Desert Warriors and The Problem with Dune (1984).

I’ve seen Dune more times than I really should have.  I’ve gone through phases with it and in 2013 I wrote the following…

“Although not perfect (what film is?) it’s a great big, weird and ballsy piece of sci-fi.  What really feels right is the savage nature of the world in which it’s set both in terms of the political / societal set up and hardness of the dessert planet Arrakis.  Everything in this film is life and death.  Highly Recommended.”

Having finally seen it with an audience, on a screen larger than my TV, I’ve got to admit that it’s a bad movie.  I’ve ended up here because my mind connected a shot of Alia, the young sister of the main character, with Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

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It’s hard to believe that the reference isn’t intentional, that Lynch isn’t invoking Lean.  Both stories feature outsiders leading desert warriors in military campaigns that are linked to larger political games.  The Middle Eastern influences in Dune are front and centre and so is the importance of a precious natural resource.  When O’Toole’s Lawrence dances, it’s because he’s infatuated with his robes and his shadow is his partner, he can’t help but check his reflection in his dagger.  Alia is similarly lost in herself and that’s why the shot is so striking, it’s the one moment in Dune in which a character isn’t pushing the plot forward or saddled with overly obvious inner monologue.   The two texts touch for one moment.  The big difference is that Lawrence… has subtext (voiced perfectly in that scene) and is alive, Dune is dead because it has none.

 

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Proof of Concept

I’ve just worked my way through the available videos in Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studio project on YouTube and I think they’re really worth your time. Like his earlier short films all the videos are full of ideas and wonderful / haunting images, and their incomplete concept feel is part of the charm. Unlike his feature films they don’t outstay their welcome.

Rakka is clearly the stand out but every short does it’s own peculiar thing and it’s an hour well spent that’ll leave you looking forward to the release of the next video, Zygote, on 12 July.

The Keep (1982) is on NetflixUK.

I noticed last night that Micheal Mann’s The Keep (1983) is currently available on Netflix UK.  Despite being screened occasionally on Film4 this is welcome news for anyone still clinging onto their VHS or, like me, their poor laserdisc to DVD copy.  Unlike the Amazon rental the Netflix version retains the widescreen format even if the picture quality isn’t brilliant (although it’s as good as I’ve seen it).

Of course, referring to the film as ‘Michael Mann’s The Keep’ is slightly misleading as he has all but disowned it and it lingers unloved with no notable DVD release let alone a Blu Ray.  The film is also disowned by F. Paul Wilson who wrote the novel on which it is based and didn’t like the changes made by Mann.  Fans of the book can get a better idea of what Wilson had in mind for the movie by reading the comic book adaptation, which is essentially his version of the film.  A feature length documentary about the film was due for release in 2013 but is yet to appear with pre-orders currently suspended.

Despite all this, I still quite like the film.  Even with it’s weaknesses it’s full of interesting ideas and images, a decent cast, and has a score by Tangerine Dream.  Unloved and uneven I think The Keep is a great piece of cult cinema

Offcuts: In (no real) Defence of Sony.

So let’s just get one thing straight.  What happened to The Interview (2014?) is outrageous.  It’s censorship plain and simple.  It’s a gross act.  It’s blackmail.  It’s also a real shame that Sony have pulled the film from release (don’t get me wrong it looks about as funny as one might expect but censorship is not, and never should be, a value issue) but are they really ‘cowards’ or comparable to Neville Chamberlain?

Seems to me that the cowardice belongs entirely to North Korea and it’s demented tyrant child leader rather than Sony, a company that has already been attacked, has done the sums and sees that they don’t add up.  A company that works in an industry where art is a by-product of sales.  Well, this is capitalism folks, this is the ‘market is always right’.  This is a world where we have swallowed the cool-aid and accepted the twisted notion that corporations are people then get all upset when they don’t encompass the best that actual humans (you know, ‘people’) can be.

Have Sony behaved any worse than a film company who spends a year digitally replacing the flag of one nation with another because the bad guys d’jour turned out to be a decent market share (and they all look alike don’t they)?  Or a company that buys foreign film rights in order to block their distribution?  Or companies that prop up a ratings board economically censoring anything that strays outside of the heteronormative and denying a voice / representation to millions?

…but popular sentiment says that Sony, an entity who’s whole reason for being is itself, is Chamberlain and plenty of multi-millionaires who, as well as having the luxury of not having had a demented country attack and threaten them, could buy the film and give it out for free get to spend their days berating them in 140 characters or less rather than actually doing something about it.

So my defence of Sony is that they, sorry, ‘it’ isn’t built to function any differently.  My disappointment is that we think ‘it’ is a real boy.

My money is on The Interview being released sooner rather than later and everyone ends up annoyed, feeling slightly played and people mistake corporate self-interest for bravery.  Meanwhile no one learns any more about the dreadful situation that the North Korean people find themselves in but the leader has a funny haircut so, well, that’s funny.  Right?

Offcuts: Women and Wolves

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So, I found myself talking The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) a couple of nights back and it turns out that one of the scenes that really stuck with me (and, despite it’s flaws, many do) features a female employee having her head shaved for cash.  With the general commotion and marching band etc what springs to mind is a European town liberated by the Allies and the public shaming of a collaborator which again complicates what this film thinks of women…

…but this complication might actually have a rather simple answer.  Just as the film doesn’t seem to know what to actually make of it’s central character, I don’t think much consideration has been given to any of the stuff thrown up on screen.