Saturday, February 24, 2007

First story about cultural differences

This past week saw me back at school, which can explain why my sudden surge of blogs went dry. Also, again, feeling a bit rubbish. I think I'm paying the price for an early proclamation of having the healthiest school year ever. I've not been feeling very well since Christmas, as regulars might know.

This very feeling led me to miss striking The Pursuit of Happyness off of my Oscar-seen list. Actually, I went to the cinema for a matinee, only to be told that the film was only showing in the 'Gold Class'. This Gold Class is a total con. You have to pay £2 more for a seat for the privilege of leather chairs and the ability to purchase booze while drinking. Shit, I can buy booze at the Cameo and the tickets are about £2.50 cheaper! I left, not seeing the film.

I would not, on the other hand, be detered from seeing Half Nelson last night. The only place in Scotland that I could find showing this film on my Oscar-seen list was in Glasgow. Tickets were £7 and the train fare was nearly £10 return. Okay, seems a bit hypocritical, but there was a principle involved in the first instance. I think.

It was an odd little film, Half Nelson. The first, purely superficial, thing I enjoyed about it was seeing and hearing Black culture. It's a beautiful thing to a parched man in a desert. But it made me wonder how much did these British audiences understand -- get -- of what was going on. Did they even understand what that dude said? Did they understand the motivations of the characters? The subtle race questions that arose from the film?

Many, many months ago, I saw the Penelope Cruz film, Volver. Maybe you know this, but I thought very little of it, to the point where Boy and I wanted to pretty much write-off Spanish cinema. The actions of the characters were so bizarre and silly as to make them unpalatable. So I asked my team-mate Timi, who is Spanish, what she thought of the film. She didn't like Penelope Cruz, as she thought of her as silly (at least I'm not the only one). But she thought it was a good film.

She said that, until recently, Spain was a very repressed country and the 80s were a very repressive time for the Spanish cinema. Fluff movies starring buxom blondes from Sweden were mostly being made. To her, Volver was a big signal that it was time for Spain to face their past.

The grandmother was truly repressed character (expertly shown, by the way) -- from her denial of her husband's behaviour with her daughter, to hiding in her sister's house, to even hiding from her daughter under the bed. The daughter, growing up closed off, had the hard task of trying break free from the past. The granddaughter, though not having the same restricted life, had to live with the effect of the inhibited lives before her. Now, as I see it, Volver is hardly the silly, easily dismissed film I thought previously. It is a metaphor for the history of Spain, especially in the 20th century. It could be a metaphor to the history of the world. How powerful and what amazing storytelling.

But does that mean Penelope Cruz should win the Oscar? Not on your life.


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