Friday, June 19, 2009

Film Friday: The Fifth Element (1997)

In the 1950s, science fiction was forward looking but silly. In the 1960s, science fiction became humorless and introspective about man’s place in the universe. Then science fiction became darkly dystopian -- we suck and it’s all going down the drain. It is against this backdrop of Blade Runner knock-offs and dark, leather clad aliens roaming ruined planets, that we find Luc Besson’s richly-textured view of the future in The Fifth Element. Besson (La Femme Nikita, Leon) presents a movie that is both ambitious and daring, and which, consequently, stands unique among science fiction films today.

** spoiler alert **

The Plot
The Fifth Element is the story of the battle between good and evil. Representing good, we have (1) a religious order that protects a secret weapon placed on the earth by an alien species (Mondoshawans), (2) retired-soldier turned cabdriver Corbin Dallas (Bruce Willis), and (3) the universe’s supreme being -- a genetically perfect woman named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). Representing evil, we have a powerful force hidden within a molten ball of rock and fire. Assisting evil is industrialist Zorg (Gary Oldman) and a group of mercenary aliens known as Mangalores. The story revolves around the need for the good guys to gather four stones and return them to an ancient Egyptian temple in time to allow the secret weapon to stop the evil force from returning to Earth. But it is beyond the basic story where The Fifth Element really becomes special.
Besson’s Daring Film
What separates The Fifth Element from other science fiction movies are the daring and interesting choices Besson makes as a director. Indeed, Besson violates several “rules” of the science fiction genre:

1. The Hero Must Defeat The Villain In The Big Showdown: Amazingly, Corbin Dallas, the hero, never meets with or communicates with either the evil force or Zorg at any point in the film. Corbin never even learns who Zorg is. At one point, Zorg does briefly shoot at Leeloo, but like Corbin, she has no idea who Zorg is and they never speak. Yet, the audience never feels deprived of the big show down.

2. Everyone Speaks English: Several of the aliens speak languages other than English, and they are not subtitled. More significantly, Leeloo, the heroine, does not speak a recognizable word of English until near the end of the film. Yet, it works. Not only does Besson find alternative means for making her understood, but it lends her character a reality that is lost in other movies when the strangest of aliens start speaking perfect English.

3. Always Tie Your Move To The Present: To draw the audience into the film, science fiction directors always tie the movie into the present. This can be as blatant as including scenes from the present day to as “subtle” as having the characters pontificate about “the twentieth century” . . . looking at you Star Trek. Besson does it differently. The film begins with an opening sequence that takes place in 1913, and then immediately shifts to 2263 (jumping over us entirely). And unlike Star Trek, there is no mention of our time. Yet, the audience never feels distant from the film because the film shows us a future that feels like a natural outgrowth of our own times.

4. The Sounds of Minimalism: Science fiction soundtracks have increasingly trended toward minimalist or surreal music (like Phillip Glass). Besson takes a completely different approach. Besson uses a combination of techno music that is heavily influenced by Arabic music, Paris street musicians, and Opera. Indeed, one of the most interesting moments in the film involves the opera performance by the Diva Plavalaguna, a sort of techno opera.

5. Avoid Unusual Film Techniques: Most science fiction directors play it fairly straight, probably out of fear that they are already out on a limb with their story lines. Besson, on the other hand, does something amazing. Besson uses incredibly precise cuts to give the movie a fast paced feel despite its 127 minute run time. Moreover, Besson uses these cuts to mix different scenes involving different characters in such a way that we almost feel they are speaking to each other. This allows Besson to give us information from multiple perspectives simultaneously and it dramatically cuts down on the amount of dialog and number of scenes needed to convey necessary information to the audience. In the hands of a lesser director such cuts could easily have seemed gimmicky or confused (see Smoking Aces), but in Besson’s hands, these cuts are so well done it is difficult to conceive of this movie being filmed without them.
Besson’s Ambitious World
Beyond his daring, Besson gives the viewer another treat unlike anything in modern science fiction: he gives us an immersive world. It is the rare science fiction film that can resist showing their view of the future. But when they do, it usually takes the form of some quick narrative at the beginning of the film, followed by a handful of plot-irrelevant moments where the audience is asked to focus on an idea or two about how we will live in the future. These moments are almost always accompanied by some comment along the lines of “I can’t image how they used to. . .” and are quickly abandoned once the plot begins moving again. Consequently, these moments typically offer little more than a distraction. Not so Besson.

