Media | A2Q Archives | Blog | Twitter | A2Q #37: The "I'd Rather Be Playing MGO" Edition | April 29, 2008: Welcome to this week's highlighted home video releases, focused entirely on the American market. Sorry, rest of the world.
Roundup by VsRobot | Posted April 29, 2008
Pick Of the Week
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
You wouldn't think a film where the protagonist is completely paralyzed (he can only turn his head and blink one eye) would be very entertaining, but you'd be wrong. I had major reservations about this film -- who wants to spend their leisure time on something so potentially depressing? -- but it turns out I was completely wrong in my assumptions.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the life story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a magazine editor-in-chief who wakes from a stroke-induced coma to find he suffers from "locked-in syndrome." His body has ceased to work, but his brain remains completely functional; with help, he's able to write his autobiography by blinking out the letters in the words. The title of the film comes from the fact that he feels like he is trapped inside of a bulky diving suit, and only his thoughts and imagination are as free as a butterfly.
The film is similarly free. Communicating visually the claustrophobia of paralysis and the dizzying height of imagination, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is ultimately an uplifting and beautiful film experience.
Tactical failure -- if you want more than just the chick-flick audience, you shouldn't advertise how clothed all the women in the film are.
The Golden Compass
The Golden Compass is a fantasy film set in a universe almost parallel to our own, a "steampunk" universe which is simultaneously behind and ahead of us, technologically speaking. Magic and witches are real, polar bears are a speaking, warrior culture, people's souls exist outside of their bodies as shape-changing animals (until puberty, when they must settle on a final form), and the religious authority controls everyone's lives in a totalitarian fashion. A young girl named Lyra lives at a large university which is mostly autonomous from "The Magisterium" that controls most of the rest of society, until a series of circumstances leads her to be adopted by (and then rescued from) one of the more powerful members of the Magisterium. Soon, she joins up with witches, gypsies, and savage polar bears on her quest to rescue a friend who has been kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as "The Gobblers".
I was disappointed by the film adaptation of Philip Pullman's novels, not least because its poor box office performance is rumored to have destroyed any chance of seeing the rest of the trilogy following suit. While the film technically does a good job of bringing the brilliant fictional world to life, it lacks the heart and feeling of the book. This is probably because of how compressed the events of the film are -- everything is exposition, and then bam! on to the next scene. The pace is quick, but at the expense of the book's achievements in building up the characters and world, and in making you care about what is happening. I was overcome with emotion at the close of the book, and felt almost nothing as the credits of the film rolled besides puzzlement at the abrupt finale. Whether it stemmed from a misguided attempt to spare mainstream cinema audiences the trauma of the book's actual ending or represents a desire to kick off the presumed second film with a bang, I can't say.
Overall, I'd still recommend it simply because of the visual panache on display. Even condensed, it makes for a fun world to visit. But if you want something with real depth and emotion, try the books instead.
I'd like to give Golden Compass another chance -- to try and watch it without all the preconceptions I brought from the book -- and the Blu-ray looks like a great chance to do that. The film's visual splendor seems ripe for the format.
Cover art courtesy of Amazon. But captain, to obey - just like that - for obedience's sake... without questioning... That's something only people like you do. You can best contact me by leaving a comment on my geek culture Blog or following me on Twitter. You can also now e-mail me at vsrobot [dot] blog [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks for reading!