Saturday, 30 January 2016

the revenant (d. iñárritu; w. iñárritu & mark l smith)

What a curiously hollow film, from Iñárritu. Spectacular, wrapped up with the most gorgeous wrapping paper ever made, but inside, nothing more than a bauble. There’s a moment towards the beginning when you think that there might something going on in the use of subtitled Pawnee and its depiction of the native American Indians. The Rhee chief delivers a forceful speech to the French militiaman about theft and colonialism which hints at a subtext. Perhaps the Mexican will break through the stereotypes and succeed in inveighing the indigenous population with the protagonism they deserve. But the mute, affected Native Indians remain bit-part players who fulfil their expected roles. Glass’ widow speaks words of pantheistic wisdom; the witchdoctor Indian saves his brutalised body with the use of an effective sauna technique, whilst not being smart enough to outwit the drunken French militia; the Rhee plod along towards their destiny with implacable expressions and an iridescent violence. This review is already giving them more focus than the movie. Had it been made fifty or over twenty five years ago, perhaps the “authenticity” might have impressed, a trick Costner pulled off with Dances With Wolves, but in the end this is no more than another gringo Western, with a lame revenge narrative as its motor. The simplicity plays to the market; you don’t have to think too much whilst watching this movie; it’s a visceral ride. Macho film-making at its least subtle, a point consolidated by the cliched sub-Malick flashback scenes of the dreamy moments when Glass and his bride lived an idyllic life full of arcadian beauty. Like the Native population, women are a marginalised element whose presence in the narrative would only get in the way of men doing their thing. All of this is redeemed to a certain extent by the wonder of Lubezki’s camera. Iñárritu’s erstwhile partner, Arriaga, who wrote a much more complex, intriguing Western, must be smiling ironically to himself, like Moctezuma, at the way the gods distribute their favours. 

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