Besson never once makes his ideas about future conveniences into the focal point of a scene. Instead, he weaves them seamlessly into the background of each scene. For example, we see Leeloo and Zorg’s secretary applying make up, we see Corbin’s bedsheets automatically folded and his bathroom automatically washed, we see food rehydrated and a 23rd Century version of a cigarette machine, but these things happen in the background of scenes. Besson never stops the film to highlight them.

Moreover, Besson’s characters are real people with real lives. Corbin’s apartment is dirty and cluttered. His mother nags him. He has an ex-wife, who ran off with his lawyer. Several characters have pets. Each of the characters has a unique wardrobe -- no generic civilization-wide jumpsuits here. We see how they entertain themselves. We hear their music, we see their television ads, and we meet Ruby Rod (Chris Tucker), a truly believable 23rd Century evolution of Howard Stern.

But most importantly, we get to see the entire range of human endeavor. Almost without exception, science fiction films limit their characters to a few chosen “important” professions. Beyond the individuals directly involved in the plot, you rarely see more than soldiers, scientists, industrialists and government types. Besson shows us these, but then goes so much further. You meet religious figures (from multiple religions), cabbies, secretaries, commercial pilots, stewardesses, garbage men, dock workers, cops, McDonald’s employees, and many more. And each of these characters has a speaking part. Unlike the sterile, lonely future that is commonly presented, this is a real future where we can truly believe that billions of people live and work.

And in that regard, we are given something else that is not common in science fiction films: livable space. While most science fiction tells us that our great grand children will live in dark, dank warehouses or sterile, plastic apartments, Besson’s characters live and work in bright, ergonomic, livable (and lived in) spaces. This is the world as humanity would really make it, not a world designed to increase audience tension. Seriously, would any human really go into space aboard the Event Horizon?

Lastly, Besson does something truly unusual -- he gives his aliens a full range of personalities. Indeed, the Mangalores, the main bad guys (right), are some of the most emotive aliens ever to come along. They run the gambit from joy to frustration to anger to dismay to simple puzzlement. They are stupid and foolish. They play around. They scratch their heads when they are confused. They are unlike any other aliens seen on film, and that makes them compelling.

Science fiction could learn a lot from Besson about how to create a layered, interesting view of the future.
The Message
Finally, we come to the message of the film. This is the one area where Besson fails. Despite crafting such an interesting and many faceted world, when it comes to the film’s message, Besson punts. Admittedly, he does tack a standard liberal “gee ain’t we bad” message onto the end of the film, but this seems to be used solely for the purpose of getting Dallas to admit his love for Leeloo. Indeed, earlier in the film Leeloo is seen enjoying Kung Fu movies of the type that now supposedly cause her to see nothing good in the human race. Moreover, once Dallas admits his love, this “oh rotten humans” message gets utterly discarded and the new message becomes that one person’s love can redeem the rest of the human race. And while this could be seen as religious symbolism, there is no follow up or depth to support such a message.

Earlier in the film, Besson makes several attempts to give us a message through Father Cornelius (Ian Holm). Each time someone tells him they do not have sufficient time for something, he replies: “time does not matter, only life.” But this message is meaningless. Indeed, even if Besson had something specific in mind for this message, there is no moment where we see the pay off. Thus, we are left without a message to be gleaned. . . although, maybe that's not such a bad thing?

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27 comments:

CrispyRice said...

I think Besson has always done a good job with showing real humans - not overly clean or dirty, not overly good or bad, just human. In fact, to me, that is the main "message" of his movies. I don't think he tries to gives us a message as much as just show us different aspects of humanity. And like you said, that's not a bad thing.

And let's just say that I, for one, would be a HUGE fan of techno opera!!

Khassie said...

