Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

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Gregory
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#26 Post by Gregory » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:35 pm

I've thought about this discussion a bit in the last few hours and realized I left a couple of gaping holes in my argument, and expressed some things rather poorly. If it weren't for Kirkinson's carefully considered post about what I was saying, I might have decided the whole thing was unsalvageable and bowed out with an apology for hasty writing.
But instead I'll make a few very brief points:
1) Kirkinson has my view pretty much right, and I would certainly make a distinction between branding and mere branding. Hitchcock was one of the few examples from the earlier era who was a brand, whereas the notion is far more common now, and it's allowed there to be lots of interest drummed up in films that don't seem to have much genuine interest, at least to me. Bloated franchises are another, but of course not everything can be a bloated franchise.
2) Sausage's point about the appeal to authority is a fair one, because I was emphasizing the writing of critics I respect -- but that was in addition to my own viewing of recent Hollywood cinema. I don't think my argument depends on the views of critics I admire, but they certainly support it. The support is needed because, as I'm willing to acknowledge, my track record of viewing films from this particular time and place is more limited than, say, those who contribute regularly to the New Films subforum here. But I still think I might have a point.
3) Finally, my feeling about the relationship between authorship and quality was probably a little less than precise. Unfortunately, it's a little complex: I think there is something of a parallel correlation, but not a causal relationship. In other words, a film certainly doesn't have to be the work of an auteur to be good, and conversely a film by a bona fide auteur is certainly not good ipso facto. But some of the reasons that a film be ultimately shallow and critically unsatisfying surely overlap with reasons why one might call it a bad film. But one's assessment of the film or the filmmakers' body of work isn't causally related to the point I was making about authorship and contemporary Hollywood.
So if there's not necessarily a connection between authorship and quality, then the direction I took the discussion moves away from whether or not Sucker Punch is a good film, but then it didn't seem like that was a very fruitful topic to begin with. But I didn't mean to hijack the thread. If anyone else wants to defend Zach Snyder, feel free of course.

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zedz
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Re: Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder, 2011)

#27 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:14 pm

Kirkinson wrote:
zedz wrote:I can't recall the exact formulation or exemplars, but this attitude was obnoxiously put by Truffaut at one point in terms like: "the worst film by [approved auteur] X is of course better than the best film by [mere director] Y." Some really penetrating critical thinking there, Francois.
In his most famous essay on the subject, X = Jean Renoir and Y = Jean Delannoy, but he also made the same comparison between Howard Hawks and John Huston, which I find pretty indefensible.
Thanks. It was the Hawks / Huston version I was thinking of (thought it was Ray / Huston, actually), which is only a useful statement if you don't actually want to think about the films you're criticising.

And I think we use 'auteur' rather than 'author' simply for historical reasons, and because that term (at least in English usage) helpfully signals that film authorship is a complicated and contentious business.

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swo17
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#28 Post by swo17 » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:45 pm

It seems to me that if anyone does something over and over again, the results are bound to show some similarities and trends from one work product to the next, but what makes someone an auteur is the fact that the person is aspiring to make something of quality in some form or another (not just something that is marketable), whether or not he/she actually succeeds at this. So yes, everything Snyder does has a certain look and feel to it, but whether or not he is an auteur is contingent on whether or not he is only in it for the money. Obviously this is up for debate. But one can easily concede that a director is passionate about his/her craft without necessarily believing that everything, or even anything, they've done has some merit.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#29 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:16 pm

swo17 wrote:It seems to me that if anyone does something over and over again, the results are bound to show some similarities and trends from one work product to the next, but what makes someone an auteur is the fact that the person is aspiring to make something of quality in some form or another (not just something that is marketable), whether or not he/she actually succeeds at this. So yes, everything Snyder does has a certain look and feel to it, but whether or not he is an auteur is contingent on whether or not he is only in it for the money. Obviously this is up for debate. But one can easily concede that a director is passionate about his/her craft without necessarily believing that everything, or even anything, they've done has some merit.
The problem here is that auteurship would come down to divining the filmmaker's motives and not to perceiving the elements that unify his films. So we'd have to start debating the Intentional Fallacy before we'd get anywhere near the issue of auteurism.

