Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Great Dictator, Rumble Fish

The Great Dictator (Chaplin, 1940) Rating: 9/10 stars.

I'm just gonna quote Jonathan Rosenbaum here:

"As a friend has pointed out, Chaplin doesn't really belong to the history of cinema; he belongs to history.  What for another artist might only come across as misjudgment, naivete, or bad taste often registers in a Chaplin film as personal-historical testimony of the most candid and searing sort.  Thus the total inadequacy of his impassioned speech at the end of The Great Dictator--as art, as thought, as action, as anything--becomes the key experience that the film has to offer, revealing the limitations of human utterance in the face of the unspeakable.  For roughly two hours, Chaplin has been trying to defeat Hitler by using every trick he knows; finally exhausting his capacities for comedy and ridicule, and realizing that neither is enough, he turns to us in his own person and tries even harder, making a direct plea for hope.  But although he effectively annihilates the Tramp before our eyes, he simultaneously re-creates him in a much more profound way, exposing the brutal fact of his own helplessness. Seen with historical hindsight, there are few moments in film as raw and convulsive as this desperate coda.  Being foolish enough to believe that he can save the world, Chaplin winds up breaking our hearts in a way that no mere artist ever could."

Rumble Fish (Coppola, 1983) Rating: 9/10 stars.

Those romantic young boys, all they ever want to do is fight.
This is a movie where the street's on fire in a real death waltz between what's flesh and what's fantasy. There's an opera out on the Turnpike, and there really is a ballet being fought out in the alley, where kids flash switchblades just like guitars hustling for the record machine.
Matt Dillon thinks he can walk like Brando right into the sun and dance just like a Casanova, but he runs into a 10th Avenue freeze-out, and his pretty dreams get torn. He thinks he really loves a girl because he's too loose to fake, but she like a late Juliet knew he'd never be true, and unfortunately she does mind.
Mickey Rourke is a ragamuffin gunner returning home like a hungry runaway; he might as well be Jimmy the Saint. With his blackjack and jacket and hair slicked sweet, he's the prince of the paupers crowned downtown at the beggars' bash, the pimp's main prophet, he keeps everything cool. When the two brothers are together laughing and drinking, nothing feels better than blood on blood, but Rourke keeps staring off into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born . . . until he sees a hand he knows even the cops can't beat. While he used to ride headfirst into a hurricane and disappear into a point, this time he lets the Maximum Lawman run him down, and there's nothing left where his body fell, that is, nothing that you could sell. Was he just lost in the flood? In any case, it's hard to be a saint in the city.
By the end, the one poet down here can't write nothing at all, he just has to stand back and let it all be. And young Matt Dillon's left to ride to the sea and wash these sins off his hands.
Down in Rumble-land.

(Rumble Fish poster from here.)

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