Wednesday, February 11, 2009

more like mildly amusing games

Funny Games was alright. It wasn't terrible, but it felt lame. The beginning was promising - I loved the metal and the red block letters and the laughing, but I guess the Range Rover drove right into the preppy white sterility of the rest of the film.

Funny Games was incredibly stylized - the glacial, blonde pair of psychos is sickeningly polite and eerily smooth even when wielding golf clubs or suffocating a child. The house was beautiful, white, and nearly empty and made the imprisonment even more unnerving. The deliberate blandness was almost too much, though, and at times the real-time movement was, dare I say, boring. But I liked how the film managed to invoke claustrophobia and agoraphobia all at once, closing in on this tiny, perfect family trapped in their own airy, perfect summer cottage. The irony is strong.

I found myself more disturbed than I'd like to admit, but it still felt like a mediocre effort at violence shock. At the same time, though, what can be done that hasn't before? Short of a snuff film or, I don't know, literally dismembering infants, or something, how much more violent can American cinema get? THe answer, I think, is not so much. I think, especially with recent releases like the most recent Hostel and Saw installations, we've degenerated to stylized, glossy torture pornography. Not so much my thing, but obviously someone's, I guess. They were both pretty big hits.

So Funny Games accomplished what it set out to do. It was provocative, violent, and challenged my physical comfort. But it was also kind of a disappointment. It felt vaguely stupid and unoriginal. I feel like it didn't bring anything to the metaphorical table in the way of shocking brutality or disarming coolness that Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange or Hitchcock's Rope hadn't already. What I'm trying to say is that I don't know if we're really so shocked by these things anymore. Director Michael Haneke said that the film was made "with American audiences in mind" and challenge "Hollywood's attitude towards violence," that he wanted to "rape the viewer into independence," but afterwards I got up feeling more like I'd gotten a lecherous look on the city bus: a half-hearted, lazy- if sincere- attempt at violation.

Off to read Aeropagitica!

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