Despite the "What's the point, you keep killing each other" crap at the end, I love this movie. One of my guilty pleasures. But then I also was one of the few that enjoyed Pluto Nash, so take that as you may.

SQT said...

I haven't watched this in ages, but it's always been a favorite. Like you said, the lack of message might be a plus. Sometimes entertainment for entertainment's sake is all you need.

AndrewPrice said...

CrispyRice, I would be a huge fan of techno opera too! And I think you're right about Besson -- his films have always included very real characters. I plan, at some point, to review Leon (aka the Professional) for that very reason.

Khassie, I love this movie too. I agree about the ending, it was pointless and detracted from the movie, but not enough to keep me from watching it a million times.

(I enjoyed Pluto Nash as well).


FYI, I didn't realize this until earlier today, but Luc Besson wrote Taken, which many people think is one of the better action flicks of recent memory.

ScottDS said...

On Facebook (I know, it's not for everyone), I created my own little survey titled, "Movies I should like more than I do (which isn't much)." The Fifth Element was #1. Needless to say, some of my geek friends took it personally.

I remember seeing the original teaser poster with the tagline "It Mu5t Be Found." I didn't see the film in the theater but I rented it on VHS (remember that?!). I didn't like it at all. Sure, Bruce Willis, Ian Holm, and Gary Oldman (and the late Brion James) are always great to watch and the visual effects were excellent and still hold up today. But I didn't like it. I thought it was too over the top to be taken seriously and some of Besson's touches more annoying than anything else (see: Rod, Ruby). And of all the movies Milla Jovovich has been in, this is the one I find her the least attractive in.

Then I saw it when it came on HBO. I actually liked it a bit more. I can't explain it - it just worked for me. I enjoyed it. Fast-forward years later and now I'm back to lukewarm. Maybe I should Netflix the Blu-Ray and give it one more shot.

You do hit on several things I wished more sci-fi filmmakers did: portraying the range of human emotions, occupations, a lived-in universe, etc. Star Trek: Nemesis (ugh) opens up with the Riker/Troi wedding and I actually asked on the TrekBBS, "Do they still have D.J.s and party planners in the 24th century? Or is it all just replicated?" :-)

As for music, it works in this film but as far as sci-fi scores go, I'll stick with my Goldsmith, Williams, and Horner soundtracks for the time being. Though I did enjoy what Bear McCreary did with Galactica. His score for the Caprica DVD movie is heartbreakingly beautiful.

And Andrew, in case you didn't get it the first time, here's the link to my Film Score Monthly blogs - http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/daily/articles.cfm?bauthor=197

And if dcase reads this blog, I believe you asked about this soundtrack (the comment was lost in moderation hell) - http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/cds/detail.cfm/CDID/338/King-Kong/

ScottDS said...

One last thing - dystopian sci-fi seems to get a bad wrap among conservatives. Is it the whole "humans sowing the seeds of their own destruction" angle or something else? I have no problem with a good dystopian story and I suppose like anything else, it's how the characters act in that situation that matters. Dystopian stories also lend themselves to great visuals.

LawHawkSF said...

Once I got past the "Perfect Being" thing, I loved the movie. The special effects were great, and I loved the Big Blue Diva with the tentacle-like hair.

StanH said...

Outstanding movie! That was daughters nighttime movie as well. When it comes on I still stop and watch. It has everything that a Hollywood movie should contain, heroes, heroines, love, hate, good, bad, action, and our hero gets the girl (in this case the supreme being) in the end. Good clean fun.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott,

I think dystopian movies tend to get a bad rap by conservatives because usually they explain the cause of the dystopia as being capitalism and religious belief.

I agree that dystopian films are interesting, particularly when they are done right -- like Blade Runner. However, I think that too often they are used to hide poor writing.

On the soundtrack, I would not recommend the same sountrack for other films -- though it works perfectly for Fifth Element. But I think it would be a good idea for sci-fi films to broaden their scope.

