Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Wicker is not very durable

There was no posting yesterday because I was at jury duty. I'd tell you all my thrilling tales, but there aren't any. I sat in a room for seven hours and then went home. I finished The Virgin Suicides, which is very good. THE END.

Last night Frank, Paul, and I watched the original 70's The Wicker Man. It's really stupid.

Spoilers for The Wicker Man, and also possibly its upcoming American remake, to follow.

So basically this cop wanders around this Scottish isle, is appalled by all the sexy paganism, then gets shut up in a wicker man and offered up as a sacrifice to the scary pagan gods.

Also, there are several musical numbers.

It's all completely weird in a mildly fascinating way, it just doesn't add up to much. I'd certainly rank it up there with Zardoz as far as pure 70's weirdness is concerned, although it's nowhere near as strange as ol' Zardoz. All the Adult Swim guys could be baked for six months and still not be able to come up with anything nearly half as weird as Zardoz.

But The Wicker Man gives it the old college try, certainly. The musical bits are a nice touch. But if the movie's coming down against the pagans, which it must be doing, maybe the filmmakers should have tried to make their main character more likeable, and not a total douchebag. In fact, in a recent Entertainment Weekly Neil LaBute, the writer/director of the upcoming remake, noted that he did a bit of tinkering with his version because he felt the main character in the original too unlikeable. That's right, NEIL LABUTE, the creator of In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors, and The Shape of Things, found the main character TOO UNLIKEABLE. Wow. That is an unlikeable dude.

Anyway, I doubt the remake will be as odd, so I can't imagine what there will be to recommend it, but everyone should see the original at least once. It's bad, but it's fascinating.


Anonymous Frank said...

This is a pretty accurate review of The Wicker Man; especially given the fact that, as evidenced by his snoring, it comes from a man who slept through a full forty-five minutes of the eighty-eight minute movie.

My only addendum would be that the movie clearly INTENDS for its protagonist to be so unlikeable, because if you're going to have a Christian burnt to death by pagans, it's funniest if he's a real patronizing, repressed stuffed shirt. (Bear in mind that this is a picture written by one of the Shaffer twins, who have had a thing or two in the past to say about religion.) And Edward Woodward certainly gives an amusing and watchable performance. The whole film, especially with its twist ending, is really structured like one of those Twilight Zone episodes (or a Poe short story) that all builds up to a character getting his just desserts. By "like a Twilight Zone episode," I obviously mean "like a Twilight Zone episode directed like a Ken Russell musical."

Paul made the point that if Neil LaBute goes ahead and makes the hero more sympathetic, and in doing so isn't careful to maintain the satire of contemporary Christianity, he could end up transforming his film into much more offensive anit-pagan (and anti-woman) exploitation.

In the original, prior to commiting human sacrifice, the pagans really seem to have a much healthier outlook than the C of E detective (even if their hairstyles are generally worse.) Here's a quote on the lives of animals from Christopher Lee's bouffant-sporting Lord Summerisle:

"They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God. Not one of them kneels to another or to his own kind that lived thousands of years ago. Not one of them is respectable or unhappy, all over the earth."

12:13 PM  

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