Thursday, January 29, 2009

And on the Other Hand...

Film critic Jim Emerson finally decided to watch Slumdog Millionaire. He registers a strong dissent:


I regretted my decision from the opening sequence, which intercuts an interrogation on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" with the eye-candy torture (beating, high-voltage toe-shocking) of a kid who's tied up and suspended from the ceiling -- all with thudding music (just like the TV game show!) and Dutch angles galore. (The television show is black and blue; the torture chamber is orange and red -- all glossy as can be.) This is Danny Boyle, slumming. Like its title, "Slumdog Millionaire" is so picturesquely "gritty" it's oleaginous. Even the cruelty is pristine. Casting is skin-deep: The good characters are pretty, the mean ones are distinguished by cosmetic irregularities, the slimy ones are... slimy-looking. At times it's like watching the reincarnation of Alan Parker.

Not since "Crash" -- or possibly "Mississippi Burning" -- has a movie packaged brutality in slicker, shinier, tighter shrink-wrap. It's asphyxiating. You will never have to worry about what you are supposed to feel and when you are supposed to feel it because the movie will always feed you the answers, then smack you when it's your cue to emote. You can "surrender" completely to the experience (it demands nothing less), and you needn't worry that you will be given an idle moment in which you will be left to feel, or breathe, on your own. This is the kind of mechanical spectacle people like to call an "audience picture," but that's simply because it doesn't allow any space for non-autonomic responses.

1 comment:

Thomas Garvey said...

I've been meaning to post about "Slumdog" - it's actually nice that someone beat me to it. The fact that apparently its child stars were left in poverty by its producers is only the icing on this highly hypocritical - and manipulative - cake. What's mysterious is how it has been embraced by supposedly "hip" people, when it's so clearly melodramatic hackwork. Hmmm - maybe that's not so mysterious. Still, it's actually better, or at least more fun, than "Benjamin Button" (much less "The Dark Knight"!). I keep wondering when Pixar is going to protest being relegated to that "animated" category. Certainly "Slumdog" is nothing on (at least the first half of) "Wall-E."