MCN Blogs
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

[REVIEW] 300 (2007, *** 1/2)

“JOEY, DO YOU LIKE GLADIATOR MOVIES?” Why yes, I do, if they’re 300, with its rich, brute beauty. While keening early reports from a Berlin Film Festival press screening suggested that any woman seeing 300 (*** 1/2) ought to check their male dates for bi-curious pup tents, vet commercials director Zack Snyder’s second feature (after 2004’s Dawn of the Dead) is more than a homoerotic vista of rippling man-bulk. It’s a distinctly otherworldly tapestry, a bloody, violent storybook-look imagining of the 480 B.C. battle at Thermopylae, as well as blunt assertions on the nature of masculinity, war-making and murder. This is grandiloquent, bravura, exquisitely inventive movie-making, but since its subject is vainglorious battle to the death of civilization, one of several tempests in a 300_v234234.jpgcrackpot about 300, highlighted by a thumbsucker in the Sunday New York Times, is the venture that the movie is intended as commentary on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Get this: war is war. “Remember why we died” is always a statement of sorrow as well as succoring of bloodlust. These figures, too, worried of “hold[ing] our gates” against “Asia’s endless hordes.” (Of course, no modern army would ever go into an incursion so severely undermanned or without necessary protective gear.) And while testosterone and heights of the visceral and viscera and suicidal doggedness are on display, and ideas of patrimony and honor are parsed with copious limb-slicing and decapitation, 300 is ultimately an admirable imaginative feat, drawing for style from Frank Miller’s graphic novel, but also the world of painting, the grammar of videogames, rock-ribbed rhetoric and the possibility of what millions of dollars can wreak out of one director’s mind and thousands of terabytes of computer memory. (Yet I cannot imagine a studio financing this gory work in a less bloody and fearful time.) Images: priests of the gods convening within an octagon-topped knob against a moon hundreds times larger than true. A redheaded oracle, pale beneath shimmers of sheer and smoke, hair the red-gold of koi, writhing to demonstrate both fever and erectness of nipple. Pale hairs on another woman’s belly by reflected blue light of an absurdly bright, near moon. (Female flesh is not neglected amid the sweaty flesh of fighting men.) An orgy by torchlight and hookah under the gaze of Xerxes that seems either a parody or celebration of the multiethnic sex-fray in Matrix Revolutions. Bull elephants twice-three times actual size backed off hillocks to the stony shore below. Golden light blighted suddenly by the rain of a thousand, thousand singing spears. Clouds do not scud but roil, women’s breasts are always in motion, red capes and draping swirl. The landscapes are peopled with taut beefcake bellies, but the 41-year-old writer-director’s camera dwells also on the the taut extension along ribcages as spear- and sword-bearing arms strain upward toward release. Snyder also delivers setpieces of extended sequence-shots that are stitched digitally from myriad smaller bits from cameras clustered near each other at differing focal lengths. You’ve not seen it all until you’ve seen this odd yet exciting effect. Fair history? (Snyder eagerly admits to refashioning of formations and tactics so that the battles would be more vivid on screen.) At the least, fine spectacle, po-faced and only lightly Pythonesque. (This review is of the IMAX version.)

(Ray Pride)

Comments are closed.

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster

“If there’s one rule Hollywood has metaphysically proven in its century of experimentation, it’s that there’s no amount of money you can’t squander in the quest for hits.

“Netflix has spent the past couple years attempting to brute-force jailbreak this law. Its counter-theory has seemed to be, sure, a billion dollars doesn’t guarantee quality but how about three billion dollars? How about five billion dollars? Seven?

“This week’s latest cinematic opus to run across no-man’s-land into the machine-gun emplacements has been the Jared Leto yakuza movie ‘The Outsider.’ Once again, debuting on Netflix, another thing called a movie that at one glance doesn’t look like any kind of movie anyone has ever seen before, outside of off-prime time screenings at the AFM.

“If you’re working at a normal studio, you have one or two of these total misfires in a year and people start calling for your head. How many is Netflix going on? Fifteen? Twenty? This quarter? Any normal company would be getting murdered over results like that.”
~ Richard Rushfield