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knives
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#30 Post by knives » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:46 pm

Taking in what Swo said, which i think has more than some truth to it, if a director's films all hit certain thematic issues over and again it is fairly easy to pinpoint them as such. Some one like Snyder does tackle the same thematic concerns over and over again in similar fashions while let's say Curtiz didn't and there isn't a sort of Curtiz thematic or stylistic for that matter flavour. Certain films in his ouvre may connect in those ways, but in that case it's a mixture of coincidence and the true auteur of the films coming by.

What I mean by that last bit is, for example, Kubrick didn't author Spartacus. The film's star and more importantly from an autuerist perspective producer Kirk Douglas is the author of that particular film since it deal with his thematic concerns and conforms to his vision of story. Douglas was the final authority, not Kubrick.

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JeanRZEJ
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#31 Post by JeanRZEJ » Tue Mar 29, 2011 7:42 am

Everything I have read about this film has strong echoes of the works of Verhoeven. Is that just a superficial impression that isn't borne out in the material or does anyone think that there is something to it? I'm not saying, "Is this film as good as Verhoeven's best?" or anything of the sort, but the heavy negative reaction and outlandishness of the content seems to be taken straight out of his playbook.

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dad1153
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#32 Post by dad1153 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:38 am


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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#33 Post by MichaelB » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:40 am

swo17 wrote:what makes someone an auteur is the fact that the person is aspiring to make something of quality in some form or another (not just something that is marketable), whether or not he/she actually succeeds at this.
That's a near-perfect description of Edward D. Wood, Jr. - but I'd argue that he's a pretty distinctive auteur by most other yardsticks too.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#34 Post by domino harvey » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:57 am

dad1153 wrote:Why Everyone Hates Sucker Punch (by Chris Lee)
One full page of compelling reasons why everyone thinks the film is terrible capped off with "But why does everyone hate it"? I don't know why I bothered to read the second page, since his only defense is "Oh, it's not completely awful, I guess"

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#35 Post by starmanof51 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 1:35 pm

The audacious auteur responsible for 2004's Dawn of the Dead reboot galvanized the fanboy film fan diaspora, heralding the arrival of a devastating new talent.
Good lord.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#36 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 1:41 pm

I have little to add other than I totally agree with zedz regarding his qualms about auterism (and was going to make MichaelB's point about Ed Wood!), and have my ambivalences about whether canonising a particular director is the right thing to do - it may lift, to use a major 'name director' example, Tarantino above all the Tarantino-imitators but it also confers him a status he may not entirely deserve on his own (for example I'll be very interested in whether there will be any notable differences in any film he makes following the death of long time collaborator Sally Menke - will it reinvigorate or expose his 'style'?)

It can also act as a strait-jacket for a filmmaker. I particularly remember in the Solaris commentary the two critics discussing the way that there was a big upheaval in the collaborators behind the scenes for the films which followed, but this was not particularly important as the 'Tarkovsky style' had already "crystallised" by that point. Which can be seen as both a good thing (unifies and gives coherence to a body of work and allows for the creation of an overarching 'career narrative') and a bad one (what if the filmmaker wanted to break away from what were perceived to be their core themes?)

Gregory's point about this being as much a way of selling the film as anything to do with lofty artistic goals is a well made one. But then isn't getting into a film festival, with all their own kinds of predispositions towards already known quantities, a similar thing? How do you and your film fit in with the Cannes or Berlin (or Sundance, or Oscar, or Empire Magazine Film Award, or Raindance etc, etc) 'brand', and how do filmmakers tailor themselves to their particular marketplace or niche audience to ensure they will be received as well as possible?

