Friday, March 24th, 2006

Remember Remember The Fifth Of November

Even though it’s certainly flawed and easy enough to pick apart if you so desire (overlong, poorly paced, visually uninspired), I found V For Vendetta to be quite riveting. Though the graphic novel was originally intended to be a scathing commentrary on Thatcher’s England in the 1980s, the cinematic version is disturbing timely and topical twenty years later, with only minor tweaks to the story.

Quick synopsis – England is a totalitarian state, V is a freedom fighter/terrorist (isn’t that a sticky wicket) who tromps about in a Guy Fawkes mask blowing up buildings, Evey is a latent freedom fighter/terrorist who inadvertently falls in with V’s cause. There’s a lot of vengeance, pontificating, flashbacks (excessively so), some gruesome deaths and The Wachowski Brothers’ new gimmick – knife time. It’s like bullet time, but bloodier and with streaks. As I mentioned before, the film’s flaws are legion, but that it even exists – I distinctly remember someone saying shortly after 9/11 that there was now no way that this film, which champions a terrorist as hero, could ever be made – is something of a triumph and that it was the #1 film at the box office last week even more so. There are people out there who are expecting to see a sci-fi action flick and instead are going to be hit over the head with none-too-subtle political commentary (and some action, yes). If Michael Moore really wants to get his message across, he’ll stop making documentaries and start producing Vin Diesel flicks.

It’s interesting that Hugo Weaving gets a top billing even though you never actually see him. Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t deserve it – anyone who has to recite all his lines twice, once during filming and once for his voice overs – definitely gets props in my book. But that really could have been anyone in that outfit and doing the voice. In fact, my memory has now replaced V’s voice with Darth Vader’s. Awesome. Also odd – the fact that V’s jukebox would have Cat Power and Antony & The Johnsons on it. But not as odd as the fact that they went with The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” over the closing credits. Whuh?

MTV has an article about V creator Alan Moore and his long-standing battle against film adaptations of his work, covering all the celluloid travesties based on his creations to date. His formal disavowal of V For Vendetta notwithstanding, it’s certainly head and shoulders above League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen or From Hell. Purists will still surely be outraged but purists exist to be outraged. It’s their thing. It’s what they do.

Another artist who had something to say about Margaret Thatcher back in the day – Billy Bragg – tells The AV Club about how the state of England in the 80s politicized him, answers some questions from Salon and talks to NOW about his new box set, Volume 1. I’ve just realized that the reason he didn’t play much/anything from Worker’s Playtime at his recent show is that it’s not covered in the box set releases – which means that I won’t be able to give away my copy of Victim Of Geography (which collects Talking With The Taxman About Poetry and Worker’s Playtime one one convenient disc) just yet.

Patterson Hood gives Billboard some insight into Drive-By Truckers’ promotional plans for A Blessing And A Curse, out April 18 – “We’re gonna tour a whole lot”. Sounds good.

The National’s Bryce Dessner talks to Chart about meeting big fan Bruce Springsteen, sibling rivalry and plans for the new album. They’re recording from June through August and are probably looking at a 2007 release for the follow-up to Alligator.

Chart has some info on Feist’s cupboard-cleaning collection Open Season, which now appears to be due out April 25 and not the 18th as I’d originally speculated.

When is the umpteenth SxSW recap worth reading? When it comes courtesy of The Onion’s AV Club. Most exciting to see that they were also floored by Eric Bachmann’s set but that he’ll be putting out a solo album later this year. I thought maybe I was the only online reporting-type person who was at his show – everyone else was seeing the Flaming Arctic Tapes or something.

CokeMachineGlow has part one of an interview with The Mendoza Line’s Tim Bracy.

Metric’s Emily Haines eulogizes Spin magazine, courtesy of Tripwire.

…and we’re back on a plane this morning! Huzzah.

np – Luna / Penthouse

By : Frank Yang at 6:06 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. brads says:

    Not sure if you’d heard this yet, but Billy’s next box set (Volume 2, natch) will be out in October. So you’ll be able to give away that disc soon enough.

