ai

"my brain is falling out..."

 

i recently watched ai again- and having not seen it for many years it felt like watching it for the first time. while perhaps considered disappointing initially, it seems ai has come to be regarded as a sort of classic of the period and increasingly appreciated in retrospect. its complicated kubrician history no doubt now having become part of it's enduring legend.

according to ss, it was intended very much as a fairytale, and the pinoccio parable is pretty evident here. i think what bothers me about the film however, is that while it does work as a fairytale i feel it would have been so much more effective were it set in a darker world. clearly very dark things are happening- the flesh fair alone reads as incredibly brutal and cruel. and yet the tone remains somehow light and whimsical. the baddies are typical moustachioed caricatures disappearing into the background without consequence. and this feels very much in conflict with what the ethical implications are for a world in which humans rejoice publicly at such overt violence.

nevertheless the emotional heart of the story remains with david our child android. and the final act of the film, where things seem to go slightly off the reservation, is actually where it gets much more interesting. david's grappling with the realization of how not special he is, reads to me as a precursor to the more recent moon. [not to mention the idea that androids may be more HUMAN than humans as explored in great length via bsg.]

and furthermore, the film is still pretty stunning to look at. so while not as dystopian as i feel the story called for, it's still a very sensitive, evocative film. and rather prescient in terms of more recent films that continue to deal with similar themes.

 

stills from ai, 2001 directed by steven speilberg

stalker

"My conscience wants vegetarianism to win over the world. And my subconscious is yearning for a piece of juicy meat. But what do I want?"  -writer, in stalker

 

i've watched andrei tarkovsy's stalker twice now and i am not sure i understand it entirely. i'm not even sure i understand it at all. and i'm not sure it's the kind of film one can understand in it's entirety without multiple viewings. the plot seems basic enough- a group of men journey to an off-limits part of the wilderness known as "the zone." the journey is fraught with some sort of unseen yet potentially terrifying peril and the reward is that the zone may grant one "the deepest, innermost" wishes.

the plot however, may be beside the point. the point, may very well be the ambiguous nature of the journey. the imminent danger which seems to lurk behind every corner may not even be real. you get the sense that it could be a cerebral exercise for these characters.

this ambiguity is mirrored in the visual style of the film. there is a distinct transition from the rural local to the actual zone which goes from black and white to color. the images reveal and obscure the landscape. fog, reflections, frames within frames, darkness and light all contribute to this idea that while we are going somewhere and something is happening, the end result and the true meaning behind the journey cannot quite be pinned down. if you're into atmospheric, meditative and subtle sci fi flicks, see it.

 

stills from andrei tarkovsy's stalker, 1979

moon

 

with it's graphic title sequence and restrained special effects, moon is a cerebral sci-fi film in the vein of 2001: a space odyssey and solaris. the sparse minimal desaturated palette seems based in part on a desire to realize space realisticly and also perhaps to make space itself take a backseat to the drama unfolding. this stylistic reference to 2001 goes further with the introduction of the semi sentient computer named GERTY whose initial HAL-like quality evokes a very unsettling feeling. eventually this works against expectations as not only does GERTY emerge as sympathetic sort of character, but the initial existentialist tone of the film gives way to a tight character study of a man confronting the most vulnerable parts of himself.

moon is an incredibly sweet and melancholy film. it's beautiful and surprising and stays with you.

 

 

stills from moon directed by duncan jones, 2009