I Don’t Understand

There’s a great movie buried somewhere inside BABEL. The film is well directed, and certain story beats are undeniably compelling. However, despite the star presence of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, the film is having difficulty finding traction both at the box office and in the Oscar derby. I have to wonder why the filmmakers chose to make such a challenging film to sit through when it would have been almost easier to simply make a great one.

After all, these are the guys who turned heads with AMORES PERROS. That film had a similar multiple storyline structure, plus it was in Spanish, ran over 2 1/2 hours and depicted intense (fake) scenes of animal cruelty. But the film generated a lot of buzz, and was compelling because it showed some very shrewd commercial instincts.

Ten minutes into BABEL, when one of the young boys left his brother on the hillside so he could masturbate, I saw those commercial instincts (as well as many Oscar votes) tumble right down the hill. The moment is shot in a tasteful manner, but I had to ask why have a moment like this at all. There’s more than one way to separate two brothers, and the beat has no thematic connection to the story. At one point, the writer was sitting there with what would be a difficult and expensive film to make, and he didn’t think twice about this moment.
And what about the big scene between stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Their big Oscar clip moment…takes place while he’s helping her pee into a bucket. Honestly, BABEL is just a few degrees away from being really good, but these decisions make the film difficult to engage.

What should have easily been one of the year’s best, is instead a film that left me with very mixed feelings. It’s needlessly demanding.

For the record, only 2 classic films feature a masturbation scene: FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH & THE EXORCIST


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other great films with masturbation scenes: American Beauty, Mulholland Drive, There's Something About Mary, and Y Tu Mama Tambien, to name a few. Not classics, maybe, but great films. -C

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Needlessly demdanding" - I would also use that term to describe 21 GRAMS. So much wasted potential in the quest for "personal artistic vision."

What I don't understand is this: Why do the producers sign off on this stuff? Do they think this is what is neccesary to get crtical acclaim? Why can't they settle for intelligent, well-acted storytelling?

PS Glad to see you back in action. I'll have to start checking the site more often!

9:17 AM  
Blogger AnemicFairy said...

I think the masturbation scene ties in with the notion of guns as phallic symbols. In a sense the older boy is ALSO masturbating; he's just using a different sort of phallus.

That, at least, is my guess as to why that scene is included.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God forbid a film is serious and demanding.

6:07 PM  

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