2005 Project Batch 3: The New World, Batman Begins, and Broken Flowers

TheNewWorldCover

Like I said in the previous post, I’ve been watching movies from 2005 and writing about some of them on my Letterboxd page. I’ve also been copying those thoughts and posting them in the blog. Just to clarify, these are not full-fledged reviews, but rather some quick thoughts (I’ll be watching so many movies that I couldn’t possibly write full-length reviews for all them).

Here’s the third batch.

TheNewWorldPosterThe New World (Directed by Terrence Malick)

I am not a Malick fanatic. I have only seen three of his movies, and of those, I would say ‘The New World’ is far and away the best one. Partly, because it has the clearest idea of them all: it is, essentially, the love story between John Smith and Pocahontas.

The Romance of it all gives the movie a strong base to stand on, and from there, it can become as profound and touching as Malick wants it to be. It could be read as another new age-y idea of man wanting to renounce civilization after being captivated by the power of living in harmony with nature, except it is not. It is something far more tragic. It engages head-on with the futility of the “civilized” man trying to return to nature. The second half of the movie, the one that focuses on Pocahontas, makes clear what the toll of this enterprise is.

It is also particularly interesting to watch ‘The New World’ just after watching ‘Grizzly Man’. They make for very interesting companion films. Aren’t both, after all, talking about man’s relationship to nature? While Herzog argues that searching for nature will kill man, Malick argues that man will kill nature by searching for it.

I don’t know. Am I onto something here? In any case, both are pretty amazing movies.

batmanbeginsposterBatman Begins (Directed by Christopher Nolan)

By now we know that you shouldn’t ask too many questions when watching a Christopher Nolan movie. You’re not supposed to ask “why”, but just give in to the thrill-ride of watching a filmmaker who is always driving forward. If you do this, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a good time with ‘Batman Begins’, especially in its first half, where the forward momentum is held together by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s propulsive score.

Once things settle down, the film starts to lose gas. It is never fully dead, but its latter half suffer from a unnecessarily complicated, and thus messy, plot. Many people point out to the confusing villain as one of the film’s biggest flaws, and I agree. This is a case where the exciting nature of the filmmaking does a lot for what is an otherwise not fully cooked screenplay. I like the movie’s core idea, of positioning Batman as a legendary figure in modern society, but I am not thrilled by the story around it.

brokenflowersposterBroken Flowers (Directed by Jim Jarmusch)

I first watched this when it first came out in DVD. I was thirteen, and I remember thinking that this was a movie in which “nothing happened”. And I didn’t even mean it in a pejorative way. My brain wasn’t ready to engage with a movie as apparently uneventful as this one. Ten years later, I have engaged with lots of movies that has far less going on in them than ‘Broken Flowers’.

Reading reviews of the time, the movie seems to have been mostly dismissed as another entry in the Bill Murray Midlife Crisis canon (this came out right after Lost In Translation and The Life Aquatic). I don’t think this is the best of those films, but it’s certainly the saddest, and it makes it worth look at the three as a very touching and genuine trilogy about emptiness.

The most effective element in ‘Broken Flowers’ is how committed it is to the emptiness at the center of the main character’s life. There is no Scarlett Johansson, or Owen Wilson, or Jaguar Shark here. Don Johnston’s life is completely mundane and absolutely meaningless. Thus, despite being often amusing, the movie ends up being a very painful tragedy. If nothing else, I absolutely love the movie’s ending.

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