Lars von Trier is an example of someone who in my opinion is straddling both the art and commerce worlds quite beautifully (maybe Steven Soderbergh too, though his work pace means there are more bumps along the road), creating his own 'brand' and attracting an audience for what he is offering, cultivating both an aloof, ascetic auteur reputation and a 'controversial maverick' one that assures acknowledgement and media representation.
John Cope wrote:Oh, and as to Michael Bay, the Transformers films are exactly what he should be doing and I don't mean that as criticism.
I totally agree with this - I was going to make this point myself whilst reading John's comment and the way he talked about the 'cinema of heightened affect'. I'm no fan of Michael Bay but I think making films featuring giant robots hitting each other is a far better use of his (and the U.S. military's) time than trying to make a grand statement about the world being devastated by asteroid collisions or recreating Pearl Harbor. It also in a strange way reveals a lot more about Bay's preoccupations (explosions, hot babes, incoherence as a stylised editing technique).

Strangely I rewatched Watchmen over the weekend (the shorter cut, not the 'Director's Cut', which I haven't seen yet) and still find myself ambivalent about the film. Having not read the original material and therefore being invested in its potential for scathing satire, I find the idea of a bludgeoning right wing director who may or may not have understood the concept of irony to have been a surprisingly effective, if simultaneously incredibly frightening, choice. (The Dawn of the Dead remake on the other hand I cannot stand, simply because I can't forget the way it entirely misses most of the point of the original. It seems to have been successful to those who do not have a particular investment in what the original work was saying though - presumably I've fallen into this camp when it comes to Watchmen)

It is a morally empty film, cheering on the wool being pulled over the feckless political leaders' eyes through the mass murder of populations in selected cities that they govern, but is one film which appears to capture the dangerously seductive, psychotic nature of the superhero genre better than any other (Next to The Incredibles). Even the way that Snyder hero-worships the most psychotic, vigilante member of the group, Rorschach, is both uncomfortable and telling at the same time. (This perfectly fits into my thesis-in-progress that Hollywood is moving towards focusing on 'Mona Lisa' films - films which anyone can project anything they wish onto. Something which maximises the potential audience without alienating anyone. Except those who want a film to actually come to a particular conclusion!)

I'm actually curious to see what the removal of a 'based on the graphic novel or remake' structure reveals about Snyder's work. This is either going to be a distillation of his qualities or a film which gives him enough rope to hang himself. The best I'm hoping for is something which competes with the fascinatingly bad taste/infuriatingly indulgent qualities of Showgirls, Death Proof and Enter The Void.
knives wrote:What I mean by that last bit is, for example, Kubrick didn't author Spartacus. The film's star and more importantly from an autuerist perspective producer Kirk Douglas is the author of that particular film since it deal with his thematic concerns and conforms to his vision of story. Douglas was the final authority, not Kubrick.
We could say the same about many stars today - Tom Cruise for example. That is another thing that concerns me about the auteur theory - it makes it difficult to acknowledge all the factors at play in the final result of a film. There are films where the star is the main driving force, or the producers (especially the producers), or even the technicians given that many films could be considered to just be made to showcase developments in special effects.

Oh, I want to thank paranoid-knight as well for the topic. I think it is important to discuss all kinds of films on here.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:14 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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knives
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#37 Post by knives » Tue Mar 29, 2011 1:49 pm

I would say the difference between the M:I films and Spartacus is that Cruise allows those directors to breath. Cruise is very definitely an author of those movies, but the change in style and storytelling also suggests that you should apply dual authorship to those movies.
Of course while that's a good symbiotic relationship there's also shit ones with the stars like in Huston's The Unforgiven. While the film was altered by it's star I don't find the star has authority over what the movie says throughout. There's that lack of concern thing again which is a very tricky item, but the only one to work with this problem. It's like an editor who makes massive changes to a story, but still has no claim of authorship. I hope that makes sense.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#38 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:03 pm

It's true about the way that the Mission: Impossible films have distinctive styles but at the same time I wonder if this is a result of the 'auteurist strait-jacket' theory - that De Palma, Woo and Abrams were approached because Cruise/producers wanted 'your style' ("and throw in as many split diopter lens shots and split screen/doves, slow motion and that cool gunplay stuff/lens flares and shaky cam scenes as possible, dammit!")

