Friday, May 5, 2017

At the Movies: Colossal

At the Movies with Michael5000

Nacho Vigalondo, 2017.

imbd: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 74% Fresh

It was somebody else’s idea to head down and watch Colossal, and I had an instinct not to learn anything about it before hand. I knew that it had some comic elements and some science-fictionish elements, and that’s all I knew. And from that state of grace, I was treated to several strange and entertaining surprises. So, I really recommend watching this film from that same naïve place. I will try to be as vague as possible in this review, but you might want to stop reading in case I let something slip.

Plot: So, this unfocused young woman with an alcohol problem gets kicked out of her boyfriend’s apartment in the big city, and heads back to Hometown, U.S.A. As she’s getting settled in, there’s disturbing news coming over the airwaves: enormous monsters are attacking Seoul. After that, weird things start to happen.

Visuals: Full of quirks and not safely within any particular genre, this must have been a challenging film to translate out from its screenplay. It works, I think, because it manages to communicate a lot of cultural information very economically. We only get a minute or two in the boyfriend’s apartment in the first scene, for instance, but we’re given a lot of visual cues – location, props, wardrobe, and good old acting – that lets us move on to Hometown, U.S.A. with a strong sense of our heroine’s backstory and trajectory. Hometown, U.S.A. is interesting in that its pieces don’t really fit together very well in a literal, geographic sense, but they are very effective in an, um, semiotic sense. With a few exterior shots the movie lets us know where we are, if not on the map than at least on the cultural landscape.

Too, when giant monsters appear rampaging over an Asian metropolis, the film treads a difficult balance in showing us something that it knows we’ve seen before, something that carries a lot of cultural freight. The style of the film invites us to enter a conspiracy, pretending to watch Godzilla on as if for the first time, even though we all know that you can’t really see Godzilla for the first time. There is a very narrow path for the Colossal to find here between “too ironic” and “not ironic enough,” and I felt that the filmmakers, bless them, found that path.  (Not everyone thinks so -- I'm rather surprised by the low ratings quoted up top.)

Mind you, as I gush about how all of this reference to visual culture worked so well, I’m gushing from my deeply ingrained UnitedStatesian point of reference. One of our fellow movie goers was an Icelander, and she seemed to find the whole thing completely incomprehensible. I think she was missing the necessary internal dictionary of visual reference points.

Dialog: Colloquial, gestural. For the lion’s share of the dialog, it’s not what they say, it’s how they say it.

Prognosis: I had a lot of fun with this film. It combined a ridiculous premise and over-the-top characterization with a kind of comic realism that I found… funny! Very funny.

Michael5000's imdb rating: 8.

No comments: