Saturday, August 25, 2007

Forbidden Singularity

Speaking of The Black Hole, Yesenia brought our copy of it upstairs earlier, and that was our viewing for the evening. Let me just make two observations:

1) The is like the best sci-fi film of the 50's, for some reason made in 1979. From the casting (Ernest Borgnine as an intrepid reporter?) to the oddly de-saturated film stock, the whole thing feels like an unofficial sequel to Forbidden Planet, not least because of the Disney designs and F/X animation in that film.

2) The tone of this film is, pardon my French, totally balls-out fucking schizophrenic. Has there ever been a movie that veers between the completely goofy and the nightmarishly creepy the way this thing does? The moment when the ultra-cuteified R2-D2 ripoff V.I.N.CENT (made more than a little gay by Roddy MacDowell) gets into a whirling blade death-duel with robotic satan-stand-in Maximillian in the twisting and compressing wreckage of the Cygnus on its plunge into the black hole sums up the two conflicting modes completely. And, oddly, the film's schizophrenia is what makes it work at all. If you took away the cloyingly cutesy robots and hokey dialogue, the film would be dry as a bone. If you took away the moments where Yvettte Mimeaux sees a vision of hell with Maximillian standing on a flaming mountain, overseeing armies of lobotomized slaves, it would be pretty boring.

None of this is to say that The Black Hole is a good movie in any conventional sense. But it's a really interesting mess, an attempt a real science-fiction in the wake of the new Star Wars Space Opera paradigm that discards genuine science when it feels like it, and throws around deep metaphysical concepts but undercuts them by having Anthony Perkins deliver them in a half-dazed Norman Bates mode.

One of the oddest conflicts in the film are the imaginative and beautiful but wholly unconvincing special F/X - a dichotomy that runs so deep for the viewer that the F/X become almost postmodern, visuals for the sake of visuals that comment only on themselves, as if Harrison Ellinshaw were channeling the spirit of Jackson Pollock. There's no denying the beauty of the huge, red, glowing and transparent meteorite rolling destructively up the central structure of the ship. There's also no denying the absolute artificiality of it. Bailing wire and paraffin would be my guess. And oatmeal - they always use oatmeal in these shots, somehow.

An interesting sidebar to the film viewing this evening is that this was one of Yesenia's favorite's as a kid. Apparently, she was really into sci-fi in general, but her grandmother gave her a really hard time about it, because I guess it's not something that good Puerto Rican girls 'did.'

As the second film in our double-feature, we watched Like Water for Chocolate, an old favorite of Yesenia's, and my first viewing.

Anyway, it sucked. What can I say? Single guys, make that potential mate take a test: any woman that thinks this film is romantic in any way should be immediately disqualified. And possibly institutionalized.


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