Every movie I watch has the same plot. I know everyone says that, and what I imagine is that there are actually several different plots only each of us is caught in a cosmic node that presents her always with the same one. Here is ours:
Through a misunderstanding, the hero – who is valiant and innocent — appears to the world as bad. Unable to explain himself, he runs for it, finds a car, and picks up a side-kick. The hero is a white male, the side-kick is either a white male (drama), a white female (romance), or a black male (comedy) but never a black female. At first the side-kick doesn’t like the hero but then she/he comes around. If side-kick is a white male he says profound things, if a white female she reveals something tragic in her past, and if a black male he makes oh-no-we’re-never-getting-out-of-this jokes. And then they’re being chased, and then things blow up, and then they catch the bad guys all by themselves, and then they get to go back to their lives.
After a steady diet of these, ranging in quality from lousy (Chill Factor) through enjoyable (Caballos Salvajes) all the way to excellent (I Went Down) – not to mention twenty-four hours of this sort of thing on 24 — I decided I never wanted to see it again. But it turns out nothing else is any good either.
Like a while ago, inspired by a long article in the TLS about how incredibly better the original 3.10 to Yuma was, we watched it, and it was not all that good and had a ludicrous ending. Then last night we watched The Lives of Others. Here the effort to create a situation with “real” moral ambiguities results in contrivance, with the audience being dragged to accept increasingly unlikely motivations on the choke chain of Historical Significance. More precisely, for this movie to work one has to believe that an old Stasi man doesn’t have any idea that there’s corruption in the Stasi until one day he discovers it. It’s rubber sheep thinking again, a hypothetical that is supposed to tell you something about the way ethics works – but doesn’t, and can’t, because the thing in the movie isn’t a thing that could have happened. Which means it’s actually the careful construction of historical confusion, or, not to put to fine a point on it, an example of Orwellian historical revisionism. Maybe this movie will heal some old wounds, or even make us all more tolerant and other-people’s-shoe-sy. Let’s drink to that, eh, and forget the facts.
The only truly good movie I’ve seen in the last year is Teshigahara’s Pitfall. It’s tight, smart, cinematic, and utterly different from anything I’ve ever seen.