Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quick Takes: "Pulp Fiction", "Scott Pilgrim", "The Social Network", "Spirited Away"

"Pulp Fiction" (***1/2)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

I get the impression that "Pulp Fiction" is the most widely accepted of Quentin Tarantino's films, and it rather understandable to see why. The film rams out charismatic dialogue that doesn't cop to single-quote tactics, and is actually more of a dialogue between characters. In coming back to it, it is rather understandable to notice a slightly purposeless feeling about proceedings, since it renders characters quite easily dispensable in spite of their rather passionate segments. That being said, those segments are rather exciting pulp entertainment, like the title pronounces quite fervently. However, there's not so much more I can say that hasn't been said already. It's a rather simple film, to be perfectly honest and with no mark against it.

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (***)
Directed by Edgar Wright

I'd already relegated a great deal of skepticism post-viewing regarding this film, as is no doubt easy to happen with a film that has such an ardent following. In any case of that happening, a film is cheapened by the hype around it. All that said, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is a hilariously quirky ride, and among the few "quirky" films that manages not to turn me off. Usually "quirky comedy" is a condemning phrase, because it's all quirk and no passion in the works. Edgar Wright never goes quite to the level of passion, but he is rather invested, and as such this film isn't so hollow. It's quite fun, and worth it simply for Kieran Culkin's fantastically single-faced performance that soars further than it has any right to.

"The Social Network" (***1/2)
Directed by David Fincher

What has the world done to me that's staled "The Social Network" so massively in my eyes? Actually nothing, to be perfectly honest, and I'd say that my impression of the film was always at this level. There are a lot of preconceptions that you have dispose of in relation to this film, like that it is the definitive film of an era. It absolutely is not, and it pains me to even see people criticizing it for not being that. It's rather powerful on its own terms, which are to be a story of assholes, betrayal, and friendship made cheap by the hollow allure of power. It's not about Mark abusing the power of Facebook. It's about the relationship between him and Eduardo. People seems to graze over that too easily. As for the rest of the film, it becomes overt in its proceedings at a point that it becomes more of a trial.

"Spirited Away" (****)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

I made a rather significant and somewhat innocuous decision the other day in watching Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away". I caught myself minutes into the film, and switched the audio and caption settings to view it in original Japanese. Lo and behold, the English title changes on the screen to Japanese symbols, and I open up the film in a way I'd ignored before. In fact, I found that there were many dispiriting changes made between the original film and the American dubbing of it. For one thing the world of "spirits" is actually the world of gods, which gives it a much more majestic feel about it. It feels like the bathhouse is a plane in which the world of gods and the world of humans overlaps.

There are also plenty of smaller ways the original version corrects the mistakes of the foolish American dub. Chihiro and Haku actually sound like young children, and Haku doesn't have such an adult voice to make their "love" kind of weird. The part of Haku's real name is given so much more logic and the sentimentality is kept in place. But most of all, the dialogue doesn't distract from the visual action. You really pay attention to the gestures made on the screen and not in the dialogue. It's gorgeous, beautiful, and the way the film way really meant to be seen. If you ever catch yourself watching this film again, I endear you to make this small correction. It will make it all worth while.

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