Friday, March 30, 2012

Shakespeare went to Prom

Brian De Palma's Carrie (1976) is now an American horror classic and has it's staple in popular culture, but it's theme stems from a High Art patron...lil Billy Shakespeare. As we all know, so many of William Shakespeare's plays concluded in tragedy, mainly foreseen tragedy and Carrie portrays this in the cruelest manner. 

"High School is hell...and the the further down the ladder you are, the more like hell it becomes"

                                                                                                         -Stephen King

Carrie, a high school outcast and frequent victim of bullying finally gets a glimpse of hope, a chance to aspire and live happily when her gym teacher gives her self esteem and she is invited to the prom. However, a cleverly orchestrated sabotage crushes all of her dreams in one masterful and complex scene by De Palma.

Other Shakespearean factors are also present here. Carrie's overprotective, religious fanatic and violent mother and the romance that sparks between Carrie and dreamboat (lol) Tommy Ross.

<<<Form a line ladies.

Romance and family were always intrinsic themes within Shakespeare's writing i.e. Romeo and Juliet or King Lear. Stephen King's novel set the premise alright, but De Palma's casting helped create such great characters such as Piper Laurie as Carrie's insane mother Margaret White. The dialogue even popped up some great original phrases as did Shakespeare during his era. Margaret White hilariously, but sincerely refers to Carrie's breasts (tits) as "dirty pillows". The tension within the household is to the max. Carrie's first period is considered to be a sin and she is forced into a dirty, cramped closet in order to pray for forgiveness. 

What is so great about this movie are the motives of all the characters accompanied by the delusion and misunderstanding by Carrie at the chaotic climax. Carrie wants to fit in, queen bitch Chris (Nancy Allen) wants revenge, her boyfriend Billy Nolan (John Travolta) just wants a blow job from her, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) and Sue (Amy Irving) want to do what's best for Carrie, Tommy (Katt Williams) is just along for the ride (and possibly a blow job) and Margaret White wants Christ. There is a lot going on here and it plays out perfectly in the before mentioned prom scene, when Carrie and Tommy are announced prom king and queen. From that moment until after the pig's blood spills on poor Carrie is pure cinema. No dialogue, just a score and the camera to show us what is going on. The dream is realised for Carrie as she is announced prom queen. There's bright lights, beautiful music and then Sue notices the string that Chris and Billy are holding under the stage. The camera follows this string down, up and around until we see the bucket of pig's blood. It is too late, the dream has slowly transcended into nightmare. The build up and tension is so intense that it is as if Chris gets an orgasm when she pulls the string allowing the blood flow out over Carrie.

Shakespeare's use of foreshadowing is also adapted by De Palma a few times within the narrative. In a scene early on when Miss Collins attempts to encourage Carrie about he looks, the camera zooms into her face as she gives a worried look. Another slice of foreshadowing occurs during the prom when Tommy and Carrie are dancing. When they begin Carrie is nervous and hesitant, but when those crazy kids get going, the camera moves around them, soon faster and faster until it seems like they are spinning out of control. 

Carrie has proved to be an exercise in horror, character, style and technique and hopefully now you may choose to agree that it is indeed an exercise in Shakespeare.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Casa de Mi Padre: 4 Macs

So far, Casa de Mi Padre is the funniest and most enjoyable movie of 2012. People come out after the screening complaining "that was such a stupid movie" as if they were expecting Schindler's List or something. It's Will Ferrell in a Mexican telenovella/spaghetti western film...what do you really expect here?

This low-budget, over-acted, melodramatic spoof succeeds in what it aims to do. Will Ferrells Spanish is impeccable as Armando Alvarez, the dumbwitted yet noble son of Senor Alvarez (Pedro Armendariz). When the prodigal son Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with his beautiful bride to be, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), the conflict commences. Armando and Sonia spark it off when their eyes meet, Armando then discovers that Raul is part of the drug crime wave that pollutes his land, and is also a rival of major drug lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal).

Both Luna and Garcia, who are close friends in real life look like they had great fun making this movie, and succeed as comic actors. When Armando, Raul and Onza meet at a seedy bar, Armando's buffoonery and social awkwardness is hilarious, he even tries to shake hands with the enemy. Onza smokes Canadian Slims, while Raul I don't think is ever seen without a cigarette in his mouth throughout the entire movie, even when he kisses his bride during the wedding. 

Director Matt Piedmont borrows the style and technique of former spaghetti westerns, but where Sergio Leone or Sergio Corbucci shot on real spectacular locations, using the vast Spanish landscapes, Piedmont, for comical purposes uses fake backgrounds like they used in the classic Hollywood studio system. It is funny, but fails in comparison to the epic stature of the real spaghetti westerns of the 1960s. Piedmont definitely is skilled in his craft and even though shots such as blood dripping from a white rose  or the wedding scene are supposed to mock art film, they are actually done extremely well. 

Casa de Mi Padre clearly pays homage to telenovellas and spaghetti westerns, however I also found myself been reminded of French New Wave or Italian neorealist films. The jump cuts, the odd mise en scene (mannequins), and break of narrative flow all correspond to this notion. And the bizarre talking white cat sequence nearly gives the audience an epilepsy fit.

Will Ferrell is one of the most original comic minds of his generation, he has proved before that he can take on dramatic roles, now he is speaking fluently in Spanish with a nearly all Latin cast. He has had some flops of course, but he never stops trying something new, taking on challenges. In conclusion, this is a very well made, ridiculous comedy, which had the audience laughing all throughout.