The last two films I saw over the last weekend (Kafka was in there too) and I guess I didn’t really do much this weekend. That’s not a bad thing and I’m glad if I’m going to spend a lot of time watching movies, for whatever reason, it’s a bonus when they fill you with something – I don’t know what – maybe some sort of comradery.
I guess the reason I liked The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) was the setting. The ambition of the film. A period drama set against a politically unstable background. That sounds a little cliche’d but cliche’s are sometimes what draws me to films. I had wanted to see this film for awhile. It always shouted adventure, romance on foreign exotic soil. Same reason I guess I liked Phillip Noyce’s The Quiet American when I first saw it. There’s something about the East that is mysterious and I remember sitting in a cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia, that there is something mysterious about the East.
I don’t know why all the countries in Southeast Asia always seem to get mashed into one thing, though I guess its the region, the climate, the natural life spawning from the earth there, the animals all help to assimilate them. There is vastness but you have to identify it over some sort of greeting to the place – through the culture, attitudes or something like that. So anyway, if a film is going to make something adventurous of a type of situation, a foreigner in the foreign country, a reporter covering a government indifferent or different from where they are from, the relationships that reporter goes through in his situation, I guess it has to pay its respects in the end, and forever remain indifferent in his place.
I thought the film did it well. It’s great for once to see a film not hold back within its limits. The filmmakers fared really well. Respect, Peter Weir, Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt, Russell Boyd (even John Seale was 2nd unit) and Maurice Jarre and all the other filmmakers who made the most of the opportunity. I think they got it right. Sure, they are dealing with a political situation here though from this film’s point of view it stays with the character of Guy Hamilton – the young Sydney reporter played my Gibson – and especially Billy Kwan – the Indoesian guide / translator who carts Hamilton around and pretty much stands up for the right reasons played by Linda Hunt – and these are the two vessels that carry across the unstable understandings the media can make for situations that cannot be fully understood to some degree.
The film kind of paved the way, on a Sunday with nothing much else to do, for me to go and see Life of Pi (which came out November last year) in 3D. Ok, the 3D, for me, is getting less and less neccessary. The drawcard was the music and of course, the lovely tale and if you’ve read the book its already affected you to some degree.
Couple of things – I saw it in 3D so when the visuals were as wonderful as they were I can’t comment on whether this is enhanced by the 3D but having been a watcher of films for a long time I don’t think it matters. What’s the point of changing something that hasn’t been broke. These filmmakers all fell in love with cinema from a young age, the same reason someone falls in love with a painting from Millet, even if they only see it on a computer screen. Does that mean seeing the real thing you are going to feel any different. I haven’t even seen an actual Millet painting, still love some of his paintings.
I remember some of the music from the Year of Living Dangerously, and there are a couple of instruments that stick in mind, that have a greater power to them, and a cymbal / bell used in the Life of Pi score does the same. Brings up images just from its sound. Brings up images and emotions. Pretty sure they utilised this instrument in both movies – its an Asian cymbal, but that’s just a personal taste that appealed to me. Also, the way its used, for me helped with the emotion of the story in the certain scenes.
Anyways, I kind of like to go off onto random tangents, so here’s another one. I read the book over a month and a half of travels through Vietnam and Laos and when I finished it it really affected me. Really, was alone in the four thousand islands, couldn’t think properly. It must have been a mixture of being alone and in a foreign country. Made the book really harsh. Well, I am alone and in a foreign country now too, but somehow the film didn’t have the same force behind it. I suppose the imagination doesn’t work as well with film as it does with words. In some ways you can sit back in awe at the splendid images (there’s quite a few previews of just how wonderful they are in the trailer if you happened to have avoided them by living under a rock which isn’t a bad thing) and I guess that’s why this film is, in Ang Lee’s sort of words, disguised ‘as a adventure story’. Can’t really elaborate on my point, hope you get it.
Anyways, both films grasp to me, a spirit of adventure. One is more emotional than the other. One is more profound in its teachings. I guess one if, in essence, an adventure slash romance, where the other is a spiritual journey, but as films, these journey’s can only be displayed to you, and I guess you can follow them through on it and take something away, but there is definately something there that tears at the inside of you to follow through on something as profound.