Thursday, May 08, 2008

Show Don't Tell

“In case I don’t see you again... FUCK YOU!” Isn’t that what the last line of dialogue in The Truman Show should have been?

On the way home yesterday I started thinking of other films like The Golden Compass, that have really deplorable bean-spilling openings. I don’t mean something like Star Wars, whose opening crawl was vital in acknowledging the film’s roots in the old Republic serials, rather the kind of movie where jarring upfront information, slapped onto the beginning of the film, pretty much gives away vital plot information.

It may have been because late in production the studio and/or producers looked at what they had and either lost confidence in the material or in the large proportion of gormless, popcorn-grazing, cinema-audience fucktards being able to figure out what was going on without an introduction rammed with helpful hints. Either way, it makes a jarring start to the movie.

There’s always David Lynch’s Dune to point and laugh at, especially since poor Virginia Madsen, in one of her first film roles, looks like a rabbit in the headlights who would prefer to be repeatedly violated with a potato peeler than continue spouting out

Know then, that it is the year 10,191. The known universe is ruled by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam the Fourth, my father. In this time, the most precious substance in the universe is the spice Melange. The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness. The spice is vital to space travel. The Spacing Guild and its navigators, who the spice has mutated over 4000 years, use the orange spice gas, which gives them the ability to fold space.

Good grief. I went to the press screening at the Empire in Leicester Square for that one and that opening scene just sucked the air right out of the cavernous auditorium before the film had properly begun.

That said, the film that did spring to mind, leapfrogging over everything else, was The Truman Show. If I remember rightly, it starts off with a collection of brief “interview” clips from various participants that effectively ruin any sense of suspense. Then again, since the whole advertising campaign for the movie destroyed any air of mystery, this opening was pretty much the icing on the marketing cake.

Poke around on the internet and an early draft of Andrew Niccol’s script is easily accessible. Obviously it makes for interesting reading. You can understand why, on a practical level, in later drafts the environs of the show changed from New York City to a more manageable coastal town. After all, since Truman Burbank has never seen the real world, there’s no need to recreate such a massive metropolis.

Where this earlier draft works is that, long before the eventual big reveal, it concentrates on the character’s growing unease as he tries to connect the bizarre incidents that simply don’t make sense to him. In this respect it’s a paranoiac’s wet dream and would have certainly been applauded by people who remember the great conspiracy dramas of the 1970s with great affection.

Instead, obviously once Peter Weir came on board it all went decidedly fluffy. Over the course of the revisions, the script got all turned around so the emphasis was on the television show rather than a person realising his life isn’t what he thinks it is. Maybe Weir had problems with the implications of the story as it originally stood.

By the time The Truman Show was released, the audience was already made aware of what the whole damn movie was about. The posters had an image of the sleeping Burbank being shown on a massive fuck-off television with the copy ON THE AIR. UNAWARE. Before they bought their tickets, before they took their seats, before they even started shovelling popcorn into their empty maws, the audience was made complicit.

By casting the rubber-faced maroon Jim Carey, maybe we were supposed to think that the character would get over it because, really, it was just a little bit of fun. Now I can be quite a forgiving person if the situation deserves it, but if I found out my whole life was a complete fabrication, that everyone I thought dear to me had lied to me, every day that I had known them, purely for entertainment... I would go absolutely fucking postal!

But then I guess it depends on how you look at things.

Anyway, that’s the movie where I think the studio really bottled it. If you can think of one leave a message, Meanwhile I’ll be out buying Glaser Safety Slugs, just in case.


At 3:00 pm, Blogger Lucy said...

I love the Truman Show. Both versions that is.

The original was to me a thriller, really. It was more more grown up, lean, exciting, buying into that whole JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE PARANOID DON'T MEAN THEY'RE NOT AFTER YOU thing. Good stuff.

But the film that was actually made wasn't fluffy I thought, far from it: I thought it was a great satire, way ahead of its time when everyone was still really embracing reality TV. I thought Carrey showed what a great actor he was and it had genuine pathos as well as humour. The moment where Ed Harris has to decide if he will let Truman go was really powerful I thought.

Thank fuck we don't all think the same....???

At 8:53 pm, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

My favourite character on Torchwood this year was the 'expositioning blowfish.'

In the opening Act of the first epsiode they had this giant rubber fish dump a load of information on the viewer. Then they killed it and moved on to a different story.

That's one way to do it.

At 1:56 pm, Blogger Lucy said...

For someone who hates Torchwood so very much J&C, you seem to really remember lots of it. I don't recall the blowfish at all. Unless you mean the fishman in the suit in the speeding car on ep1? Though I don't remember any major info dumping, though I may also have been making a cup of tea/pacifying kids at the same time. Always possible on a wednesday.

Seriously, if you don't like Torchwood - why not try NOT watching it? There must be like 40 million DVDs in the world you can watch when it's on. I recommend City of God - I think it's something you might like. Or maybe Robocop, you liked Impostor, right?

At 5:09 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:58 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Hey missy, be a big bossy bossy-boots over on your own blog by all means, but don’t be coming over here, trampling over my land, telling people leaving comments what they can say or do, okay? Otherwise I'll be chasing you off with a stick.

Maybe J&C watched that first episode of Torchwood to see if the second series had improved from the useless bubbling cauldron of shit that was the first year. It’s what I did. Talk about living in hope. Unfortunately it was just more of the idiotic and badly-made bullshit I'd come to expect.

If you are going to be critical of something, you have to have watched it in the first place. Otherwise anything said is just through pure ignorance. And anyhowdy, if you actually read his comment, it's not that critical. Every drama should some twat with a fish head. It could lead to a new awards category.

One think you blimmin' youngsters need to learn is that in the long run it’s far better to stand up and have an honest opinion and integrity than be lost amongst the sea of talentless little ass-kissers who think that puckering up and saying everything is brilliant and skill will get them into the industry.

I dunno... bloody kids today!!

At 5:26 pm, Blogger Lucy said...

I'm not criticising J&C GD, I'm just saying that if you don't like something, why watch it? It truly does baffle me.

And I was making serious suggestions for alternatives as it goes, based on the comments he's made about certain films over at MY place! I was, believe it or not, trying to help.

What's more, I kiss NOBODY'S ass, thanks. If I like something, I like something. If I don't, I switch it off after the first 15 mins - I have plenty of other things I can be getting on with rather than waste my time watching something I won't enjoy. But if you or J&C (and anyone else for that matter) want to to watch stuff you hate, please be my guest: it is a democracy after all. I was JUST asking.

I dunno... Old men these days!

; )


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