September 5, 2004


I almost never go to the movies anymore. I used to go out to the movies two or three times a week and watch movies almost every day on videotape/DVD. But for some reason, a year or so ago, I lost interest in watching movies, not that I've turned against movies, just that on any given day, I don't feel like spending my time watching a movie. In the last year, I think I've only gone out to see "The House of Sand and Fog," "Kill Bill--Volume 1," "Kill Bill--Volume 2," and "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." So, clearly, it takes a lot to draw me into a movie theater. I've tried to analyze why. Sometimes I say I don't like committing to the physical confinement of two hours stuck in a chair. Sometimes I complain about the people: Why are they eating and drinking so much and walking in and out of the theater? Maybe it's that I'm never bored when I'm on my own and always bored some of the time when I'm at a movie, and I'm just trying to avoid having to be bored. Maybe it's that movies are really made for other people, not for me. For example, I detest "women's" movies like "The Hours" or "The English Patient." And "action" always bores me. Sometimes I encounter a movie I really love. In recent years, I loved "Memento" and "Fight Club." But the chances are high that I'm not going to like a movie, so I just don't want to make a commitment.

But, as I said a while back, I wanted to see "Hero." My primary reason: Beauty. I want to see beauty, and I had plenty of reason to see that this was a movie that went very far toward the extreme of cinematic beauty. So today, we went to see "Hero." I fixed my eyes on the beauty of the images and that caused me to miss a subtitle here and there, and pretty soon, I had to admit to myself: I don't understand the story! God forbid they should use dubbing instead of subtitles! Though the letters on the screen mar the image, the attitude about dubbing versus subtitles is so intense that they simply have to stick with subtitles. Snobs would denounce a dubbed art movie. But this movie would have been much better dubbed, because you have to choose between reading the text and seeing the grand images. I made my choice, then I had no idea what was going on, and as time passed, the images began to bore me. I started thinking things like: Has there ever been a movie with so much swirling, blowing fabric? And what's with all the cast of thousands? Why do they sometimes shoot a million arrows simultaneously and sometimes just stand back and allow the fate of a nation to be determined by two people having a sword fight? I could tell this was a movie that was designed to make other people very excited and to feel deep feelings. I didn't feel it.

This movie has gotten incredibly good reviews. Critics can see, as anyone can, that the filmmakers cared deeply about beautiful sets, beautiful costumes, beautiful shots, beautiful landscapes, beautiful images. It is hard not to give credit for that. But I did go to the movie out of a love and desire for beauty, and it left me cold, so I am going to have to admit that. I had an "English Patient" reaction: Everyone else is saying this is great, and these two lovers suffering in a grand landscape is supposed to be mindbendingly tragic, but I'm not feeling it and I'm resenting feeling that I'm supposed to be feeling it.

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