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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, December 25, 2006

Children Of Men - Day Of Turkey

Merry Christmas, each and every reader of my humble blog™.

If I could give you a wish this day, it would be that each of you have health, wealth and serenity to last you out your lifetimes.

As for me, I will be doing the Family Thing this 25 December, as per usual, same as many of you shall be, too.

So whilst I am busy procuring our turkey from abler hands than mine, I offer unto you yet another movie-centric blogpost, which I posted earlier today on Yahoo! Movies.

It's a film review of Children of Men, which debuts in the US this Christmas Day. Enjoy!

The Nativity Story

Quick, how old will you be in the year 2027? Well, hurry and grow up because we humans, says Children of Men, have only 2 more years to churn out our younguns.

I've had four months to ponder this movie, since Alfonso Cuarón's film opened on the first day of Autumn in the UK and in Europe (it even debuted in Mexico a full month before its US debut on Christmas Day, since of course, Cuarón is Mexican).

Four months to ruminate, to re-evaluate, to philosophise the major premises of this film, and I can say, I may not be much the wiser about the underpinning motivations of this film, but it is certainly a movie which has that effect on one:

Its themes stay long with you. Its visuals are unforgettable.



This is the kind of film which you run to the IMDB messageboards to lurk for clarification, or to post about your feelings, to see if others shared your impressions of it.

In that sense, Children of Men is very special, and whatever its failings, like Brazil or Bladerunner (two films I love), its vision overcomes palpable weaknessses in plot, or ideology.

PLOT OUTLINE

The story is simple.

The world is in chaos -- no, no, more than usual.

For reasons never explained, humans are unable to go forth and multiply, with the last human child (an Argentinian lad going by the shockingly obvious name of Diego, aged a mere 18) ushering in the film by his untimely, violent, bitterly ironic death.

Since this calamitous series of events, the world seems to have turned in on itself, gobbling itself up, a social Hiroshima which only Britain was able to survive (again, unexplained as to why).

But alongside our tea, scones, and continued bloody weather, there has also survived a viciously post-Fascist government, which has given up all pretense to being the inspiration for the Mother of Parliaments, content now to shove the teeming refugees seeking asylum in Britain, into concentration camps which are only gateways to mass deportation.

But fear not -- there's a terrorist group known as the Fishes who mean to challenge the jackbooted status quo!

Yes, terrorists are the good guys, as can only be the case when the world has flushed itself down the commode.

Enter Theo Faron (in a beautifully judged performance by the perpetually unshaven, Clive Owen), sometime anarchist, full-time lush.

This middling bureaucrat at the Ministry of Energy has ties to the Fishes via his former lover (Julianne Moore, in a somewhat forgettable performance), an underground operative who enlists his services for a Very Special Task -- a young black woman has a secret, but it will only be revealed fully in 9 months. I'll give you three guesses what it is.

VISUALS

Most futurist sci-fi thrillers (or variants thereof) have a strange peculiarity about them:

Either the future is unaccountably grim because a cataclysmic event -- usually a consequence of very poor decisions on our part -- has jolted us from our cosy consumerist Utopias, or it is uncommonly perfect, in that overly sterile, neat way the future represents to some (a world where grime has been vanquished, one Lysol can at a time).



Dystopic, futurist films seem to evoke a perpetual Orwellian mood whereby all humans seem stuck with an ill-fitting, grey flannel 1930s wardrobe...or 2001: A Space Odyssey proto-space suits all in one colour, that always seem to zip up at the back.

(Is there something about the future which renders colour dyes obsolete? Have we learned nothing from Gianni Versace's short stay on earth?)

Children of Men firmly belongs into the former camp of "grey is beautiful", although you'll be happy to know that dog tracks and flat-screen TVs are not only still around and ubiquitous, but we can play Wii videogames at the dinner table.

Oh, and marijuana somehow survived too. Huzzah!

DIRECTION AND PERFORMANCES

Unlike DeNiro's Good Shepherd, which trades slickness for cleverness and lacks a heart, Children of Men is given its soul by the gorgeous hand-held cinematography and direction of Alfonso Cuarón, who single-handedly reinvigorated the Harry Potter series.

At times, the pull out shots, and long-takes reminds one of Orson Welles at his finest, and indeed, this film owes something to The Third Man, a world covered in rubble giving it the oft-mentioned adjective of "gritty"...as well as The Trial, where petty government stands for psychotic oppresiveness.

Unlike Anthony Perkins in The Trial, our bureaucrat seems to be made of sterner stuff, and good job too, since he is acting as humanity's midwife.



Or, and this goes to Clive Owen's doughty performance, is Theo perhaps even a stand-in Joseph for the newest miracle baby about to be born?

Claire-Hope Ashitey plays the would-be Mary with a refreshing lack of fragileness, and though Michael Caine steals every scene he is in (even the stork joke works), it is these three actors who make Children of Men click.

(Minor quibble about Michael Caine's spindly hippie wig. It makes him look for all the world, like Christopher Lloyd in Back To The Future. And his wife looks like a cataleptic Janis Joplin)



The film took a while to grab me, but for whatever reason, I was hooked by its vision after the Michaelangelo David scene, which is striking even if you've never seen the real or "Victoria and Albert" versions.

PHILOSOPHY AND IDEOLOGY

I suppose it's a truism that our obsessions of today, make for our obsessions of how we view tomorrow.

For all we know, in the year 2027 not only has infertility been conquered, but maybe even males of the species incubate babies just like us gals can.

Won't we all have a laugh at Children of Men then.

