Sunday, March 25, 2007

A male gaze

Skipped a day yesterday, which was kind of good because I wouldn't have had enough news to fill up the weekend anyway. Plus I have a lot of backed up freelance work, so today, a review and a roundup of the last day of Filmart.

Watched 300 last night (regrettably not on IMAX because tickets were gone by the time we got there), and just couldn't get out of my head at just how much it supported Mulvey's male gaze. Basically, Mulvey proposed that films are made in the view of a Caucasian male gaze acting as a voyeur, thus women are often shot in more glamorous way in order to appeal to the male viewer. But what Mulvey didn't (and maybe wasn't about to find at the time the theory was developed) realize was that the male viewers aren't necessarily looking for a female image, but that they are also looking for a perfected version of men.

Much like women and their supposed "images of perfection" driving them to strive to match this image, 300 presents a perfected men with warrior figure and ultimate bravery that appeals to men because it's what they strive for. Its testosterone-driven tone means to boil up the blood of male viewers (I can go into it being meant for a Caucasian audiences, considering it's a bunch of European Whites fighting an army of various minority races, but I shan't because it's more divided along gender lines than race lines anyway) and get them coming out high-fiving each other as they go "hoo-ha" and screaming "Spartans!!!" And for that, it does the job. There were some impressing long takes of battle scenes, and the first battle was particular impressive. Anyone tired of the shaky-cam effect in battle scenes will be happy to see the carnage not only shot with a refreshing relative stability, but in lots of slow-motion as well.

But that's about it - the slow-motions seems way too showy and "looking cool" just for the sake of looking cool, and even as an action film, it surprisingly breezes past the battles (perhaps due to the budget limitations, I don't know) so that it felt like the Spartans have been fighting for a while when history shows that it only lasted three days....and actually had way more than 300 Spartan soldiers. The redundant pep speeches and the excessive amount of slow-motions (I think by some unscientific measure that 1/3 of the film's action was probably played at slower speed), and forget about any type of historical accuracy, although considering it's more based on the Frank Miller comic than Greek history, maybe it's not really a complaint.

I suppose in the end it's a pretty-looking and well-paced popcorn film, but I am honestly surprised that people think anything beyond that (It's already on the imdb top 250. Which I suppose would make sense considering the number of geek fanboys on imdb). Even producer Gianni Nunnari said in Entertainment Weekly that he would be "surprised if even one person from the audience is watching this movie and thinking of Bush and Iraq. That would be a disaster - it would mean that people were bored." Well, I did think about Bush and Iraq, and I was bored at points, but fortunate for Mr. Nunnari, 300 was far from a disaster.

And now, news from Filmart:

- The Hong Kong-Asian Film Financing Forum also ended with seven awards handed to Asian filmmakers, and better yet, it came with cold hard cash. Kim Jee Woon's upcoming western film "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird," Clara Law's "The Messenger," Mabel Cheung's "Romance of the Three Kindgoms: Red Rose and Black Rose" all got $13,000 awards to go towards production (it sounds like not much, especially for bigger budget films like "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird," but the buzz the grant comes with is worth more than the money itself). The biggest winner is probably Edmond Pang Ho Cheung, who went into the HAF with no money for his upcoming film "Now Showing," and now he's found enough financing to start shooting in June.

- On the other hand, while business was slow for Korean films and Filmart, Korean distributors still managed to make a few deals so they don't go home empty. However, Korean dramas are hitting the jackpot in the market.

- Five people, including Raman Hui, who worked on the Shrek films at Dreamworks and help solidify Hong Kong's status in the digital animation world, were awarded the "Digital Person of the Year" awards.

In other news:

- Professor Bordwell has a first-hand look at the set of Johnnie To's portion of "Triangle" with a very insightful look at To's special form of cinematography. This just fueled my desire to be in the Hong Kong industry even further.

- Ryuganji has a look at Asmik Ace's upcoming films, which include some potentially interesting projects.

- In addition to the Asian Contents Market, this year's Tokyo International Film Festival will also include a market featuring animation showcases.

- Lovehkfilm has two reviews up - one for Ann Hui's The Postmodern Life of My Aunt by head reviewer Kozo and one for Korean nationalist commercial/critical disappointment Hanbando by Sanjuro.

Tomorrow, news translations from Hong Kong, Japan Times review, and let's see what else we can come up with.

1 comment:

munin said...

Interesting to read your opinion on 300. Personally, I didn't think it was a total disaster either, but it was bad enough. The excessive use of slow motion was too much and took the dynamics out every battle scene. There was simply no tension either, as the Spartans survived fight after fight without problems - as if they were progressing from level to level in a video game - only to suddenly all meet their end in the last one (And that's not even unexpected for the audience, as it is suggested early on by the narrator that the 300 will eventually die).

No, even as a stupid action movie, the whole thing never really took off. An artificial and ultimately failed experiment, albeit an interesting one.