Thursday, January 31, 2013

Various Letterboxd Scribblings

My writing productivity has been low of late and, as usual, the quality hasn't been anything to write home about but I have written about two (two!) films on letterboxd. Neither of these scribblings are as holistic as I'd like and neither really talks about formal elements but, uh, here they are.

I Saw the Devil
Rote plot twists and suspense beats turn what should be an unnerving descent into moral hell into yet another tired revenge thriller. If Kim really wanted to put his hero through a meat grinder he could have made a noir film in which the protagonist is constantly, inexorably drawn towards his fate. Instead I Saw the Devil employs constant cat and mouse set pieces where the question is less about what will be left of the hero and more about who will survive. (To say nothing of the misplaced but apparently obligatory use of black humor to close out the second act.)

If I Saw the Devil is good at anything it's in providing a short hand glimpse into the logic of misogyny and goosing its male audience with shots that threaten to make them complicit in sexual violence. Kim's camera lingers unnervingly on things no audience should reasonably want to look at in quite a different way from, say, the unambiguously outraged gaze of Fincher's camera in his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But again, this is the audience being made complicit in an unnerving way. If only Kim was able to do the same for his protagonist.

Seven Psychopaths
Plays like a Cabin in the Woods for mouthy, British gangster films. Which is to say that it's often clever and funny but rarely more incisive then the average blog post bemoaning Guy Ritchie's oeuvre or lamenting the state of modern horror. I mean, pointing out that women rarely get substantial roles in crime films isn't exactly the stuff of which incisive critiques are made, and it doesn't help that, much like The Cabin in the Woods, it wants to have its objectifying cake and eat it too.