26 March 2007


I saw "300" a couple of days ago and let me share some of the reactions I've had throughout the film. Firstly, it is not clear whether I liked the film or not, I'm a little divided and unsure. I didn't think it was worth my usual imdb ramblings. If I had to write of my final impression of "300", I'll probably end up confusing myself. So I've taken the easy option. I've divided the Likes and Dislikes into two groups so that you can get a sense of how this film rocked and how it disappointed me.

So first, the Likes:

Leonidas - what a character! Blazing eyes, great Herculean body, sexy beard, bravely leads a bunch of Spartans to battle against an entire army of invading Persians. His slightly gregarious air reminded me of the winged Prince Vultan in the movie, Flash Gordon. Although Leonidas is not as funny as Prince Vultan.

Queen Gorgo - without a doubt, my favourite character, resolved to do anything for her husband. Her proud, graceful appearance belies the strong minded logician beneath. A tough cookie that one! Packs a mighty sword thrust too, as you'll see. Great hair style.

The hot scene where Leonidas and Queen Gorgo get it on - intermittent silent shots of ripping erotica. Just enough to tease the senses. Or not enough.

The ethereal dance of the sensual Oracle girl - Kelly Craig has such perfect skin! Aaaagh! I also gathered that this film has a strange fascination for perky, erect nipples. Perky, erect nipples piercing through sheer fabric. And notice the underlying media message please. If you're a red head and are gifted with translucent white skin, then it is clear that you belong to the other-worldly beauty category: "5th Element", Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water", the character, Laura, in Patrick Suskind's "Perfume" and now "300"? Interesting...

King Xerxes's piercings (wow, that was a mouthful) and all that fine jewellery adorning most of the Persian characters. I think the Costume department had a ball making this film. Loved it.

The Persian magicians - oh, the mystique! Garlands of gold leaves adorn the veils of these black clad warrior figures as they spin around in a mist of smoke and throw the most gorgeous grenade shells I've ever seen. Makes "the Illusionist" look a bit stupid.

Post post post Gollum - the hideous outcast trying to fit into society and/or make friends until he is rejected and seeks vengeance. I'm afraid the film would have been quite boring without this freak. No sooner had his bony hand appeared on the scene that I tuned in.

The astounding (ok, digitally enhanced) choreography - you know those silly battle scenes ("Alexander" is a perfect example, but there's worst) where there is absolutely not a single sign of strategy or strike or counterstrike ...no sign of err, battle? Where limbs and groaning faces are intertwined in an insignificant melee and where you wonder what the cameramen were thinking? "300" is not like that. Every battle is a perfect dance, it's simply entrancing and very beautiful to watch. Makes you want to don those fashionable Spartan sandals and buy a plastic sword & shield kit from Target so that you can practice at home. (Sadly, I am a little bit rusty, I haven't been Sheera since I turned 8.)

Some of the dialogue is funny - King Leonidas, particularly, delivers some witty lines. I liked the scene where he refers to the Oracle girl as a "drunken adolescent". Or when he makes some unfavourable allusions to the hedonistic Athenians. And the scene where he nonchalantly munches on an apple just before a battle. It creates a sense of normalcy for the characters. The fact that we wouldn't expect the dialogue to be so casual or to see bigger than life characters engage in mundane activities, is amusing.

The Imagery, The Sensual Imagery, The Sexual Imagery - Frank Miller rocks!

Ok, wow, so it's a great film. But now take a look at those bits that truly reeked:

The musical score sucks. It's just loud and flat. It could have been a lot better, and worked to arouse the senses, as film music should, but it didn't really help. The splendid imagery worked alone. The worst for me was in the final scene, with that try-hard Lisa Gerard wannabe moaning away in a foreign tongue. I did not appreciate the elements in that scene, at all. It reminded me of "Gladiator". I felt that 300 aspired to the same awe that Gladiator created and in short, it fell short. It was not only emotionally flat, but it was a cheap copy.

Also, there's something dead about this film. Apart from the action-packed battles and the powerful visual language of its individual shots, there lacked a sense of momentum, a flow. There was hardly any suspense. The Spartans kept winning too easily. Bad direction? I don't know what to call it.

The pro-war ideology. Bad! Don't go there.

Glorification of the military. Yes, I know, they were, after all, Spartans. But it just got under my skin.

The pro-gulf-war ideology. Neverending brainwashing. Ok, here's where I was totally agaced: Queen Gorgo's speech before the council. (Think, Queen Gorgo faces the Security Council and you can see where I'm coming from.) I couldn't help but to detect several implied (but thoroughly incorrect) parallels between her persuasive plea for assistance in the battle against the Persians and Bush's initial justification for our presence in Iraq. The film ennobled the Spartans with good reason but at the same time, it served as an excuse for the ugly motives of real life power institutions. For that reason, it made me sick. There's also that persistent nagging message throughout the entire film about the impending threat of nuclear Iran (aka Persia). Bla bla bla. It never stopped. I'm sure the producers were on to something when they pulled out this particular graphic novel and decided to make it a film.
But hold. Am I seeing patterns where there are none?
Still, it was very annoying and while I was not offended, (as I'm sure some people will no doubt be when they watch this film) I took an opposing view to the text.
It was nothing short of preaching and with the upcoming elections in both the US and Australia, it was sickening. Puke.

