Thursday, May 28, 2009

Errol Morris you god amongst men, and IVAN THE TERRIBLE PT. 1 (88)

I'm in sort of depressed, disgusted, amazed haze after sitting through Errol Morris' most recent documentary Standard Operating Procedure, a sort of blow-by-blow account of the horrors (and jiminy Christmas do I mean horrors) of the U.S. military's Abu Ghraib. I'm not kidding here, Errol Morris has managed to bring together all of the non-incarcerated perpetrators from this absolutely mind-bogglingly horrible situation and has them pretty much go through each and every photo that bludgeoned the American public not so long ago and explain what happened and why.

This of course is a loose account an amazing film put together as only the master of documentaries, Errol Morris can. Yes, this is a film about a horrible terrible situation and the vile things wrought upon human beings by other human beings, but it's also just so much more than. It's a film about how we take what's presented to us by the media at face value. It's a story about a group of broken people (broken by what? who knows) pushed and pulled and generally blindsided in to doing the dirty work of a corrupt military. It's about the way any human being can reason out the most terrible of act if it can take the weight of said act off their shoulders. It's a film about anger, love, lust, and a bevy of other emotions that drove a handful of "normal" people (those quotations exist only to denote the fact that no one, not a single one of us is "normal") to perpetrate acts that had my lunch of falafel shwerma roiling and toiling.

It's a painful, yet brilliant film and I urge you folk who have to inkling to challenge the paradigms of what is set before you to check it out. Hell, if that's your inkling you should check out any and all films by the amazing, brilliant, fantastic Errol Morris. The man has an ability, a shocking ability to take subjects and turn them in to a sort of real life poetry. Documentaries have never been so beautiful in any other's hand.

Start with The Thin Blue Line and go from there.

These are the notes I wrote down during my marathon digestion of both Ivan the Terrible Pt. 1 & 2 (88). Yes, you read that right, I watched both films today in one sort of creepy, near delightful binge of Russian historic melodrama. These are my notes and my explanations, only for the first film. That's how it is guys, it's only one Criterion film a day, no matter how badly I want to bury these films in the back of my mind forever and ever and ever and ever.

Here we go:

1. Great beards: yes, Russians and especially the Medieval Russians of these two films have brilliant, flowing, stomach length beards. Some are triangular, some are just bushes of beardness, and others are indescribable in their glory.

2. Images: even though I found it pretty painful to sit through nearly six hours of Sergei Eisenstein in the last three days, I've got to say, the man is a genius when it comes to imagery. His usage of shadow and light is breath-taking and on most occasions you'll find yourself staring at a deftly complicated, near perfectly composed shot featuring twenty people. You'll just stare and stare and wonder to yourself, "How is it that even though I'm this bored, I'm still fascinated by the huge shadow of that man's head?" You will.

3. Rise/fall of Ivan: that's what the first film is about, Ivan (not yet terrible) wants to be Tsar of Russia, but not a divided Russia, the whole damn thing and no one's happy, and a lot of backstabbing goes on and beautiful, flowing-haired Ivan is forced pretty much out of power and in to hiding and there's a huge parade of people and a giant shadow of Ivan's head stretched out across a globe. It was a weird movie.

That's what I wrote for the first film. But I've got a nice solid list for the second as well ... which you can read about on Monday.

With that, I step away from this blasted computer for the first time in hours.

Monday: Ivan the Terrible Pt. 2 (88)

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