Tuesday, August 18, 2009

District 9 and Other Grimy and Troubling Movies That Make Excellent Use of Filth and Grime

District 9 - This is a really well done movie. Like all of the best science fiction, it's heavy on allegory: insect like humanoid aliens arrive on earth and are put into refugee camps, which become shanty-town slums. Eventually the humans tire of these wretched creatures, who they regard as inferior. An oppressive, technocratic millitary-buearucratic complex represents the humans. Given that the setting is Johnanesburg, South Africa, calling it allegory might be an understatement.

But, so what. The important thing is that the use of garbage is amazing. Much of the film takes place in District 9, the alien slum, which is mostly refuse, ramshackle structures, burning refuse, and dust. The main character is pale, sweaty, weasly, and inept and becomes grimier, more injured, and more bandaged during the story.

The movie is heavy on special effects, which are all the more effective because of all of the garbage. Contrast is everything. Garbage really pulls its weight here.

Brazil - District 9 reminded me a lot of Brazil. Both have oppressive regimes which are part technological and slick, and part decrepit and grimy, and completely broken. The main characters are hapless weaklings sucked into grave circumstances.

Think ducts, that scene with the mother and her friends who have all had too much plastic surgery and are basically decaying lumps, and that crazy shot of a truck barreling down a highway encased in billboards, beyond which is only wasteland.

Pi - Ah, what a boost grime can give a simple story. Mostly set in an obsessed genius's closet-like New York apartment, the movie is harshly lit and shot in black and white. Bare lightbulbs, migraines, computer parts. The man becomes indistinguishable from the computer he is constructing.

Pretty much, the movie is about filth. True, there's some stuff about Kabala, numbers, and Wall Street, but really it's about being an art student and living in a squalid joint and feeling dirty and really ALIVE.

Tetsuo, Iron Man - I'll be honest. I couldn't finish this movie, though doing so has been on my list for years. The story is nothing more than a man wishing to become a machine. Calling it a story is an overstatement. Pretty much, this crazed looking Japanese guy makes himself into a machine. He attaches machinery, wires, buckets of goo to his body and gradually replaces everything biological with something mechanical.

The movie is mostly household items: brooms, buckets of paint, power tools. Making use of ordinary stuff and creating a compelling story is about the best thing there is.

I don't want to give anything away, but the part where's he on a date with a pretty woman and his Unit (which he's turned into a giant drill) comes smashing and spinning through a table, is a highly effective use of grimy nastiness. It's also the point at which I had to abandon watching. That should tell you how GOOD it is.

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