Wednesday, September 28, 2005

the saint (with digression)

let me preface by saying I know nothing about the original tv series of ‘the saint’.

from memory the film performed underwhelmingly at the box office when it came out around 1997. I was attracted to it just recently for a few reasons – a) I have a weakness for what blurbs call ‘intelligent’ action/dramas, b) the lead baddie is played by the same actor who went on to play the grotesque costume-shop owner in ‘eyes wide shut’ (indeed, not wanting to exaggerate, but the two characters are almost EXACTLY the same), & needless to say anything that pricked kubrick’s interest in formulating his final dream-epic deserves attention, c) ‘the saint’s’ treatment of its female co-lead is interesting in comparison to another recent-ish sophisticated thriller, ‘the bourne identity’.

a) & c) should be our main focus here. to be honest it’s hard to know what kubrick was thinking with relation to b). I’ve always suspected that ‘eyes wide shut’ has more to say about pop culture than people imagine (indeed, given his late-in-life reputation as uber-esoteric recluse, it’s intriguing to note the number of times kubrick references &/or subtly critiques ‘popular culture’ in his ‘mature films’, whether it’s US marines singing the mickey mouse club tune, jack torrance sardonically criticizing ‘television’ for teaching his distant son about cannibalism, alex the droog confidently wandering a hyper-coloured pop-record store in search of some ‘in-out’ – you can’t let kubrick’s stylistic straightness blind you to the fact he knew & had a lot to say about the mainstream; anecdotes suggest that for decades he had the latest sitcoms, series & even commercials mailed to his hideaway in England). I’ve said elsewhere that I think cruise’s character in ‘eyes wide shut’ was mildly influenced by his character in ‘the firm’, & there are other things – ‘strangers in the night’ playing wistfully in the background as cruise’s masked female-hero orders him to escape the sex mansion ‘before it’s too late!’ (which leads to the ridiculously anti-serious ‘I am ready to redeem him!’ scene); the fact ‘baby did a bad bad thing’ - sung by the most self-conscious crooner in recent memory, chris isaak – backs the only ‘sex’ scene between the leads in the whole film; the fact the film’s ‘fuck’ finale is set in a shopping mall during Christmas rush hour. frankly there’s a case for arguing that it’s kubrick’s most socially engaged film – the whole thing is underpinned by a commentary on the US class ladder, cruise’s status as a ‘medical professional’ (note the number of times he flashes his ‘medical card’) granting him access to nearly all arenas of urban life EXCEPT the house of complete sexual bliss, which is reserved for a kind of shady, impossible aristocracy – remember that the only actual ‘physical infidelity’ he partakes in is that beautifully rendered lip-kiss with a HIV-positive prostitute living in a seedy flat. the costume-shop owner, the bloke we are supposed to be talking about, as I say, it’s hard to know what he’s meant to represent – but the inference seems to be that he belongs to a grotesque underclass with a different sexual culture altogether; we of course discover late in the film that he’s happily selling off his daughter’s sexuality to a pair of completely comic & improbable Asian men. perhaps there was something about the bearded burbling of ‘the saint’s’ ribald bad-guy that kubrick was attracted to. perhaps.

I got sidetracked. I’ll cover a) & c) another time.
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