    (Saw him last night, still buzzing…)

  2. Barry Lyons says:

    Regarding "V for Vendetta", I would like to hear "The Worriers", a great 1980 power pop song by The Records, get revived (it stems from the band’s second LP called Crashes). Pull out your dusty platters and check the lyrics ("remember the fifth of November/They got a knot in their handkerchiefs/In case they forget to remember"). Be great if some current band would pick up the song.

  3. Spencer says:

    I thought street fighting man was a perfect cherry on top. No?

  4. pinder says:

    i thought they woulda gone with Rolling Stones – "Sympathy for the Devil" since in the comic book he does use the line "please allow me to introduce myself, i’m a man of wealth and taste".

    uh, not that i’m a purist or anything.

  5. Karl says:

    I liked the movie also — and am no purist about the book — but I would suggest that the complete reworking (and de-sexing) of Evie’s character and the making the Fawkesian movement anarchy-free are more than minor tweaks. Also, the intro of the pharma angle also makes the timeline of Norsefire’s rise incoherent.

    But it’s the second problem that’s most interesting to me (and vexing to Moore, based on what I’ve read). For all of the talk about the controversy of V as an anti-hero in a post 9-11 world, the screenplay deviates from the book frequently to make him appear as a more sympathetic revolutionary than as an anarchical terrorist. Few innocent civilians are killed, and none, iirc, directly by V. What’s left are a few lines of dialogue that are more chilling today than pre-9/11. Otherwise, the Wachowskis completely stack the deck.

    Finally, one point that is a nitpick to me, but might not be to gay folks: How many gay men — even (or especially) those living under such a repressive regime — would find the Koran beautiful? My guess is "not many."

  6. Jeff says:

    I liked V for Vendetta too. I would have never guessed that I would, but alas yes I did.


  7. frank in vancouver says:

    Having not read the graphic novel in some six or seven years, I’m not really in a position to compare it to the film. I do have a copy along with me on my trip, though, so will perhaps be able to comment more intelligently after I’ve read it. But I don’t doubt I’ll agree with much of what Karl says.

  8. Rachel says:

    But the Koran is beautiful. It has some amazing poetry and many of the passages are inspiring. Don’t let political jerks who have twisted the message for their own ends turn you away from some truly lovely literature.
    And, Frank, how can you not like From Hell? Johnny Depp, man. Seriously. Have you seen the Libertine yet? Meow.

  9. Karl says:

    I’m not letting political jerks — whether they be radical clerics or those who would lump all Muslims in with them — interpret the Koran for me. (For that matter, there are plenty of wonderful passages in the Bible, but some that are not very gay-friendly.) I’m merely saying that Gordon — an oppressed, non-Muslim, gay man — would be more likely to find inspiration from sources other than the Koran.

    It’s a jarring note that does not come from the book. I’m not being a purist about the book, merely noting that some of the changes the Wachowskis made are flawed. It would have made more sense within the context of the film to have Gordon with some other controversial book or to make him a closet Muslim.

  10. Forrest says:

    Gordon being gay ain’t the only reason he’s oppressed, though–he’s also cosmopolitan, an art-lover, a free-thinker.

  11. Karl says:

    How many cosmopolitan, art-loving, free-thinking gay men own copies of the Koran in reality? Not many. Would the number be greater or fewer if such men had to live under an oppressive system based on religious fundamentalism? Imho, even fewer, because they would be more sensitized to the potential danger of religious fundamentalism generally and the fundamentalist position on homosexuality in particular under either Christian or Islamic fundamentalism.

    I’m making a point about the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy fiction in general and fantasy-based fiction in paticular. I’ve already presented two alternatives that are more believable than the Wachowskis’ choice that would have made the same point they are trying to make. If they were trying to make some extra point about a gay man appreciating the Koran, they could have had Evey raise the issue, much as they sorta did regarding his sexuality. Instead, they glossed over a relatively unlikely scenario, an error compounded by the fact that they did it in a genre that already requires more suspension of disbelief than a typical drama.