Wednesday, February 11, 2004

metropolis and nurse betty{WARNING: spoilers}

Osama Tezuka created the original manga for Metropolis based on a poster of Fritz Lang's classic. He claimed to have never actually seen the film. If this were true, the parallels are amazing, but merely in the core ideas: Tima is the fake Maria. But everything else has a different spin. We still have the crazy scientist. The dystopia is replaced by a world where humans and robots coexist uneasily, with zones for social classes. The focal point is a Ziggurat, a complex tower where the mecha Tima will rule the world (There are explicit references to the Tower of Babel, something more explicit in Lang's original). There are even generous fade-out/fade-in irises and dissolves. Wonderful visuals and moments with generous quotes from Triumph of the Will and Blade Runner. There are several western elements in the way the visuals and narrative fragments play out, but the most glorious achievement of the film is its coda: an apocalyptic explosion that opens with visuals backed by Ray Charles singing "I Can't Stop Loving You". The song soon cedes to the diegetic sounds of the Ziggurat crumbling, and explosions all around. As the rubble settles and we reach closure: the Ziggurat is destroyed, Tima is now a hero to the other robots, and the little red transistor radio we have seen before continues to echo Tima's fundamental question: "Who am I?". Go watch it.

Nurse Betty: All I knew about this film when I picked it up was that I had heard about it. Pretty slim background for me. Yet, it was probably a good thing. The film itself is a modern version of The Wizard of Oz (note the numerous references in the movie) mixed with a recursive soap-opera-within-a-soap-opera and character parallels between two unlike people: Betty (Reese Witherspoon, in a wonderful performance), sweet oblivious innocent, married to a philandering criminal jerk, serving coffee to people at the Tip Top, and fixated on the lead doctor in the TV soap A Reason To Love; Charlie: an aging hitman (or, in his own words, "a garbage man of the human soul") who believes in the angelic aura of Betty and a special purpose for her existence as he trails her along with his reckless son down the "yellow brick road". Everything that unfolds in this film takes its time, and if you follow the narrative carefully, the end is very very rewarding. And there has never been more appropriate irony than in the use of "Que Sera Sera" on the soundtrack. Jay Livingstone (who wrote the song with Ray Evans) got his song from the family motto of Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini (Rozzano Brazzi) in The Barefoot Contessa. That little Italian angle comes back in full bloom.
TRIVIA: Sheila Kelly who has a brief role here as Dell Sizemore's secretary was also in the other soap operatic flick I enjoyed called Soapdish (besides being on L. A. Law). {shooting script}

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