Dunkirk (2017) never happened: Christopher Nolan and the fabrication of history

In blatant honesty: I am not a fan of the films of Christopher Nolan. At best, his films provoke in me just a mild irritation. An annoyance which, sadly, gets amplified, when a reviewer, without the slightest sense of irony, glorifies him as the next Stanley Kubrick. So, with that confession in mind, one would be justified in thinking that I was stacking the cards against Nolan’s new war film Dunkirk (2017). To be frank, Nolan’s latest is also his finest yet. But I still don’t think it’s a good film. Dunkirk (2017), while officially about the evacuation of British soldiers from France during the opening stages of the Second World War in 1940, is not really a war film. It barely even classifies as cinema, rather it is more akin to an episode of confabulation.

Continue reading Dunkirk (2017) never happened: Christopher Nolan and the fabrication of history

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Total eclipse of the plot: Bruckheimer, Schopenhauer and the essence of music in Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Ask yourself this question: can you rehearse to yourself the plots of Eddie Murphy flicks Trading Places (1983) and Coming to America (1988)? How many scenes come to mind? Maybe you’re thinking of the one scene in Trading Places where Murphy’s character is pretending to be blind. Or you might be thinking of the barbershop scenes from Coming To America. Now ask yourself whether you can remember any particularly funny scene from Beverly Hills Cop (1984)… No? Try searching YouTube to refresh your memory: it just doesn’t yield anything memorable. Well… except for the theme. That one you can remember, right?

Continue reading Total eclipse of the plot: Bruckheimer, Schopenhauer and the essence of music in Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Mondriaan stelt niets voor: representatie en abstractie

Een diamantvormig doek, daarop alleen de primaire kleuren, geel, blauw en rood (en die slechts in vierkantjes van verschillende verhoudingen). Veel eenvoudiger kan het niet: Mondriaan’s Victory Boogie Woogie stelt helemaal niets voor! Veel mensen zullen snel weer doorlopen (Maarten van Rossem incluis), ontluisterd door het nogal simplistische karakter van zulke kleuroefeningen. Want wat heeft dat nou om het lijf? Kijk dan liever naar een Caravaggio, die wist tenminste nog hoeveel zorg en tijd er komt kijken bij het maken van een realistische voorstelling.

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De gedeelde werkelijkheid: gemeenschapszin in Passengers (2016)

Stel dat je wordt veroordeeld om de rest van je leven door te brengen in eenzaamheid. Je wordt van alle gemakken voorzien: luxe suite met kingsize bed, restaurant, sportschool en zelfs een bar. Je mag enkel en alleen geen enkel contact meer kan hebben met anderen. Akelig? Stel dan nu dat je de kans wordt gegeven om de man of vrouw van uw dromen met je mee te nemen. Dat klinkt al beter. Het addertje: kies je hiervoor, dan beslis je ook over het noodlot van je partner.

Continue reading De gedeelde werkelijkheid: gemeenschapszin in Passengers (2016)

Bauhaus: universal vs. international philosophy

From hipster coffeeshops to gothic rockbands to an entire neighbourhood in the city of Tel Aviv, it seems that a certain Bauhaus aesthetic has cemented itself in the collective consciousness. At least as far as the (upper) middle class is concerned, objects of dwelling should be spartan in design (“less is more” as the man used to say) and stay true to their accorded purpose (“form follows functions” as that other man used to say). Bulky chairs, folksy designs and figurative and religious art, on the other hand, are merely the outdated remnants of previous centuries.

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Reconstruction of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s German Pavilion for the Barcelona World Exposition 1929. Photo by Hans Peter Schaefer, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Dirty Dancing: alienation, ideology & emancipation

Beyond the formula

When it comes to writing a Hollywood script, there are certain easy ways to make a plot appealing. First off, if you’re trying to make a romantic drama, not too brainy, you have to make sure that your lead characters exhibit a lot of easy-to-understand contrasts: he should be dark, mysterious, from a poor background, whereas she is kind, light-hearted, idealistic. Also, make sure that you have a particular theme that resonates with young people, such as, say, dancing or summer vacation. Situate these tropes along a familiar story arc and you get what is called the `Hollywood formula’, an easy-to-consume, ready-made film that is bound to generate a profit.

Continue reading Dirty Dancing: alienation, ideology & emancipation