by the expected shock and surprise of Nash at the goings-on about him. None of the other elements (the sub-dermal access code, the drop zone, the encounters with William Parcher) are played for their gothic undertones. They function to bring the audience over into Nash's (beautiful) mind, which is what the film is about. I liked the scenes like the inevitable pen ceremony in the tea room and Nash's acceptance speech at the Nobel (didn't someone notice it's spelt Nobel and not Noble?!), which could have succumbed to the lure of saccharine sentimentality and Kleenex breaks, but continue to float on Ron Howard's determination to make the best film he could in the thankless constrained mainstream genre that it would be slotted in.

My only grouse is that everyone else but Nash who is a significant supporting entity in his saga (including his wife Alicia) fades into the scenery as a prop for the most part without enough multi-dimensional treatment that would have made this film more satisfying beyond its evident aspects.

As an aside, my liking this film is probably a good sign. It's about time we got back to enjoying movies instead of seeking subcutaneous meanings to understand and elucidate. The simple things are often the toughest things to do.

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