QED

Reflections of a Matinee Idyll

The spectacle of Lenny DiCaprio emerging bare-chested in the snow from the belly of a dis-embowelled steed was all very arresting, but his improbable and unexplained discovery of an adequate winter wardrobe diminished my pleasure. Why, oh why, do directors treat us like dills?

lone viewerI went to the movies in mid-afternoon the other day to see The Revenant. I had intended to see it the week before but it was only playing around noon. Going to the movies by oneself at noon is, to me, like having dinner at 5 pm before retiring to bed at 9 pm. It is, in a word, depressing.

I was a little early and decided to buy a coffee in the foyer. The young woman behind the counter was talking to a fellow cinemagoer at the far end of the counter. In a plummy voice he was saying that he had recently seen Stars Wars and couldn’t make head nor tail of it. “It was rubbish,” he said. “It was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think.” He went on, “Tell me, what is this Wookie character?”

As an aside, I am not sure what Star Wars movie this was, not being a fan. Apparently they have reissued the first. I saw a young American woman on TV say, amusingly, that she hadn’t been to see the latest Star Wars because she had been too busy doing cool things and being attractive. These reasons are not available to me, even in jest.

Anyway, back to the counter. The man and young lady both noticed that I was waiting. The man was of my generation – most of those in the afternoon sessions are of my generation. We get cheaper seats as seniors; a small consolation for advancing years. He invited the young woman to serve me but was insistent that she return afterwards to explain various aspects of the movie that he couldn’t understand.

The young woman and I exchanged smiles as the man plaintively repeated his request that he would really like her to tell him more about the movie. I doubt, somehow, that evening cinemagoers engage the young woman in an interrogative conversations about Wookies. But who knows?

Once in the cinema there was an interminable period during which ads and previews were shown. I grew fidgety. This fidgetiness was a prelude to more fidgetiness during the overlong movie. Now I give the movie 3½ out of 5, so it isn’t all that bad. But it doesn’t get to the get the 4 or 4½ mark, which means I would have watched it again. Movies like Jackie Brown and History of Violence I have watched repeatedly because I gave them both 5. But there are numbers of movies I will watch again – like The Edge – which fall a little short of this highest accolade.

The problem to my mind with Revenant is that the plot is too simple for two hours and thirty six minutes. There are no sub-plots to add interest. Basically, stripped of the daunting and desolate winter scenario in the 1820s in North America, bit players, including the perfidious French and convincing Indians, there is Leonardo DiCaprio and one baddie. The baddie does a bad thing, as baddies do, and after an eventful and arduous journey of survival DiCaprio catches up with him. It is possibly worth seeing — once — if you have a few hours to spare.

An annoying feature of the movie was wardrobe anomalies. I had a similar problem with the movie The Edge, which I’ll come to. At one point DiCaprio is caught short by the Indians, having just awoken. He flees camp on his horse, leaving lots behind including, so far as I could tell, his heavy clothing. The following events I can accept, just: during the ensuing chase the Indians lose all of their skill with bows and arrows, which they had earlier demonstrated. They also had powder and shot guns ‘sold’ to them by the French in exchange for furs, but I can understand their lack of skill with these. DiCaprio escapes as his horse plunges over a steep ravine.

His horse, severely injured by the fall, lies dead.  He manages to escape with no injury worse than being winded because a tree breaks his fall. He is cold. He disembowels the horse, removes his shirt and that’s all and, bare-chested, shelters inside the carcase. As I’ve said, all of this I accept because it happened that way in the world of the movie.

What I could not accept is that, having emerged from the carcass, DiCaprio donned winter clothing that looked as though it had come out of a rather well-stocked outdoor clothing store. Where the heck did it come from?

In The Edge, city dwellers Anthony Hopkins (billionaire) and Alec Baldwin (photographer and bounder with designs on Hopkins’s model wife, Ali Macpherson), having killed the man-eating bear, emerge next morning with bearskin coats which surely would have required the skill of a furrier. Fine! Unarmed, they killed this monster of a bear. This I can believe. But how in the world could they have skinned the bear and made themselves coats with such skill? They simply couldn’t.

It’s highly unlikely but I might just be able kill a large alligator with my bare hands after it has dragged me under from a river bank. However, no-one could believe, even in their wildest imaginings, that I could make a pair of smooth-looking alligator shoes to trudge on home with. When this kind of thing happens in movies, it breaks the spell, and reminds me that it isn’t real, it’s just a movie. That is not what one wants.

8 comments
  • Homer Sapien

    Politicians and the media treat us like dills; so why shouldn’t directors have fun as well? “Never underestimate the stupidity of people” is the adage I’m afraid to say.

  • Jody

    It seems you’ve been to the Dendy Roseville for one of its seniors sessions!! My word, I’ve had words with some of the plummy retirees there too!! Particularly, “In Search of Haydn”. Talking about the prior documentary from the same series, “In Search of Beethoven” I believe I destroyed some beliefs and ideologies in my comments that pertain to art music and some of its mythologies. She took it extremely ill. But I spoke from a position of authority – as somebody trained in Musicology! She was having none of it.

    Anyway, back to pontificating Leo and your excellent heading to the article (which could have included some of his political idylls!!). “Revenant” sounds wholly boring and totally improbable. But, as we live in the milieu of bread and circuses, it is unlikely that audiences would analyse the film to reveal its shortcomings as thoroughly as you have!! I’m wondering about the genre of the thing and am intrigued as to which you think it might belong. A film sans narrative arc is like, well, an Ingmar Bergman film!! Plenty of cold atmospherics and grunting, canted framing actors but little of consequence.

    I read for that 4-lettered word again: NEXT!!

  • Jody

    Typo: I meant “I REACH for that 4-lettered word again”. And ‘canted-framing’ needs a hyphen!! I believe “The Third Man” is about the only film which really gets away with this!!

    • [email protected]

      Yes Jody you are right about the relative absence of dialogue – strangely, it actually didn’t register with me. But you are wrong about the cinema – it was the Orpheum in Cremorne – a quite beautiful art deco movie theatre, organ an all for some features and you can take booze in. Peter

    • [email protected]

      Sorry, genre? I have no idea really. Was it a western? There must be numbers of similar movies but my mind is blank. It was supposed to be from a true story but I have read that it is nothing like the true story. Now I have it! It is a survival movie. Robinson Crusoe etc. Or like that movie which I didn’t see where a chap had to cut his arm or was it leg off to free himself and survive. Scott and the ill-fated Antarctic expedition is a real life example, but there must be a ton of movies which I can’t think of.

      • Jody

        Oh, ok. A perfect trope for the modern progressive into the whole climate change catastrophe. That fits.

  • Homer Sapien

    Peter, if you want a young cute blonde from the typing pool on your arm for the next movie matinee watch “Hoffman” a much underated film starring Peter Sellers and Sinead Cusack. Sellers, playing a suave middle aged man, shows you how it is done 😉

    • [email protected]

      Homer Sapien, I will bear it in mind. But cutes of any hair colour have been my financial downfall. And luckily for me and my daughters, whose inheritance would be at further risk of diminution, the inclination has waned.

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