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Revisited a film blog I used to read. Groggy's a cinephile, which for some reason goes hand in hand with a certain slightly (or less slightly) pretentious-sounding style of writing, especially in males, but Groggy's better than most, I think. He's down-to-earth enough not to land on the super-intellectual side, and intellectual enough not to land on the other side - I'm not sure what to call it - basically the blockbuster-consuming side that can get particularly pretentious because they're too much "of the moment". His reviews are analytical, well-worded and well-rounded. He's got a solid background in cinematographic history, he's fairly good at admitting his biases, and he's got the good sense to understand that repeated viewings can change one's mind. So all in all, I respect his opinions.

Anyway, I came across his old review of The Nun's Story (which I haven't seen, and now want to), and this:

"Even worse, a seemingly never-ending chain of Hollywood films and TV shows seems grimly determined to convince us that religion is a sham, and religious people are inherently evil - murderers, pedophiles, or hypocrites all."

Goodness gracious, yes. And it's not just Hollywood. A lot of British production is equally guilty. The overwhelming Czech agnosticism doesn't help.
It's pretty funny that I've seen the most sympathetic yet not equally gratingly propagandistic, fairly realistic in its universe, portrayals of Christianity / Catholicism in TV - beside the occasional moments in the Czech series ńĆetnické humoresky, and beside Murdoch Mysteries, which are both period pieces - in the German series Alarm für Cobra 11, which is an unapologetic over-the-top explosions fest, and the main character is Turkish... And I'm not even Catholic. But the fact that a lot of the film world seems equally convinced that Christianity = Catholicism doesn't help...

Oh, and Groggy's glowing recommendations of A Man for all Seasons are responsible for me having seen it eventually, and on that count I'm also very grateful to him, because that's definitely one of the better films I've seen. So if you want a good film review blog that isn't overly concerned with current blogbusters and actually delves into cinematographic history, I think I can wholeheartedly recommend him.

* * *

Speaking of films and Christianity, have any of you seen, or even heard of, Risen?
That film fascinates me, because it's so utterly, utterly fanfictiony.

I realised this because the more I thought about its strengths and its weaknesses, the more I realised I'd seen those before... in fanfiction.

The greatest of the weaknesses I saw in it is the tenth walker syndrome - the fact that the outsider protagonist joins the core canon group and plays an important role for the canon story that does not mesh well with actual canon. So there it was, fanfiction! That is, actually, exactly what it is, biblical fanfiction.

In this case, the protagonist, Clavius, eventually joins the remaining eleven disciples on their way to Gallilee and plays an important role in them actually getting there. And then, at the end of it, he's kind of left hanging, because he cannot go on being in the story as we know it. The ending isn't as bad as this makes it sound, but his previous vital role kind of grated in the way "Mary Sue-ish" moments in fanfiction are wont to do. With a few exceptions, the disciples are mostly interchangeable, which is a pity.

It's also an "outsider POV" type of piece. It's a gapfiller. It is even, to some extent, a worldbuilding type of piece (because we see a lot more of the Romans than we do in the Bible).

It also firmly follows in the tradition of casting Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, which, after reading Mika Waltari's version of her, seems like a very cheap shot. Even though I think she's otherwise treated really well. She gets to be calm in the face of intimidation and have an inner strength and reassurance, without pathos, and that's a rare yet, in my opinion, probably the most faithful portrayal of actual faith.

It's pretty uneven in tone between its acts, and it's not perfect, but it's fascinating, and I have a nagging need to write fanfiction of this fanfiction. I'm actually rather surprised that there isn't any.

* * *

I can't decide if I do or do not want to see Anthropoid. It's going to be gory and I don't like the thought of that (I wasn't keen on that in Risen and it's overall a trend of contemporary cinematography I could do without, although here it's more justified than in many other cases). I also know how it ends, like any Czech remotely interested in history does. But from all other accounts, it also sounds like the kind of film I would enjoy, as much as one can enjoy a tragic drama.

Someone praised it for not using music continually, so that's one of the things it apparently checks for me. I'm fed up with continual musical background in films. It loses a lot of its impact if it's there all the time, and moreover, it often makes it more difficult to make out what's actually going on.

People also alternately praise and bash it for slow buildup. I would probably fall on the praising side, because I'm also mostly fed up with the frantic pace of most of today's films.

It basically sounds like the kind of film I would watch, thoroughly engrossed, once: and once is enough, for mostly the good reasons rather than the bad ones.

Except that I also can't shake the feeling that I don't need to see it even once.

* * *

By the way, you had also all convinced me to see Fury Road. I loved it. And most people I know in Real Life I could never ever recommend it to.

It's basically almost everything I love in Sergio Leone, only even weirder and without the highly dubious treatment of women (and a comparison like that would be a good way to explain why Fury Road is better in its treatment of women, despite stuff. But I'm not going to go there now.)
Someone on Tumblr very thoroughly explained how it's visual storytelling, and that sums it up well. Why it's almost everything I love about Sergio Leone. And also part of why I can't recommend it to a lot of people I know.

* * *

Random thought. When I come across the ongoing debates about the relative values of the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels. Namely when I come across Phantom Menace bashing. (I've recently encountered a fan edit of the prequels that people praised for basically leaving the whole of it out.) I can't bash Phantom Menace. Beside other reasons to like it, it's one of the films I saw in cinema with my mother, only the two of us, and we were holding our hands tightly during the pod race, and say what you will, that's an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.


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June 2017


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