We saw Elysium over the weekend and I enjoyed it. As Anthony Lane says in The New Yorker, At last, a good big film….here is something angry and alive, at least until until we tried to make sense of it while driving home. Then it all sort of fell apart. Michele would say Wait a minute, why did they….and I would have no answer.
But during the movie, sitting in the dark, it is engrossing and believable. It is bright and fast and very, very, alive as well as Matt Damon being the perfect everyman for the part. One little bit that made me chuckle was the bad guy’s personal space shuttle was a Bugatti. And it had the gestalt of a Bugatti. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons that the movie worked so well, is that it felt so real, just like the director’s previous movie, District 9.
Going in, we passed a long line of people waiting to see Lee Daniels The Butler and going out, we saw a long line waiting to see Instructions not included, a movie I had never heard of. Elysium had a – probably – majority Hispanic cast and, I found out after I got home Instructions not included is a movie, in Spanish – or mostly Spanish – about guy from Acapulco. I read somewhere that Pacific Rim was filmed to cater to the Asian market. No wonder that the bigots are going crazy, they are losing.
One of the things that appeals to me about Elysium is the director, Neill Blomkamp. Not Neill Blomkamp, per se, but Neill Blomkamp the idea of what is good about Hollywood, or Southern California, if you prefer. A couple of years ago, he was nobody, he made a two minute movie, a four minute movie, after that a six minute movie, finally a fifteen minute movie – no kidding – then District 9. District 9 was a hit and Hollywood gave him about $110,000,000 to make Elysium. No where else, that I can think of, is that possible.
Before and after watching Elysium on the big screen, we watched Che on the little screen. Or, more accurately, I watched the first half of Che before Elysium and then I re-watched it with Michele. Che is by Steven Soderbergh, another guy who came out of nowhere. He made a fifteen minute film about sex to interest investors for his full length film Sex, Lies & Videotape (also about sex, duh!).
Sex, Lies & Videotape made about $24,741,700 on an investment of $1,200,000 and Soderbergh was off and running, cranking out an Ocean’s Eleven or Twelve every time he needed money to make a Bubble or a Che. Che is hugely ambitious and can be seen as either one four and an half hour film or two two hour films depending on how you want to watch it. I went for the bifurcated version and have only seen the first half so far. It is a a slow, almost zen meditation on guerrilla war. For a long time it seems to go nowhere and then I began to realize that it was subtly pulling me along a path that I hadn’t realized I was on.
The photography – in the jungle especially – is one of the main characters. Benicio Del Torro is Che and his performance is an understated tour de force. I can not imagine two movies more different than Elysium and Che, they are both very worth seeing but, for me Che is the more powerful and memorable.