Monday, January 24, 2005

contact

for our first date, i once asked a girl if she'd like to come around & 'watch a video'. i'd seen 'contact' for the first time a few days before this enthralling offer was made, & i, umm, wanted to watch it again. terrible. anyway - we watched it, i had a great time, & the relationship lasted about a fortnight.

what made me love this movie so much? part of it can be put down to cultural context. the movie's release coincided with the rise of the whole 'i want to believe' feeling among kids - i.e., 'the x-files'. for a few years there in high school you'd always look forward to wednesday nights, when every episode would seem to reveal answers but end up raising more questions, when mulder's faith & scully's doubt would be tested, when it was fun & ephemeral to believe in whatever supernatural sub-genre you enjoyed. the catchcry 'i want to believe' - which appeared during the title sequence of every show - symbolised something of this newfound desire to seemingly consume each conspiracy; each bit of skewed proof bolstering your belief in the world of truth lurking beneath the paternal, protective veneer of the cover-up. far be it from me to envisage a golden age of somewhat more imaginative kids, but it was only eight or so years ago that shopping malls around the country were bursting with teenagers trying to catch a glimpse of 'special agent dana scully', not the latest batch of big brother contestants. oh well.

'contact' is an x-files episode writ extremely large. first & foremost, it actually presumes to imagine an answer to that over-arching 'x-file' (the one that only ever popped up in the season finales) - life on other planets. second, the lead characters are almost a mirror image of scully & mulder - mulder (believer in supernatural possibility) vs. scully (believer in science, medicine, evidence); jodie foster (believer in science & extraterrestrial possibility) vs. matthew howeveryouspellhisname (believer in god). &, just as in the x-files, the whole thing is supplemented not only by the possibility of love, but by the fact foster (mulder) is always pitted against a larger, organised & suspiciously sceptical authority (for mulder, the FBI; for foster, the government)

of course one doubts the directors/writers/whatever of 'contact' would appreciate the comparison. they take their characters & character development extremely seriously, foster recruited to give the occasionally simplistic script some depth. & she excels, both at being passionate & at enlivening the adventure side of the story. indeed it's probably during the most action-climactic scene in the film - the journey through the 'wormhole', that she does her best work. the scene demands of her an emotional & physical soliloquy of sorts - sitting on a chair in the middle of a hollywood set trying to convince us that she's travelling at the speed of light towards a weird celestial epiphany: it must have been bloody hard work. what results is the best ten or so minutes of the picture - the gorgeous, gorgeous special effects combining with foster's teary wonder & curiosity, the decently-performed meeting between foster & her dead father (or genius 'vegan') set against a heavenly, beautifully rendered background; the whole thing rounded out by one of those undeniable hollywood messages of goodwill - 'your race is interesting, capable of the beautiful & the terrible' etc. it's hard to counter this scene with cynicism, unless you are completely averse to science-fiction &/or ethereal matters. watching the film for the first time in a while the other night, i found myself guffawing for the most part. but during this sequence the best you can really do is shrug yr shoulders & just appreciate the imagistic, imaginative & moral bravura (or is it bravado?) of it all.

6 Comments:

Blogger anita said...

Indeed. It must have been bloody hard work for our Jodie.

(She OWNED Silence of the Lambs. And if Nell had been worth owning, she would've owned that, too.)

6:51 PM  
Blogger focy said...

eek. forgive my pathetic attempt at 'turning up' on oz day anita. i trust all went well.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I read the book.
And the movie lacked that rich tapestry of ironic and scalding social analysis that the book contained.
Also lacked those quirky one line ideas the book contained and most importantly of all the detail about the eccenctrics that populate the book.

Is one of those movies that its hard to come up contstructive critisim about if you've read the book.

Unlike a film like Germinal, where accepting that the brilliance of the book cannot be replicated, Claude Berry simply reworks everything to create his own visionary work in the spirit of Zola's work.

Unfortunately, if the movie is a re working of Contact the book, its a very poor one, missing many of the ingredients that would have taken the film from watchable to a classic.....

cheers

mKd.

2:03 PM  
Blogger focy said...

interesting, thanks for commenting. funny you say that the book is ironic - the film would have to be one of the most un-ironic movies ever made.

just looked up the credits - yep, it was based on the book.

Will

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're right on track and not many people are willing to admit that they share your views. daniel dae kim is an AWESOME place to discuss LOST.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:24 PM  

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