P.S. I saw you articles the other day, but I haven't had a chance to comment on anything yet -- it's been a busy week.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott,

Also, Star Trek TNG is, to me, one of the biggest abusers of cliches and standard forms. Their world view is supposed to be "a hopeful view of the future." But there is no constitency. They don't have money. . . until they need it. They have cured all disease. . . except those they need for the disease of the week. They have total personal freedom. . . except when they don't. They respect all cultures. . . except those they don't like. And so on.

Their world is sterile, cold and impersonal. There is no individuality, and opposing views are not allowed.

Moreover, we know what every one of the characters drinks, but we know little about who they are. We know nothing about how they entertain themselves, the games they play, or the jobs they work. Are there normal people in the future? What do they do?

And if the future is so great, how come these people are nothing more than big old balls of personal angst?

Khassie said...

A little trivia about the blue tentacled diva. Did you know that she actually sang most of those notes? They had originally planned for her to lip sync it and synthesize the music but she shocked them by actually being able to sing most of the notes herself.

USArtguy said...

Hi Andrew.

The Fifth Element is one of my favorite Sci-fi movies. I have seen it several l times but have never looked at it with such an in-depth perspective. Looking back, I have to say I agree with what you've written, but would conclude by borrowing SQT's line: "Sometimes entertainment for entertainment's sake is all you need."

With a few exceptions, Sci-Fi movies have historically been treated as the red-headed step-child of the movie industry. (No offense to "actual" red-headed step children). This shows up in their budgets, which are often smaller than their contemporaries of other genres. Small(er) budget = little or no ancillary things going on in the backgrounds, no other characters besides the stereo-typed scientists, military, etc. This is especially true of the 1950s and early 1960s flicks. One of the really great things about Star Wars in 1977 was a detail easily missed by someone growing up afterwards: wear and tear. This was something not seen in sci-fi movies before and it was everywhere in Star Wars. The machinery, the clothing, even the aliens weren't "perfect" (like the ship and robot in the original classic The Day The earth Stood Still... not a dent or a scratch... not even dusty). Of course, you're right there with the "jumpsuits" comment.

In a nerd moment I did notice the "MondoShopTowels" hadn't changed their appearance (that is, their space suits) in 350 years at all. I mean this race is ancient and has a vast knowledge of space and science, yet couldn't come up with ONE inprovement in their space suit since 1913? Don't give me that traveling-close-to-the-speed-of-light-slows-everything-down stuff, blah blah, blah. Change SOMETHING on the suit!

;-)

AndrewPrice said...

USArtguy,

You're 100% right about the wear and tear. SciFi seems to come in two flavors -- perfect or ruined. The best scifi, however, tends to find a way to give us an in-between version that is both livable and lived in. Star Wars was a great example. Look at Luke's landspeeder or the farm and you have no doubt not only that people would live like this, but also that people have been living in these places and using the tools. It makes the whole thing more realistic to us.

Individualist said...

Hi Andrew

A really great review of this film. I liked the film even though I hated the story. It just always seemed to silly for me.

I would like to add though that you may have missed one of the key villians - Ruby Rod. Kina like Prince and Michael Jackson meet Robin Williams - EEEK!

AndrewPrice said...

Individualist,
LOL! Many people hate Ruby Rod. But he is an interesting character in that he not only shows something about their culture, but he also reflects on us -- he is a mobile, hyper version of Howard Stern.

Khassie,
She has an incredible voice! And I have to tell you that, as an opera fan, I would love to see someone expand upon what she did and make a modern opera.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent review, Andrew!

Count me as another fan of the techno opera. Even my wife, who is not a big fan of the movie (doesn't hate it either, but doesn't consider it a cut above most scifi movies) liked that song.

I like Bruce Willis in almost every film he's been in, and he handles the part of Dallas well, but as a bad guy (any character really) there are few as versatile and believable as Gary Oldman (loved his performance in The Book Of Eli, irt the "complex villains are more interesting" sub thread we talk about during most of your reviews).

Ruby Rod, lol. Who thought up that hairdo?
Aye, he's like a future Stern but even more sexualized (the future of entertainews a la MTV, TMZ, Smoking Gun, etc.), with copious amounts of Geraldo thrown in (sensationalism! Gotta get that story! Tabloidism gone wild!)

