January 09, 2006

Always, you bastards.

I watched House of Flying Daggers last night. Spoiler, spoiler spoiler spoiler, spoiler spoiler. I'm prepared to bet that if you're likely to watch House of Flying Daggers, you've already watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and probably also Hero, which takes care right there of the sum of my Hong Kong martial arts movie-watching career. In that case, you already fucking know how the fucking movie is going to fucking end because they all end the same fucking way! Everyone you were rooting for throughout the movie, even if you were initially unwilling to get attached to any of the characters because you knew what was going to happen, dies unfulfilled in a way that is totally unnecessary. Or in the case of Hero, dies unfulfilled in a way that is totally unnecessary, then turns out not to have done so after all, dies in a different unnecessary unfulfilled way, then turns out not to have done that either and does it a third time in a way which is even more frustrating and useless than the first two.

This is a plot convention which I really, really hate. I loathe it, despise it, am irritated by it, and do not now see nor have ever seen why it's either necessary or desirable. I realize that there are far too many movies (and books and other kinds of stories) in which everyone gets what they want and/or what they deserve, in defiance of all logic and realism, for the sake of a happy ending. I realize that those stories are schlocky and have little narrative purpose. There are also plenty of movies (and books and other kinds of stories) in which everyone doesn't get what they want and/or what they deserve, for a reason, in a way which gives the story a point. Take Chasing Amy for example, and yes, I know that I railed against the ending the first time I saw it. I still rail; it's frustrating and sad. Still, it serves a purpose. There's a very good reason for it to end that way, and if it ended any differently it would totally alter not only the story but the characters and the idea behind the movie. Fine.

I'm certain that someone is going to tell me that it's just the same for the entire genre of Hong Kong martial arts tragedies, and that the endings are a lesson in the futility of human passions or the inevitability of death. That someone might be right. But it just isn't working for me. I'm getting so frustrated that I think I'm going to have to swear off the genre. I loved House of Flying Daggers right up until I started hating it. If I hadn't seen the last half hour, I could have watched the first hour and a half again and enjoyed it. But not now. You bastard movie, I thought we had something special here. Why did you have to do that?

In less frustrating news, I've been listening to the I Am Sam soundtrack lately. I've never seen the movie, but someone let me copy the soundtrack and I'm pleasantly surprised by some of the covers. In particular, I think I like the Grandaddy cover of Revolution better than the Beatles original. Now that's praise.

Posted by dianna at January 9, 2006 01:29 PM

I was going to post something about Aristotle's rules of drama, and the failure of Hong Kong filmmakers to follow them, but then I remembered that 1. I don't really know much about Aristotle's rules of drama, and 2. I haven't seen any of the movies being discussed. I have a suspicion, though, that Aristotle's rules of drama are the key to unraveling why these films are unsatisfying.

The only thing I can usefully contribute is the quote from near the end of Annie Hall, where Woody Allen says that we're always trying to get things to work out in drama because they seldom do in real life. Similarly, we want our drama to make logical and consistent sense because life is so often random and pointless. Or something.

Posted by: Zach S. at January 9, 2006 07:23 PM

i am horrified by you dianna. you need to give the genre a better chance. also, i need to give you a list of movies to watch.

hey, you watched kung fu hustle with me (and others), did you not like it?

Posted by: michele at January 10, 2006 09:30 AM