Similarly, the present world woes where Islamic terrorism does more than nip at our heels, could have been muted, or even eradicated, and therefore the fears of an all-encroaching Big Brother State might seem like so much paranoia.

It is true that Children of Men has these philosophical, even ideological underpinnings which cannot go unremarked -- it comes from a vision that the road we are on, for some, is not to their liking, and they believe that lack of empathy for foreigners/immigrants (or just the "other"), lack of regard for privacy concerns, lack of subtlety towards people who have revindications due to land disputes and lack of fairness towards them, will only lead to a worsening world.

But unlike the majority of doomsday films set sometime in the near future, Children of Men raises itself up from being a mere chase film, to being one with an express hope.

That humanity be better than what it has been, so that it may (be allowed to...?) survive.

For what it's worth, I liked this film and though I don't think it'll do nearly as well in the US as it did in the UK -- not the least of which because its release was awkward for so gritty a film -- Children of Men is a fine modern successor to the futurist genre, unlike the neurasthenic V For Vendetta.

Its second-best, is not good enough.

But when it's on, it's magnificent.

12 Comments:

  • Holy Kringle, Michael Caine looks like 3 quarters of male Ann Arborites! I like to play a game where when actors age, they're really playing past characters...Is this what happened to Carter? Did his Miss Congeniality character get some hyper-illness?

    The Martin Sheen of West Wing is really Col. Willard from Apocalypse Now!

    By Blogger Ron, at Mon Dec 25, 08:55:00 am GMT-5  

  • Do you know Blade Runner is not yet on DVD? A good part of the reason is that it's present owner, the same guy who runs BET, doesn't like it, and has been foot-dragging about releasing it! The El Grande box is in the works, with all the chrome, though...


    Sigh. and James Brown dies today. Oy.

    By Blogger Ron, at Mon Dec 25, 09:02:00 am GMT-5  

  • Merry Christmas to you and yours, Victoria. Reading your blog brings me much delight and I thank you for that. Here's hoping the New Year has nothing but good things in store for you.

    By Blogger Pete, at Mon Dec 25, 10:25:00 am GMT-5  

  • Mark Steyn has an interesting riff on the original book in his America Alone.

    I think his theme of Europe's voluntary extinction is apropos...

    Anyway, Merry Christmas to all.

    By Blogger JSU, at Mon Dec 25, 12:11:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Holy Kringle, Michael Caine looks like 3 quarters of male Ann Arborites! I like to play a game where when actors age, they're really playing past characters...Is this what happened to Carter?

    And Alfie, and the handsome British officer in Zulu, and and and...but not really because he's just playing a role with bad makeup. ;)

    Interestingly, if he's supposed to be a hippie in the film, he'd be closer to 85.

    Though his character is indeed old, he doesn't look a day over 67...which would have given a birth date closer to 1960 -- hardly a hippie at all.

    But trust a progressive-minded film to invest heroic qualities in evoking the Me-Generation.

    Because they protest all and sundry now and since the 60's, that means they are OBVIOUSLY the only candidates for splinter groups of dissent in a Fascist future?

    In real life, they would implode like Baader-Meinhof, or the Red Brigade, and the real heroes would be common men and women, or indeed, plain civic or religiously-minded folk.

    Oh well.

    And hey, I've been to Ann Arbor mister, and the young guys are DISHY! Very preppy with their deep blue Brooks Brother Oxford shirts, chinos and Topsiders.

    Or was just the crowd I hung around with? ;)

    Merry Christmas!
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Dec 25, 01:10:00 pm GMT-5  

  • RIP James Brown! I hadn't heard yet. I'm setting the table, still...

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Dec 25, 01:11:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Merry Christmas to you and yours, Victoria. Reading your blog brings me much delight and I thank you for that. Here's hoping the New Year has nothing but good things in store for you.

    Aww, thank you Pete, and x-times-infinity times to you!

    A very Merry, gifting, sedate Christmas to you and yours. :)

    Tua,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Dec 25, 01:13:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Mark Steyn has an interesting riff on the original book in his America Alone.

    Heh Heh Heh. Mark Steyn.

    I think his theme of Europe's voluntary extinction is apropos...

    Oh, piffle! Though I appreciate the book reference, and you have caused me to look it up on Amazon. :)

    It's just that this kind of talk is the flip side of the "We're living in a Fascist State, and it's only going to get worse in the future!" talk of the leftists today -- which is redolent in this film.

    Bah humbug. ;)

    Anyway, Merry Christmas to all.

    Merry Christmas to YOU. :)

    I miss you loads, more than I can say...

    Tua amica,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Dec 25, 01:15:00 pm GMT-5  

  • And hey, I've been to Ann Arbor mister, and the young guys are DISHY! Very preppy with their deep blue Brooks Brother Oxford shirts, chinos and Topsiders.

    Maybe for you next Christmas...if you're good!

    The women are truly disappointing, even the young'uns...

    I do go watch cheerleader camp in the late summer though...

    Merry, merry, schmoopsie! and Mama of Schmoopsie!

    By Blogger Ron, at Mon Dec 25, 03:18:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Oh, and you are always welcome back here to TreeTown -- there are fun places to be had. If I ever head to Miami, you may lead me hither and yon... but first to good food! (I'm starting to resemble Louis XIV, so off to Versailles!)

    By Blogger Ron, at Mon Dec 25, 03:22:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Joyeux Noël à toi et aux tiens. See you soon in the fantasy world of sport.

    By Anonymous SHUSSBAR, at Wed Dec 27, 03:09:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Shussy! Bonne Année to you and your dear family too. :)

    It's nice to see you around, however briefly.

    Bises,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Dec 28, 03:40:00 pm GMT-5  

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