Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Children of Men, indeed!

I was reminded kindly by a friend and co-worker of my neglecting to mention this movie in my last post. It was not, technically, that I had forgotten about having seen it. On the contrary, I have been quite unable to forget it. It's a very powerful, provocative, and startling movie to watch. Instead, I was just tossing off that blog entry to break the silence and for an other, much geekier, purpose than reflecting on great cinema. I've set out to solve a bit of a problem, that being my interest in hanging out sometimes with the alumni on Facebook, sometimes with the hipsters who are moving on to, sometimes with the very lonely and beautiful web-camera girls that continue incessantly to invite me to add them as friends on MySpace, and sometimes I just want to be alone on blogger. But that's an awful lot of overhead to have to make an appearance on each site from time to time--just to prove I'm still really there. So, I've rigged up an almost complete solution. I've found that I can write on blogger. Then I have that automatically sent via email to, which then gets picked up by Facebook and Wallop. Now if I could just figure out something for Myspace. Mind you, I told you it was geeky. But in my defense, I started out creating a profile on all those sites just out of voyeuristic curiosity--mesmerized by technological innovation (which IS my job after all) and intrigued by the rampant tales of tawdry titillation. But then, a funny thing happened. I found friends in all those places. One former college roommate; one former school mate who seems to not want to talk to me--you KNOW who you are Corbin; a host of present co-workers and friends; and even a couple of nephews-in-law who remind me just how old I am, just how much more fun college is than post-college, and just how much better the food and lodging is once one's career is good and off the ground.

So, what has that to do with Children of Men? Nothing. So here:

Children of Men is a movie I couldn't take my eyes off of--even when I really wanted to. The technical qualities are stunning, from the understated depiction of the near future, to the epic sized cast, to the not so subtle critiques of current western cultural, political, and economic absurdity. The basic premise, not really a spoiler at all, is the setting--a world where women have lost the ability to bear children. It's a hero's journey plot, with some of the great formulaic elements of great classic hero myths. He's not really that heroic, he often has to have someone else save his ass, and he (at least at the beginning) starts out with little or no interest in being a hero.

At least one review I read made reference to a "chase" scene in the woods. But I think I know what they were referring to and I didn't really think of it as a chase. I'd call it a journey. But it is some of the most dramatically arresting film-making I've ever seen. It's a pivotal moment in the plot of the movie--one of several in a shell-game of a narrative where you eventually come to realize the stakes that are in play.

There were moments when the plot seems contrived. I mean, I think they had to make some overstated predictions about the despicable potential of human nature. There was some gratuitous violence--even for a movie that seems bent on critiquing a culture whose bloodthirstiness, even in the midst of a put-on preference for pacifism and diplomacy, seems to have well-outlived its actual usefulness. But the cast was outstanding. Bravos in particular for Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, and Michael Caine (who provides much needed comic relief while also being essential to the movement of the plot).

This is not a perfect movie, but it's really, really good. I was affected by it almost to the point of hyperactive insomnia. (Think of the opening scenes charging the beach in Saving Private Ryan--it's that kind of intense). Again, not wanting to spoil it, but if you go not knowing what to expect, you could end up finding yourself sick.

The story is based on a P.D. James novel. I haven't read it, but the premise and plot seemed quite a departure from what I'd call her "style." So I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of people who have read the book. Maybe I'll even pick it up myself. As you'd expect from James, there are rich religious undertones. And in this case, they teeter between the blatant criticism of old-fashioned jeremiad and the the stylized caricatures of Enlightenment satire. Sadly, the most useful conclusions will almost certainly fail to have any impact on those most in need of facing them. But Lady James will certainly be able to say "I told you so."

Have a happy day.

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