Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Passion of the Biographer

It is still Tuesday. Interesting.

Or rather, it is already Tuesday! So let's roll!

We watched Pollock, the movie, this weekend. Big mistake. Huge. And right after we had ordered a Pollock reproduction for on the wall, an unmatched jungle of high-order gravitational strokes, denser than Sven's prickles and Florian's leafy sprawls (that's our other plant). Luckily one of us at least – Mimi – has read Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut and can still appreciate the Abstract Expressionists and their potato barns. Fiction is a much more interesting – not to say, plausible - version of reality than facts. The movie about Jackson Pollock was like a documentary without the voice-over. Biographical movies are prone to this disease. There may be a few things better than a good read or a movie – not many. But there are certainly a lot of movies better than biographical movies.

We've been working on a little theory as to what makes a good biographical movie. One thing is clear, it's not the biographee that makes the movie: There exist perfectly good movies about unknown, mostly fictional people.

Here are some very good movies based on the lives – or important moments in the lives – of real, more or less famous people:

“Amadeus” (W.A.Mozart): Where dedicated musician Salieri is consumed by his envy and admiration towards the repugnant genius.
“The Downfall” (A.Hitler): The last days in the bunker through the eyes of a na├»ve secretary.
“Last King of Scotland” (Idi Amin dictator of Uganda): A young doctor overwhelmed by the gravitational field of insanity.
“Ali” (Mohammed Ali): Dances like a butterfly, stings like a bee!
“Frida” (Frida Kahlo): The passion of the painter through, well, paintings and wonderful music.
“Marie Antoinnete” (Marie Antoinnette, Last Queen of France): Reckless youth.
“The Hours” (V.Woolf): The writer has to kill, or die, or both.

And here are some embarrassing movies that we wouldn't recommend to anyone we like:

Pollock (Jackson Pollock): An autistic painter, whose paintings somehow make everyone swoon but don't sell?? No? Hmm...
Ted and Sylvia (Sylvia Plath): Sylvia falls in love, cries, cleans up after Ted, cries, is jealous, cries, ...??
Everything about Marilyn Monroe: It always seems to be about a blond with a back problem and a very particular make-up style.
The Aviator: Some epos about somebody.
The Journalist: Cate Blanchet amongst adults is always a bad idea.

So, have you seen any of the above movies? Do you agree with us? Any additions to our lists?

And what's the theory?

Well, right now we have to leave you - we'll continue tomorrow or sometime. This session is open for discussion!


Jillian said...

I've seen "Marie Antoinnete", "Ali", and "The Hours". I thought they were good from a story standpoint. I'm not much interested in biographies. Or maybe I am, but I have to be in the right mood. When I saw these films I wasn't really in the mood. I dunno.

I have nothing to add though. I prefer the antics of greats like Ben Stiller and Wil Ferrell... they are as Gods among men! :-D

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

Will Ferrell is a genius and we can't imagine life without him!

Bimmy the Bookish said...

Here at the beach house, when the sun goes down, the grown ups become mysteriously and hermetically sealed to the sofas, and the animals play chase under the coffee table, which causes all manner of uproar.
However, recently the unlikely pair, bimmy the Bookish and her dear Mcandy DID at last venture out into the darknight in order to participate in the wonder of cinematic pleasure - Sweeney Todd!
What a tragic life! if it wasnt bad enough that the corrupt judge had the poor fellow transported for a crime he didnt commit, in order for the judge to have his evil way with the unfortunate Sweeney's wife, and if it wasnt further enough that on his return Sweeney should find his wife gone and his daughter in the charge of the said judge, then surely to goodness the poor man didnt deserve to have his power of speech removed and replaced with the rather strange compulsion to SING every bloomin' word that cam out of his mouth.
Now THAT is a tragic life.
PS: it was great! As long as you dont get squeamish about fingers poking out of your meat pies....

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

Brrrr, that sounds spooky!

(Your comment's back alive then! Hurrah!)