Afterall, although most would turn their noses up at tabloids or tabloid-like shows, there are millions of folks that eat that stuff up, so I don't look at Ruby Rod as a silly comedy relief character that Besson simply threw into the movie (like Jar Jar Binks...ugh) but rather a very real future possibility. In fact, we see similar types of "reporters" now in niche markets...but markets that are expanding.

I like how you break down the stuff Besson did that's usually a no-no in scifi yet works when applied in the right way.

Besson has shown he is not only competent but also willing to break some rules and get creative.
And by break rules I mean he doesn't do it simply to be different or just because he can, but to make the story better.
Perhaps breaking with convention is a better term.

And, as you point out, not only does it work but it gives us an immersive, deeper world.
I think Blade Runner could've been better with this element. Would be interesting to see Besson direct something similar because he can do noir (one of the few that can do noir and comedy together and make it work).

The only real downer of Fifth Element was the punt, as you so aptly explained, and I see why Besson did that but it didn't make sense nor did it work.

Unlike most liberal directors I don't think Besson did it to piss off conservatives or lose half his audience or be PC. Apparently, he thought Leelo would think that way based on what she saw, misunderstandings included.
Are perfect beings incapable of picking up context and nuance? I mean, c'mon! I expect more from perfect beings because they're perfect. Surely Leelo can see that without Corbin having to confess his love to her.
Unless...she read the NY Times or San Francisco Chronicle. That would explain a lot.
At any rate it doesn't grate too much.

Speaking of Besson, I watched Leon last summer. Not because he directed it, because I didn't know he did, but because Jean Reno was in it. He makes every flick he is in better (including the "could've been so much better in every way" Godzilla 2000), and there ain't a lot of actors I can say that about.
Like Toshiro Mifune, John Wayne, Lionel Barrymoe, Jimmy Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck...they have that gravitas that naturally draws you in even in bad movies.

Of course there are some present day actors that have that gravitas or charisma to varying degrees such as Bruce Willis, Jodie Foster and Clint Eastwood (also a great director) to name a few.

In that vein I view Besson as France's version of Akira Kurosawa, John Ford, Billy Wilder, etc. and will one day be as famous for directing darn good flicks.
At least I hope so because the guy definitely has talent.
It would be a shame to see him waste it like Spielberg has after making so many excellent movies.

I wonder what happened to him? That happens to good actors sometinmes too...bunch of great work and then...I dunno, it's like they become parodies of themselves (hello, Al Pacino).

Oops. Sorry. Kind of got OT there...a lot.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the review! And I agree with you completely.

1. I think you're right that Besson didn't throw in the message just to anger anyone. I think he decided this would be a good way to get Corbin Dallas to open up to Leeloo, though I too wonder why a perfect being would only see the bad in humanity -- especially when she's seen a group of people struggling to save the world? Surely, she would grasp that there is both good and evil and she would want to protect the good?

I thought he could have done better at that point, but it's kind of a small criticism for an otherwise great film.

2. I loved the techno opera. I liked the chase music too. I've often found that better music in films is the unexpected music. In other words, not just the stuff that is borderline cliche, but stuff that gives you something unexpected -- like a love song during a chase scene or gospel during a shoot out. Those are the music moments that really stand out in films to me.

3. I don't know what it is about Bruce Willis, but I think he's fantastic. I've liked him in everything I've seen him in, even when the movie was otherwise flat.

4. What I love about Gary Oldman in this film was how he swung from pure evil, to comic evil, to suddenly oddly caring (like when he's hugging his pet whatever it is). So although he's playing a rather one-dimensional character (just evil), he really does give the role depth.

5. Speaking of Leon, that's on my list of favorite films. Besson, Oldman and Reno -- great group. I keep meaning to review that one, but haven't had the chance. I was particular amazed to see the longer version (I saw the American version first) and was stunned at how creepy Natalie Portman got.

(continued)

AndrewPrice said...

(continued)
6. I totally agree about Reno. I will watch anything he appears in and I've never been disappointed in his acting -- though he's made some awful movies. But one of my favorite films is one of his: Ronin.

