Unlike my friend David, who used to study film, but now finds it beneath contempt, my appetite for the medium remains undiminished. Well, not exactly. I’m not so interested in films, per se, but in the whole act of dramatic representation. Consequently, I’m particularly interested in movie reviews.
I’m of the old school, what Hamlet describes as the original school, of drama, according to which “the purpose of playing … both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”
I mention this to contrast it to one of the Weekly’s regular reviewers, Molly Templeton, who is of the New School of Drama. The purpose of playing for this New School is not to hold up a mirror to nature – which doesn’t really exist anyway – but to hold up a mirror to the ideological fashion of the times, so as to flatter it.
Templeton’s latest conclusion expresses this aim well:
…I’m not here for the plot. … I’m here for a 41-year-old woman dominating the best action scenes in years. I’m here for a glorious action movie that doesn’t threaten its female star with sexual violence. I’m here for Charlize Theron as a real-life Amazon. I’m here for more of this, please.
The Old School notion of holding up a mirror to Nature is here completely overthrown. The reviewer, who I take to represent a vast audience, is entirely unconcerned with representing reality, but in fictionalizing a better reality. The New School is, in a word, Marxist, in accord with Marx’s critique of philosophers:
The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
Verisimilitude, or accurate representation, is aside the point relative to this aim. Accordingly, Templeton is “not here for the plot.” She’s here for the trope-defying images. This, I suspect, is music to the ears of movie executives; as it’s much easier to formulaically provide these images than to rise to the standard of the Old School in fashioning the sort of virtually seamless structure of character and plot that actually represents the profoundly twisted nature of reality.
Templeton’s review is of a movie titled Atomic Blonde. Given the name, I’m guessing it’s more than an action film. By that I mean to say that it’s a movie about a person who’s beyond normal, a person with super-powers. Consequently, we might assume – based on genre – that verisimilitude is to some extent out the window from the start. I assume the movie is an erotic idealization.
My point, though, is not to say that such movies are bad. What I find particularly interesting in such movies is not the failures of plot, but the way the violence is distributed. I’m interested, in short, in the shadows of the tropes, which I’ve been watching play out through a series of recent films, starting with Deadpool.
Templeton delights in the violence because of who it’s perpetrated by, and presumably, who it’s perpetrated against. I don’t imagine the Atomic Blonde cracking the skulls of any women. Maybe one, but even that would violate the current norm.
In Deadpool, for example, men are maimed and butchered for comic effect, but the filmmakers are careful to show Colossus saving the life of the super-villainess. X-MEN: Apocalypse follows the same script, without the comedy. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept detailed notes, but the general trend has been striking and clearly intentional.
Well, I guess I have a reason to go see this film.