Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Encounters at the End of the World" & "The New World"

I have always avoided Werner Herzog (why I do not know) but am a big sucker for all these kinds of Discovery Channel subject matter films (Aliens of the Deep 3D, yeah I saw it [what about it?] ) so went to see Encounters, his latest doc (actually sponsored by the Discovery Channel) about the communities of scientists who work in Antartica. While it would be easy to pair the film with other films like Aliens of the Deep or March of the Penguins Herzog's doc is not just about what is there physically (though the footage in film of underwater dives are mesmerizing and beautiful and would have been enough for me). Herzog tackles, through the film, the nature of exploration itself. He questions this desire to discover and reach all areas of the globe.

The journey also takes him inward as he questions the difference between humans and their animal counterparts: the most hilarious and heartbreaking part of the film features a penguin who rather than head towards the sea, runs off towards the center of the continent and certain death. Is this penguin suicidal? depressed? Or is he too drawn to exploration and adventure? These are the kinds of questions that Herzog poses.

Terrence Malick's The New World, (A masterpeice btw) also goes beyond the simple story of America's discovery to question the nature of exploration. The character of John Smith, played by Colin Farrell, abandons love and happiness for his never ending quest for his "Indies." (spoilers.. sort of) The rocky desolate lands he does discover bring neither glory or satisfaction to him. It is as if the explorer can never be content. And the settlers, dying of starvation in this strange new world embody the struggle of man against nature and the dark underside of new lands. The first settlement that they live in is not a far cry from the city of scientists in Antartica. Both places are muddy, depressing, bare bones places surrounded by beautiful and unforgiving landscapes.

And before I head off for the Fourth of July Weekend, I should report on the backlog of Summer movies I have been seeing:

WALL- E: Pixar is so consistently good that it is more a matter of which film is your favorite. This is probably the darkest Pixar film to date and while the kids in the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, the film really pushes the limits of what a Children's film is. The dystopia in which WALL-E lives is a Earth that is so covered in trash that it has become uninhabitable. If I were to pair this film up I would actually match it with a book : Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. In Motel, a gimmick by the US post office of free mail for a week has gone awry, burying the entire continent in junk mail and causing the entire US population to die en mass. Years later a group of archaeologists come to excavate the Toot-n C'mon Motel. Their cataloging and complete misunderstanding of the objects they find is a nice pairing with the wonder of WALL-E as he digs through a world of trash gathering precious objects (such as sporks) for his own collection.

Wanted: If you ever wondered how Angelina Jolie + Morgan Freeman + Terrance Stamp could = utter garbage look no further.

Sparrow: Yet another Johnny To Gem. This (musical?) is probably his most beautiful film to date. Definitely one to see in the theaters if you can. Its sort of a Blow Up meets Umbrellas of Cherbourgh meets The Proffesionals.

Now go outside and eat a hot dog.