Tuesday, January 09, 2007

i did not pay much attention to the film children of men when i first heard of it a couple of months ago. alphonso cuaron is a very gifted filmmaker but this movie sounded so like a rehash of all dystopian, apocalyptic flicks from blade runner to the road warrior on down. the premise of our human civilizations going extinct is nothing new. cuaron's vision of a world ravaged by infertility sounded too much like the earlier, flawed film the handmaid's tale based on a novel by margaret atwood for me to generate any interest.

that changed a couple of weeks ago when both keith demko and steve caratzas both wrote rave reviews of the movie. then i checked out the trailer online and dragged anna to the theater to see it with me last saturday. children of men is all i've been thinking about, talking about, since then. and i knew i'd write something about it.

the movie does nothing like parallel our present time, nor is it an allegory of our society. instead cuaron has amplified our troubles to the 2nd power. filmed with mostly hand-held cameras in a documentary style we could be watching the news on tv rather than a movie. from the first frame to several images near the end of the film appear to be taken almost directly from images we see daily of iraq [and many other countries torn by war], terrorism here in the u.s., in london, in spain. . .the list is long and the frames of film are rich in details. so much so that it pays to see this movie a few times to digest it all.

clive owen plays civil servant theo who was once a political activist with his ex-wife julian played by julianne moore. moore is now the leader of a rebel cell called 'fishes' who recruit [first by kidnapping him] theo to secure transit papers for kee, the first pregnant woman the world has seen in 20 years. that's all i'll say about the plot, tho i've a temptation to reveal more since every minute of film stock is thick with meaning, i want to discuss it all.

owen's theo is the soul and moral center of the film. we watch him move from a lost, despairing shell to a man who not only regains his hope but knows his task is so great that shrapnel and bullets no longer frighten him. michael caine portrays jasper, an old hippie, political cartoonist friend of theo who provides most of the levity in this serious film. thru jaspar we remember that living is pleasure, no matter how fucked are the times.

the violence is aprupt, unexpected and deadly. from the opening screen to the last reel i was gasping for breath. it is significant to mention that the movie begins with one very important death, and ends with a very significant birth. when the principals make their way finally [i'm not giving too much away here] to the refugee camp we see images of such horror that again amplify our present situation in iraq. i was all nerves here, and frankly thought if this is what humans come to [and at the moment it seems the answer is yes], then fuck it, we deserve extinction.

and yet, there are moments of redemption, deep feeling, as we come to the end. that the peace is never permanent causes us the viewers to seek out either hope or hopelessness in the penultimate image. jasper sings out the phrase shanti shanti shanti -- in a word, peace -- upon meeting kee, which is repeated by cuaron in the credits, along with the laughter of children. thus it appears that jasper's love, delight and hope end the film.

i'm not so sure. what i am sure about is cuaron crafting a tour de force. all of our ills are accounted for in this film: terrorism, government paranoia, immigration, ecological and environmental degradation, massive pandemics and euthanasia are just a few. there are scenes of exquisite horror. there is one very long take where the camera, with blood spattered on the lens, follows theo as he runs thru a battlefield that is bravura filmmaking. astonishing, and something that perhaps an american director would never have tried.

i'll end by saying that this is, and i know i've been saying this a lot recently but i'll say it anyway, one of the best movies of the past several years. some of the negative reviews i've read stem from the source that cuaron never explains why women are infertile and why the world is in such chaos. not a problem for me, since these topics are broached in a myriad of possible explanations by the characters themselves, and like a lot of the problems of the world, they, like us, are at a loss. we are placed in the terrible center, which cannot hold. the falcon can no longer hear the falconer, and that's enough of yeats. for two characters, jaspar and miriam [a former pediatric nurse now part of the underground helping kee] speak of chance versus destiny. it is one of the better philosophical conversations ever put on film.

cuaron created a beautiful, unforgettable movie. see it, i implore you.


At 12:44 PM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Wow ... didn't realize I was so influential, and I'm certainly glad I didn't steer you wrong! .. I've seen it twice now, and the second time was even better

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Steve Caratzas said...

I need to see it again on the big screen.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger dfb said...

cuaron has away in filming the police state so it look so familiar this is one gifts in Y tu mamá también and again in children of menthe book is actual one the good PD James novels (she is up and down for me) but yea easily the best new film i saw last year (but we don’t get out that much)


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