And of course that partnership appeared to be in the best interest of the directors as well. Yet I guess that if the director had wanted to move away completely from the Mission: Impossible template (or done something with Cruise's character that would have been unacceptable) they would likely never have been allowed to do that by the people wielding the real power on those particular productions, making them 'auteurist' in a more difficult, compromised sense. (Would anyone have wanted to see a Mission: Impossible film where nobody did any spy work? In a certain sense the 'brand' is more powerful than any director, actor or even producer - see Bond)

But that's the beauty of film - that you can have all of these different power fluctuations on different productions. It doesn't mean one way should be considered correct and the rest are wrong.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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knives
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#39 Post by knives » Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:09 pm

That's why I through out the dual authorship idea. It's at least as much Cruise's film as any of the directors. The director's have been given a pretty large sandbox to play with and have strong enough personalities that they need that sandbox or else they won't play, but Cruise is definitely dictating the toys within the sandbox. His contribution can't be ignored and he has a stronger authorship over the films than his directors, but the directors have proven each time that they are doing something for themselves(the inclusion of Simon Pegg being at first a minor detail, but in hindsight is very important to proving his stamp more than any stylistic trait could suggest).

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#40 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:58 pm

I think almost any film, no matter how much it is ultimately driven by one voice, is going to have any number of fathers- whatever auteurist games you play about who is ultimately responsible for things, you can't escape that there are going to be dozens of people at work on the movie, and all of them are going to leave their mark in some way. I've always thought the idea of auteurism was less to demand that movies be viewed as the work of precisely one artist- which would be silly- and more to try to find an organizing principle in what otherwise be chaotic.

In the Mission Impossible movies, of course Cruise as producer and Cruise as an actor with a star image to protect are both important in shaping the final product, but that doesn't mean they can't be auteurist directors' works: as has been mentioned, the original auteur idea was looking at what would otherwise be unremarkable studio product and finding patterns in it which corresponded to the director. In some ways, Mission Impossible allows a very good field for the same sort of inquiry.

Obviously, you could apply the same sort of inquiry to writers, actors, editors, cinematographers, or whatever you want, and probably find similar patterns from movie to movie, even where the director had final say about what went on screen. I think the very legitimate complaint people sometimes have about auteurism is that it ignores the contributions of everyone else- I think applied as a tool of inquiry that is not necessarily true, but applied as a sledgehammer, a demand that all artistry in the movie belongs to the director, it absolutely is.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#41 Post by swo17 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:11 pm

Getting back to the original topic, I think we can all agree that the primary party responsible for the look and feel of Zack Snyder films is Zack Snyder. And by "responsible," I am of course referring to the definition found in criminal law manuals.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#42 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:30 pm

colinr0380 wrote: Strangely I rewatched Watchmen over the weekend (the shorter cut, not the 'Director's Cut', which I haven't seen yet) and still find myself ambivalent about the film. Having not read the original material and therefore being invested in its potential for scathing satire, I find the idea of a bludgeoning right wing director who may or may not have understood the concept of irony to have been a surprisingly effective, if simultaneously incredibly frightening, choice. (The Dawn of the Dead remake on the other hand I cannot stand, simply because I can't forget the way it entirely misses most of the point of the original. It seems to have been successful to those who do not have a particular investment in what the original work was saying though - presumably I've fallen into this camp when it comes to Watchmen)

It is a morally empty film, cheering on the wool being pulled over the feckless political leaders' eyes through the mass murder of populations in selected cities that they govern, but is one film which appears to capture the dangerously seductive, psychotic nature of the superhero genre better than any other (Next to The Incredibles). Even the way that Snyder hero-worships the most psychotic, vigilante member of the group, Rorschach, is both uncomfortable and telling at the same time. (This perfectly fits into my thesis-in-progress that Hollywood is moving towards focusing on 'Mona Lisa' films - films which anyone can project anything they wish onto. Something which maximises the potential audience without alienating anyone. Except those who want a film to actually come to a particular conclusion!)
Snyder's ability to dumb material down is fairly astonishing- he may have been the right director to bring Watchmen to the screen in that anyone else, confronted with material of that density, would have gotten bogged down in moral complexity and what have you. It's amazing how closely it follows most of the plot points while seeming totally illiterate in terms of anything the book was actually trying to express- Snyder's like a sola-scriptura Biblical literalist who nonetheless firmly believes God hates the poor. I hate the movie, but I'm perversely glad it exists, since it's a great example of any number of pitfalls of adaptation.

