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Dirty Pretty Things

Part of: Hollywood

I can't deal with watching most action/adventure or horror films. The only way I see them is if I go to a free screening, or the rare times when a friend actually talks me into it. I don't like to watch blood or violence. I did see “Gangs of New York” on my own accord, because it was Scorsese, it was controversial, and up for awards. I was annoyed with how violent it was—not to mention the length—and was ultimately mad I paid to see it.

I saw a screening the other night— the director’s cut of “Alien”. It was really cool to see it on the big screen, but I was sad that I had never been able to watch “Alien” previously the entire way through. I had no idea how the director’s cut was different. Luckily, I wore a zip- up hooded sweater and could have the illusion of hiding in my hood. My friend was doing the same thing with her sweatshirt. I was rocking back in forth with anxiety in my red velvet chair.

I used to be less of a wimp. When I saw “Pet Cemetery” with a group of friends, I was one of the few who didn’t run out of the theatre. I had read the original book by Stephen King, so maybe I was desensitized. The cat in the book was way scarier.

Another time I was house sitting in a large Victorian house in Colorado. There was a snowstorm, and I decided to finally watch “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” for the first time (I made myself because it’s such a classic film.) I watched it in bed and smothered my face with a pillow when it got really scary. The rest of my stay, I was scared of the house. Good thing there was at least a Great Dane to protect me.

I don't know if I'll ever see the current violent film du jour “Kill Bill” by Quentin Tarantino. I still love “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” despite the violence, but I think “Kill Bill” is different. Maybe I am hypocritical. I find it pathetic that explicit sex gets NC-17 ratings, but not excessive violence. No one ever blamed killing someone after seeing “Henry and June.” I’m not trying to be preachy—I believe in free speech. I don’t think violent movies should be banned.

Writer Kenneth Turan had a piece on “Kill Bill” and violent movies in Sunday’s LA Times Calendar section. He thinks a conservative politician could come along and stop the violence in Hollywood across the board. As long as violent films make a lot of money— this won’t happen. The public does vote. Our money=high box office numbers.
Fact: Art imitates life and there is a lot of violence in the US.

The most violent film I think I’ve ever seen was “City of God” this year. It’s super-long and super-violent and super-brilliant. It was based on reality, so at least the violence had a point. I felt really violated after the film ended. I was oversaturated with disturbing images of children being killed at point blank range. I felt sick and dirty. The guy friend I saw it with was like, “I want to see that again as soon as possible. That was amazing!” I was still in shock and he was already planning another screening. Basically most of the guys I knew loved it. Part of anti-excessive-violence Kenneth Turan’s review:

"City of God" is a potent and unexpected mixture of authenticity and flash. It's both the slickly made first feature from Brazil's most successful director of commercials and a vigorous piece of social realism that's unmistakably trading on something actual.”

A few paragraphs down he goes on:

“More than anything, "City of God" is a violent film, at times exceptionally and finally excessively so. But this is not the kind of violence anyone can expect to get off on. It's the brutish, commonplace coin of the realm in an amoral world without pity, where children casually kill children with weapons that seem bigger than they are and adults (other than corrupt police) rarely enter the picture.

"City of God" comes by its sense of place, its pungent whiff of reality, from several sources. It's adapted (by Braulio Mantovani) from a massive novel of the same name by Paulo Lins, who lived in the City of God housing project for 30 years and researched his story for 10 more. What results is a story that plays out on a three-decade canvas, a tale about coming of age in an endless cycle of violence and drugs that is profligate in both character and incident.”

I would hypothesize that Turan likes violent films when they have a point. I generally feel the same way, but I can’t imagine “Kill Bill” being much more violent than “City of God.” [Do any of my readers know? LYT?? If so, please leave a comment.]It’s a tad hypocritical to say violence is okay in a frivolous film like “Kill Bill,” but justifiable in “City of God.” Violence becomes a sin when we can get off on it? What gives Kenneth?


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