7. Ruby Rod -- I totally agree. He's not Jar Jar Binks (yuck), he really is a great example of Besson taking modern trends and moving them forward into the future. I have no trouble at all seeing Ruby Rod as a television/radio personality of the future... and I do love the hair! LOL!

8. I am very impressed with Besson. I've liked all of his films and I thought they were all solid and enjoyable, and often bordering on brilliant. This one in particular strikes me as a total home run, and I think you're right that he's not using these tricks just to play around or to show off, but to improve the story.

I could easily group him up there with the greats like Kurosawa.

That is a great point too, by the way, about giving him a chance to redo something like Blade Runner -- it would be fascinating to see what he comes up with! Too bad we're not Hollywood producers!

9. I agree on Pacino. He was a guy with a lot of talent who made himself into a parody.

10. I love Toshiro Mifune too -- fantastic actor! And at some point, I hope to get into some foreign films, particularly Kurosawa's!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Cool beans, Andrew!
I used to be adverse to watching foreign films, other than Hong Kong martial arts movies, lol.

Mostly due to the subtitles, or bad dubbing, although not all had bad dubbing.

But actors like Mifune and directors like Kurosawa made such outstanding movies that the subtitles don't bother me much.

Particularly in Kurosawa films, because the actors ain't wordy...they don't have to be when the stories are that well written, directed and acted.

Kurosawa was a very demanding director, but Mifune was one of the very few actors Kurosawa didn't need to coach.

I saw a documentary about the both of them, and Mifune would be the first on the set and the last to leave, always prepared and knowing his lines and quite humble and helpful to the other actors, so it's no surprise Kurosawa wanted him in many of his movies.

As I'm sure you know, Mifune was a Japanese veteran of WW2 with no previous acting experience, yet he was a natural at it (much like Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin, who were also veterans of WW2).

Mifune and Kurosawa appreciated the liberty Americans brought to Japan, but they also saw some drawbacks to Japan being westernized and some of the inevitable abuses that occured with reconstruction.
However, in the end they helped, in their way, to elevate all the good about Japan's culture (honor, integrity, loyalty) while embracing the good that and westernization brought (a shift from the collective to the individual, liberty, individual rights, etc.).

Neither Kurosawa nor Mifune could've created and elevated their art without liberty and they realized that a cultlike loyalty to the Emperor by way of a twisted Shinto in a collective, socialistic, totalitarian State was bad and without honor.

I believe it showed in their works which was a mixture of Japanese and American ideals and values.
That also makes their movies more appealing.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Incidently, I wonder why Pacino, Spielberg, Hanks, etc, got to that point where they are no longer good at their craft.

I would venture to say that their ideology has something to do with it.

Oh, another actor I love to watch: Adam Baldwin, and not just because he's conservative. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, I think I saw the same documentary. I think the comparison between Mifune and Jimmy Stewart is an apt one, as both seem to have a "regular guy" vibe, but also something even more compelling. It's hard to put your finger on it, but they just seem like people you really want to know.

I think I've seen most of Kurosawa's films by now and you can really see the conflict between the Western and the Japanese, and he does a great job of crossing that divide. My favorite film of his is actually somewhat obscure -- Ikiru, about a bureaucrat who struggles to get a playground built. Everything about that film is just right, and it ends up being very emotional.


In terms of foreign film generally, I never cared for subtitles either. But I got used to them and they don't bother me at all these day. What does bother me is how hard it is to find good foreign films. I want to see films that are both good, but also different. I want films that reflect cultural differences, not just somebody's version of a Hollywood knockoff. Unfortunately, so much of what you see is either "artsy" for the sake of being artsy, or seems like something done in Hollywood.

Still, there are some real gems, which I think people would enjoy. Maybe the best way to handle it would be a top 10 list or something like that?

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, I wonder about that too sometimes. Spielberg did such great films with Jaws and Close Encounters, and others from that time, but he's really become a hack. I'm not sure if he just ran out of ideas (seems unlikely), if he just got tired (possible), if he fell too in love with making money and stopped caring about the art (very likely), or if he just surrounded himself with so many "yes men" that he lost the voices he needed to keep pushing him to get better?