I'm still astonished that he managed to make a Frank Miller story more crypto-fascist, though. That's a true feat.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#43 Post by zedz » Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:38 pm

swo17 wrote:Getting back to the original topic, I think we can all agree that the primary party responsible for the look and feel of Zack Snyder films is Zack Snyder. And by "responsible," I am of course referring to the definition found in criminal law manuals.
How about "culpable"?

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Gregory
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#44 Post by Gregory » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:06 pm

swo17 wrote:Getting back to the original topic, I think we can all agree that the primary party responsible for the look and feel of Zack Snyder films is Zack Snyder. And by "responsible," I am of course referring to the definition found in criminal law manuals.
Or that found in international charters on war crimes and crimes against humanity, based on what I've read of the film and the vitriolic backlash.

If that Chris Lee piece is accurate, it's a really sad commentary on most of the fanboys who loved Zack Snyder's other work but felt "sucker punched" by this film. There are a couple potentially good reasons mentioned why they consider the film terrible, but most of them are things like:
1) There's less "skin" than on Baywatch, "nothing fun to jack off to," and all that rape stuff is just such a turn-off! I'll be charitable and assume they weren't planning to actually jack off to the film right there in the theater. Just kidding about that, but seriously, do these people really go to PG-13 films to get off? There's plenty of free porn all over the internet, surely including some anime-type stuff with schoolgirl outfits and huge weapons.
2) They're not convinced that "girls kick ass" (with a couple of exceptions). I thought female action stars had become a staple in this type of film in the past decade or so. Maybe there are some peculiar "issues with women" going on with many in this group--I'm not qualified to judge, of course.
3) The plot isn't simple and easy enough to understand. I've read a couple descriptions of the plot that are supposed to show how confusing it is, and didn't have much trouble following it. It seems like an asinine story, but not really a confusing one. Granted, it could easily be true that the execution made a mess of it.
4) This review, which was linked in the article, complains that the appeal of all the ass-kicking and hot "girls" in slutty costumes is ruined by (among other things) the scenes of "women whining about their problems."
Jesus, if any group of moviegoers ever deserved to be "punched"... (figuratively speaking, ahem).

And as long as I've thrown out all my usual standards of decorum and am being a total jerk: I'd never read anything by Harry Knowles before, but based on this, good lord he is a terrible writer. He doesn't even spellcheck this stuff, let alone look for countless fragments, run-ons, and random comma usage? My posts aren't perfect, of course, but this is something else: how and why do millions of fans read this stuff? (That's a rhetorical question.)

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#45 Post by zedz » Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:58 pm

Spirited defence of Sucker Punch (in 'beyond good and bad' mode) from Salon. Considering the positive comparisons are to films (like Kill Bill) that I didn't like, I still think I'll pass, but it sort of backs up paranoid-knight's opening argument and makes the film sound vaguely intriguing.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#46 Post by dad1153 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 11:03 am

Variety's Brian Lowry fits "Sucker Punch" within the overall media landscape of how women are portrayed (or allow themselves to be portrayed) in general. i.e. the Wonder Woman costume for the upcoming NBC pilot. In a nutshell: these debates don't exist in a vacuum and, while some arguments pro/con have validity (i.e. "Jersey Shore" is way more inspirational to impressionable minds than Snyder's barely-seen flick), by engaging in pointless discussions we give currency and potency to media that is mostly ignored and/or doesn't do permanent, noticeable harm.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#47 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:45 am

My Year of Flops on Sucker Punch. It does support the notion that Snyder was trying for some kind of slyly feminist critique of the kind of movies he makes, but argues that it failed in that goal.

