Monday, March 05, 2007

# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Porter  

BIG AND STRANGE AND BLOODY: Ross Douthat argues that epic historical films need to be less preachy:

But a movie about the Crusades needed the courage to be big and strange and bloody, awing us with visions of a vanished world, rather than lecturing us with the pieties of the present. If the epics of the last five years are remembered, it will be the weirder, wilder scenes that linger:

Russell Crowe's Maximus carving his way through the Roman arena; the leaping duel between Achilles and Hector in Troy; the thrilling brutalities of shipboard life in Master and Commander. We'll also recall the fascinating, deliberately alien performances: Val Kilmer's raving, lecherous, one-eyed King Philip in Alexander; Renée Zellweger's chicken-throttling hillbilly in Cold Mountain; Daniel Day-Lewis' terrifying Butcher Bill in Gangs of New York.

Displaying the awesome strangeness of the past and leaving the audience to make up their own mind. Its a thought.

(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

Douthat is just flogging the "PC killed action films!" angle again. He wants preachiness --- just preachiness in a single direction. I'll bet good money he'll write a long piece praising the upcoming "300" --- which looks at least as preachy as KoH, but in a direction he finds appealing.

A historically accurate film about the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem would have to present the Jerusalem kingdom and Saladin as what they really were at this point --- medieval warlords scrabbling over land and power. The taking of Jerusalem was really no different to Saladin than the conquest of Mosul, Aleppo, or Yemen.
I agree with your point about what a more accurate film about the crusade might look like, although I think there was a genuine religious impulse among the warlords as well as a grasp for power.

I'm not as confident, though, that Douthat does want his own 'preachiness.' We don't know what he's going to say about 300, so I guess we'll see.

One of my favourite films is the Thin Red Line, because instead of presenting some bite-size moralising, it charts through the messay interior thinking of a range of individuals on both sides, while presenting the war with more sympathy than sermonising.

Sympathy is better than ideology, someone once said.

I admit that preaching about preserving the autonomy of the city-states against an invading empire is a more appealing message, but the main thing that attracts me is the majesty of the thing.
I don't remember THE THIN RED LINE showed any Japanese perspectives, except that one prisoner begging a Marine not to rip out his teeth in untranslated Japanese.

The thing that attracts me to watch 300, as a semi-young male, is the ultraviolence. Gotta admit, I love the ultraviolence. Good ultraviolence can really make a film. Yes, my nickname is from John Woo's HARD BOILED.
hey Tequila,

there's a moving bit in the Thin Red Line as an imagined speech by a dead Japanese soldier to an American one, about how being virtuous doesn't stop terrible things happening to you, etc. Its small but broadens the film considerably. At least that was my impression.

Sounds like we need to talk about some war history things, drop me an email

I think you may be right --- I saw the film quite a long time ago.
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