As for actors, I suspect they fall into the trap that people hire them to repeat roles in different movies -- "we want you to be like the Han Solo again, only as a cop..." I suspect that probably warps these guys eventually? But I don't know.

I also suspect that it's more about these guys playing themselves in a role rather than "acting the role." If all you do is play yourself, then you probably eventually become a parody.

On Baldwin, you're right. I liked him a lot long before I knew he was a conservative. . . though that certainly helps! LOL!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew:

I concur with your analysis. Typecasting can happen especially if an actor gets lazy or quits looking for challenging roles and stop pushing themselves.

Although, take Sam Eliott who is pretty much typecast in westerns...but he does them so well I really don't care. Keep making those westerns Sam!

I really don't mind typecasting if the actor brings his or her all to the role.

John Wayne was at his best in military and westerns, and I don't think it diminished him as a superb actor.
Perhaps those genres simply brought out his best because of what makes those genres potentially good: American exceptionalism, the principles of our founding Fathers in action, honor and duty, committment and ingenuity, individualism, a can do attitude and the deep desire to protect and defend all that is good.

I also enjoy immensely an actor that can play any role convincingly, such as Edward. G. Robinson, Alan Rickman or John Malchovich.

The key is do they bring their best? Whether a director, writer or actor, they must transcend merely a one dimensional stories and characters and tap into their God given talents.

When they lose touch with reality they lose touch with their gifts.
Case in point: Sean Penn, Matt Damon and Danny Glover who jumped all the sharks and became so obsessed with the illusion of communism they can no longer access reality and therefor can no longer be convincing or compelling actors.
Same with directors that must also cram their political propaganda down our throats in their movies.

Ironically, they never understand why most of their movies bomb, especially the anti-American, anti-military anti-free market flicks.

Plus all the reasons you gave. There's a lot of pitfalls actors and directors must avoid if they wanna keep creating beautiful art.

I'm not sayin' actors can't be good if they're leftists, but if they're obsessed with their groupthink ideology first and foremost then their acting revolves around that and it shows.

Even leftists don't come out in force to watch their movies anymore. Who wants to watch propaganda and get preached at?

People wanna watch a good story and be entertained.
Only true art sticks with folks and gets them to think deeper rather than be sheeple watching a thinly disguised, state sponsered film that blames America and humans for every perceived evil, telling them how they should live, eat, drink, spend their time, and blame everyone who is successful and noble for the ills of society.
And how we should be envious and bitter like they are.

A good actor or director understands that folks don't wanna see that or generic rip offs of good movies regardless of their own personal beliefs.
The good ones respect their fans.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, I think that's right. I think people avoid films/directors and actors who inject politics into non-political stories. When people watch a film, they want to be entertained, not preached to. And when you get people who are more concerned with putting messages into films rather than making good films, people turn away.

I also don't mind typecasting when the person does a good job at what they do. John Wayne is probably the perfect example. Was he a good "actor"? I don't think so, at least not an "actor's actor" -- he was always John Wayne in some film. BUT he was really compelling in the things he did, and I so it didn't matter to me if he could do Hamlet, because I was happy enough to see him in westerns and war films, and I would not have been happy to see someone like Dustin Hoffman trying to fake it.

I agree about Sam Eliot, he's largely stuck in Westerns, but so what -- he's the perfect actor for Westerns!

Now, all of that said, I also really like the guys who can disappear into a role. Those guys impress me. In fact, I think character actors are some of the best "actors actors" out there. But I think both types of actors can be equally good.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Maybe the best way to handle it would be a top 10 list or something like that?"

That's a good idea! I think you would agree that Yojimbo would be on that list.
The camera work and scenes are so well done that one doesn't hafta even read the words.
Plus, anyone whgo has seen A Fistful Of Dollars will recognize the plot (Fistful being an American version of Yojimbo).

And perhaps Seven Samurai (Magnificent Seven). :^)

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, I think both of those would be on the list. I'll give it some thought.

ocelot said...

Cool review for a cool movie.

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