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Re: Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder, 2011)

#48 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Sep 16, 2011 5:56 am

I hate to say this but Sucker Punch is probably one of the best films (at the very least one of the wittiest) Zack Snyder has made. It's certainly the one I would want to watch again! (Damning with faint praise here!) It strikes me as being Snyder's hybrid version of the a capella, hysterically pitched songs of Moulin Rouge! with Tarantino's methodically planned and divided into discreet, stylistically separate, segments of violence of Kill Bill.

Some of the actors felt as if they were morphing into other actors before my eyes, even when they were not supposed to! Scott Glenn proves here that he can easily mop up all the 'grizzled, slightly lecherous fight trainer' roles that David Carradine used to play, intoning fruity lines of advice like "Don't let your mouth write cheques your ass can't cash" with relish! And in a couple of shots Carla Gugino, playing the burlesque/brothel/prison madam looks uncannily like Stockard Channing! So much so that I had to check the cast list!

The film is presented in three layers - the top one is the hospital/lobotomy layer, which helps the rest of the film to play like the final sequence of Brazil stretched to feature length. It also reminded me a little of American McGee's computer game reimaginings of Alice In Wonderland, which takes that character into psychotic realms, occasionally breaking the surface to see her harrowing reality.

The second layer, and I honestly don't mean this to be as negative as it may sound, plays like a Jess Franco film! All the Franco motifs are present and correct: nightclub routines (any number of his films, but Vampyros Lesbos stands out here); clubs as fronts for other, more nefarious activities (as in Blue Rita); female bonding, including confiding in the head female guard in charge, banding together against the rather silly and foolish men (as in Love Camp); the girly chats in the dorm room with the girls reclining on their beds (such as in Barbed Wire Dolls or Ilsa, The Wicked Warden). Even the way that the wicked stepfather from the hospital/lobotomy layer gets repurposed into the lecherous Irish priest bringing Baby Doll into the club feels similar to the way Franco pokes at hypocrisy in something like Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun!

This may just be because I have been working through that huge Jess Franco box set put out by Anchor Bay at the same time as watching this film, but there does feel like there is some thematic linkage there! The only difference that I could discern is that Snyder's film is very coy in comparison - a Franco version of the film would have explicit nudity (very few of the main cast, let alone the extras would get away with wearing so many clothes!), at least one shower fight between soapy inmates and various lesbian scenes which would fill up the lulls after the end of every musical sequence!

However there is something wildly enjoyable about seeing a hugely over-the-top Hollywood film costing millions of dollars which feels as if it is also capturing the tone of one of Franco's seedy, threadbare films. (I'm not sure exactly what kind of mass audience there could be for this though!)

The third layer, involving the songs, feels like a greatest hits compilation of the end levels of four wildly disparate computer games (including the obligatory game cashing in on the popularity of Lord of the Rings!) Interestingly all have almost entirely the same structure - the group of girls are given their orders by sugar daddy Scott Glenn and then get flown into the action, save the world and escape. I assume this is subliminally showing that the action is flowing to the musical numbers, and that the numbers are all written and choreographed in the same way to maximise the chances for the girls to achieve their goal of retrieving their necessary items from the distracted men that Baby Doll is performing for. The only break comes, of course, when the song breaks down, resulting in failing the song/video game mission and as a result someone dying in the burlesque level as well (which fits the film into the Nightmare on Elm Street/Stay Alive genre of 'if we die in the dream/game, we die in real life!' as well as the Inception one of songs shifting people onto a different mental plane).

I like in the My Year of Flops article there is talk of the way that jumping away from the dance routines to show the action is kind of a 'sucker punch' to the audience looking for sexy women dancing. However I think, since this film seems totally marketed towards an adolescent boy, that this 'escape' from the dancing is quite amusing! (I also like the way that it gets around having to create four outstanding, and perhaps too sexually explicit, dance routines, instead just cutting back to showing Baby Doll standing totally rigid and motionless and sweaty with people applauding her, which I thought was a very funny conceit!)

