December 8, 2006

"Apocalypto" is not "Aguirre."

From the NYT review of Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto":
When I first heard about this project, and later when I saw the early trailers, I halfway hoped that Mr. Gibson might turn out to be an American (or half-Australian) version of Werner Herzog, setting out into the jungle to explore the dark and tangled regions of human nature. Once you get past the costumes and the subtitles, though, the most striking thing about “Apocalypto” is how comfortably it sits within the conventions of mainstream moviemaking. It is not an obsessive opera like Mr. Herzog’s “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” but rather a pop period epic in the manner of “Gladiator” or “Braveheart,” and as such less interested in historical or cultural authenticity than in imposing an accessible scheme on a faraway time and place.
"Aguirre: The Wrath of God" is on my very short list of favorite movies. (See my profile.) That "Aguirre" even gets mentioned in the review makes me more likely to partake of the new Mel-o-drama, even if the mention is only to say it's not quite like it.

17 comments:

Goesh said...

He can 'fancy-up' ripping and rending pretty well, slap on some morality and rake in the cash, that much is for certain. Mel has been laughing all the way to the bank for some time now. I do give him credit for giving some exposure and cash to Indians.

Tim said...

It is always fun to read the review of someone who is upset the movie maker didn't make the movie the reviewer wanted it to be while never acknowledging that his own ability to make any movie approaches zero.

PatCA said...

Right, Tim.

And I also would take a NYT review with a grain of salt.

Revenant said...

Um, critics are paid to review movies. Directors are paid to make them.

That a critic couldn't make a movie is irrelevant. I can't drywall a house, but that doesn't give contractors I hire the right to do a shit job and not expect complaints from me about it.

Sanjay said...

Better way to say it:

"This is not an Aguirre."

Fritz said...

We currently have tribal cultures using excessive violence in Iraq for political purposes and this reviewer wants to romanticize the Mayans as being civilized? Mel don't ya know the meme, the indians were a peaceful socialist collective until the evil Europeans came along.

Fritz said...

Sorry, I meant civilized in terms of non-violent liberalism we enjoy. Of course the Mayans were a civilization.

Coco said...

Did you read the review Fritz? ANd if so, how did you get that interpretation? If anything, the review disdains the common Gibson set-up of peaceful idyllic (here Mayan) villagers whose utopia is disrupted by the violent and evil central power/nobility. While the review discusses how violent the movie is and how central such renderings are to Mel's films (which is pretty self evident) it also admires how good he is at this particular aspect of his craft (which I think is also self-evident).

That being said, I wish the movie was more about the Mayan civilization rather than just using that as a backdrop for an action movie. Of course, this is just one review and I still plan to see the movie.

Finally, patca: "And I also would take a NYT review with a grain of salt." Now that's just plain silly. What about A.O. Scott's work in the past makes you believe he is anything other than a serious and intelligent critic? If its merely that he works for the NYT, which is what you seem to be saying, then its your own blind biases at work, not his, and I can only conclude that your opinion should be taken with a grain of salt, or none at all.

JazzBass said...

whatever mel's film does, i bet it can't come close to "Incident at Loch Ness". Viva Herzog, Viva Kinski and Viva Althouse!

Fritz said...

Coco,
"as such less interested in historical or cultural authenticity" That is code word for romantic belief that these people weren't the savages they were.

Anthony said...

I posted a bit about the movie here although my interest has been more in the portrayal of Maya civilization that the film itself. See, I'm such a heathen I use "film" and "movie" interchangeably.

So far, the only rumblings I've heard (see the links in that post) are whether or not the Maya actually practiced the sort of mass sacrifices supposedly portrayed on film. There's not a whole lot of evidence for it, but that doesn't mean a whole lot in my view, since it's only fairly recently that violence has even been considered as part and parcel of ancient societies.

Still, if anyone has links to articles on what archaeologists/Mayanists are saying, please make a comment there with a link.

knoxgirl said...

And say what you will about him — about his problem with booze or his problem with Jews — he is a serious filmmaker.

This sentence has a "problem." It's inappropriate and distracting.

Cedarford said...

I talked to a neighbor who had the day off.."Stunning! I was lost in a different world, totally caught up in it. Can't believe over two hours went so fast!" (Not being a film critic, he thinks any film that enthralls him is worth his money, and he was VERY enthusiastic. I like the same sort of flicks so I plan on seeing it...though he DID mention having kids see it was not a good idea..)
********************
Anthony - Gibson has had a "commitment" to making his movies as authentic to the time and culture as he can...not certain dramatic scenes (the Brits never burned a Church-full of American Revolutionaries alive, for example) --but in clothing, weapons, mannerisms, major events, interactions.

He has, along with staff and writers, hired and regularly consults historians and archaeologists to "get it right" since Braveheart.
According to the film's Website, "Apocalypto" is congruent with current Latin American, American, and European scholarship regarding Mayan culture, the role of violence, and human sacrifice. Some "indigenous activists" have protested that "Mayans were the peaceful people"...but what do you expect?

Any "fans" of a certain people, let alone descendents behaps taught they were nobility on earth get pretty peeved when the luster is diminished by discoveries - Mayans being bloodthirsty when their society began to collapse from agriculture failing and disease...like cracked marrow bones and butchering marks on Neanderthal and Anastazis indicating they practiced cannibalism...or that noble Native Americans "in total tune and harmony with nature" were responsible for mass extinctions. It couldn't have been them! It must be the weather that killed off the beasts! The Indians were too busy in a gay-friendly sexual egalitarian society doing spiritual chants and playing blackjack and slots in their traditional casinos to ever harm mammoths! Why, a noble native American weeped for the spirit of the fish he killed!

PatCA said...

As for biases, coco, you can partake of "serious and intelligent" critic A. O. Scott’s philosophy of film criticism here. In a nutshell, it's You're Stupid, I'm Not.

But perhaps you are smarter than the rest of us as well and would not take offense at his arrogant blather. To each her own--I prefer to make up my own mind about movies.

class-factotum said...

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile, where I worked with a group of indigenous women (Mapuche). I was informed that Mapuche men didn't even know how to make a fist until we mean evil white Europeans came along.

I guess the woman who told me that was unaware that the reason the Incas never got any further south than they did was because they couldn't conquer the Mapuches and that the Spaniards finally signed a treaty with the Mapuches because they couldn't beat them and they got tired of being impaled on huge pointed logs.

PatCA said...

class-factotum,
Sadly, I believe your story.

And then did the evil white men give them 'smallpox-infected blankets'?

Anonymous said...

PatCA wrote;
As for biases, coco, you can partake of "serious and intelligent" critic A. O. Scott’s philosophy of film criticism here. In a nutshell, it's You're Stupid, I'm Not.

Oh, it's worse than that, Pat - it's the old standby "Why aren't you stupid plebs paying attention to your betters?" Well, Mr. Scott, it might help if you mandarin posturing was backed up with something remotely in the vicinity of wit, style and insight? THe New York Times film criticism is almost as embarrasing as its book coverage, and that's saying a lot.