MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

The Frenzy in Hawaii

I’m right in the middle of a two-week trip to Maui. Anytime I go on a trip, I always bring classic books I never got around to – this trip I broughtTender is the Night and Master and Margarita– and I also bring along a few DVDs to watch on the plane and in my down time. My plan is to fill in the substantial cinematic gaps that I, like every cinephile, have.

Some of my friends haven’t seen a single Rohmer film, but have seen every classic from the ’30s and ’40s, while others might be familiar with everything old, but don’t watch many current movies. My own film-knowledge weakness are the little gaps in classics that will probably never be filled because I try to keep up with current movies as much as possible.

That need to keep up with the current is my Achilles Heel. I see upwards of two hundred new release movies every year, so trying to fill in the gaps in my history is somewhat daunting. It’s not that I’d rather see Angels and Demons than Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket, but it’s a compulsion I have to watch what is current. I suppose I feel that Pickpocket has lasted as a great film for this long, it could probably wait a little bit longer; but a film like Angels and Demons is already irrelevant by the time it unspools for the first time.

So I planned on this trip to fill those gaps a bit … but so far, it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

I wish that I had watched the following movies I brought with me: Pickpocket, Les Caribiners, The Piano Teacher, La Chinoise, Tess, The Conformist, and Heartbeat Detector. Instead, I’ve watched the following films (on the flight and in the hotel room): Paul Blart, Friday the 13th (the remake), The Last House on the Left (the remake), Push, andConfessions of a Shopaholic. The only film I brought with me that I managed to watch was Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou.

I watched Marcus Nispel’s unfortunate remake of Friday the 13th with my mouth agape, wondering how anybody could be the least bit frightened by what was transpiring on screen. A horror film is all about ratcheting up the tension and there isn’t a lick of tension anywhere in this film. Much like Nispel’s awful remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it all feels somewhat familiar yet devoid of any of the low-budget heart and soul that made those films scary. There really is no reason to call this film Friday the 13th, since the date is never mentioned once and there is very little back-story about Jason and his mother, aside from a few clips during the opening credit sequence.

Which makes me wonder why they would even bother calling it Friday the 13th, aside from marketing purposes; it would’ve been a lot cooler if they had just created an entirely different horror story set in a summer camp. I’m not one of those people that bemoans the fact that studios pump out remakes of perfectly good movies, but in this case the film bears so little relation to the original film that it’s almost laughable. And it really feels almost like a parody of what a horror film is supposed to be, with a ton of nudity and stabbing, but it’s all like a videogame since the stakes never seem very high.

The actors aren’t memorable at all, aside from Jared Padalecki, and the script does them no favors by having them spout cliché after cliché. I’m writing this less than twenty-four hours after seeing it and I can’t remember much about it, aside from a guy getting caught in a bear trap and Jason living in an underground cave and confusing a young woman for his mother. Jason is kind of like a combination of an abused puppy and a survivalist.

Nispel doesn’t even light things correctly, making certain scenes too bright to be scary or too dark to be visible. And the timing is all off, with the “scares” coming four seconds after you already saw it coming, ruining any sense of surprise. It is just an inept and unnecessary film from start to finish.

After that, I decided to ruin my trip further by watching The Last House on the Left, the original of which I had just seen a few months ago and detested. The original film is not scary, it’s just kind an ugly nihilistic exploitation film that doesn’t really say anything and has scene after scene of degradation of women. The remake is exactly the same, except with a lot less exploitation. What happens when you remake an exploitation film without the exploitation? You get a film that is utterly without purpose or direction.

The original film had scenes of the two women being abused in pretty horrific fashion by four seriously disturbed and unpleasant looking people. The remake tones down the abuse, the nudity and the blood and has the four drifters played by good looking people. This is not to say that good looking people cannot be abusive, but that it makes it a lot less creepy and loses a lot of the verisimilitude of the original. In the original, you believe that these four creepy looking people could actually be deranged lunatics that Wes Craven found on the street. In the remake, they really look like actors and models pretending to be deranged.

It’s funny that this remake, directed by Dennis Iliadis, manages to push less buttons than a film made over thirty years earlier. The whole point of the original was to try and be subversive and controversial, but the remake seems to be trying to avoid controversy at every turn.

I did watch a Godard film, but that wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience either. I get Godard, I see what he’s trying to do with his more experimental features, but I think it’s masturbatory. I love Breathless, Contempt and Band of Outsiders, but the rest of his filmography is littered with films like Week-End, Masculin Feminin, Tout Va bien and Pierrot Le Fou, which are about nothing more than Godard telling you how smart he is — and how dumb you are for watching this movie.

Pierrot Le Fou has a few scenes where the characters are aware that they are in a film, killing any tension that the film had; and Godard is doing this deliberately, to point out a number of different things, trying to deconstruct cinema and what it represents. He is fascinated by the idea of the director giving the story and the audience receiving it, like a teacher and his disciples. But Godard loves to break in every now and again to tell you that this is just a movie and isn’t it silly and aren’t we smart, etc. Godard seems to be telling the audience that they are silly for watching this or for getting wrapped up in the story and I take that personally.

Godard famously blew up at Truffaut after Truffaut made the beautiful Day for Night, writing Truffaut a letter berating him for making the film. Godard called the film dishonest, but added that Truffaut could now use the proceeds to help Godard make an honest, political film about film sets. This completely fractured the relationship between Truffaut and Godard.

The films of Godard and Truffaut also tend to fracture film lovers: there are Godard people and Truffaut people. Truffaut made films from the heart and wasn’t afraid of being sentimental while Godard made films from the head, which almost never had an emotional effect on an audience. I’m very much a Truffaut person, though I love Godard when he’s actually trying to make a movie, rather than a political statement. Personally, I’d rather have watched Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses again than have spent my vacation time watching Godard’s deconstruction in Pierrot Le Fou … but at least now I can say I’ve seen the latter. Gap filled, time to move along. Aloha!

– Noah Forrest
June 1, 2009
Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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