The annoying Narrator - I don't like narrators. If I wanted a narrator, I'd read a book. So I would say that 300 wasn't as successfully scripted for the screen, as it could have been. But I'm just being picky I suppose.

Ok, so overall, it's a 6/10.

Can't wait for Sin City 2.

9 March 2007

Les Mots Bleus (continued)

This is my English translation of "Les Mots Bleus".

Unfortunately, there are expressions that remain very French. e.g. "Il faudra bien qu'elle comprenne". In this context, bien has no real English equivalent, I'm afraid. Worse still, I could not find an exact translation for the word "retrouvaille". It does not really exist. Is it a reunion? Or a new encounter? Even in the French lyrics there is a fragile ambiguity about the couple's state of affairs. Do they know each other? Has she/he ever spoken to her? Besides, I've always interpreted the end of the song as narrating a chance meeting which happened after a very long time, and so perhaps this "retrouvaille" should be read as "of us finding each other again."

But to each their own interpretation. The appeal of a well written song is that it reaches out to many and what it may evoke is really up to the listener, as he or she feels and remembers.

Here it is, again, since I'm in a melancholy mood and since so much in life is left unspoken and because I also respect the magic of silence.

The Blue Words

Six o'clock on the church bell-tower
In the town square, the flowers poetise
A girl is about to leave the town hall
Each evening I await for her,
She smiles at me
I will have to speak to her
At all cost

I will tell her the blue words
The words one says with the eyes
Speaking would seem, to me, ridiculous
I spring forward only to retreat
Before a useless sentence
That would break the fragile instant
Of an encounter
Of an encounter

I will tell her the blue words
Those that make people happy
I will call her without naming her
I am perhaps, out of date
The winter wind blows in April
I love the motionless silence
Of an encounter
Of an encounter

There is no more clock, no more bell-tower
In the town square, the trees are at rest
I return by the night train
On the platform, I see her
As she smiles at me
She will have to understand
At all cost (original nuance: She will have no option but to understand)

I will tell her the blue words
The words one says with the eyes
All the excuses that one gives
Are like the kisses that one steals
There remains a subtle rancour
That may compromise the fragile instant
Of us meeting again
Of us meeting again

I will tell her the blue words
Those that make people happy
A wordless love story
Has no need for protocol
And all those long futile speeches
Would somewhat tarnish the style
Of us meeting again
Of us meeting again

I will tell her the blue words
Those that make people happy
I will tell her all the blue words
Those that make people happy
All the blue words...

7 March 2007

Les Mots Bleus

Non, ce n'est pas Christophe.
Cependant, Thierry Amiel a une voix si touchante, une voix qui fait facilement pleurer. This extremely moving and sad song, "Les Mots Bleus", was famously written and sung by French artist Christophe of who I am a big fan. Here, it is re-interpreted by Thierry Amiel. That such a voice would originate from one so beautiful is a double blessing. I am in awe.

If you don't appreciate androgenous voices, this is not for you. Otherwise, enjoy.

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Les Mots Bleus

Il est six heures au clocher de l'église
Dans le square les fleurs poétisent
Une fille va sortir de la mairie
Comme chaque soir je l'attends
Elle me sourit
Il faudrait que je lui parle
A tout prix

Je lui dirai les mots bleus
Les mots qu'on dit avec les yeux
Parler me semble ridicule
Je m'élance et puis je recule
Devant une phrase inutile
Qui briserait l'instant fragile
D'une rencontre
D'une rencontre

Je lui dirai les mots bleus
Ceux qui rendent les gens heureux
Je l'appellerai sans la nommer
Je suis peut-être démodé
Le vent d'hiver souffle en avril
J'aime le silence immobile
D'une rencontre
D'une rencontre

Il n'y a plus d'horloge, plus de clocher
Dans le square les arbres sont couchés
Je reviens par le train de nuit
Sur le quai je la vois
Qui me sourit
Il faudra bien qu'elle comprenne
A tout prix

Je lui dirai les mots bleus
Les mots qu'on dit avec les yeux
Toutes les excuses que l'on donne
Sont comme les baisers que l'on vole
Il reste une rancœur subtile
Qui gâcherait l'instant fragile
De nos retrouvailles
De nos retrouvailles

Je lui dirai les mots bleus
Ceux qui rendent les gens heureux
Une histoire d'amour sans paroles
N'a pas besoin du protocole
Et tous les longs discours futiles
Terniraient quelque peu le style
De nos retrouvailles
De nos retrouvailles

Je lui dirai les mots bleus
Ceux qui rendent les gens heureux
Je lui dirai tous les mots bleus
Tous ceux qui rendent les gens heureux
Tous les mots bleus