After all what would be better for an adolescent male audience (and make for less uncomfortable viewing!) - seeing a sexy, exploited woman forced to dance for their pleasure or instead see a sexy all female fighting force empoweringly battling clockwork samurai Nazi zombie soldiers and fire breathing dragons on the third moon of Saturn, all set to the thumping soundtrack of Bjork's Army of Me?
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:20 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#49 Post by JakeB » Fri Sep 16, 2011 9:05 am

What a great read! Those are probably among my favourite insights into this film, colinr0380! Although I can't quite see the Jesus Franco connection :)
I also quite enjoyed Sucker Punch, especially the repeated generic video game levels that you mentioned, and the real Baz Luhrmann aesthetic. The pop music soundtrack also lends a music video style feel to it, much like Lady Gaga's Luhrmann styled video for 'Judas'. I also think the fact Emily Browning sang some of the soundtrack, her own interpretations of popular songs by The Stooges, The Eurythmics etc. along with strange rock-ified mash-ups elsewhere on the soundtrack tied it together nicely.
It confuses me that all this appealed to me, because I'm not a fan of video games (funnily enough, I enjoy watching people play them rather than playing them myself), nor am I a fan of Baz Luhrmann, or inferior covers of The Stooges' 'Search And destroy' and Skunk Anansie pissing all over Army Of Me . I think what I enjoyed so much about it was that the ideas, story and general look fit perfectly together, and that it didn't have ideas above it's station. I guess it gave me similar pleasure to a classic exploitation film (so maybe the Franco comparison isn't too misjudged), but is strangely tame on the sexual front... so much so that watching Emily Browning have sex with John Hamm at the end (in the directors cut) had me shocked! I found the juxtaposition of titillation and chastity strangely satisfying on the whole, and lends itself especially well in those distractions from the sexy dance in the form of end of level bosses!

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colinr0380
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Re: Auteurism, Hollywood, and Zach Snyder

#50 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:24 am

Thanks Jake! Perhaps it may be just that I was watching too many Jess Franco films in the run up to this one, but I was preparing myself for something in a different vein and somehow found myself watching something very similar! I guess though another way Sucker Punch shows that it is not quite a Franco film is that, despite a rather dark ending, it still doesn't have quite as depressing and abrupt ending of a Franco film, such as something like Love Camp! (At the end of that film the lead character escapes from a brothel with a couple of cellmates in order to rejoin her husband but in a shocking about-face when the group are captured by the rebel leader who was a frequenter of the brothel, and who incidentally provided our lead with her first sexual awakening, she lets her two female companions go back to the camp to be executed and even abandons her husband, who is also present on the scene, in order to run into the arms of the rebel leader! This all takes place in the space of about a minute of screen time!)

I did quite like the way the music was used as well, especially "Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This" during that rather dark prologue (sort of similar to the vengeance fuelled Rorschach sequence from Watchmen but with blonde pigtails and a babydoll nightie) where no one speaks except for a couple of voiceover lines until oneof the girls is deposited at the hospital almost ten minutes into the film. Though this itself shows how much the nightclub/brothel 'second level' is ironically privileged above both of the other layers which it is sandwiched between, which mostly exist in the context of musical forward movement, not narrative (the top 'reality' layer only really reasserts itself after the lobotomy in order to contextualise the elements that were in the, now forever lost, nightclub layer)

I also noticed a couple of nice mirror shots, where the camera starts off from behind the mirror and then travels closer until it actually moves into (or out of?) the reflection then turns back around to show the characters in the mirror again. It is kind of a show off move but it didn't irritate as much as those 'zoom pull backs until characters are specks in an immense landscape' shots did in Watchmen, although both are shots which seem to be performing the same kind of function of stylistically dazzling the audience. However the mirror shot (as the other shot had been in Watchmen) is repeated a couple of times too many, which does lessen its initial impact somewhat.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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